We spend quite a lot of time in our media training courses working with spokespeople of all kinds of organisations alongside their PR consultancies and inhouse communications teams to help them to create and test messages and quotes.
One question that always arises is how do I make it more likely that the journalist will use my quote? The fact is that unless you’re the focus of the story you’ll be in competition with other organisations for space in a written report or seconds in a broadcast piece. Even if you are a key player in the story you need to work hard to make sure that your response is featured as prominently as possible.
Here are six ways to increase the chances of a journalist using your quote.
- Come back to them quickly. It sounds obvious but however brilliant your wordsmithing is, if you send it over to the journalist late the chances are that they won’t be willing to use it. With online print media deadlines are largely redundant as we’re constantly editing and reposting material. However, we’ll only do so if what’s new really is worth waiting for. The other advantage of sending over a quote quickly is that it gives you the opportunity to shape the story. If it’s late then the writer will tack it onto the end of the piece or the broadcast reporter will try and squeeze a section of it into their package as they’re editing. Get it over early and make it newsworthy and the journalist is more likely to be influenced by it and to make it more of a focus in the report.
- Promise to shamelessly flog their piece on your social media outlets. Journalists are under increasing pressure to promote their work across social media outlets in order to promote the newspaper, programme or website they work for. Promising to help them here by sharing their story on your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram accounts will incentivise them to include you.
- Make sure you’re focused on the audience. It’s all about the audience, as we remind people on our media training courses and presentation workshops. The journalist will know exactly who they’re writing for and what these people want to know – and so should you. If you’re in the food industry, for instance, a comment that is relevant for The Grocer will not necessarily work for The Guardian. We do a lot of media training courses for lawyers (For more info click here) and we stress here that arguments and wording that might be right for The Lawyer won’t go down well in the Daily Mail.
What are journalists looking for in a spokesperson? Punchy language
- Use simple punchy language. Even if your audience is technical keeping your language simple, natural and punchy will increase the chances of getting it quoted by a journalist. Of course, you can use technical words and phrases because (see above) these will mean something to your target audience. However, contrasting them with the language of the coffee shop or the pub rather than the boardroom or the conference centre will appeal to the journalist and help your comments to stand out from the kind of bland, corporate spiel that most organisations are guilty of. Look at the most prominent, newsworthy business leaders and CEOs of large organisations – they use everyday language and punchy phrases.
- Include an analogy or comparison. Again, to make your comments stand out from the crowd employ analogies, metaphors and comparisons. Somebody might, for instance, be the Harry and Meghan of the construction world. Legally, to (almost) quote P G Wodehouse, this new entrant into the legaltech market might have the social standing of a shark at a holiday resort. You can probably think of your own suggestions and improve on these suggestions. Just remember, as always, during a media interview, to check it with your comms team or PR advisors beforehand. As we tell our media coaching participants, never say anything during a media interview that you haven’t sense checked beforehand.
- Tell a story. There’s a reason why journalists call the articles they’re working on “stories.” As journalists we love stories – because our audiences do. During our media training courses we emphasis again and again the importance of stories and we work closely with our participants to identify, craft and tell stories, case studies and simple anecdotes that they can use during media interviews. Stories serve two important functions. First, they prove something. You might tell me that customer service is important to you, for instance, or the that something is the case but show me with a story and I’m far more likely to believe you. Second, stories illustrate and explain. If someone asks you how something works or what something means, without thinking, you’ll naturally say “For instance…” or “Just imagine…” It’s the same with media interviews. Tell a good story and, as a spokesperson, you’re more likely to be quoted by a journalist.