Thursday, January 06, 2011

"But there's more I had to say:" Soundbite shrinkage chronicled

If your spokespeople are of the long-winded variety, here's a nice fact to know and tell to encourage brevity: The soundbite, that plucked-from-your-verbiage packet of wisdom or shock, is officially nine seconds or under.

The Boston Globe this week chronicled the soundbite's history, and NPR's coverage offered an example that hits just under nine seconds, from Rep. Daniel Issa, Republican of California:  "The sooner the administration figures out that the enemy is the bureaucracy and the wasteful spending, not the other party, the better off we'll be."

The Globe notes that CBS experimented with a policy of longer soundbites in 1992, after researchers reported that soundbites had declined in length, from 43 seconds in the 1968 presidential campaign, to nine seconds in the early nineties. (Readers of Joe McGinniss's book, The Selling of the President, will recall how shocking it seemed at the time that Richard Nixon had a focused ability to speak in to-the-second brevity when doing commercials.)

That long soundbite option didn't last.  Nine seconds seems to be the modern sticking point--it's of interest to me that Issa's soundbite would fit nicely into a tweet, with room for his handle and some re-tweeting space.  Keep it in  mind when coaching your experts for interviews--or if they need more help with media training, contact me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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