How to Prepare Quotes that Journalists Can Use

Part of the everyday work of PR professionals is preparing quotes and comments for journalists. I have done it myself in the past but I have also been on the other side when I work as a freelance journalist and I have noticed that there some responses are exactly what I need, some are completely useless and most are somewhere in the middle -- ok, but could be better.

Crafting usable quotes is a mission-critical skill for any PR person. Usable quotes are more likely to be chosen and less likely to be edited. You are also more likely to be asked for comment again in the future if your response is usable.

So what exactly makes a usable comment? Why are some better than others and how can PR people learn to make their quotes easier to use?  Here are five essential tips:

DELIVER YOUR RESPONSE ON TIME. If you have been asked to deliver a reply by Monday then make sure that you are on-time. If you are late or might be late because you are waiting for an approval then send a note to alert the journalist. When you receive the invitation to comment don't forget to confirm that you are going to respond. Two days ago I received a request from the Wall Street Journal for a comment. The deadline was Friday 4pm. I confirmed within minutes of receiving the request and sent my comments on Thursday.

WRITE ANSWERS THAT STAND ALONE. If you have been asked a question don't prepare a reply makes no sense without the question. In most cases the question is asked to elicit a comment and the comment will be printed on its own so it has to be entirely standalone. This is actually good practice in any exchange with media, but especially important when you are asked for a comment. 

AVOID ANY DIRECT SELLING. Resist the temptation to add a sales pitch to your comments. Make your response commercial and usually your comment will not be used and you will never be asked again. This is especially true when you have been asked a generic question about your business simply because you are an expert.

READ OUT LOUD TO CHECK SOUND. Way too many comments sent to journalists do not sound like they were said by the person they are attributed to and sometimes they don't even sound like they were uttered by a human. Always read your draft comments out loud to see if they sound reasonable. Try also imagining the person quoted saying these words. Is it the sort of thing they would really say or is it brochurespeak? Be brutally honest.

GIVE A LITTLE MORE THAN ASKED. When a journalist asks you for a short comment you should not send a longform essay, but it can be helpful to give a little extra so that they can choose the parts they find most useful. Ideally the comments you send should all be able to work alone, so that the journalist can take one sentence if that is all they need or more if that fits better. In cases where they set a precise upper limit you should respect that. 

Not every inquiry is clearly expressed so it is sometimes a good idea to ask for clarification -- especially about the amount that is required. Journalists receive more email than they would really like so don't be surprised if there isn't a quick response to your request. One simple workaround for this is to provide quotes at two different lengths so that they can choose them. Another technique I often use is to add an additional useful paragraph that adds another point and can be omitted without affecting the rest.

Related posts
Three Ways to Ensure That Journalists Will Contact You Again
How To Make Sure Journalists Quote You Correctly
Three Social Media Hacks To Find Media Opportunities

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For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics you can contact me at, through my website or by phone on 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0046 730 894 475.


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