Put some teeth into your sound bites.

The art of concise communications is maybe more important when you're not on TV.

“Ask not what your county can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Sound bites like these have become an almost-instant part of our culture. And in spite of the fact that John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and Johnny Cochrane said a great deal more before and after these famous statements, these are what we remember most.

Most of us worry that we live in a sound bite era—that a quick phrase, right or wrong, can be transmitted almost instantly around the world and have immediate impact. But even though technology has made things faster, one thing really hasn’t changed:

We’ve always lived in a sound bite era.

“Let them eat cake,” and “Give me liberty or give me death” were uttered hundreds of years before the first electrons were harnessed for communications. But they endure today, and they spread like wildfire, mouth to mouth, in their time. James Boswell made a fine living by traveling around with Dr. Samuel Johnson and recording his quotes and quips in the 18th century. In the advertising business, David Ogilvy still lives through “Ogilvyisms” such as “The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.”

Our minds process information in ways to make it convenient and accessible. The cleverness or uniqueness of sound bites make it easy for us to categorize and recall them. The electronic media era has intensified this because this is how reporters think: they have limited time or space, so they try to focus on a core message, right or wrong, from a longer interview.

We can’t remember all of 1,392 words of Kennedy’s inaugural address, but we can take away and apply that single, powerful quote.

We tend to think of sound bites as just comments from radio or TV (hence the name), but there is tremendous communications power in remembering that they can apply to any communications situation. What’s the one thing you want your people to take away from a Monday morning staff meeting? What’s the core philosophy of your company that you’d want every employee to recite off the cuff? Mission statements are typically forgotten or ignored five minutes after they’re written. But, again borrowing from David Ogilvy, it’s hard not to remember his agency’s purpose: “We sell or else.”

The ability to be quotable is a God-given talent, and not everyone can pull a memorable sound bite out of the blue. But there is a method to the process. Read more here.