Quotes in press releases are an essential ingredient and a prime space that is often under-used by PR practitioners. It’s a bit like forgetting to put baking powder in a cake mix, the cake will still taste ok, but it’s a bit flat.
The great thing about quotes is that it’s the perfect opportunity to give a person’s perspective on the news, adding further credibility and value to what you’re announcing. It’s important to use it strategically to strengthen your announcement as well as raising the profile of the spokesperson saying it.
Press releases are largely based on facts or data, so the quote is a good chance to drive your messaging home with something concise, to the point and meaningful.
Getting a quote wrong, means your spokesperson will get cut from the story. Can’t be that hard, can it? Well, we’ve seen people fall into common traps with quotes…like saying:
So, you know what not to do, but it’s never that simple is it? How can you avoid these in future?
Our best advice when it comes to writing quotes is to imagine someone actually saying your quote out loud to a journalist. If you cringe or think the jargon will go over their head, then it’s clearly something nobody would ever say. Another good tactic is to speak to whoever you’re quoting in your release and ask them to comment as though they were being interviewed by a journalist. Note down their comments verbatim and refine it for the release.
Always remember to have a high resolution picture of the person quoted for media use – it’s amazing how many times forget to get these organised.
If you can avoid the pitfalls above and get some time with a spokesperson, you’ll have the perfect quote with which to bake the perfect press release.
1 April 2015 – Journalists will once again receive hard copy press releases with the introduction of FireDRONE, a new press release distribution drone from technology PR agency, Firefly Communications.
FireDRONE will take its debut flight in the skies of London on 1 April 2015, delivering press releases straight to the desks of journalists from Firefly’s head office.
Constructed with aerodynamic, light-weight materials, FireDRONE will put press releases into the hands of journalists within minutes of leaving Firefly’s London PR agency office.
The drone’s targeted GPS-tracking functionality means it will lock onto a journalist’s exact position at any time via their mobile phone, forcing them to physically receive the news into their open arms no matter where they may be.
The drone’s built in silencer also ensures the aircraft only makes a faint sound, ensuring journalists will be truly surprised by the news they are delivered – as their readers will be too.
“Journalists get so many press releases, that their inboxes are looking more and more like fruit machines. Often the most relevant and timely release is at the bottom of an ever-changing cycle of announcements,” said Firefly’s managing director Phil Szomszor.
“That’s why we’ve launched FireDRONE, to provide timely announcements straight into journalists’ hands. With GPS tracking technology, we can also ensure that announcements are – quite literally – more targeted. FireDRONE can also be used for other delivery of other items, such as product samples and photographs.
“We see another application in the delivery of highly sensitive news. Some of our clients have told us they are worried about hacking scandals and whether we can be sure that an announcement reaches its intended audience. With the camera’s in-built camera we’ve got the best ever ‘read receipt’ in the business,” enthused Phil.
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Back in the old days – and by old days, I mean more than 10 years ago – the press release was pretty much the only effective way for companies to distribute an announcement en masse. It was produced in a widely agreed format of headline, sub-head, first para, second para, quote etc., which still exists to this day.
An agency I used to work for charged them out at £600 a pop (it probably still does; inflation doesn’t seem to have hit agency fees) and we were tasked with writing as many as we could for our clients. They were printed out, put in envelopes and sent out to a mailing list compiled from a PR directory, before the Waymaker software came in and made its mark. In the tech world, you’d expect maybe a dozen cuttings from each release, which were studiously cut out from newspapers and magazines and glued into cuttings books.
The whole thing was about as sophisticated as making sausages.
Then, once software-based media directories took off and people realised that journalists preferred press releases via email, the whole thing started to go downhill. Once it effectively became free to distribute announcements, journalists started receiving them in their hundreds on a daily basis. Frustrated at not getting replies, PRs then started to call journalists to say, “have you got our press release?” It didn’t go down well. Still doesn’t.
Then, over a period of about three or four years, digital media took off. People started blogging initially, then social media came in. Twittr became Twitter – well, you know what happened there. Google bought YouTube. Myspace gave way to Facebook.
PRs clung on to the press release. Some bright spark came up with the “social news release” to allow other content to be included and for the release to be distributed. For the most part, it felt like press releases were just letting themselves go.
Meanwhile ad revenues were down in traditional media. Newspaper readership was plummeting, Trade publications went out of print. Trade titles either died at worst, or went online at best. Newsrooms of ten became newsrooms of one or two.
Still, PRs carried on doing their thing: sending out dozens of dozens of press releases. Only the number of cuttings from each press release has fallen somewhat.
Why is that? It’s not that there’s any less news out there. The problem, as we all know, is that people get their news in different ways these days. If there’s a breaking story, where’s the first place you go? Twitter. After that you’ll check things out on online news sites, blogs and so on. The one thing people hardly ever do is check out the press release.
People want news and insight faster, putting traditional media under a lot of pressure to get there first. Waiting to receive press releases by email seems almost quaintly old hat nowadays.
The future of press releases
But, despite presenting a pretty bad case for press releases, I still think they have their place – and it’s not just formal financial or legal announcements. The problem is that PRs usually misuse them. Most journalist surveys I’ve seen, say that they prefer receiving news or announcements from companies by press release. That’s fine. Send journalists press releases, just do it properly. They should be short, well-written statements with less puff and more attention to detail. Turn them around quickly and distribute them selectively, not en masse.
Consumers, bloggers and other interested parties probably don’t want to read a press release though. A blog post is much more effective as a communications medium. It isn’t restricted to the formatting conventions of a press release and can be written in more ‘human’ language. Plus, it’s a great place for journalists to link to (when was the last time you saw a journalist link to a press release?)
Personally, I don’t think the press release should be killed off – it still has a place in the communications toolkit. However, it really needs to be used in the right way in order to survive.
Do you think the press release is dead? Share your thoughts over on the Firefly Facebook poll.
This post was written by Phil Szomszor. Contact Phil on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter.
Yesterday I noticed this post by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, an influential blogger and journalist, discussing the PR industry from a media point of view. In summary, he questions the role of the press release in the age of Twitter. He says that he rarely looks at releases and is more likely to pick up a story from social networks where discussions break in real time.
It’s always interesting hearing from the other side about what works and what doesn’t. As a PR, I can confirm that Twitter and social networks are something that the majority of our profession are comfortable with already.
It’s clear that maximising channels such as Twitter is the best way to strike up and maintain a relationship with a growing number of Twitter-centric media contacts. However, it’s important to remember that not all media are on Twitter and knowing their contact preferences before reaching out is best; and that press releases serve their function, too. There is room for both the press release and the Twitter pitch to co-exist and compliment each other.
Whether you are communicating on email with a press release in tow, or via Twitter with a 140 character limit, you need to capture the media’s attention and get to the point within the first few lines. Few people have time to wade through pages and pages of information to find news. When I started at Firefly, it was stressed to me how important it is to know and maintain relationships with media; I haven’t stopped gaining knowledge and building these relationship since. By the way – how are you Mark?
This post was written by Charlotte.
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