There is an expression, unique to the intersection of PR and journalism that roughly goes, “He (or she) gives great quotes.” This means that a source is able to provide a punchy, succinct and informative sound bite that works well in a story. Here are a few recent examples that stand out:
- “They would have you reuse toilet paper if they could,” – Bob Goldin, chief executive officer at researcher Technomic on 3G Capital’s thrifty management style, BusinessWeek, Aug. 20, 2015.
- “That’s like a merger of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler,” Ankur Kapoor, antitrust lawyer with Constantine Cannon on the possibility that AB InBev, maker of Budweiser, could merge with SABMiller and retain is 58 percent stake in MillerCoors – a partnership that markets and sells Miller and Coors beer to U.S. consumers, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 14, 2015.
Here is what a good quote does:
- It stands out. You might not remember the details of 3G’s cost-cutting crusades, but you will remember Goldin’s quote.
- It gets repeated. The best quotes are re-used in cocktail conversations to delve into the news of the day. It’s easy to imagine having a frosty brew with a friend, looking at the Miller, Coors and Budweiser taps and remarking, “They had to separate the brands, otherwise it would be like Chrysler, GM and Ford merged into one.”
- It adds value. The best quotes sum up an issue in a line or two. While this isn’t always possible, it’s perpetually the goal.
- It makes you a valuable source. The sources that “give the best quotes,” get the most press. Quotability goes a long way in becoming a “go-to” source for journalists.
As a point of comparison, let’s look at a not-necessarily-bad quote, but one that just isn’t very punchy:
- Moreover, the similarities between individuals when it comes to the components that go into generating a credit score (negative events, usage of lines of credit, length of credit history) also have “a statistically and economically significant bearing with the likelihood of separation in the third or fourth year,” the researchers wrote, Businessweek, Oct. 2, 2015.
The above except is from an article exploring a Federal Reserve report that advances the theory that a couple’s credit score and their stability as mates is somewhat correlated. The quote comes from the report and is most likely written by an economist and a researcher. It’s a dense quote, and it could be punched-up to read:
“Our research suggests that wide disparities in credit scores between two co-habitating adults is potentially a factor in when and why these couples separate.”
“If your partner’s credit score is in the basement and yours is in the penthouse, our research suggests that this may be a factor in the longevity of your relationship.”
Or maybe even:
“If your credit scores aren’t a match, then maybe you and your mate aren’t a good match.”
The way the report is written is correct, as it is a research paper. But, it’s dry!
Here are some quick tips for crafting better quotes:
- Practice before the interview. Close your office door and ask yourself the questions you think will be posed. Hear your voice, take notes and simplify what you are saying. (This is also a great exercise to do with your PR or marketing team.)
- Write your quote. Write down your ideal quote. Then, really scrutinize it. Is it succinct? Can you cut words and make it more zippy? When the call comes in from the reporter, refer to your notepad.
- Don’t swing at a curveball (unless you are confident in your approach). If a reporter throws a question at you that is unexpected, hang back. Offer to email thoughts on the subject after the call. If the question is still in your “sweet spot,” pause and respond thoughtfully. Practicing before the interview (see Tip 1) will help you adjust your approach during the discussion.
- Be your own highlight reel. Were you quoted in the New York Times? Well, make sure your company is spreading the news. You need to do the same via your social media channels. It’s beneficial to your practice, the company and to the news outlet – which increasingly focuses on and values page hits and social media mentions.
You too can give great quotes!