Thursday, November 22, 2007

Brass Tack #6 - Give them an interesting quote or two.

Quotes are recommended for press releases, if only to humanise them and prevent them from being little more than promotional announcements.

The trouble with many quotes is that they actually enhance that impression. The most popular opening phrase for a quote in a press release seems to be ‘I am delighted…’, as in

Managing Director, Kelly Jones says, ‘I am delighted that we have achieved our target to double our sales of fitted kitchens…’;
Concert organiser, Seth Simpson says, ‘I am delighted that we have persuaded the king of Delta Blues to perform at the Skinners Arms…’

It would appear that delight is a widespread feeling shared by spokespeople of organisations everywhere. The world is a delightful place!

Quotes in press releases offer the opportunity to journalists to give the impression that they have actually researched the story and spoken to someone in your organisation. It’s an illusion that is easily shattered, especially if the same quotation appears like a soundbite in every media outlet.

When including a quotation in your press release, think of these two things.

1. You are putting words in someone else’s mouth. Even if you did ask your MD to give you a quote to include in the press release, they will probably respond with ‘say something along the lines of so-and-so – I’ll leave it up to you’. This is fine but leaves open the possibility that they appear to make a public statement that can harm their reputation or even get them sued. So if someone invites you to come up with the public statement that they would have said if they’d only given it some thought, get their OK before the release goes out.

2. Quotes are meant to be transcripts of spoken words (even if they are actually made up). So do at least try to write them as if they were spontaneous, spoken statements rather than extensions of management-speak wrapped up in quotation marks. Would your spokesperson really scintillate as a conversationalist with phrases like, ‘This new policy is a manifestation of our commitment to remain at the cutting edge…’?

The University of Central Lancashire offers some useful advice to journalists on phrasing and setting out quotes. It’s equally valid for a PR seeking to convince journalists that here’s is a story worth running.

Filed under:
media relations       press quotes      press release      journalists     University of Central Lancashire


Sherrilynne Starkie said...

This post made Jo's PR top 5

Heather Yaxley said...

You've given me a flashback - in the early 1990s, when I was new to PR working for Peugeot, one of my regular tasks was to release press releases about new dealer openings (surprisingly a very common occurrence). Invariably the quote from the dealer development manager started with "I'm delighted.." Such are the dangers of the PR writing quotes on behalf of someone else.

My advice today is always talk with the person involved and listen to their choice of words, so that you can reflect their personality and avoid corporate speak. I never ask someone to write their own quote as they can be emotionally attached and prevent you amending it.

Pete Wilby said...

Great advice - thanks, Heather. Another widely experienced emotion in the world of quotes is excitement, as in 'We're delighted with the success of this exciting new development...'