I’m generally a skeptic about the value of press releases. However:
- The IT trade press is increasingly understaffed, and hence press releases can in some cases serve as a draft of the article you hope folks will write. (Whether articles of that form have any influence or credibility is a whole other matter.)
- Press releases are collateral support for whatever higher-class outreach you do.
So my current opinion is:
- You should write press releases primarily for a general online audience, but …
- … secondarily for the reporters at whom they are ostensibly aimed.
That fits with my general view that press releases:
- Should tell your story.
- Should read well.
- Shouldn’t do anything to actively embarrass you.
That brings me to the subject of this post: third-party press release quotes. For starters, I think the following are pretty obvious:
- Quotes in press releases serve two purposes:
- Given how much space they usually take up, they had better be part of the general story-telling.
- Further, at least some press release quotes are meant to show up directly as quotes in the resulting articles.
- To succeed in the latter role, they should be things that:
- Reporters will want to quote.
- If quoted, you want their readers to read.
- Quotes from non-company people (i.e. third parties) serve two general functions:
- That the quote is there at all shows that this person likes you well enough to give you a quote.
- Ideally, the quote also credibly persuades the readers of one or more beneficial-to-you specific points.
Generally, press release quotes are terrible. The core reason is over-ambition — press release writers take every point they want made (credible or otherwise), and stuff them into quotes. The resulting camels — i.e. horses designed by committees — come out clumsy, unnatural-sounding, and not at all persuasive. This applies both to company-personnel quotes and to quotes that are crafted by the company for third parties to lend their names to.
Third-party quotes face further problems:
- If they’re written by companies for outsiders, and if this fools anybody, it’s probably unethical. Also — who’s it going to fool?
- They can stress your relationships, in several ways.
That said, third-party quotes are worth having. So here are some observations and best practices.
- There are three good ways to place third-party quotes in a release.
- Recall that a primary purpose of the quote is to demonstrate that the third party has something nice to say about you. So place third-party quotes in the press release flow where your main point is “Third parties like us!”
- If the third party endorses something specific about your technology, place the quote where you’re discussing specifics.
- There’s always room to tack extra quotes onto the end of a release.
- Rather than trying to put your overwrought words into their mouths, encourage third parties to write their own quotes.
- If quotes are more natural … well, then they’ll likely sound more natural. That’s good for credibility.
- If they say “I think this is great because X” — well, that’s great! The support for X is a nice bonus, and adds credibility to the overall message “Third parties like us and you should like us too!”
- If you must write a quote for your third party, try not to make it turgid. If it must be turgid, at least keep it short. You should try to impose as little turgidity on your readers as possible.
- If your user gives a quote on how they use your product, that’s likely to be a good outcome, especially considering the alternatives. Specifics are better than generalities, just as in user-success-story collateral.
Finally, I need to write down my own quote policies, and this post is as good a place as any.
- Please never try to write a quote for me.
- Don’t even suggest edits to the quotes I write, except in spelling or grammar. If you don’t like what I wrote, get a quote from somebody else. My feelings won’t be hurt.
- Please show me a late draft of the overall release for my final approval. I don’t need to agree with everything in it, but I don’t want to seem to be endorsing your claims if I actually plan to slam them.
- As for attribution: