How to elicit compelling quotes for your press release

Settling for the same old corporate blather is likely to send your ‘fascinating news’ right to the recycling bin. Check out these tactics for digging up interesting nuggets to entice journalists.

Ever been challenged to write quotes for your press releases? I’m sure many a PR or marketer can relate.

Maybe your CEO is impossible to get hold of, so it’s up to you to write something generic. Maybe you follow an old press release formula, so you wheel out the same bland quote, rehashed each time. Maybe your spokespeople are reluctant to speak out, unwilling to give an opinion or salient insight lest it rock the boat.

It’s amazing how little acclaim is given to the humble press release quote. It’s often maligned and wedged in as an afterthought or, worse, as filler. The truth is that a good quote can make or break your PR campaign.

Extracting even a paragraph of pertinent thoughts from senior executives can feel like trying to squeeze orange juice from a melon.

That leaves busy PR people flustered, frustrated and flailing around looking for something—anything—to pad out their release. It leads to canned, uninspiring quotes that take up valuable real estate and do nothing to advance your cause.

A good PR quote will draw readers into your story, provide a unique perspective and inject much-needed human context. This could mean the difference between getting your press release picked up-or not.

If coming up with quotes strikes fear into your heart, don’t panic. Here are best practices to help you elicit striking press release quotes:

What not to include:

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Get out your red pen and ruthlessly delete any of the following:

  • All jargon, irrelevant acronyms and business bloopers such as leading-edge, synergy, blue-sky-thinking, leverage, etc.
  • Anything you’ve already said in the press release. Quotes should expand your story, not rehash it.
  • Words such as thrilled, excited, delighted or proud-they have zero business value.

This quick sanity check will instantly help your press release sound less robotic and more engaging—increasing its newsworthiness tenfold.

As for the content:

1. Keep it short and punchy.

If you don’t have much to work with, a short sound bite is 100 percent more powerful than a flouncy sentence full of fluff.

“Our new CEO is in discussions to merge with our European counterparts,” will grab attention much faster than, “We are delighted that our new CEO has accepted this opportunity to explore new opportunities to expand our organization into Europe.”

Be punchy and concise: Get to the point in demonstrating the potential impact of your news.

Stick to your guns no matter what. Your executive committee may want to say how “delighted” they are, but remember this: SSQSC—Self-Serving Quotes Sacrifice Coverage.

2. Make an editor’s life easier.

Journalists are busier (and fewer) than ever. They’re deluged with hundreds of press releases every day and are under increasing pressure to increase traffic and keep up with the 24-hour news cycle.

They need content that saves time and legwork. If you write article-quality quotes, editors don’t have to call up to interview your spokesperson, nor waste precious minutes rewriting your text.

Understand newsjacking and learn how to make it work for your content when you download this free guide.

Take this example from The Guardian, featuring Domenico Vicinanza from Géant.

The journalist used our entire quote verbatim. That’s a ready-to-publish win for him, a sweet piece of coverage for us, and it’s much more interesting than: “We were proud to work with CERN on its 60th anniversary celebration.”

3. Generate newsworthy quotes.

For some marketing folk, half the battle of writing good quotes is gaining access to spokespeople.

Often those people are too busy or too nervous to put their opinions out there. The value they can add with a small amount of effort is disproportionate to the incredible coverage it could generate.

Here’s what to do:

  • Book 10 minutes with your spokesperson and meet face to face. No back-and-forth emails. No excuses.
  • Prepare a one-minute master class explaining that a lazy template quote could mean the difference between headline-worthy coverage and total radio silence.
  • Ask open-ended questions: How is this news beneficial? What was their decision-making process like? What is their perspective on the problem at hand?
  • When you put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—use their language, so the quote sounds natural.

If your spokesperson really is too busy, you can still get a credible quote from someone equally knowledgeable within the company. It’s all about adding insight.

4. Use questions to find your story.

Not every piece of news is inspiring enough to make headlines; adding a compelling story element can liven things up.

If your company is providing Internet connectivity to a new country, ask: Why this country? Who is it helping? What sort of person will it benefit, and how will their life change as a result?

Questions—and the quotes they inspire—help you look beyond the features, facts and figures. Your relatively uninspiring news becomes a human interest story, extending its appeal to a wider audience.

So, next time you sit down to write a press release, consider putting the same amount of effort into your quote as you do your headline. Don’t let it go to waste.

Throw in positive key messages, and journalists will appreciate your efforts. They might even come back to you for more quotes on related stories. When that happens, you know you’ve cracked it.

Tam Henderson runs Gather Creative, a PR and copywriting agency in Cambridge, England. Get in touch @GatherCreative. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

Topics: PR

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