Avoid these ten pitfalls when gathering direct quotes for e-news articles
Recent e-news studies conducted by Editorial Solutions, Inc. cite a shortfall of articles containing direct quotes. Especially lacking: quotes from end-user sources. When quotes are used, usually they are not based on contact between editor and source. Instead, information posted clearly is word-for-word rewrite of PR announcements. Result: information often is hard to read — aka lots of long sentences and/or low-value puffery. Here are ten pitfalls you want to avoid when posting quotes on-line or in print media news sections.
- Numberless pitfall. Interviewer settles for adjectives (“big” . . . “substantial” . . . “modest”) as opposed to hard numbers. Sometimes this occurs because editor doesn’t know right questions to ask. At my former company, we defeated this problem by providing all staff members with a list of two dozen questions that required quantitative answers.
- Redundant pitfall. In the published article, first the point is paraphrased, after which a quote merely echoes rather than expands upon the point.
- Transition pitfall. After responding to the specific question posed by the interviewer, interviewee tacks on a totally unrelated observation that somehow gets published.
- Jargon pitfall. Interviewee responds in popular terms (such as fashion retailer always talking about “functional” garments) but offers no specific examples.
- Unclear pitfall. Interviewer doesn’t understand what interviewee is saying, but includes the direct quote anyway, assuming editor or managing editor will correct any snafus.
- Windbag pitfall. Interviewee offers 500-word, valueless responses to most questions. An intimidated interviewer makes no attempt to channel response along more useful lines.
- “For example” pitfall. Interviewee generalizes about specific trends or techniques. Writer fails to ask the “for example” question in pursuit of better information.
- Hype pitfall. Usually occurs during interviews with advertisers trying to get as many self-serving statements as possible into the article.
- Platitude pitfall. Typical quotes get posted all too often (like “people are our most important asset” and “quality products and service are emphasized at all times”).
- Wrong source pitfall. This usually shows up in articles based on end-user input. Because of difficulty reaching the best interviewee, writer settles for a convenient quote provided by a company PR source who is not necessarily in the loop. This habit needs breaking. Among other reasons why, it can be used against you by your opposition during a future competitive analysis report.
To avoid posting any low-value quote, of course, you must go the enterprising route by calling the original source (if dealing with a PR announcement) for better input. Nowadays, however, many editors explain they don’t aways have time to do that. Alas!!!