The Art of Sound Bites

By John Michael Alday, Derryberry Public Relations

One of the most important tools in communications is learning the art of the sound bite. Sound bites are short extracts taken from a recorded interview that captures the essence of the story or underscores a particular point. Depending on the media outlet, sound bites can be anywhere from a few seconds to two or three minutes, which means it’s important to know, well, what’s important.

The most effective sound bites are quotes delivered in ways that are easy-to-understand and even easier to share. Some of our clients deal with technical material that's difficult to share with the general public. A good sound bite can take the technical and make it practical for listening and viewing audiences. 

Sound bites can make (or break) campaigns. The late President George H.W. Bush successfully liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation and passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, the sound bite that is linked to him was the one that lost his campaign for re-election. “Read my lips; no new taxes,” got him elected and four years later was his undoing when he raised taxes to balance the budget. Then Governor Bill Clinton used those words throughout the campaign to defeat President Bush.

At Derryberry Public Relations, we work with our clients to make sure they share information that is thoughtful, compelling and most importantly, truthful. If it’s a difficult situation, we determine two to three points that emphasize the reason behind an action. The viewing and listening public deserves to know why actions occur and our advice to our clients is that, “No one tells your story better than you.” 

The other important thing to remember is that if you don’t tell your story, your competition will. We believe in the power of the press and appreciate a balanced report that only comes from reporting both sides of any issue or story. This is why clients of our firm never say, “No comment.”  And you shouldn't either. That’s a sound bite that isn’t helpful to anyone. 

We believe in developing two to three key messages to have in mind during an interview. This helps you deliver information so it's easy for press to identify sound bites.

When crafting messaging, make sure to keep in mind some key points:

  • Condense – Attention spans are short so when crafting a message about a product, issue or brand, make it concise or you'll lose your audience’s attention.
  • Be clever – Relatable or even humorous (if appropriate) messaging leads to even better sound bites.
  • Tell a story – Is there a call to action or ways that you’d like viewers or listeners to engage on an issue?  If so, it’s important to be able to share those in ways that compel them to join you.
  • Make your news relevant – What makes your actions credible? How does it impact those who are hearing the information?

Finally (and this is a big one), if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know. 

Some of the worst soundbites we’ve heard are the result of someone not having the facts correct. 

Members of the media use sound bites to make points, encourage action or underscore the relevance of a situation. With the right messaging in mind, any sound bite pulled for reporting purposes can be a good one. 

Want to know more? Give us a call.  We’d love to help share your story, because after all, no one tells your story better than you.