PRQ — The question of quotes

Quotes can be the marmite in a press release sandwich. Some PR Pros love the creative challenge of a colourful quote, others would rather stick to stats.

Too often have we heard quotes like “We are excited about the merger of X and Y…” or “This is a welcome development…” or even “This shows our commitment…”

These kinds of quotes are OK(ish).

But do you want an OK press release? No? Keep reading.

Quotes are second in importance, only to the headline. They give colour and add a human side to the story.

Your headline and first paragraph explain the story to the reader and any information after that adds any extra detail. So your quote is not the place to re-tell your story. It’s also not the place for someone to say how “excited” they are about the news, or even worse, how “pleased” they are!

What not to do

Don’t use big bricks of quotes with 80+ words. In so many press releases we see three or four solid blocks at the end dedicated to quotes. These could be gems of colour and human interest, but who is going to read them all? Not a journalist that’s for sure.

Don’t use cheesy jargon, even if you are going to disrupt the industry as we know it, we don’t need to hear it. Don’t sound like a robot, use conversational language, readers zone out if they think they are listening to a corporate briefcase they can’t relate to.

What to do

Your quote should add something to the story, not regurgitate what’s been said. Your quote should add opinion, interpretation or a future prediction. You need to keep it short, one to three sentences should suffice.

As we said already, use conversational language. Even though you may be writing the release on behalf of a company or product, it is coming from a human, not a robot. Think about the person saying the quote and the person reading the quote.

Think up some great soundbites — don’t forget about broadcast media when writing your release, what will sound interesting enough to make the news at one? Or the opening quote on the Six One News? Have one or two super soundbites in either in the quote itself or ready to go if the media follow up with your spokesperson.

How to do it

If you are quizzing the person that will be quoted envision the type of quote that will give your press release that edge. Ask questions that will give you these results. Quiz them on what this new service means for the community, why you are finally creating this new product, how these new jobs will boost the local economy, etc…

Think of where you need to the quote to go and direct them in that manner.

Depending on the person, it may be easier to write the quote, or a few quotes and get them to approve it. People are busy and some won’t understand the importance of a killer quote, others may play it too safe. Incorporate their feedback, make changes if necessary and brief them on some soundbites and answers to any follow up media queries.

Housekeeping

  • Always get permission if you crafted the quote
  • Always attribute quotes from the person, not the organisation
  • Where possible, ensure the person is named and a job title is provided, quotes from “a company spokesperson” are never as effective, and you are less likely to get follow up questions.
  • No need to get creative with attributions, a simple “said” or “says” is perfectly fine, and is in fact preferred among journalists.
  • Keep quotes towards the middle of your release, they can get forgotten about if they are at the end and you need your first paragraph to set the scene.
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