May 24, 2017

Write quotes that sound human

Convey personality, passion and a point of view

Too many quotes don’t even sound human. Instead, they clatter in your ear like a computer spit them out.

Write quotes that sound human

Stand out from the crowd Write quotes that sound like a real person said them, not like a computer spit them out. Image by Brooke Cagle

Add personality to your quotes through passion, humanity and colloquialisms.

Make it personal.

When two-thirds of Californians failed every question on a fast food nutrition quiz, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy distributed a release including this sound bite. The subject matter expert makes the story personal by talking about his own experience with the quiz:

“I have a doctorate in public health, and I failed this quiz,” says Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, who commissioned the poll. “And common sense does not help either. Who would think that a large chocolate shake at McDonald’s has more calories than two Big Macs?”

Take me there.

In another release, spokespeople for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy demonstrate how hard it is to intuit the number of calories in a fast food item. The quote pulls me into the room and the demonstration:

“In a Capitol room thick with the smell of fast food and breakfast entrees, proponents of Senate Bill 120 (Padilla-D Los Angeles), the proposed nutrition menu labeling law, dramatically illustrated why this legislation needs to be signed by the Governor.

“‘You choose,’ Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier prompted the crowded room as he displayed a plate with two Big Macs, one with four hamburgers and a tall chocolate milkshake. ‘Which has the most calories?’ Except for two insiders who admitted they had seen the study before, not one of the guests in the room chose the milkshake with its whopping 1,160 calories.”

Show some emotion.

This quote from a Silver Anvil Award-winning campaign by the Illinois Coalition for Competitive Telecommunications does just that. As a result, it makes a yawn of a topic — telecom deregulation — interesting:

“This bill is an outrage,” said Gary Mack, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Competitive Telecommunications (ICCT). “Businesses and consumers in Illinois have been suffering through the worst service problems in history because of (XYZ Corp.), and now the company is asking us to trust them to provide good service at a good price without any oversight? Do they think we’re nuts?”

Help us hear him.

This quote — from a Silver Anvil Award-winning campaign for Xerox Corporations’ office makeover contest — is attributed to “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s” Thom Filicia. Because we’ve seen him on TV, we can literally hear him say:

“Before, their office was just tragic! But now it’s really hip, sophisticated and professional, and it will help inspire them to grow and do more great work,” said Filicia.

Bottom line: At the very least, your quotes should convey humanity, passion and a point of view.

  • Write Killer Bites

    Turn lame-ass quotes into scintillating sound bites

    Half of reporters complain that quotes in releases don’t sound natural, according to a 2014 Greentarget survey. Maybe that’s why 78% of them don’t regularly use quotes from releases.

    No wonder! As one of my clients says, “Quotes in news releases sound like the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon: ‘Wah wah wah wah.’”

    So how can you get the wah-wah out and instead write quotes that reporters will actually use?

    NOT Your Father's News Release - Ann Wylie's PR-writing Master Class in Chicago At NOT Your Father's PR Piece — a two-day PR-writing Master Class on May 18-19 in Chicago — you’ll learn how to transform your quotations from bleh to brilliant.

    Specifically, you'll learn how to:

    • Write tight bites. Even a lame quote will sound better when you use our quote length targets.
    • Put a quota on quotes. Steal a trick from The New York Times to avoid overquoting.
    • Write quotes that sound human — not like a computer spit them out.
    • Avoid the worst PR clichés. PR Newswire sees 1,284 of these in a single month.
    • Steal techniques from Silver Anvil winners. Make your sound bites sound better.

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Register for NOT Your Father's News Release - Ann Wylie's PR-writing workshop in Chicago


    Browse all upcoming Master Classes.

    Would you like to hold an in-house NOT Your Father's News Release workshop? Contact Ann directly.

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