Quotes are great. Not only do quotes give you an excellent score if you play it on Words with Friends on a triple word square, they also are good for your online content.

Quotes add a bit of oomph.   Especially if you’ve gone to the trouble to source an interesting and clever speaker.

But it’s easy to get quotes wrong.  Here’s the top things to avoid:

1)     Quoting the wrong person
Some organisations have a protocol around quotes.  So only the Lord Mayor or the Chief of Defence or the Managing Director can be quoted in official communications.  That’s often just fine. But sometimes they are not the most relevant person to quote.   You need the designer, the festival directory  or the HR chick—the interesting person.  The person that adds the most credibility and gravitas is the one who should be quoted, not the person listed in the rulebook.

2)     Keeping it internal

If your product helps people with asthma, then quote an asthmatic about the results. If a psychologist can explain how your service can help with kids’ self esteem, then use one.  Use your customers to provide glowing endorsements and use third party professionals to give insights and your articles will be much more powerful.

 

quotation marks, otherwise known as "bunny ears"

quotation marks, otherwise known as “bunny ears”

3)     Happy quote

Joan Smith CEO of XYZ solutions said she is delighted to be launching this new service.  “We’re thrilled to be producing this innovative solution that will give our customers increased effectiveness and reduce wastage.”  Zzzzzz.

So many quotes are like this.   By stating the company is happy, the quote adds nothing to the story.   We realise the company is thrilled – it’s inherently implied in the story.  If you can delete the quote without losing any value from your story, it needs improvement.

Try this instead:  “Our customers have secured at least a 30% decrease in wastage, which amounts to sixty tonnes of garbage per customer. Stacked together, that rubbish would reach the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.”

If you can’t quote sales or other commercially confidential information give Joan a firm opinion, an insight or a good metaphor.

 

4)     Asking the person to be quoted to give you the quote

Never ask the person you’re quoting for the quote.   They are too busy and important.  Write it yourself!   (By all means, interview them first, and ask good questions.)

 

5)     Not getting it approved

Cor blimey, following on from point three, make sure the candidate is happy with their quote.  Otherwise you are in a world of pain.

 

6)     Robo-quotes

The quote should feel like the person really said it, not bland corporate messaging.   Use concise phrases and bold statements.   The quote can give an opinion that can’t sit elsewhere in the story.

 

“We think this is a game changer for the industry,” or “This will help bring an end to unsustainable packaging.”

Finally, all quotes should address the question: why should we care?

If the quote supplies the answer in a powerful and inspiring way, its job will be done.