My colleagues will tell you that I’m often bleating on about the importance of supplying expert comment and quotes, it’s something I’ve become increasingly passionate about during my time as a Digital PR, mainly because I think it works! With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to share all of my thoughts and tips in one place.
Adding an expert comment is important for the majority of Digital PR campaigns, they increase your chances of success from the start or they can really help save a flagging campaign; adding them into pitches that have been struggling has helped colleagues and myself land links on top-tier publications such as Stylist, Express.co.uk and even the New York Post.
So, in this article, I’ll be sharing insights into why quotes matter, who to approach for the best-possible quotes/expert comment and the best way to reach out to them.
Why do quotes matter?
I can’t stress the importance of providing quotes in your pitches enough, particularly data-led campaigns and those that are more visual. There are two key reasons why they’re considered to be so vital: they save time and they lend authority to a pitch/story.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: journalists are time-poor. When I worked as an Online Showbiz Reporter, we had to publish a minimum of eight stories per shift. However, it wasn’t just writing eight stories, it was:
- Finding five images to go with the story
- Editing holding images for the website and socials on photoshop
- Scheduling the tweets and Facebook posts to promote the story
- Having stories checked by legal if they were contentious
- Looking for any interesting stories on social media
- Contacting sources for quotes and clarification
- Monitoring breaking news
- Shovelling crisps (the journalist’s go-to lunch) into my gob in between!
With so little time available, the dream stories to get on my news list were Instagram/Twitter ‘reaction’ stories – think ‘Celeb posts picture of a baby bump on Instagram’ – or stories with lengthy source quotes. Why? Because that meant that several lines of my 12-line story were already written, ultimately saving me a fair amount of time. As an example, see the riveting story below where a significant chunk of it was written using quotes from Instagram comments.
The same time-saving device applies to Digital PR outreach. Using an expert, be it your client or an external expert in a niche area that complements the topic/angle you’re outreaching, can save the writer the time they would have spent digging for their own expert and waiting for quote turnarounds.
In your pitches, try to give a few paragraphs for the quote rather than one or two all-encompassing lines, but do make sure your quote adds something to the story and gives clarity. Obviously, the length is dependent upon how many areas of data your pitch is covering, but for a writer, it’s better to have more copy to choose from than too little.
Stories, regardless of the sector, often need to have surrounding stats, a news hook and a selection of sources/case studies reiterating the point or balancing out the view in order to lend them authority.
On a recent JBH Content webinar about pitching tips for data-led campaigns, Ashley Kirk, Senior Data Journalist at The Telegraph, revealed that expert comment increases the chances of a pitch being picked up. While journalists may not opt to use the quotes in their piece (it’s their responsibility to do some extra digging rather than lifting the pitch entirely), Ashley explained that it confirmed that there was sufficient in-depth research and knowledge around the subject.
For example, we were pitching a piece surrounding career changes using a tool we created with an accompanying survey. It wasn’t getting much traction, despite us trying a range of regional angles and enticing headlines. As a result, I decided to pivot the angle to focus on ‘changing careers later in life’, so I began to reach out to careers coaches with questions like:
- How can people changing careers later in life make the transition easier?
- If someone is unhappy in their career/industry over the age of 30 but has no idea what to do next, how can they go about finding some direction and clarity?
- It can be daunting changing careers later in life, but what five tips would you give to someone considering this?
Once we’d adjusted the template with the relevant data and information to reflect the new angle, we added the quotes in to the end of the email – but crucially, we highlighted the fact that we had quotes in the intro:
“Below, we have a full breakdown of the data, quotes from SEVEN Career Coaching founder Evelyn Cotter and a tool PensionBee has created, which allows you to enter your current role and shows multiple alternative career options based on your skill set.”
By taking on the part of the journalist’s job for them and signposting the ease with which the story could be put together, we vastly improved our hit rate and within 24 hours of sending it out, we had linked coverage on Stylist!
How to get great expert comments for Digital PR outreach
Acquiring quotes from experts is pretty simple once you get the hang of it and there are two main routes you can choose: quotes from the client and quotes from industry experts.
Quotes from the client
Your client is your first port of call in most cases, but only if they are relevant to the topic and are able to put their point across in a non-commercial/salesy way. In this scenario, it’s best to draft the quotes yourself and ask for sign-off from the client. Alternatively, you can give the client a list of bullet points to ensure whatever quote they come up with touches on the relevant points.
Quotes from industry experts
If the client isn’t the right person to lend authority to the pitch, you might consider looking for external expert sources such as psychologists, nutritionists, lawyers, academics etc. In these instances, Twitter and the #journorequest and #prrequest hashtags are my go-to resource.
Here are some examples of previous #journorequest tweets I’ve used to successfully get expert comments.
It’s easy to do, all you need is a Twitter account (no matter what your following is) and then follow these three easy steps:
- Write your tweet and include the type of expert you’re looking for (if you’re not 100% sure include something along the lines of ‘experts who know about X area’).
- Include #JournoRequest and #PRRequest, even though you may not be a journalist, your quotes will be being outreached to online news publications.
- Ask people to spread the word by including the line ‘if you can help, or know someone who can, please get in touch’. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people to retweet!
Soon enough, you’re likely to get experts contacting you and all you need to do is filter them down to those most qualified people. For example, for stories around mental wellbeing, I tend to go for accredited therapists/psychologists over bloggers/coaches. While uncertified bloggers or lifestyle coaches have experience in the field, journalists tend to give more weight to people with qualifications.
The next step will be emailing them with:
- A brief outline of the campaign and angle
- The fact that you’re outreaching to publications in X sector and X country
- Your list of questions
- The deadline
I have had detailed quotes turned around within 24 hours in the past so don’t fret if you have a short deadline, there’s usually someone out of the many respondents that can help you out.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, so to help you avoid making the same mistakes here are a few things I learnt along the way:
- Give yourself a bit of time – while you may want to pivot angles instantly, sometimes waiting for those quotes to come back is worthwhile.
- Outline your turnaround time from the get-go and don’t be afraid to follow-up.
- Include prompts that direct the expert to the angle you have chosen. For example, ‘If people are discouraged because they think they are lacking in skills, what would you advise? E.g. evening classes, online courses, going back to further education and working part-time etc.’
- Clarify if you want a more detailed response or you’ll sometimes end up with a one-sentence reply to a juicy question. I tend to include the line ‘in as much detail as possible’ or specify that I want ‘five to ten tips’.
- Get them to fill in the gaps by adding a line saying ‘feel free to add in any information or details about anything I may have missed’. Doing so often prompts experts to add commentary on a whole area you haven’t thought about.
- Credit them correctly by asking how they would like to be attributed. Assure them that they will also be credited in your outreach email, as well as the article if their quotes are used.
- Help experts out in the future. If you see fellow Digital PRs or journalists looking for an expert that fits their criteria and you’ve worked with someone suitable, pass on their details. They’ve done you a huge favour by sharing their insights and this is a lovely way to help them out and maintain a relationship for future work.
Apologies for yet another lengthy post but I’ve tried to cram in everything you need to know! If you have any further questions or thoughts, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @SurenaChande.