Quotes are an integral part of journalist’s copy. Not only do they make it more entertaining to read, but they offer third party views and therefore give the report integrity.
Quotes can come from case-studies, ‘experts’ offering opinion or insight, or even from statements.
If you are seeking press coverage to raise your profile, or if you are a PR seeking interview opportunities for clients, the most likely scenario is being quoted as an expert on something.
As a journalist I seek quotes all the time. But it can be frustrating when people don’t understand what a journalists needs. Here are the four tips to make sure your interview is used.
1. Give an opinion, not facts the journalist already knows
It’s the journalist’s job to provide factual information. It’s your job as an interviewee to give the anecdotes, explanations and first-hand experience that the journalist can’t report.
Compare these two quotes from the founder of teenage fitness classes, which I wrote about recently in The Telegraph. Here is the original emailed quote.
“I found the statistic that 37% of 14 year olds feel worthless and unable to concentrate from a recent study. This cemented my decision to do something. That’s why I developed the XXX method – a 45 minute fitness programme to nourish both body brain and spirit.”
Unfortunately this quote adds nothing for a journalist. Statistics will never come from the source of a quote as they need to be fact-checked. And it goes without saying that the journalist will already be writing about what the description of the class is. Here is the quote I actually used:
“I started the classes after seeing how much pressures my daughter faced when she went to high school. One minute she was in a playground pretending to be a horse, the next she’s in an environment where everyone’s stressing about tests, has a phone and has to be popular on social media….”
2. Don’t be too formal
This is the most common reason why I can’t use a quote. Many interviewees and PRs think the journalist wants perfectly grammatically constructed prose. But when it comes to quotes, we want what comes from the heart.
I recently wrote a piece for Metro about declining levels of libido. I asked several relationship therapists for a comment, who all came back with formal statements with phrases like ‘we advise clients to focus on XXX’ and ‘There are many therapists who can help with XXX.’ This is not useful to a journalist because it doesn’t add anything insightful. The quote I featured was the one which was most expressive:
“Some people have always had low libido. That’s fine if their partner does too. But then there are the “gone-off-its” and that’s what we’re talking about.”
To remove temptation of being too formal ask if you can give a quote over the phone. You’re more likely to say insightful things verbally than when you write it in an email.
3. Don’t refer a journalist to a quote on a press release, book or website
They won’t use it. The reason a journalist seeks a quote is to get an original viewpoint and one that is directly related to the point they are making in that paragraph. A quote from a press release or website is already in the public domain and no journalist who is proud of their work would lift a ready-made quote.
4. Asking for links to a website
If you are being quoted as an expert it’s likely that it will be within the body of flowing text. That means in most cases it would be impractical to add a link to your website. You will probably be introduced mid-paragraph and it might read something like: ‘John Smith, founder of XXX, says: ….’ It is possible they may name your website here, if it reflects your profession or the role you are playing as an interviewee. But there is little point requesting that they include your location, your specific business offerings or even your prices (as I so often get asked!) because there is no way it can be incorporated into the flow of text.
In most cases the article won’t be about you. It will be about a wider topic of which you are featured because of your knowledge or experience of that topic.