Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prepping Authors for Talk Shows: Part 2 - Soundbyte Prep

Welcome to Part 2 of a week-long series we're doing this week on prepping authors for nationally syndicated talk shows. This series was inspired by Wendy Kays, author of Game Widow, who is taping a segment this week with The Dr. Phil Show.

Today we're talking about soundbyte development for national talk shows: Why they're important for authors, when to start developing them, and how to choose what the author is going to say.

Soundbytes: Why can't I just go off-the-cuff?

When we bring authors down to our Austin offices for media training, most are grateful to have some professional assistance developing soundbytes: Short, sometimes quippy phrases that get across a book's message quickly. For example: When asked about her interior design philosophy, our author Debbie Wiener of Slob Proof! Real-Life Design Solutions likes to say, "Real-life design isn't art - it's smart!" That's a soundbyte.

However, some authors (understandably) resist the soundbyte a little, not wanting to sound canned or cliche. I totally get that - as a publicist, I don't want any of my authors to sound like broken records either. But here is why soundbytes are absolutely crucial for national talk shows:

Your words will be edited.

Talk shows have a lot of ground to cover, usually with multiple guests. They also have many advertisers who paid in advance for airtime. This is why it's key to have several neat chunks of facts and messaging points in your pocket: You won't have all the time in the world to explain your meaning. Believe it or not, you actually exert more control over your message if you give the segment editor what they want - short phrases - and if your message is particularly intriguing, it may also appear in promo spots for the segment.

This isn't to say that you have to be a robot who speaks only in 5-to-10 word statements, mind you. But having several go-to phrases at the ready never hurts - in fact, it usually guarantees you'll be understood more easily by the viewing audience.

So, when do I start working on these "soundbytes?"

The sooner the better! Let me illustrate with a story.

The week after we booked Wendy on Dr. Phil, she flew into Austin for media training. That morning, we asked her the questions we always ask our authors to help them start developing soundbytes: Can you tell us about your book? Why did you decide to write this book? Who do you think will enjoy this book? Etc. She was doing an excellent job, busily scribbling down notes every time we said, "THAT'S a good soundbyte!" (Such as: "Game Widow is designed to bridge the gap between those who game and those who don't.")

About an hour after lunch, guess who called? Dr. Phil's producer. She was already booked on the program, he just needed a little more information about her book....so could she tell him about it? Fortunately, she had just prepared some soundbytes!

So as you can see, those powerful little phrases that help busy people quickly understand your book don't just come in handy on-camera - but off, too. Moral of the story? It's never too early to start developing soundbytes - you never know who could be calling.

Wait - my book is huge! How do I pick and choose what to say in my soundbytes?

First - you want to assume that anyone asking you about your book knows little to nothing about it. Why? Because the grand majority of people watching national talk shows are being introduced to you and your book for the first time. Second - you want to, again, make the segment editor's life easier. And what that person needs is a few clips of you describing your book succinctly. So here are some ways to mentally get the soundbytes rolling:

-Always be prepared to answer the question, "Tell us about your book." Your response should be 2 brief sentences, max. If the host wants you to explain further, he/she will ask.

-Know how to credential yourself. "I researched game addiction for four years, interviewing mental health professionals, game widows, gamers - even sneaking into a few professional gaming conferences!" is perfection.

-Even if you think it's obvious, identify clearly who will benefit from your book. Parents? Kids? Males? Females? Those with a specific problem or condition? With a national talk show, you want to reach out to viewers at home with your book and expertise, but avoid using blanket statements like, "anyone will enjoy this book!" That may be the case, but you're much likely to make an impression in a viewer's mind if you name his or her demographic specifically.

This is the process we've used here at Phenix & Phenix to help our authors prepare soundbytes for national television spots. Hopefully they assist many of you out there, too! Wendy tapes her in-studio segment with Dr. Phil today, so when it airs during October, we'll get to see how she did (fabulously, I have no doubt).

Tomorrow's post: National talk shows and networking. How to make friends with the people who will be shaping your segment!

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