THE BLOG

Put More BITE Into Your Communications

05/16/2014 05:37 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2014

Getting your message across has never been harder than in today's hectic, overstimulated world. We are all drowning in communication from advertisers, our bosses and colleagues, and even our friends and families, all vying for our attention and our ear. So whose messages get through? The ones that speak to our needs, desires and hopes. The ones that make us feel. The ones tell us something we didn't know. The ones that answer our questions. The ones that make us worry.
And the ones that distill complex thoughts into just a few words--the sound bites.

Most of us think of sound bites in the journalistic sense--clever, short, highly quotable nuggets of information that reporters and editors use to tease a story. But being able to craft sound bites in our business lives can be very useful in drawing attention to our essential messages.

What goes into a great sound bite? We think there are four elements:

• B = Brief: Keep your quotable quote to 10 words or less. Less is much better.
• I = Impressive: Your sound bite shouldn't just click right away with the audience, but it must stick in collective memory.
• T = Topical: Your sound bites should be quotable, but they must also reinforce the message. And please don't haul out your sound bite just to use it--it must make sense in terms of the topic you're addressing or a question that's asked.
• E = Emotive: Your sound bite should generate some kind of emotional response in the person or persons who hear it. Emotion gives you an instant connection with your audience.

Here are a few tips and examples of great sound bites:

1. Use Words that Clash
A few days ago Morning Joe regular Thomas Roberts referred to an interview by LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling as "apology porn." Those two words are rarely uttered in the same breath but, when combined, create a powerful image that is memorable and speaks to a larger point about the inappropriate and discomforting nature of Sterling's answers. Another example comes from a client who spoke about how women and others are often sidelined for promotions because they step off the treadmill to take care of children or other family members. She referred to this as going to "Workplace Siberia."

2. Make an Analogy
Analogies create an instant bridge between the intangible and the tangible. Comparing abstract concepts to the concrete and easily envisioned makes your message as memorable as a rhinoceros with wings. Remember Forest Gump's famous analogy, "Life is like a box of chocolates?" Pointed, powerful, and visual. Can't you see the Whitman's sampler? Analogies compare things for the purpose of explanation and are particularly useful when you are trying to convey complex information.

3. Build in Imagery
Too often we speak in abstractions. We talk about things we can't really see or imagine. We have mission critical systems rather than what we need to ensure that our businesses survive. We talk about departments, products, programs or materials--using neutral words--when instead we could use words like "tools" or "guides" to create a snapshot in the audience's collective mind.

For example, an expert on dieting might explain weight loss difficulty levels by saying, "Many people struggle with weight loss because of metabolic issues that make it almost impossible to shed pounds." Or they could say, "For many people, losing weight is as challenging as climbing Mt Everest. It's a long, cold journey that is best done with a supportive guide." Here, an analogy combined with words you can "touch" creates a dramatic visual to remember.

Communicating in ways that people will hear and remember is critical. Being able to craft sound bites isn't just for the media any more--it's critical to command attention and entice and intrigue your audience with a message that sticks.