Add passion, personality to your sound bites
A frustrated PR pro in one of my workshops said:
“Most quotes in press releases sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons: ‘Wah wah wah wah.’”
Indeed. Here’s a quote from a Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the declining health of 9/11 rescue workers:
“I’m begging for someone to help me,” Valenti said. “I do not want to die.”
And here are quotes from the late, great UK Press press release quote generator:
“Answering the needs of e-tailers, our cutting-edge software product recognises the importance of clicks and mortar operations.”
“A turnkey solution, our best of breed product tests the performance of enhanced customer care.”
“Representing a radical step-change, our new product set tests the performance of enhanced customer care.”
Sadly, these quotes are so real sounding they could have been plucked randomly from any of the press releases I’ve reviewed this morning.
‘Not natural enough …’
Too many communicators craft quotes like this:
- Write your message.
- Choose the third paragraph.
- Put quote marks around it.
No wonder journalists complain about news release quotes. In a recent Greentarget survey of reporters:
- 50% kvetched that the language doesn’t sound natural in press release quotes.
- 34% groaned that PR quotes aren’t substantive enough.
- 9% had no complaints.
“Wah wah wah wah,” indeed.
Write quotes that sound human.
So how do you get the Wah wah out? How do you write good quotes for product launches, blog posts, news stories, press releases and other messages that sound like a human said them, not like a computer spit them out?
1. 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?”
2. Take me there.
In a Silver Anvil Award-winning 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:
“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.
3. 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?”
Your quotes should convey humanity, passion and a point of view. How do your quotes stand up against these winners?