Shut up and get to the point
The B2B PR industry is guilty of pumping out some truly boring material. Not always our fault, I know – I’ve been left close to suicide reading client amendments to my beautifully crafted prose as often as anyone – but we don’t help ourselves sometimes. This is particularly true when drafting comment or quotes in response to media requests or in press releases (which we regularly do as part of our B2B PR strategies for clients). In anticipation of the clients’ red pen we too often suck the personality out of what we’re writing and retreat to the safety of the corporate-line.
With our help, clients need to grasp the difference between copy and quotes, facts and quotes; the difference between snooze-inducing drivel that gets edited straight out of a story once space becomes tight or juicy quotes that are just too good to lose.
Where in the rulebook does it say that we need to be so dry? Consider the function of a quote from a journalist’s perspective – they want them to add colour, capture some emotion and express an opinion. So clients should be encouraged to say something bold and meaningful – not something self-serving. Call out their enemies, challenge their competitors or the status quo; stand up for their customers or stand up to the government – whatever, just say something interesting.
Look at this quote from Big Brother Watch:
“The Bill is as expected – an unprecedented and unwarranted attack on our privacy that will see the Government track where we make calls, who we email and what everyone does online. We are all suspects now.”
That’s exactly what we’re looking for.
Now look at this one that I found in press release on a wire service:
“We try to provide a high quality online door handle shop that’s easy to navigate, and gives plenty of information to customers about what they’re buying. We make the purchase process easy, we ship the goods quickly, we offer specialist technical advice by phone and we give customers three month no quibble returns.”
Oh. My. God. Who wants to read that (or write it, for that matter)?
Now I know we can’t all be producing material on emotive issues or on behalf of dangerous clients but whether you’re writing about legislation or toasters the rules are the same.
Consider that a news report might only be 300 words and it quickly becomes clear that each section of your quote must be written in such a way that it can be lifted out and standalone. If it takes too long to establish context ask yourself if this really needs to be a quote. If you’ve got a quote that’s 200 words long, ask yourself the same. And if it’s about door handles, well.... you’re on your own.