How to be quoted by the press

How to be quoted by the press

Raise your hand if you’ve done a media interview and your comments didn’t make it into the final article or segment.

It happens to the best of us — including me.

I know it has happened to some of you, too, because I’ve heard from you.

“Why wasn’t I quoted?” you ask. It’s hard to know why that happens without talking to the journalist, but when I’ve interviewed people for articles and haven’t been able to use material from an interview, it’s usually because the source:

  • Answered the questions he wanted me to ask rather than the questions I asked.
  • Duplicated information I had already.
  • Didn’t share information in a way that made it memorable or quotable .

You can’t get your book title in front of your book’s target audience if what you share in an interview doesn’t get used by the press because your book is the credential that gets you that interview. When you’re cited as the source of that information or quote, your book title is included along with your name — it’s what gives you credibility. No name? No book title.

What can you do about it?

You’re always taking a chance that your comments won’t make it into the final piece, but to  increase your odds that you’re quoted (and help make sure that you aren’t wasting your time with the interview), follow this advice:

Study the media outlet interviewing you.

What types of information does it typically attribute to outside sources like you? Knowing what its reporters typically put in quotation marks makes it more likely that you will provide information that’s quotable. (And getting quoted is how you get your book title mentioned.)

Study your competition.

What do they usually say when they’re interviewed about your topic? Say something different.

Certain people repeat the same messages over and over. You know who they are – when you see them presenting at industry conferences or quoted in articles, you complete their sentences for them because you’ve heard what they have to say so many times before that you know it by heart. Make sure you say what they don’t so that you’re bringing something new – and useful – to the interview.

Take time to craft your key messages.

Spend time writing and re-writing a few messages with memorable language. This takes thought, but that process is necessary for most of us because we don’t usually speak in sound bites. We are often too wordy, or our language is too plain.

Use language that’s catchy or emotional.

You want someone to react when they hear or read what you’ve said. Rather than just stating the facts, whenever possible, add a little drama. For example, instead of saying, “Research shows . . . .” say, “I was caught off guard by research that revealed . . . . ” or “I was shocked by study results that revealed what I thought was counter-intuitive — that . . . . ”

Say something counter-intuitive.

When you share a thought that’s the opposite of what they’re expecting or have heard from others, you get a reporter’s attention.

Use alliteration or repetition.

These audio tricks help us remember what you said because they make your message more interesting to hear. For example, if you have a list of three things, try to find words for them that all start with the same letter.

Twist a famous phrase or cliche.

Get a list of clichés and famous quotes and play with them. The more well-known they are, the more likely they are to work for you.

For example, let’s say you’re doing an interview on how to be prepared for a weather emergency. You could replace part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” to get “The only thing we have to fear is not preparing for fear itself.”

Get to the point.

If you ramble or go off topic, a reporter will lose interest and tune out. Stay focused.

Being a good interview subject comes easily for some and not so easily for others. With a little effort and practice, you will make sure that what you have to say gets included.

What’s your best tip for making sure your comments aren’t cut from a story or segment?

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Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

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4 Responses to How to be quoted by the press
  1. Larry Constantine (Lior Samson)
    October 2, 2013 | 7:16 pm

    The problem is not always how to get quoted but how NOT to be MISQUOTED. By openly recording every interview yourself (with an app, a digital recorder, or a smartpen, as I do) you encourage your interviewer to get it right and also not to quote out-of-context. Decades of experience being interviewed has taught me that just the knowledge that you have your own verbatim copy is usually inducement enough for extra editorial care. On the rare occasion where statements are completely garbled or even reversed in meaning, you have backup to help get a retraction or follow-up–which can also be bonus PR.

    –Larry Constantine (pen name, Lior Samson)

    • Sandra Beckwith
      October 2, 2013 | 7:32 pm

      Thanks for pointing out yet another issue, Larry, and you’re so right, of course. I was recently interviewed by e-mail and in spite of that paper trail, there was an error in the resulting online article that was big enough that I had to request a correction so that readers weren’t misinformed. It was an easy process, though.

      That said…one of my regular assignments is to write short event-related pieces for a magazine. Sources often provide inaccurate information (usually in writing, and I save it), then complain when it appears in print. For example, someone I worked with last week on one of these pieces gave me a “for more info” URL that ended with .com. I tested it and reported back that it didn’t work. Turns out — and it took a week to get this info — that the correct URL ends in .org. So, sometimes, we’re only as good as our sources. (Sigh.)

      Thanks for stopping by … please come back! I think you can add a lot here!


  2. Rivka
    October 2, 2013 | 8:33 pm

    I would add in addition to getting to know the media outlet at large, know the reporter who is interviewing you. Building rapport with these key contacts and getting a reputation as someone who is helpful and takes the time to understand how to help the reporter (rather than constant focus on self-promotion) is huge.

    Great article Sandra!

    • Sandra Beckwith
      October 2, 2013 | 8:35 pm

      Excellent tip, Rivka! Thanks so much!


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