Soundbiting With Teeth: How to Be More Quotable

June 30, 2014

What if I told you that one in four people on this planet will suffer mental illness at some point in their lives?  (A true statement) Or that only 1 percent of citizens in the United States will face a tax audit? (Reportedly true).

I probably sparked your interest, didn’t I?  Citing “wow” stats like these can make you more memorable.

Sharing your own feelings is another way to generate quotable soundbites.  For instance, a director of a foundation might say, “Why do I care about hunger?  Because I can’t enjoy my own dinner when I know that there are 16 million kids in America who don’t have consistent access to adequate food.”

Don’t be afraid to be quirky or funny.  Wit will certainly get you farther than brochure copy.  As Steven Jobs once said, “Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”  How about this gem, from Larry Summers: “In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.”

Above all, paint pictures with words.  Try to emulate a radio announcer who makes you see what he sees.  Then you will disappear as the story itself takes over.  It is quite possible to engage all of the audience’s senses with spoken words.  Imagine that you are explaining a movie to someone who is blindfolded.  Remember: the pictures are better on radio, especially when they’re in color.

Here are some examples of visual soundbites: “If you’re under control, you’re not driving fast enough.”  (Mario Andretti); “My hair isn’t gray, it’s white.” (Greg Stone); ‘There is no frigate like a book.”  (Emily Dickenson).


One last tip: If you have a clever soundbite in hand, deliver it at the beginning of a media interview so the reporter can relax, knowing she has bagged a useful quote.  Then tell the rest of the story.

What’s a story, by the way?  Not “the cat sat on the mat.”  Instead, it’s “the cat sat on somebody else’s mat.”  Now there’s a soundbite, courtesy John O’Hara.

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About The Author

Greg Stone spent many years as a journalist so he brings those “street credentials” to every assignment. He began his career as a writer at Time Inc. in New York, and later worked as a TV reporter in Minneapolis, Boston, and on PBS. His professional honors include three Emmy nominations. Turning down an offer to anchor at CNN in New York, Greg founded Stone Communications in 1989. Since then he has conducted numerous media and presentation skills workshops for high-level executives at Fidelity, IBM and 3M; deans at Harvard University; rocket scientists at the Smithsonian; senior managers at the LA Dodgers; and three spokespeople facing interviews on “60 Minutes.” As a recognized expert, he has guest-lectured on media relations at Harvard Business School. Greg has also written and directed hundreds of video productions for clients such as Coca-Cola, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins Medical School and Stop & Shop. He earned an AB with honors from Harvard University, followed by two master’s degrees from Columbia University in journalism and business.

One Comment »

  1. avatar

    Thank you Greg for your tips. I am climbing the ladder out of the hole of stage fright thanks to advice and mentoring such as yours. I see my breakthrough moment already.

    Kind regards,


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