Marginalizing the Soundbite

By Eric M. Seidel, CEO

The Media Trainers, LLC

How many times have you heard the tired excuse, “They took me out of context”? Sometimes it’s true, but too many times it’s proven to be a lame claim that has no factual standing.

The real issue is delivering soundbites that both the media will pick up and use them the way you intended. That does take some practice and experience. The best way is to respond to questions is with positive, self-contained answers.

However, former presidential speech writer Peggy Noonan’s column in the February 26, 2011 issue of The Wall Street Journal has pointed out how the soundbite is being defeated by the Internet. While her specialty is politics, consider this paragraph from her column and how it might apply to messages you need to reach important audiences:

In the past quarter-century or so, the speech as a vehicle of sustained political argument was killed by television and radio. Rhetoric was reduced to the TV producer’s 10-second soundbite, the correspondent’s eight-second insert. The makers of speeches (even the ones capable of sustained argument) saw what was happening and promptly gave up. Why give your brain and soul to a serious, substantive statement when it will all be reduced to a snip of sound? They turned their speeches into soundbite after soundbite, applause line after applause line, and a great political tradition was traduced.

But the Internet is changing all that. It is restoring rhetoric as a force… I get links to full speeches every day in my inbox and you probably do too.

People…think it’s all Facebook and Twitter now, but it’s not. Not everything is fractured and in pieces, some things are becoming more whole. People hunger for serious, fleshed-out ideas about what is happening in our country.

The Internet is a two-edged sword, to be sure. You always need to be careful in what you put on it in order to protect your name (ID) and reputation. But it also liberates you to be your own editor, especially when you cannot afford to be reduced to a soundbite.

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