Whenever I spend time training executives about becoming more effective communicators, I always ask them to think of their favorite quote. I then ask them to count the number of words in that quote. The typical answer ranges from 4 – 8 words. The reason this is important is covered in step four of our five-step process.
I know I said in step two the questions really don’t matter, but allow me to make one exception. Identifying the money questions is critical, because that is how you improve your chances of dictating what will wind up in the story. A bold statement for sure, but allow me to make the point.
The money questions are the ones everyone (and I mean everyone) wants to ask. They tend to cut to the core of the issue and are almost always discussed in the final story. An example would be in a crime story – everyone wants to know how they plan to catch the bad guy. Every topic usually has between three to five money questions for each roll in the story. By identifying the money questions, you are improving your chances of controlling what the reporter will write about.
Once you have identified the money questions, it’s time to align your key messages and take your messaging to a whole new level by developing quotes. Think about it. Most interviews last about 20 minutes, and in that time, the average person will deliver roughly 2,800 words. Yet, the reporter gives you two quotes at most and the average quote is less than 12 words.
So out of 2,800 words, they only need 24.
So, why don’t we spend a little time developing the 24 words that the reporter will use instead of leaving it up to chance? Let me offer you a few rules on quotes.
- The shorter the better (remember the average newspaper quote is less than a sentence).
- The more descriptive, the more memorable.
- If you can make it rhyme, you are on your way to stardom.
- Delivery of the quote is more important than the words you choose (more on that later).
There is one more reason this step is important. Every once in a while, you simply won’t have enough time to properly prepare. If you spend time with the money questions and develop really good quotes, you can dramatically improve your chances of reading what you want to read in the article the next day.