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Why Do We Craft Executive Quotes with the Stiffness of Plywood?

Public Relations

Why Do We Craft Executive Quotes with the Stiffness of Plywood? image quotation updated

We’ve all done it.

We sandwich the most vanilla verb with a noun or two and gushing adjectives and end up with an executive quote that communicates absolutely nothing.

It’s such a waste, particularly in today’s media environment in which journalists are moving so quickly they increasingly need a quick way to plug in a company comment.

This has nothing to do with the David Carr rant on PR people strong-arming “defenseless” journalists for quote approval before publishing.

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I’m talking about prepared remarks whether in a new release or a separate document that journalists can use at their discretion to break up the narrative.

I got thinking about this the other day reading a newspaper story on a Chinese messaging app called WeChat that’s gaining traction across the world.

Why Do We Craft Executive Quotes with the Stiffness of Plywood? image wechat

The company declined an interview due to its upcoming quarterly earnings. Instead, it emailed the journalist its perspective.

Makes perfect sense. The company can completely control the content and eliminate the possibility of a flustered executive saying something that gets the attention of the SEC.

What doesn’t make sense is saying something that doesn’t say anything (I think this is called an oxymoron … or sentence structure that would horrify my high school English teacher).

“Our team is very focused on delivering innovative product features and differentiating user experiences to our growing user base.”

It’s a lost opportunity.

Here’s a litmus test for analyzing if an executive quote is inwardly focused and wastes real estate. Flip the quote around and communicate the opposite. Does it come across as ridiculous?

Using this formula, the WeChat words would read as follows:

“Our team is distracted by delivering commoditized product features and a me-too user experiences to our shrinking user base.”

I think we can safely assess such a quote as “ridiculous.”

In short, the quote should reveal something that doesn’t come across from the facts. Sharing an anecdote that takes the reader behind the curtain as to why a certain decision or event transpired can be effective.

Just applying a conversational tone would improve 90 percent of the quotes in company news releases.

One final thought – sometimes, just one word or phrase can bring a quote to life.

If you’ve come across classically bad executive quotes, please pass along as a posted comment or send my way. If I get enough to constitute critical mass, I’ll aggregate them in a single post (for amusement purposes only).

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