The quote game
Quotations might just be the area where journalist and client desires most widely differ. Whereas, in the majority of cases, your product-selling clients want to unsubtly promote their wares, us writers crave sharp industry or sales analysis free of fluff and unnecessary self-promotion.
In my PR days, after having one client’s proposed comments repeatedly rebuffed by the likes of Travel Weekly or TTG, I came to realise as much, and began encouraging far shorter quotes. That client – let’s call them Happy Holidays – might have initially droned: “Happy Holidays is absolutely delighted with the popularity of its new Happy France and Happy Spain tours, both from its newly-launched Happy Europe range, replacing its former Quite Happy Europe range, and with the visits to its website, www.happy… etc etc”. From which I suggested they actually say: “Our new France and Spain tours are selling extremely well.”
This, above all, represents what we journalists want from quotes: no marketing guff and as much brevity as possible. Personal pronouns (“our”, not “its”) are preferable – they’re chattier, and more suggesting of exclusivity – and so too are hard facts. Rather than vaguely mentioning an “increase” in sales, detail a year-on-year percentage. In print, that always looks more convincing. More sciencey.
Failing all else, though, definitely provide me with something. Last week I sent out an urgent media request for quotes to use in an article about PCR tests. A PR came back quickly suggesting her client and I awarded them the gig, sending on my specific questions. Twenty minutes later, she replied to say her client couldn’t provide comments after all.
I suspect that this client was surprised that my questions were more geared towards advice and opinions, rather than black-and-white medical expertise. In hindsight, then, my initial shout-out was too vague and much of this was my fault. And, to the PR’s credit, she came back very quickly and used up little of my time.
But, even so, I later thought, would it have killed the company to provide some safe, vanilla quotes on the areas they did know about? Did they really prefer to receive no publicity? My emergency-replacement company was similarly hesitant about proffering advice or opinions, but were willing to try, and ended up with some nice coverage in today’s Metro. I’ll gladly use them again.
Ideally, then, convince your client to provide pithy, fact–tastic quotes. But, failing that, remember than something is always better than nothing!