Executive Rewind: Anatomy of a Soundbite

When you’re talking through the media to anticipated audiences, keep in mind attention spans and getting them to hear your messages often are in conflict. So how do you break through?

Prepare for it with answers/statements that are succinct and memorable.

Dara Khosrowshahi is CEO of Uber. He’s preparing for an IPO. Hence, the following question during his recent appearance on CNBC:

His answer is fine for that longform format. But these interviews often are edited for later use in shorter form.

So, let’s break down Khosrowshahi’s response and evaluate how he could have made it much easier for an editor to prepare the soundbite for repeated use that’s most advantageous to the Uber CEO.

He started with a great statement, a headline summarizing his overall primary message:

“Well, what we want to build is sustainable growth than can be profitable.” That took all of four seconds and if that’s all that was ever used in an edited report, he’s done his job. It’s succinct, makes a solid point and is memorable, especially for analysts and investors.

He went on, expanding on how Uber’s growth will be leading to profit:

Okay, but too long if he hopes to have it replayed or quoted in full in a more time-condensed environment. Here’s an edited version.

Finally, in his original answer, he very nicely recaps his opening headline:

That’s the breakdown of his original answer, the open, an example, which we reworked to make it shorter, and his recap.

So, now that we’ve economized his words, here’s how Khosrowshahi’s answer to the question would sound:

In his original answer to the reporter’s six second question, Khosrowshahi’s response is 39 seconds long. In the edited version, we’ve reduced it to 24 seconds while maintaining context, including a solid but shorter example.

Why this exercise? Because time (and space, in the case of print) is a critical element in news editing. You need to understand that and prepare for it. One of the best ways is by rehearsing on video. Practice your answers to questions and then objectively analyze them and determine how you can make the same point in a greater economy of words.

The media typically appreciate someone who can speak responsively and succinctly. In short, they like interviewing someone who’s well prepared.

Always keep in mind that in today’s world of instant global communication,
“Anyone who talks about you…or your business…is media!”
The Media Trainers®, LLC
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