Anyone wanting to be a guest on Oprah or Good Morning America must learn to master the fine art of generating sound bites for television. Television thrives on sound bites – those brief, quotable remarks that will be repeated again and again on television news and talk shows. Sound bites are the pearls that flow out of our mouths into the ears of TV producers and onto the airways.
If you want to be quoted, you must convert the message points in your book into sound bites. To do this remember that analogies, bold action words, emotions and personal examples, attacks and absolutes make good quotes and sound bites. The highly personal, classic sound bite has action, emotion, and attacks – all of these elements will work to make reporters swoon.
My experience as a publicist and book marketing consultant has taught me to shy away from humor which can be a tricky business. What seems funny to colleagues, friends, or family at 5:30 p.m. may not seem so funny the next morning when you read your comments in USA Today. Sarcasm and teasing types of humor usually don’t work well in the media because you lose control of context and, in the case of print media, you lose the ability to communicate with your voice and facial expressions. The humor that is most effective is self-deprecating humor.
What about YOU? Are you skilled enough in producing sound bites to earn an interview on local or national TV? If you’ve not had media training, believe me it’s too late once you get the call. You may have to get in a car or on a plane within an hour’s notice. It’s too late to get the training then. That’s why you need to be prepared before you get the call. When my clients agree to media coaching, my first choice for them is TJ Walker, CEO of Media Training Worldwide.
TJ Walker is one of the leading authorities on media training in the world. With more than 20 years of media training experience, Walker has trained thousands of CEOs, authors, and experts, including leading government officials in the United States, European Prime Ministers, and African diplomats.
Here’s TJ Walker’s Sound Bite Checklist:
1. Create sound bites that are 10, 15 and 30 seconds.
2. Work an example into the sound bite.
3. Clichés make good quotes and sound bites. Reporters can’t write clichés, but they love quoting other people using clichés.
4. Humor makes good quotes and sound bites but the problem with using humor in front of the media is that someone somewhere is likely to be offended, resulting in a permanent public record of your remarks. So, quip if you must, at your own expense and your own risk.
5. One great way to get your message quoted by reporters is to state your ideas in the form of a rhetorical question.
6. Opposition quotes make good quotes and sound bites. Opposition quotes remain a favorite of reporters, but use them only if and when they are appropriate to your message.
7. The first letters from the following: Analogies, Bold action, Emotions, Attacks, Clichés, Humor, Pop culture, Rhetorical questions, and Opposition quotes spell out A BEACH PRO. The higher number of A BEACH PRO elements you use, the greater your chances are of being quoted. If you have not used any A BEACH PRO elements, you will not be quoted.
8. Absolutes are absolutely quote worthy. If I say “We will be the next champions” that has a better chance of landing in the story than “We are hoping to win.” Saying “Our company is the top performer in this field” would be another example.
9. Recycle your quotes. If one worked well with another media interview in the past, use it again.
10. Populate your quotes with pop culture references.
11. Put analogies in your answers, use bold, action-oriented words, let your emotions flow freely, and attack your way to the headlines.
Memorize that checklist but understand that a sound bite is only one aspect of a successful television appearance. You also must be concerned about your total message, the knowledge you display, and the self-confidence you demonstrate.
As a book publicist I’ll prepare questions for our clients ahead of time and include those in our press kits emailed to the stations. Often times the television host will read those questions right in order. Other times they refer to our questions and include some of them. That’ll help you because you’ll know what to expect and you can respond with the “sound bites” you’ve already developed.
The bottom line: Prepare some clever answers and snappy sound bites ahead of time, rehearse them every day and you’ll sound like a pro turning your TV appearance into a huge success.