With several former journalists on the Wordsworks team, we’ve seen more bad press releases than anyone deserves to.

We’ve also written plenty of press releases ourselves, so we know what works – and what doesn’t.

One of the most frequent ‘fails’ we’ve come across is bad quotes. A press release quote is a chance to get your company’s representative in the media. You start with a blank slate and can say anything you want.

Why, then, do so many companies mess it up?

Because they forget that press releases are there to serve the media – not their company. That means playing by the media’s rules (if you want to tell everyone how good your company is and impress them with industry buzzwords, take out an advert).

Remember, it’s much easier for a journalist to ignore your press release than to run a story based on it. And bad quotes offer another excuse for a journalist to delete your release.

Here are seven ways to improve your press release quotes:

1. Interview the person being quoted.

Push back if they say, “just make something up for me”. Talk to them, even for just two or three minutes. Or failing that, phone or email them, and ask them a couple of questions about your news. You’ll almost certainly get a better, more authentic quote to include in the press release. And it will also be better suited for our next piece of advice.

2. Keep it conversational.

When you’ve finished drafting your quote, read it out loud. Would the person really say that quote? Using those words? Be honest, does it actually sound like someone talking, or does it sound like a line from a management textbook? Or worse, a contender for ‘cheesy corporate banality of the year’?

3. Cut the jargon.

If the aim of a press release is to generate media coverage, you’re going to have to be ruthless with jargon. Any self-respecting journalist will glaze over when they see industry jargon. The likelihood is that they’ll either cut it from the quote anyway, or not use the quote at all. So why take the risk? After all, in the words of Einstein, “if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

4. Use strong, direct language.

Look at most publications: they generally don’t use long, complicated sentences. So it’s best not to include a quote that’s a four-line-long  sentence. It will either get reduced – or completely ignored.

5. Have an opinion.

This is one time when hiding behind a corporate ‘safety first’ approach is highly unlikely to pay dividends. Opinions sell news. If the person being quoted is too scared to express an opinion – a real opinion, not a bland “We’re delighted to do this deal” platitude – then it might be worth looking for someone else. And if you’re a PR or communications manager, you should be explaining and highlighting the benefits of opinions to everyone around you.

6. Only use this verb.

Introduce your quote with ‘John Smith said:’. John Smith did not opine, express, believe, declare, observe, remark or state. He said.

7. Ditch the self-congratulation.

If you include a quote that’s a blatant sales pitch for your company, forget it. A journalist will simply direct you to the advertising department, who will be happy to sell you space in which you can run whatever you want.
Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below.