4 ways to improve quotes in press releases

What will sink your press release faster than an iceberg on a foggy night?

Well, besides clichés, superlatives, and meaningless terms such as “cutting-edge,” using poorly worded quotes will have reporters hitting the delete button before they read your third paragraph.

Don’t fall victim to this problem. Consider the following tips as you are crafting your press release.

Trash those lazy verbs
A common problem with press release quotes is that they’re full of lazy corporate verbs such as synergize, utilize, leverage, or facilitate. “We are leveraging cutting-edge technology to meet our customer’s needs.” What does that even mean?

Instead, describe your customer’s needs and how your product solves it. “Suppliers often do not have real-time access to customers. This app enables them to send secure, instant messages to anyone in the supply chain.”

Keep it conversational
Another problem with press release quotes—particularly those from the CEO or another executive—is that your audience knows these quotes are made up.

When was the last time you actually heard someone say, “This new app will foster a new synergistic environment where suppliers and customers can leverage the new social media environment to communicate”?

Conversational quotes are more believable.

Can you paraphrase?
PR professionals are often given quotes from clients, and that may be all you have to work with. How can you improve the quotes if you can’t go back to the client and ask for something else? Can you paraphrase what’s been sent? Can you break up the quote? Do you have to use the quote at the beginning of the press release?

For example, take this quote:

“I plan to continue this legacy of providing innovative products and services to our customers. With over 30 competing companies for our customers to choose from, we have some challenges ahead. I am confident that we can meet those challenges successfully. And the first step is the release of our new app,” says XYZ President and CEO John Johnson.

And turn it into this:

President and CEO John Johnson believes the release of the new app will provide customers with the communications tools they need, setting XYZ Company apart from more than 30 competitors.

Step up your interviewing skills
Want better quotes? Ask better questions.

If you are interviewing the person you’ll be quoting, consider these interviewing techniques from Ken Metzler’s book Creative Interviewing: The Writer’s Guide to Gathering Information by Asking Questions:

Ask for anecdotes. Is there a real-world example you can use to enliven your quotes?
Ask for metaphors. How does the product or service compare to something familiar to your readers?
Listen for crossroads and epiphanies. What led to the creation of the product or service? What were the stumbling blocks along the way? When did they realize it would work?
Ask follow-up questions. If the interview is over and you don’t have what you need for a good quote, ask more questions.

Make your quotes worth quoting. Keep the language conversational and free of jargon. Paraphrase when possible. Ask probing questions.

Readers, any other tips?

A version of this story first appeared on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.

6 Responses to “4 ways to improve quotes in press releases”

  1. Great article that all of us PR pros could stand to learn from (myself included). What’s difficult is when the PR person wants to include a quote that is more readable and less hyperbole, but the client paying the bill wants their five sentence long adjective-packed quote to stay as-is. Walking that line between good writing and client satisfaction can be a tricky one!

    Thanks for your tips!

  2. Just Saying says:

    How about correctly punctuating the quotes? Wow. Suddenly, America is British. The World Wide Web, so aptly named.

    • laurajane says:

      Hmmm. That would make a good article.

      In the U.S., the punctuation goes inside the quote marks. From what I’ve read, it’s different across the pond?

  3. Janna says:

    Hi Laura,
    Your site is great. Very helpful. Do you have a mailing list or alerts sign up?

    • laurajane says:

      Hi Janna. Thanks for your comments. I am working on an alert sign up and hope to have it up soon!