Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Creating a tasty sound bite

Creating a tasty sound bite

The help sheet Why Sound Bites are Important looked at the key reasons your community group should have a sound bite planned, prepared and practiced for use when working with the media.

A sound bite is invaluable in getting your group's message across clearly in the limited amount of time the media may give you.

A catchy sound bite containing an attractive turn of phrase can make the difference between the media using the report on your group in its bulletin or not.

Preparing and polishing a sound bite is only part of the story, the media has to use it. This help sheet gives tips on creating and then using a sound bite so you have the best chance of getting it a run on the nightly news.

Creating your sound bite

When it comes to creating a snappy sound bite, preparation is the key.

Preparing and practicing a sound bite is the only way to develop and improve its content and delivery. This means it is more likely the media will use it.

Don't go into a TV interview without knowing exactly the sound bite you want reported. Rehearse delivering the line until you can do it naturally, strongly and succinctly.

Practise anticipating and answering questions you are likely to be asked and how you can mould the answers so that they also carry the "message" of your sound bite.

Think about questions like:
  • Why are you here?
  • What does this announcement mean for community/homeless/people with mental illness/sports lovers etc?
  • What can your group hope to achieve?
  • How will this decision affect your group?
  • Why will this work?
  • What is different about what you are proposing?
  • Do you really think this is going to make any difference?
To each of them, you want to work out how your reply can turn the emphasis back to your main theme.

Taking a question and being able to tailor your answer so it pushes your theme is a skill which requires practice. You have to work at bringing the questions back to the subject you want to talk about and if you don't get it out the way you want to, practice and try it again until you get it right.

Force feeding your sound bite

Doing work on developing a sound bite is no use if when your story appears on the nightly news, it is not used.

Not only has time been wasted, but it can mean that the words the media do use in preference to your sound bite translate your message incorrectly or inadequately.

The trick you need to get right is how to force the media to use your sound bite, rather than another less desirable section of speech.

Think about "packages"

In many ways the media, particularly the television think in terms of a "package" when they cover a story.

That means a neat package with all elements completed which can be easily finished off back at the newsroom.

This is also what your community group or organisation wants - a clean, smooth presentation that gets your points across clearly.

A good sound bite can help achieve both of these aims as it will be the part of the interview that you have worked on and practiced it will probably be smoothest and clearest.

Another way of at least having a chance to get that "package" out there could be to speak to the media journalist prior to the interview to explain what you want to say.
Even if it's a hard story where you might be reacting to something, a quick talk beforehand can give you a feel for what sort of questions they are going to ask.

Repeat your sound bite

Ideally you would want an interview to be conducted on your group's terms so you can send the messages you want to give and use your sound bite to best advantage.

However, what if the interview goes somewhere you don't want it to go?

Well, you need to bring it back to the subject you want to discuss.  You may have to try to shoehorn your sound bite in on the spot or fit its key thrust in wherever it comes closest to fitting.

All politicians are masters at this art. Next time you watch television news, see them in action.  Listen to the question they are asked, and then listen as they proceed to ignore that question and repeat the sound bite or key phrase they want to emphasise.

Even if they are pulled up and reminded that they are "straying off the issue", they will either eventually go back to repeating their chosen sound bite, or assert that what they want to talk about actually IS the issue.

Politicians don't rely on the reporter to pick out their sound bite; they make sure it is unavoidable by repeating it.

Most people are used to either answering a direct question or evading it. Public figures know that they can quite often get away with giving the answer to a completely different question and moving on rapidly.

This in PR-speak is called "staying on message". You should make it your priority to 'stay on message' if your interview starts going places you weren't expecting.

Keep hammering your theme. You might even have three slightly different sound bites or lines that all carry the same message which can be sprinkled and repeated through the interview.

Make them care when they listen

Apart from catching people's ear, your sound bite should also capture people's hearts and make them care about your issue, predicament, request or situation.

If for example, your group needs funding to complete a mental health care project it has been working on for some time.

You need to give people a reason to care and a reason to consider giving.
Emphasise the end result, or what will happen if you don't get the support you need:

"The tragedy is that without funding, people in desperate need of help will miss out – and we have the power to prevent this happening."


"Hundreds of people in urgent need of counselling will miss out if this project doesn't go ahead. It will be a tragedy for the whole community if we ignore their cry for help."

This approach communicates through the media the issue your group might face and also emphasises the consequences if the issue isn't resolved.

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