10 Tips for Successful Sound Bites












July 2010

Sound bites, those little nuggets of public relations goodness meant to whet the appetites of news outlets and their audiences, are vital to communications clarity. Yet, they can be difficult to master. Sure, there are lots of printed and digital quotations floating around (think 140 characters as the ultimate sound bite). But how many of them are juicy morsels with media appeal and potential staying power?

10 Ways to Help Your Sound Bites Make a Positive Impression

To assist you in the selection process, we have compiled a list of 10 tips aimed at ensuring that your spokesperson's sound bites stand out from the rest (for all the right reasons) and leave the media and viewers wanting more.

1. Adapt for multiple uses. Stories that start off in print may find their way to the web, and vice versa. With that fact in mind, it's a good idea to make sound bites available in a variety of formats (e.g., text, video, and podcast) so that journalists can use them as needed.

2. Remember your online press center (OPC). A valuable, but often underused resource, your organization's OPC enables journalists and bloggers to access all relevant information in one place. The OPC will show them how others are using your sound bites in previous stories about your company, brand, or client.

3. Capture the personalities of your spokespeople. Conveying the personality of a spokesperson can enhance the representative's audience appeal. For that reason, don't be afraid to let the individual speak in the first person and to include anecdotes where appropriate. This will also enable your spokesperson to forge a relationship with a journalist.

4. Watch the cadence. In print, this means fashioning quotes that read in a natural speaking tone. Digitally, it implies not sounding monotone, boring, and/or robotic.

5. Make it memorable. Some may choose to include anecdotes, others to use alliteration, humor, or an emotional statement that speaks to the human condition. Anne Wylie, on PRSA's ComPRhension blog, suggests using the "List, Rhyme, and Twist" method. Regardless of how you come up with it, a good sound bite must resonate in the hearts and minds of the audience.

6. Practice on video or audio. If creating sound bites doesn't come naturally to you, then you'll probably need the added practice. Regardless, you'll still want to rehearse a few times. But remember, the more you rehearse, the less natural you'll sound.

7. Develop brief, pithy statements. Brevity is key when creating a sound bite. But make sure your messages are persuasive at the same time that you're keeping them short and sweet.

8. Use plain language. People aren't going to listen, let alone act, if they don't understand what you're saying. Forgo the jargon and instead focus on delivering your messages in a clear, concise manner.

9. Include testimonials. Sound bites work best when you can convey all of your key messages in a lively manner. And they have even greater impact if you can get someone else — say, a current user — to reinforce those messages.

10.  Quote industry leaders and competitors. This goes doubly if they support what you say. According to the Media Gazette, "Your friends will always be on your side. If your opponent agrees with something you do, think or say, then you have a story."

Regardless of the form or medium, sound bites should demonstrate a level of authenticity and transparency. For some this means forgoing the traditional PR "script," while others may choose a more methodical approach. But regardless of your methods, you always want to make sure your spokespeople are truthful.

Case Study: Video Sound Bites

Johna Burke, BurrellesLuce senior vice president, marketing, interviews PR professionals at various industry events and posts the videos on YouTube as a way to provide an inside look into the PR industry. Her video column on the Bulldog Reporter Daily Dog most recently features video series from the PRSA Travel and Tourism and PRSA Counselors Academy conferences. (View some of the videos here.)

Asked about her experiences conducting video interviews with communications professionals from a variety of PR-industry sectors, Burke says that "doing the videos has increased my awareness of my own speaking patterns." Since video technology is so readily available, she adds, "I have many opportunities to review and improve some of the subtle idiosyncrasies in my speaking habits."

Video is an instantaneous medium. Since it's easy to obtain and redistribute, video forces the speaker to be extra sensitive to nuances and of how the words can be construed by various audiences and constituents; a case in point is the strong reaction to BP executives' comments on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Burke, who is often asked to speak at industry events, continually explores video's capabilities. As a result, she has come to realize that, like lots of other speakers, she sometimes falls back into what she calls "old patterns," such as a reliance on using "like," "just," "uh," "ok," and similar filler words. To help break those patterns, Burke suggests obtaining transcripts of videos. "Transcripts can improve SEO when posting the videos online and deepen your understanding of how your messages are coming across," she says. "Reading my transcripts helps me pick up on things that I might otherwise miss if I only listen to the audio. I've found that what I think I say, and what I actually say — as others hear me — are sometimes totally different."

Whether a seasoned PR professional or someone new to the field, working with video and sound bites can help one refine and keep their media relations skills sharp. As one PR practitioner mentioned to Burke after a recent interview, "Although I've been in media relations for years and consider myself to be well skilled, seeing myself on video was a wakeup call and reminded me of the importance of media training." 

About BurrellesLuce

BurrellesLuce is the U.S. leader in media monitoring. Professionals in a wide range of industries rely on our comprehensive curated content from local and national print, online, broadcast, and social media sources. BurrellesLuce has a turnkey copyright compliance program that allows us to provide copyright-compliant, behind-the-paywall content not available to other services. BurrellesLuce combines grade-A content with easy-to-use software, allowing users to evaluate and analyze their media coverage and PR efforts. It's all integrated into our user-friendly interface, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™.

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