Bernard O'Riordan, Media Trainer
One of the biggest gripes I hear from clients in media training workshops is how they’ve given up their time to talk to a reporter but end up not being quoted. Or worse still, how they've been taken out of context.
It's natural to be frustrated with the reporter, but I wonder if they ever consider where they might be going wrong.
One of the main reasons people aren’t quoted is because they don't take time to clarify their thinking or plan their messages before sitting down with a reporter. As a result they have no brilliant insight and no standout quote.
Who a reporter chooses to quote isn’t rocket science. It often comes down to who was most interesting.
Who used simple, colourful language to explain a complex issue? Who dared to be different by offering up a strong opinion?
Who spoke with authority and showed they’re on top of trends? Who provided solutions and highlighted benefits rather than just spruik a product or service?
There are plenty of reasons why you might not be getting quoted in a news story.
Here are five reasons why you're being sidelined:
Your responses are too short. It’s normal to be nervous and even guarded in a media interview. But when your defences go up your responses become short and disjointed and you don’t provide any real insight. That makes it hard for a reporter to understand your point of view so they ask even more probing questions, hoping that you’ll tell them something interesting. If your responses jump around and your thinking is disjointed, it suggests you haven’t planned what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. It means rather than being quoted, a reporter has to paraphrase what you said. And that's where misunderstandings happen;
You use too much jargon. Let’s face it, people in business rarely speak in articulate, interesting sentences. There's a lot of jargon masquerading as insight, which makes people dull and difficult to quote. If you can’t explain an issue simply like you would to a 14-year-old (the typical reading age for many newspapers based on the complexity of words) then you are not ready to talk to a reporter. Drop annoying phrases that slow the reader down (“Paradigm Shift”, “Think Outside the Box”, “Leverage”) and use everyday language. If there are more than one or two syllables in the words you use, find a better alternative. For instance, why say “u-til-ise” when you can just say “use”?;
You talk too fast. There’s no doubt today’s fast-paced, hi-tech world is turning a lot of us into fast talkers. But if you want to be persuasive and influence the way a reporter write’s a story (not to mention what your audience takes away), then it’s crucial that you take a breath, slow down and deliver your insights in a credible and measured way. Remember a reporter is asking questions, listening, writing and thinking what to ask next, so do them a favour and slow down. If they don’t hear what you say, they can’t quote you;
You’re just not that interesting. The best way to get quoted is to deliver a quote that is dripping with colour. Reporters are drawn to colourful language and a turn of phrase that grabs their attention might mean you are quoted ahead of a rival. People who come up with interesting stories and analogies stand a much higher chance of being quoted than those who are dull, uninteresting and pithy;
You're not across the issues: Yes, a reporter will make a snap decision like that if they feel you aren't on top of an issue or interview topic. To position yourself as an expert that reporters keep coming back to, you need to have a strong view and provide new and interesting insights that stand out from the crowd. It also helps if you brush up on relevant issues before sitting down with a reporter, so do a quick Factiva or Google search on relevant issues. If you pay attention to the types of stories the reporter has written recently, it will give you a feel for the sorts of issues they're interested in.
Of course, there are many reasons outside your control that also explain why you're not being quoted.
For example, the angle of the story might have changed or the space for the story might be so small that there’s only room to quote one or two sources. The most colourful and interesting insight is usually the one that makes it to print.
That’s why it’s important you make sure you are the only source worth quoting. Give a reporter what they need and invariably they’ll keep coming back to you, rather than talking to your competitors.
If what you have to say is colourful and interesting - and even ruffles a few feathers - it will probably be shared widely on social media as well.
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