Just because you get a moment to talk to a journalist or news crew doesn’t mean you’ll make the cut. What magic formula does the media use to decide to run one person’s footage over some other? Surprisingly, it can boil down to who has the best 3-second sound bite.
Your opportunity to shine only lasts a few seconds. You don’t have all day to make an impression. Sound bites are about selling the sizzle, not the steak. Use them keenly and cunningly.
Here are a few of my best tips:
1. Short & Sweet. Say it in one or two sentences- max!
2. Specify vividly. At the height of Brittney Spears’ head-shaving woes, CNN Showbiz Tonight asked my client, Thela Brown, if she had any thoughts on what Brittney should do to revitalize her career. Thela sincerely replied, “I know they broke up, but Brittney needs to call Justin Timberlake and see if he can help with some lyrics, beats, dance moves, or something.” When CNN Showbiz Tonight aired and discussed Brittney rumored collaboration with JT, they aired Thela’s sound bite. Which leads to my third tip…
3. Speak declaratively. If you’re going to give the media your opinion, actually give your opinion and make it a solid. Don’t spend more time worrying about someone disagreeing with you than you spend making your point. If you’re not sure what you’re saying, neither is anyone else. If you can’t stand behind it as you say it, then just keep your mouth shut.
One of my favorite Coco Chanel quotes is, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” That’s a gutsy statement and, she wasn’t afraid to say it.
4. Be redundant when redundancy can win. Yep, I’m telling you to repeat yourself. It makes your words memorable and humans learn through repetition. In fact, most of us have to receive information three times from three trusted sources in order to even remember a fact. So we’re innately cool with repetition.
You can repeat a key word that will have buzz, an entire phrase, or sandwich your point between a repetitious beginning and end statement. Brooke Shields once drove a point home by saying, “Smoking can kill you, and if you’ve been killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” The use of “kill” and “killed” paired with “lost”and “life” made the bite very deliberate.
5. Compare known unknowns to known knowns. Also, compare known knowns to other known knowns.
When humans are faced with new concepts, we understand these foreign ideas better if they can be linked to things we already know. So, if you want to make a memory compare something to something else. You can do this with metaphors and similes, comparison/contrasts or, through straight analogies.
If you’re perusing this list and still feeling anxious about thinking quickly on your feet, my parting advice is to find an improv class and take it. You can train your brain to be quick witted if you immerse yourself in scenarios that require that type of lightning speed thought. Don’t wait until you get in front of a news camera to test drive your improv skills. Practice, train and repeat so that when the moment arises, you can rise with it. – JD
This article was originally published on LinkedIn PULSE.