Reporters hate PR quotes; here’s what to do about it
What’s the least important element in a release — less important even than the dateline or the boilerplate?
Quotes, say one in four reporters surveyed in a study by Greentarget. According to Greentarget’s research:
- 13% of journalists never use quotes from releases.
- 31% rarely use quotes from releases.
- 28% use quotes from releases only when they’re on deadline and can’t get an interview.
- 28% use quotes from releases regularly.
What’s their beef?
- 50% complain that the language doesn’t sound natural.
- 34% say the quotes aren’t substantive enough.
- Only 9% have no complaints about the quotes.
“Please don’t make me wade through a bunch of boilerplate, taglines and patting-ourselves-on-the-back quotes to find out if the news release is relevant,” begs one journalist surveyed by Greentarget.
‘Don’t sound natural’
These aren’t unreasonable complaints, considering the wah-wah that passes for quotes in releases these days.
Here’s a quote from a news release posted on PRNewswire recently.
“My partner Rick Sullivan and I are thrilled to announce the addition of MSDP to our portfolio,” said Tom Callahan, Managing Director at Lincolnshire. “Under the leadership of a talented management team, MSDP has developed into a world-class performance automotive business managing great brands and boasting key strengths in both ignition and electronic tuning technologies. MSDP provides the ideal partner for Holley, a Lincolnshire portfolio company that is the leading manufacturer and marketer of performance fuel and exhaust systems. Together, these two iconic franchises, Holley and MSDP, will serve future generations of brand conscious street performance enthusiasts, hot rodders and racers with innovative new products and category-leading lines of refreshed, rejuvenated and improved versions of existing products.”
Instead, make your PR quote short. This one is 117 words. But the average length of a quote in a recent issue of The New York Times, not including attribution, was between 19 and 20 words. The most common length: seven words.
Aim for that.
And focus on the reader. How about:
“Hot rodders, racers and other street performance enthusiasts will now be able to do something better [we can’t figure out what from the release], thanks to our merger,” Callahan says.
Now, that’s a quote reporters won’t shoot down.