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 broadcast 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.

Authors ask me, “Why wasn’t I quoted?”

Why you want to be quoted by the press

You want to be quoted by the press because when that happens, your book’s title is included in the article or segment because it’s your credential — it’s why you were selected as a source. And the free exposure that results brings with it great credibility.

If a journalist sees you as a subject matter expert, well, then, you must be one!

This is also why it’s kind of a big deal to be selected as a news media source. Sure, it gets your book title out there, but it also positions you as a trusted source of information on the topic.

Why your comments aren’t used

That’s one reason why it’s frustrating to have invested time in an interview, only to discover that you and your book aren’t even mentioned in the end product.

It’s hard to know why that happens without talking to the journalist involved, but as someone who’s been interviewed hundreds of times and has interviewed hundreds of people, too, I can offer a few possibilities.

When I’ve interviewed people for articles but didn’t use anything from the conversation, it’s usually because of one of four reasons.

More often than not, the source:

  1. Answered the questions he wanted me to ask rather than the questions I asked.
  2. Provided a perspective that I had already received from another source.
  3. Didn’t share information in a way that made it memorable or quotable.
  4. Was too slick or glib.

I don’t like it when I can’t use material from a source, but there’s not much I can do about it. You, on the other hand, have a little control over this as a source.

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 the odds that you’re quoted (and help make sure that you aren’t wasting your time with the interview), follow this advice:

1. Study the media outlet interviewing you.

What types of information does the outlet typically attribute to outside sources like you?

When you have a good sense of what reporters pull from an interview, you will know how to prepare so that what you share is more likely to run in the print story or in the broadcast segment. (And getting quoted is how you get your book title mentioned.)

2. Study your competition.

Make a note of what they usually say when they’re interviewed about your topic.

Then say something different.

Your goal is to say what they don’t say so that you’re bringing something new and useful to the interview. You know you’ve nailed it when the journalist says, “I haven’t heard that before!”

3. 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” that introduce pithy, memorable insights.

We are often too wordy, or our language is too plain.

(For help with this, use the “message development” and “sound bite” templates in Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.)

4. 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 as surprised as anyone else by study results that revealed . . . . ”

5. 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.

6.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.

7. 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 tweak 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.”

8. Get to the point. 

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

Stay focused.

Practice makes perfect

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?

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in October 2013. It has been updated and expanded.)

Tip of the Month

quoted by the press 2I like to share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

This one is from me.

It’s a fill-in-the-blanks press release template you can use to get more publicity when you’ve interviewed and quoted someone in your book.

You add the missing information, then send it to media outlets where your source lives. Learn more about how to use this strategy to get more free book publicity in my blog post, “Did you quote someone in your book? Use them to get local publicity.”

Download your free fill-in-the-blanks template here.

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

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  1. 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)

    1. 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. 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!

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