- On July 1, 2014
We want what we say (or what our clients say) to live on—in print and online. So in addition to sounding good, quotes should read well. I’m regularly surprised by how unclear or boring many businesspeople sound when they talk for attribution, uttering bewildering statements like, “They would cannibalize down and be unhappy” or the perennial snoozer,“We are excited to announce…”.
As you plan what you or your spokesperson is going to say—and plan is the operative word here—consider what makes a good quote:
- Fresh perspective on an issue, product, service, or company
- A statement that can stand on its own, with just a few words added for context—or a hashtag or two
- An opinion you can repeat and sound the smarter for it
- An element of surprise
Here are some quotes I thought did a good job:
- “It’s like FedEx. You pay a certain amount for overnight delivery and a certain amount for two-day delivery. You could end up with something like that for the Internet.”
Philip Weiser, dean of the University of Colorado Law School, explaining the FCC’s proposed (and complicated) rules to regulate how broadband companies deliver content over the Internet. (“Defending the Open Internet.” The New York Times, May 10, 2014)
- “We do a lot of listening to the market, and for us the market is both our customers and our sales reps.”
Andy Mills, president of Medline Industries, on the company’s approach to innovation. (“Want to Innovate? Get Ready to Kiss Some Frogs.” The New York Times, April 5, 2013)
- “Dead patients can’t be readmitted.”
Dr. J. Michael Henderson,Chairman of the Quality and Patient Safety Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, on why a hospital’s readmission rate might not be the best measure of the quality of care it provides. (“Hospitals Questioning Fairness of Medicare Rules on Readmissions.” The New York Times, March 29, 2013)
Talk about surprised. That last one stopped me dead in my tracks.
Quotes should be well-structured, clearly articulated, and informative. Don’t treat them like an afterthought.