Ad Agency PR: How to Improve Quotes in a News Release

How many times have you read a quote in a news release that sounded canned, stale and clearly was not something a person would actually say?

“…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,” writes Laura Hale Brockway, author of the writing and editing blog impertinentremarks.com, in Ragan’s PR Daily.

She offers four tips for improving quotes in releases:

1. Trash those lazy verbs. Laura recommends replacing them with clear descriptions of your customers’ needs and how your product (or service) meets them. To which I would add: just be careful not to sound too promotional or sensational.

2. Keep them conversational. Quotes are more believable if they sound like something a person would actually say if you were talking with him or her.

3. Can you paraphrase? She contends (and I agree) that you can often improve a suggested quote your client or an executive gives you by paraphrasing it or breaking it up so that the quote is short and punchy.

4. Step up your interviewing skills. If you’re interviewing someone, ask for real-world examples, metaphors, epiphanies, etc. Doing so is likely to uncover interesting details that might otherwise be overlooked.

The more a news release looks and sounds like an article in a publication written by a journalist, the more likely it is to be taken seriously—assuming you’ve done your homework and targeted the right media outlets and reporters.

In my experience, quotes are often add-ons to news releases, and they aren’t given the time and attention they deserve. Ad agencies and their clients will benefit from taking a few extra steps to improve the quality of their quotes, and thereby improve their chances of them getting on reporters’ radar.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.

Journalist Offers PR Pitching Tips

Ragan’s PR Daily recently ran an article titled, “Five Tips for PR Professionals from a Journalist.”

The author, Amy McCarthy, is a content strategist and editor in Dallas. She’s had a lot of PR pitches thrown her way, and some of them haven’t been very pretty:

“Reading pitches from publicists is part of my daily life as a content manager and Web editor, and sometimes they’re just cringe-worthy. When PR is bad, it’s really bad,” she writes.

Here are Amy’s top five pitching tips:

1. Do your homework. If you’re going to pitch me, it’s probably worth getting a little more information than that little blurb that Vocus gives you. Go to my site, look at some of my content, and see what we’re sharing! If you’re not a good fit, nothing that you can say is going to make you a good fit.

2. Do not mislead me. I know that every PR pro reading this blog is going to say that they’d never do something like that, and the majority wouldn’t, but there is a serious lack of disclosure in the PR industry. If a brand sponsors your expert client, you need to make that clear to me. My site isn’t for shilling products; it’s for providing value to my readers.

3. Understand that I am busy. I’m running an entire website and am extremely busy. There are plenty of things I could (and need to) be doing other than uploading your content to my site and making sure that your client’s name is properly italicized. Be respectful of journalists’ time. If you wouldn’t want them bugging you to death, don’t do it to them. Emailing me daily to ask whether your article is ready isn’t going to get it published any faster.

4. Check yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I get pitches with my name misspelled, horrible grammar, and other crimes against English. Spend a little time going over your release and making sure everything is correct. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but if I were to take you on a tour of my inbox, you’d believe that a significant portion of the public relations industry hasn’t met spell- or grammar-check.

5. Provide me with something good. As a publicist, I know you’ve got to say that everything about your client is magical and wonderful. Unfortunately, as a journalist, that really doesn’t do much for me. I don’t want to hear about your “new and improved this or that,” but I would really like to hear about how your “new and improved this or that” is helping families save money, or how your “new and improved this or that” showers its purchaser with the finest jewels. Give me value, and I’ll give you coverage!

Good tips, Amy! Thanks for sharing them. There are probably many others that could be added to this list, but here’s a final tip written from my perspective as a former journalist:

6. Make my job easier. Because I’m so busy, the more you can provide me with relevant, factual information that is meaningful and targeted to my audience, the more I’m going to appreciate you and quite possibly reward you with coverage. And when I see a pitch from you in the future, I’ll take it seriously because I know you’re a credible PR person.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.

For Successful Ad Agency PR, Pitch like a Reporter

Something that’s easy to overlook when pitching a story to a reporter is that in most cases the reporter has to turn around and pitch it to an editor. So, getting the reporter interested is only half the battle. The more you can arm him or her with good information about why your idea would make a good story, the more favorable the odds of selling the editor.

The best way to sell a story is to first do your homework and then tailor your pitch as much as possible.

When I was on the editorial side of a heath care magazine, I never ceased to be amazed at some of the obviously inappropriate pitches PR people sent my way. It was pretty easy to tell who had taken time to read our magazine and understand the types of stories we covered, and who had taken a shotgun approach to pitching.

When the time comes to make your pitch, be sure you not only think like a reporter, but that you write like one as well. In other words, don’t advertise or editorialize your story idea; write your pitch as objectively as possible emphasizing its news aspect.

To increase your chances of success, follow this rule of thumb: find the right reporter and make the right story pitch at the right time.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.