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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