Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Good Advice 

This column from a public editor on whether and how to clean up quotes is useful for PR practitioners. At least it raises an issue I have tangled with over the years.

If you write quotes for a client, how do you make them read? Should they be bland business-speak, if your client is more colorful? Should they be colorful, if your client is bland? A client in the end accepts a quote or not, but the client often takes a cue from the writer. There is less problem with grammar, an issue in the column. No PR practitioner I know allows bad grammar into print.

My experience has been that clients don't like directness. I favor short and sometimes, blunt quotes that make points clearly. Clients often soften these and just as often, my colleagues won't let them out of the office. It baffles me why clarity is not desirable, but then, I have a bad ear for emotional tone. It may be that directness has a hostile feeling that others sense, and I don't. What happens, however, is that clients miss opportunities to take stands to their advantage.

Quotations are never easy. They put clients on record when clients don't want to be there. Quotations can define relationships when clients prefer ambiguity. They can give facts that clients might wish to avoid. No wonder so few are memorable.

There's a book here somewhere about how daft quotes in press releases can be. They are either meaningless or wholly understated. When I was a hack I rarely used quotes in press releases. Now I always try to spice up quotes and make them as colloquial as possible. It usually works for start-ups but corporate insist on more formal tones.

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