Marketing nonprofits in the age of the soundbite

One of the most frustrating aspects of marketing is not getting the space or time needed to fully tell your story.  Not all products, services or organizations can be explained in six words.  Yet, today’s media demand that you find a way to do that.

It is called the soundbite, but we are all familiar with it.  The media move at lightening speed.  Guests on TV are given only seconds to explain their organization before the host shoots a follow up question.  The thinking is audiences today have the attention span of a two year old.  And they probably do.  With switcher in hand, TV watchers are all to eager to hit the button and turn to a another show if they find themselves just slightly bored.

There is nothing PR and marketing people can do about this.  It is the way of the world.   All we can do is deal with it and prepare our clients.

That’s why when we prep clients for TV appearances, we teach them to talk in soundbites.  They need to get the essence of their messages across immediately. If they don’t, their comments will either be chopped up or deleted entirely.  Host and reporters have it easy.   They have pre-prepared questions they fire off in one liners.  Those on the receiving end are not so lucky.  They need to be prepared for any question, and be prepared to shoot back an answers as short and meaningful as possible.

Some call it the “elevator speech.”  But we are not talking about a speech here to explain your organization to a group.  It is much different being in front of a camera, lights shining in your eyes, microphone in your face.  The nerves can set in.  Words don’t always come out as you intended.  And if it is live TV there are no second chances.  Making a difficult situation worse, it lives on via YouTube.

The only way to handle these situations is simple: practice, practice and more practice.  If you believe in what you are saying — and that is step one, then practice saying it in succinct language.  Practice answering different questions, and the same question asked differently.  The more you practice, like playing an instrument, the more proficient you will become at conveying your organization’s marketing and PR message.