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2010-02-04 22:03:24

Profit by Publicity: The Art of the Sound Bite

 

If you are like most people, you can talk for at least a few minutes on a variety of  topics, whether it’s about a new movie, useful Web site, or how your favorite sports team is doing.
  
But when you have an opportunity to be interviewed by a reporter about the local housing market, it doesn’t matter how long you can talk. What counts is whether you can condense your opinions or observations to seven seconds, or less than 50 words.  
 
Seven seconds is not a lot of time. Count out loud from 1,001 to 1,007 to see for yourself, use the stopwatch function on your smart phone, or time yourself against a watch with a second hand. But seven seconds is about all a television or radio station will give you to express yourself in an edited or on-air story.
 
These brief remarks are known as sound bites - small portions or “bites” from interviews that are inserted in news stories to help enliven, tell or illustrate news reports. Ink bites, the printed version of sound bites, can range from five to 50 words.
 
As a general rule of thumb, if your response to a reporter’s question runs longer than the time it takes to read this sentence aloud, most journalists won’t use your quote in their stories. Instead, they will condense, summarize, paraphrase or ignore your answer entirely.    
 
By definition, any sound bite or ink bite is a good one since it means you said something interesting and short enough to be included in a reporter’s story. But good is not good enough.
 
Your comments should also help you generate the news coverage you want by meeting the following nine criteria: 
 
1.    Creates or enhances the reputation you want.
2.    Places you in the best possible light.
3.    Conveys the message you want to send to the public.
4.    Accurately captures the essence of what you want to say on the topic.
5.    Feels right or comfortable for you to say.
6.    Offends no one.  
7.    Is credible and believable.
8.    Is interesting enough to encourage the reporter and other members of the media to call on you for future interviews.
9.    Is brief and to the point.  
 
With so much riding on what you say to the media and how you say it, the ability to prepare and deliver effective sound bites is one of the most important skills you can have. The challenge is to provide journalists with quotes they can use while serving your best interests at the same time.
 
Electronic and print stories are full of sound bites and ink bites from people in different professions and walks of life. Studying what these newsmakers say and how they say it is one of the best free lessons you can have in preparing and delivering sound bites.
 
After writing hundreds of quotes for clients and studying thousands of sound bites over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that effective sound bites are like sandwiches: there are thousands of ways to make them according to your own tastes and preferences.
 
Your sound bite recipes will depend on what you want to say, how you want to say it and what you want to accomplish. Since quotes can make or break reputations - and sometimes careers - you should choose your words carefully and organize your thoughts before you are interviewed by the media.
 
Although there are no guarantees that journalists will include the quotes you want in their stories, you can certainly stack the deck in your favor by using one or more of the following sound bite techniques. These examples are for illustration purposes only. Be sure that your own sound bites accurately reflect the housing market at the time!

Technique
Example
 
 
Absolutes
“This is our best year ever.”
Analogies
“Finding a home in today’s market is like a game of musical chairs.”
Anecdotes
“A funny thing happened to me at a recent open house…”
Clichés
“Today’s buyers are a day late and a dollar short.”
Colorful Phrases
“It’s a feeding frenzy out there.”
Entertainment References:
“It was an Academy Award-winning listing presentation.”
Personal Experience
“Based on my years of experience, it seems that…”
Predictions
“The market will continue to cool down for at least the next six months.”
Reality Check
“This is the new normal.”
Rhetorical Questions
“How low will prices go?”     
Sports References
“They submitted an offer that was the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.”
Warnings
“Unless sellers lower their asking prices, buyers will continue to stay away.”
 
 

 
Edward Segal, RCE, is the author of the Profit by Publicity series of live and online classes, audiobook and how-to-reference guide for real estate agents and brokers.  Segal was the marketing strategies columnist for The Wall Street Journal’s StartUpJournal.com, a PR consultant to more than 500 clients and press secretary to members of Congress.   He is now CEO of the Marin County Association of REALTORS® in San Rafael, Calif.  Visit his Web site at  www.ProfitbyPublicity.com
 
 

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