Sound Bites Don’t Matter!


Forget everything I’ve told you about sound bites.

Don’t worry about brevity.

And remember when I nagged you about speaking in complete sentences? Meh.

Actually, let me clarify: Nothing has changed for traditional (please don’t call them “old school”) interviews. But the fastest growing interview format renders some of the most intuitive rules inapplicable.

If you’re thinking podcasts, congratulations. Now let me offer three important distinctions of podcast interviews to help you prepare for your next one:

You’ll Have More Time

While a traditional news story may feature a handful of 10-12 second sound bites, the typical podcast interview is 30-60 minutes of pure, informal Q&A. And if a listener chooses to click “play” on a given episode, there’s a good chance they want to hear the whole thing. As a guest, that means you can take your time, elaborate on your points, and engage in some real storytelling.

The Host Probably Isn’t a Journalist

Larger news outlets and independent journalists offer podcasts. But millions more are hosted by celebrities and comedians, activists and subject matter experts, enthusiasts and super fans, and of course, that vague and somehow intimidating category of communicators known simply as influencers.

Non-reporter podcasters aren’t usually trained interviewers. They may not ask follow-up questions or dig for the controversy. Some are downright sycophantic. End result: Your interview may feel more comfortable, but if you ramble or digress, your host may not have the skills to save you.

Your Audience: Fewer People, Greater Interest

The audience for a podcast should be measured by its make-up, not just its size. An enthusiast’s streamer may only get a few thousand listeners, but that small pool may be comprised of your best customers, clients, patients or partners; in short, the ones you really need to reach.

Some traditional rules still apply: Vet your podcasts as carefully as you vet every other interview request. Develop key messages and stick to them. Media train your communicators.

And remember, just because a podcast interview feels like a casual conversation doesn’t mean you should approach it that way.

Mark Bernheimer

Mark Bernheimer is a former CNN correspondent and the founder of MediaWorks Resource Group, an internationally renowned media training and consulting firm.