As media trainers we are often trying to persuade trainees to be a bit more interesting and adventurous in their use of language. Find a good phrase to sum up the argument and you will get quoted. Stick to jargon or business speak and you won’t.
The lead story in the FT today illustrates perfectly the competitive market for expert quotes. As ever, I am ignoring the importance of the actual story and just using it as a case study to show how journalists think about quotes. For many getting quoted, especially in the FT, isn’t just for fun but has a real PR value.
Today’s FT story, which was put together by two journalists is headlined ‘Eurozone Bonds hit by mass sell-off ‘. The journalists have noted big market movements and rung round ‘all the usual suspects’ for insightful comment. Here are the ’expert’ quotes in order of their appearance. I am ignoring quotes from political players.
Neil Williams, Chief economist at Hermes, the UK fund manager:
“Markets are losing patience so they are going for the jugular, which is the core countries and not the periphery.”
And: “There is convergence but it is convergence on the weakest.”
Mike Riddell of M&G called it:
“Probably the most worrying day of the crisis.”
Paul Griffiths, global head of fixed income at Aberdeen Asset Managers:
“We don’t want exposure to the periphery and we are wary of buying anything in the Eurozone in these markets.”
And one unnamed trader:
“It is really scary…Everyone is liquidating in the Eurozone bond markets…Everyone is heading for the door.”
Four quotes: the question that any student of PR or media studies should ask is why did they appear in this order?
Immediately it’s apparent that Neil Williams takes the prize and the top slot in the article for including the words ‘going for the jugular’. He also uses a nice play on words with ‘convergence on the weakest’.
Mike Riddell does not use jargon. “The most worrying day of the crisis” is clearly heartfelt, and it is colloquial, but not quite as colourful as his colleague at Hermes.
Paul Griffiths similarly plays a straight bat although he does the classic thing of saying things first in professional conceptual language with ‘we don’t want exposure to the periphery’ and then flipping into colloquialism with ‘we are wary of buying anything’. If you are uncomfortable being colloquial on professional subjects, and many people are, this is a good compromise.
From the journalist’s point of view the trader’s comments are less valuable because they are anonymous. But they are graphic so do make it into the final cut.
There were almost certainly other comments collected but not used because they were expressed in market speak, without metaphor or emotion.
Journalists of course also take into account who is speaking: how well known they are and, related to that, what is the reputation of the organisation they are working in.
But, if you want to get quoted, colourful use of language is key.