Create the Perfect Sound Bite

Create the Perfect Sound Bite

As a kid did you ever play that game where one person whispers something to the next, then that person passes the information along to the person on the other side of them, then THAT person whispers it to the next person, etc.? The information goes around the entire circle and then the last person says out loud what they heard…which is almost always NOT what the original message was about!

It was a game intended to teach a lesson about the dangers of gossip, but in many ways it was an early form of tweeting. Of course using today’s social media tools doesn’t involve whispering, and doesn’t take a whole gaggle of giggling preteens to garble the message. It just takes you, answering one question about a controversial issue without thinking through the strategic significance of your answer.

And the results? A ‘tweet’ that takes on a life of its own or a post on Facebook that opens up a free for all.

You are Never ‘Off the Record’

In today’s world there is no such thing as ‘off the record.’ In the past this was more about interactions with the media than it was about interactions at the grocery store in the chip and dip aisle. But widespread access to Twitter and Facebook now makes everyone a reporter of news – without the filter of an editor. And as for a ‘credible source’? That’s you! As an employee, volunteer, elected or appointed board member of any organization, you are viewed as being on the “inside” and therefore “in the know.”

So next time you find yourself afraid to go to the grocery store, church or the local Rotary Club meeting, spend a few minutes rehearsing how to answer the questions you don’t want to be asked. Take control of the message, then boldly go!

One of the most effective techniques you can use to help focus the messages is called “bridging.” Using a verbal bridge refocuses the conversation back to a key message, allows you to move away from controversial topics and end every answer to every questions with a prepared, strategic message.

Here are a few examples of verbal bridges:

  • Actually, the real issue is…
  • If we look at the big picture…
  • The heart of the matter is…
  • I think it would be more correct to say…
  • That’s a great point because…

Keep your main points – the statements that come after the verbal bridge – to one or two easy to remember statements. Keep bridging back to those two points. You might feel like a broken record, but that’s okay. Repetition is a key to creating awareness and understanding.

And one final tip. Stop talking after you answer the specific question. Don’t expand on your answer, get trapped by conjecture or keep talking to fill awkward silences. Being prepared will give you the chance to add your perspective to the story, squash rumors and get ahead of the gossip.

After all, sound bites are no longer just for radio or TV. A tweet is really just a 280 character sound bite.