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Writing Executive Quotes That ...

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The executive quote serves as a mainstay of PR-generated content from news releases to prepared statements.

With rare exception, they’re dreadful.

It’s as if each quote goes through the following process in which a conscious effort is made to squeeze out any semblance of humanity:

Executive Quote chart for humanity- storytelling

The upshot —

PR ends up crafting quotes like this one that then get flung to the world.

Typical PR executive quote

The quote does nothing to advance the narrative.

Worse, it’s more dull than an episode of CSPAN debating the merits of wildlife in national parks.

For a role model on doing quotes right, we surprisingly turn to the U.S. Soccer Federation. In fact, the organization goes one step further, essentially creating atomized storytelling that journalists can easily feather into their stories. Putting the heartbreak from yesterday’s loss to Belgium aside (I’m not bitter, but I’ll never eat another waffle), this is worth a drill down.

The Federation puts out what’s termed “The World Cup Quote Sheet” with select players and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann commenting on both recent outcomes and what’s ahead. Quotes such as the following — in-depth commentary allows journalists to pull slices into their stories — were distributed after the match with Germany:

 

U.S. MNT head coach JURGEN KLINSMANN
On advancing from the Group of Death:

JK: “It’s huge. We wanted a tie out of this game, but maybe in the beginning we had a bit too much respect [for Germany]. Then, more and more, we got into the game. We should have created a bit more chances. That’s really something we have to improve on, but overall, tremendous energy, tremendous effort from the whole side. It’s huge for us getting out of this group that everybody said, ‘You have no chance.’ We took that chance and now we move on. We really want to prove a point.”

U.S. MNT goalkeeper TIM HOWARD
On getting out of the Group of Death:

TH: “Proud of our group; we have a lot left in us. Today was a tough game in tough conditions. Hats off to Germany, I think they have an opportunity to win the World Cup, that’s how good I think they are. We had a chance right there at the end, but we go again, we get to the Round of 16. It shows how far we’ve come. That we’re not happy just getting there, that we want to progress , and we still got a little bit left in us.”

U.S. MNT forward CLINT DEMPSEY
On Jermaine Jones possibly breaking his nose:

CD: “I guess that’s the way it goes. We have a team that has a lot of heart, a lot of character. We keep going, we keep fighting. I’m sure, if he did break his nose, just like what happened to me, he’ll be ready for the next game.”

These comments do sound like they’re coming from actual human beings.

Equally important, the Federation’s PR team directs the commentary based on anticipating how journalists will round out their stories.

That’s why you have Clint Dempsey who broke his nose in the first match offering up a quote on Jermaine Jones who appeared to suffer a similar fate. Can anyone doubt that the line “I guess that’s the way it goes” really came from the mouth of Dempsey?

As a result, journalists do use these quotes because they add texture to their stories (search on “Klinsmann” and “It’s huge” shows that the phrase found its way into well over 100 stories).

I think there’s room for business communicators to borrow this concept.

At the very least, we should be writing executive quotes that pass the sound test; i.e., does it sound like something a person would actually say?

 


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