A sound bite or quote is a short piece of audio, video, or text extracted from a recorded interview or speech that television, radio, or newspaper use in the final story. Reporters need quotes to make a point and summarize your story. If it’s a newspaper or an online publication, they’ll quote your words in the story. If it’s a television broadcast or a radio show, they’ll extract soundbites from your interview where people hear you, see you, and identify you by your position.
Remember that reporters will use whatever they want from your interview. It can be either good or bad. So, you have to give your best messages to be used as soundbites and quotes.
In this article, I’m going to tell you ten sound bite elements you can use in your next interview.
- Action Words
Reporters love quoting you using bold, action-oriented words. Any time you attack, smash, or grab, they make action words. Look at your message points and see if you can incorporate action-oriented words into them.
Any time you talk about how you feel about something, it’s going to make it more interesting and quotable to the reporter. If you love something, hate something, dread something, or are worried about something, say that because it can make a great sound bite.
Remember that reporters are supposed to be dispassionate. They’re not supposed to be emotional, and they can’t talk about their own emotions, but they love quoting how you feel about something. So, don’t try to be dry and dispassionate if you’re being interviewed. Let your emotions flow as long as it carries your message.
- Specific Examples
Abstraction is the enemy of reporters. They’re trying to bring clarity to their readers, viewers, or listeners, so any time you give concrete examples, it makes it more quotable. Don’t say, “I love sports,” say, “I love watching Norway in the Winter Olympics when they destroy the competition in curling.”
Be specific. Specific examples will make you more quotable because people can visualize them. It brings clarity to the issue. The reporter likes it, and if it’s on your message, you win too.
Attacking is one of the easiest sound bites you can ever get because the media loves controversy. If you attack someone, you say someone’s an idiot, a fool, they’re wrong, they’re bad, they’re disastrous, you will be quoted. I’m not telling you to go around attacking everyone. Remember that a sound bite is only good if it’s hundred percent relevant to your message points.
You can also attack something more controversial than people, such as crimes. You can say you want to stamp out and destroy drug addiction. That’s attacking drug addiction. That’s not particularly controversial and can be positively used on messages.
There is absolutely no easier way to get quoted in the media than to use a phrase like absolute, must, never, etc. Reporters love absolutes. They’re trying to bring clarity to an issue. They can’t generally use absolutes and can’t say, “This will happen over my dead body.” But they love quoting people using an absolute. Absoluteness brings urgency to your message and makes it more interesting, compelling, and quotable.
You surely don’t want to use clichés when giving a speech because people will think you’re stupid and unoriginal. But when you’re talking to a reporter, cliché is not your whole speech, story, or article. It’s just a little piece of the entire story; it’s like a little bit of spice. If you put nothing but the spice in a stew, it’s going to taste awful, but a little bit can make it better.
People use clichés because they’re more memorable than straightforwardly stating something. It can be a great way of getting a reporter to quote your cliché, visualize it, and relate to it.
Reporters are human beings and they like a good laugh. So, if you use humor, you will be quoted. However, you have to be very careful with humor. What might seem fun when you’re talking to a reporter can make you look mean, cruel, harsh, or vicious in the newspaper the next day.
Humor is fine if you’re making fun of yourself, if it’s gentle, appropriate, and one hundred percent on your message. But as with all the other sound bite elements, plan it, scrutinize it, and get rid of it if you’re not completely comfortable with it.
- Rhetorical Questions
Asking a rhetorical question rather than straightforwardly stating something makes for a great soundbite. If you say, “many politicians run on the platform of the economy have not improved during the last administration’s term of office,” that’s straightforward, rather boring. But if you say, “One famous politician in the United States once ran on the platform. Ask yourself, are you better off now than you were four years ago?” that’s a rhetorical question. It is more quotable, more interesting, and more memorable. It’s easy to come up with a rhetorical question. All you have to do is restate your message, put a question mark at the end of it, and that’s it.
Using an analogy dramatically increases your odds of getting quoted. Reporters love analogies because they’re trying to make an idea more understandable, memorable, and relatable to readers, viewers, or listeners. When you provide an analogy, it makes it easier for everyone to see it, face it, taste it, and touch it.
- Pop Culture
If you can tie something you’re doing into a well-known sports team, athlete, celebrity, or movie star, that’s going to make it quite interesting to reporters. However, you have to be careful about forcing something that seems artificial or contrived. If it looks authentic and genuine to you, you can use that. For instance, if you love football, then use a football analogy. If you love cricket, use a cricket analogy. If there’s a singer with some connection to what you’re talking about, use that.
Reporters cannot resist any reference to pop culture. They will quote you every single time if you can package your message with a pop culture reference.
To Wrap it Up
If you’re ever going to face the news media as an interviewee, then you must have soundbites. If you are great at packaging the messages you care about with great soundbites, you’re going to ace interview after interview, no matter how you look or sound.