The plan from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan to “tinker” with the American healthcare system caused quite an uproar.
It’s not every day that Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos join forces to figure out a way to eliminate those pesky clipboards holding the forms that you fill out every time you make a pit stop at the doctor’s office.
Yet, the same announcement carried a healthy message for communicators around the world that went something along the lines of this:
- When crafting a quote from an executive for a news release, the words should sound like they came from an actual human being, and they should advance the story.
This has always been a tough one for communicators who insist on writing executive quotes with the stiffness of plywood. Worse, the superlatives in the typical quote do nothing to advance the narrative.
It also seems like every quote goes through the following process in which a conscious effort is made to squeeze out any semblance of humanity.
Back to the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorgan news release, it’s worth taking a look at the quotes from the three CEOs, starting with Mr. Buffett:
“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy. Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable. Rather, we share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country’s best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes,” said Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett.
He had me at “tapeworm.” His quote lets the world know that they’re going to put a stop to the gauging from the healthcare industry.
Moving on to Jeff Bezos:
“The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.”
While not as colorful as the Buffett quote, he still gets across a fresh point that institutional knowledge can be a detriment improving the quagmire called the American healthcare system.
Finally, we capture the quote from the CEO of JPMorgan:
“Our people want transparency, knowledge and control when it comes to managing their healthcare,” said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. “The three of our companies have extraordinary resources, and our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans,” he added.
Leave it to the finance guy to play it safe with commentary between the lines.
Still, all in all, the quotes absolutely advance the story, especially taking into the account that the announcement provided no specifics on how the three companies would achieve this magic act.
Equally revealing, journalists from tier-1 media — Bloomberg, CNN, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian and the list goes on — “borrowed” the quotes. In fact, many like the AP story feathered the Buffett commentary into the early part of their stories:
By TOM MURPHY, AP Health Writer
Amazon, Warren Buffett and JPMorgan are forming a new company to address the health care costs of their employees, sending shares of health care companies down sharply across the entire sector despite the vague nature of the announcement.
On Tuesday Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said that he, along with Buffet and JPMorgan, would attempt to make health care better for hundreds of thousands of their employees, and perhaps, eventually, the country.
There were few details and those involved said the project is in the early planning stage.
“The ballooning costs of (health care) act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” said Buffett, the head of Berkshire Hathaway, in a prepared statement. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.”
When it comes to prepared quotes, one of my all-time favorites came from President Obama on the passing of Harold Ramis:
Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Harold Ramis, one of America’s greatest satirists, and like so many other comedic geniuses, a proud product of Chicago’s Second City. When we watched his movies — from “Animal House” and “Caddyshack” to “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day” — we didn’t just laugh until it hurt. We questioned authority. We identified with the outsider. We rooted for the underdog. And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings.
Here’s a tip for crafting a quote that says something meaningful. Don’t start the quote with “I’m pleased” or “I’m delighted” or “I’m thrilled.” No one cares about the state of the mind of the person communicating the quote.
Instead, use conversational language that adds a new piece to the story.
It’s really that easy.