How to elicit compelling quotes for your press release


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.


20 Inspirational Career Quotes to Help You Keep Going


shutterstock_299011001Everyone can have downtimes especially at work. If you feel like you have been staring at the excel spreadsheet in your computer screen for the past hour and don’t want to do anything, you may need some inspiration to be able to refunction. Look at the below motivational quotes and write the ones you like on a post-it note. Post these notes on your cubicle and whenever you need inspiration read them to yourself.

  • Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. – Steve Jobs
  • The mind is everything. What you think you become.  – Buddha
  • Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going. – Sam Levenson
  • Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for it. – Katharine Whitehorn
  • Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others. – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan
  • You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. – Albert Einstein
  • Either I will find a way, or I will make one. – Phillip Sidney
  • The future depends on what you do today. – Mahatma Gandhi
  • Risk something or forever sit with your dreams. – Herb Brooks
  • Either you run the day, or the day runs you. – Jim Rohn
  • When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion. – Dale Carnegie
  • Opportunities don’t happen, you create them. – Chris Grosser
  • It is never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot
  • Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time. – Anna Freud
  • The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present. – Jim Rohn
  • Believe you can and you’re halfway there. – Theodore Roosevelt
  • Whatever you are, be a good one. – Albert Einstein

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