Stop being afraid of press release quotes

Nov 12, 2015
Stop being afraid of press release quotes

Ever 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 down 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. Or maybe, your spokespeople are reluctant to speak out; unwilling to give opinion or thought-leadership… in case it rocks the boat. While we cover 6 simple steps on how to send a press release here, quotes can truly make or break most releases.

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

But extracting even a paragraph of pertinent words from senior spokespeople can sometimes feel like squeezing orange juice from a melon.

Which leaves busy PR people flustered, frustrated and flaying around looking for something—anything—to pad out their release.

This leads to canned, uninspiring quotes that take up valuable real estate and do nothing to advance your cause.

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

If coming up with quotes strikes the fear-of-writer’s-block in you, don’t panic… Here are five best practices to help you create amazing press releases 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.  

Now for the content…

1. Keep it short and punchy.

If you don’t have much to work with, a short soundbite is 100% 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.”  

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

And 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.

Alternatively, if you’re lucky enough to have a willing and able thought-leader to hand—it’s time to start thinking like an editor…

2. Make an editor’s life easier.

Think about it. Journalists are busier (and fewer than ever). They’re deluged with hundreds of press releases every day.

They’re under increasing pressure to grow traffic and to keep up with 24-hour news cycles.

So they want—nay, NEED content that saves time and legwork. If you write article-quality quotes, editors don’t have to call up to interview your spokesperson, or waste precious minutes rewriting your text.

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

The journalist used our entire quote—verbatim. A ready-to-publish win for him; a sweet piece of coverage for us…

Much more interesting than: “We were proud to work with CERN on their 60th anniversary celebration.”

3. How to generate newsworthy press release 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. Truth is, 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 ten minutes with your spokesperson and meet face-to-face. No back and forth emails. No excuses.

  • Prepare a one minute masterclass on how a lazy template quote could mean the difference between headline-worthy coverage and total radio silence. Show them the money!

  • Ask the right (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, 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 quotes to find your story

Not every piece of news is inspiring enough to make headlines. But adding a story element can shake things up a bit.

But how to do this when your news is drier than the Atacama Desert?

Quotes, of course!

If you’re 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?

A quote gives you the chance to dig deeper 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 in to your quote as you do your headline. Whatever you do, don’t let it go to waste! Throw in some positive key messages and journalists will genuinely appreciate your efforts.

Who knows, they may even come back to you for more quotes on related stories.  And when that happens, you know you’ve cracked it.

Tam Henderson runs Gather Creative a PR & copywriting agency in Cambridge, England.  Get in touch @GatherCreative. She’d love to hear from you.

Photo: Speech bubble via Shutterstock

About the author

PR. Copywriter. Brevity geek.

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