Monday, 20 June 2011


"A day like today is not a day for soundbites, we can leave those at home," Tony Blair 1998

Sorry Tony, but every day is a day for soundbites. Every day! The importance of the soundbite can't be underrated even if talking about them just seems a bit 1997, a bit Labour Landslide. It's a shame really because as soon as the word soundbite is mentioned people turn off or stop reading jolly helpful blogs...

Still here? Good.

Think of the soundbite this way; during the day we are exposed to far more headlines than the articles that we read, there's the web, printed news papers, scrolling bars on the news channels all of them are tiny bits of news poetry distilling the most meaning from the least number of words. If the headline is right then the eye is drawn into what the story is. It is, however, really very difficult to find the best soundbite for a press release that's being blanket sent to all of the print journos in the world. So what do you do? Do you jiggle with it for every publication and present them with a nice niche line? No. No you don't. You know full well that your average PR person has hundreds of other things that they have to do during the day, so why don't you take advantage of the cross pollination that news organisations perpetuate? Everybody steals off each other. If a press release is versioned for one mass market outlet, The Daily Mail for example, then you have a short hand for what the other outlets can version for themselves. Hit 'em with something that they can copy and paste into their house styles. If you want to know more have a look at this splendid site all about the world of Churnalism.

They are decrying the lack of what they see as "proper journalism". From your commercial point of view take advantage of the situation and get the publicity.

So what about the broadcast media? There your aim should be the "news clip".

If you are interviewed on a local radio Breakfast Show then you'd be lucky to get a few thousand listeners. The radio station may say that they have 100,000 listeners but that's across the week for the whole station. A good breakfast show could only peak at 6000 listeners at any given time. If you're not on at the peak you may get 2000 if you're unlucky. So what can you do about it? You give good quote, you get out the big guns and have a lovely soundbite that can be run across the news bulletins for the whole day. If there are 20,000 listeners for the day then you may get all of them. Now that's worth your while aiming for the news clip isn't it?

What makes a good news clip? If it's a slow day virtually anything, from "local business man says cheese is lovely" to "local business man says cheese is horrible" but you need to aim a bit higher than that. You can't always hope for the slow news day. You want a new figure, to go against the perceived wisdom, to challenge a truth, to have some very good news, or some very bad news, and you need to do all of that in about 15 seconds, with the ability to write some bits round it. Simple eh? That's why Tony Blair had a team of writers all looking for what the soundbite was going to be.

Just being aware of some of the ways organisations get their headlines and how important a soundbite can be could be the little bit of extra focus that you need.

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