The reason some people get quoted more by journalists

Even before Boris Johnson became Prime Minister he was a journalists’ dream. Why? Because as soon as he opened his mouth a colourful quote would come out.

Close up image of a desk with a smart phone and a hand holding a pen writing in a notebook
Photo by Chivalry Creative on Unsplash

Regardless of what you think of his performance as Prime Minister or London Mayor he has a way with words. And OK so it can backfire on him – often spectacularly – but there is a lesson here.

It isn’t always about what you say, it’s how you say it.

Back when I was B2B property journalist, there were popular market features for which it wasn’t difficult to find industry experts to comment.

In fact, you’d find that a lot of people wanted to give their view on what was going on.

Deciding who to quote

The challenge, for me, was deciding who best to speak to or quote – there was always a limit.

For example, I might have two people who said something like: “Deals are taking longer to conclude at the moment”.

And then another who says: “Getting deals over the line is like kicking a mattress up a hill.”

Who do you think I would quote?

The point is, you can stand out from the crowd by not just saying something interesting but saying it in an interesting or colourful way.

Although I would caution not to force it – don’t use words and phrases you wouldn’t use normally. Sounding like yourself, sounding human is just as important.

Sound human

Sounding human can actually be an advantage. Business is about people, not corporate entities so avoid the temptations to use stuffy language that is wrongly labelled as ‘sounding professional’.

Having a colourful way with words isn’t the only reason some people get quoted by journalists more, they are often people that have an interesting take or angle. They aren’t thinking of it purely as publicity for them.

There is nothing more cringy to a journalist than someone who is trying to shoe-horn an obvious marketing message into a soundbite or awkwardly bringing the topic back to themselves or their business.

Think about how politicians constantly trot out manifesto pledges – it can quickly get boring if they don’t add anything new.

Saying something fresh

And while there is value in repeating key messages, if you aren’t a politician or a celebrity CEO you are more likely to get edited out if you aren’t also saying something fresh and interesting.

The ‘quotable’ person is thinking about what is interesting to the audience, they have value to add, they have insight, they are prepared to say something different and aren’t scared to have an opinion.

Photo by Miryam León on Unsplash

And last but not least some people are quoted more quite simply because they are easy to get hold of.

Journalists often work to tight deadlines so returning a call a few hours later or the next day may well be too late.

If a journalist needs a quick comment about a story or for a feature they will go for the path of least resistance – the person who is easiest to get hold of and going to deliver the quickest.

If you can build a relationship with a journalist based on useful and interesting comment and insight – and being accessible – then you are far more likely to get quoted.

What do you think?

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