Thursday, July 7, 2011

With Media Training, the Mission is Still the Message

In this day of smart phones streaming video, bloggers with flip cams and 24/7 cable news shows, have we become such savvy consumers of media that we respond instinctively with a good sound bite when given the chance? Not necessarily.

From the media training sessions we conduct regularly at LCWA, it’s clear that the ability to deliver the right message with confidence and conviction is what makes an outstanding spokesperson. As the length of a typical broadcast news story gets shorter and shorter – now at 90 seconds or less on average – reducing that message to compelling sound bite is essential.

What makes a good sound bite? Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Keep it short and simple: Resist the impulse to overcomplicate your message. Pare down your thoughts to the most essential three or four points. Then pare down again. Ideally, you will have just one or two key thoughts to communicate each time you do an interview.
  • Make it memorable, but not glib: The best spokespersons have the knack of presenting the same information over and over – and making it sound fresh every time. It’s a skill that can be learned and honed through practice. Don’t try to memorize your answer. Rather, internalize the key thought and try new ways to tell your story each time.
  • Add color to your messages: Statistics can add meat to any message, but choose wisely. One pithy stat is better than a slew of numbers that will leave your listener more dazed than dazzled. Examples and analogies make your message come alive. Third-party endorsements will bolster the credibility of your claims. Even personal testimonials, which might not work well in other interview situations, can be surprisingly effective in sound bites.
  • Stay on message: In the end, the most quotable sound bite doesn’t accomplish your objective unless it reinforces the messages you want to convey about your product or your organization. You can answer every question a reporter throws at you and still not “ace” the interview unless you get your message across.

At LCWA, we believe that the message is still the mission with media training. That’s why our approach focuses on helping spokespersons to craft and then “own” memorable messages, support them with facts and examples, and deliver them in sound bites that capture attention.

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