A lesson from Trump, sound bites stick!

In an industry where our ultimate goal is to influence action, sometimes we need to look beyond our thick-rimmed glasses and limited-edition sneakers to where people like us, are in the business of influence. 

Politicians, regardless of whether you like them or not are the masters of influence, particularly come election time. And their weapon of choice? The humble, succinct and most always punchy, sound bite. 

Image - Lesson from TrumpImage - Lesson from Trump

A sound bite is the tactic of choosing few words to convey the strongest possible meaning in 9 seconds of less. (Renee Montagne NPR)

Here are just a few of the most effective:

  • “ I will build a wall, a great wall on the southern border and have Mexico pay for it” (President Donald Trump)
  • “ If you want to know how strong a country’s health system is, look at the health of its mothers” (Hilary Clinton)
  • “ Every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history” (Stan Grant)

Surprisingly sound bites aren’t a by-product of Twitter and the 140 character universe. In fact university research has shown that the length of the average sound bite on US television dropped from 43 seconds in 1968 to 9 seconds by 1988. Most likely influenced by a sophisticated and independent style of tabloid journalism. Conveniently though, if you time yourself reading 140 characters, it comes to 9 seconds! Convenient or calculated? You decide!

So, how can we use sound bites in what we do? In many ways. And if you like to be smart/lazy like I do, they can become a great short cut to communication or selling work!

  • To craft your insight on a brief: A killer insight is one which finds a blind spot for the reader and can be communicated in such a way that the reader wants to reproduce that knowledge at the pub, “Did you know abs were made in the kitchen and not in the gym?”
  • To articulate your idea to a client: The best idea is one which can be written on a post-it note, expressed in 140 characters or less or described in a sound bite. Think of how your client could communicate your idea to a colleague in a sound bite.
  • To test if your idea has the power to shape culture:  What would the press sound bite be about your work? E.g. For Hyundai and their ownership program, “Hyundai have made the joy of owning a car last longer”.

Stay kind, keeop it curious and start thinking in sound bites