Every other year, it seems, some pundit declares the press release dead. Yet here they are, still widely used and largely unchanged for decades. That doesn’t mean they can’t be better, however, and one common press release element – the quote – is a good place to start.
More than one journalist has told me that when they see quotation marks in a press release they just skip to the next paragraph. Why? Because quotes often don’t really add much value to the story the company is trying to tell. They tend to be shamelessly self-serving, a loose summary of what’s said elsewhere in the release or designed to appeal to a limited audience (e.g. a bit of flattery for a new partner). As a result, they’re rarely included in coverage. That’s a lost opportunity to build credibility for the executive or SME being quoted.
Here are 5 do’s and don’ts for making quotes better and more likely to be used in coverage.
Skip the self promotion – While they might be good for someone’s ego “we’re the best” kind of quotes aren’t very compelling. If you want to use quotes for competitive differentiation, provide specifics about how you’re addressing unmet needs in the market, the truly unique benefits of your solution or how your new product, service, partnership, etc. changes the market landscape. (And if you can’t, then maybe reconsider whether the news you’re pushing is really press release-worthy to begin with.)
Forget your feelings – A lot press release quotes read as if someone dove deep into the thesaurus trying to find a new way to say “we’re so excited that…” Just. Stop. Nobody – especially a journalist – cares that you’re happy, honored, enthused, etc. about your new product, partnership or funding. It always sounds awkward and inauthentic.
Be authoritative – A quote is a great vehicle for delivering a data point from research or a survey and building thought leadership for an executive or SME. If you can combine data with context you can create the kind of value-added perspective that is likely to be used in an article. For instance, one of our clients publishes a quarterly cybersecurity trends report based on data drawn from thousands of firewalls around the world. The press releases for those reports typically include quotes by the company’s CSO putting numbers into digestible real world context and, as a result, are often repeated verbatim in coverage.
Be human – Avoid jargon and overly formal language. Try to make the quote sound conversational. Better yet, try to frame it like a soundbite for a live interview – the pithier and catchier the better. And if you can’t actually imagine someone speaking the quote out loud, it’s probably not that compelling.
Keep it short – No one is going to include a paragraph-length quote in an article. So keep it to one or two short sentences, at most, with a clear takeaway. If you need to provide lots of context or buildup within the quote itself, it’s probably not really a “quote.”
I’m a big fan of Josh Bernoff’s book, Writing Without Bullshit. A constant theme is not wasting the reader’s time. If expect a journalist to take the time to read your press release, don’t clutter it up with unnecessary puffery. Make quotes informative and valuable or leave them out. Still not sure where to start? Let’s chat.