Perfecting Your Spokesperson’s Sound Bite [DATA]

It’s the dirty little secret in PR. It’s the secret that felt so wrong to me when I first started, that I’m only now coming to grips with it. Here’s the reality: CEOs aren’t always the ones uttering profound statements about their companies or apologizing when something goes wrong. Chances are, those well-chosen words originate from communications professionals, crafted so eloquently and precisely that they not only reflect just the right tone but convey all the information and emotion that audiences have come to expect.

Over the summer, Hodges (and its ragtag team of interns) read the front page of four local, regional and national newspaper publications. We wanted to discern everything we could about the prominent quotes that appeared on A1 of the paper, something our media relations clients often ask us to help them land (or craft, or both for that matter).

Here’s a peek at what we found:
25: percentage of quotes that were positive in nature
23: average number of words in a quote
15: average number of words of the quote that appear before an attribution
Wednesday/Friday: days most likely to have a longer quote (average of 25 words)
50: percentage of quotes that appeared on Friday’s front page paper that were negative
Friday: day least likely to run a soundbite (accounted for only 12% of soundbites reviewed)
Tuesday: day most likely to run a soundbite (accounted for 24% of soundbites reviewed)
24: percentage of quotes from politicians and other government leaders (not including the 8 percent of quotes from the president alone)
6: percentage of quotes from a generic source (i.e. spokesperson, representative, statement)
15: percentage of quotes that came from leadership (i.e. c-suite, directors, owners)

Now, these numbers are far from scientifically vetted, and frankly, there may not be much learning here, but it was an interesting exercise all the same. So, the next time you’re tasked with crafting a statement, think about some of these numbers. Get your point across in 15 words or so and connect your quote with someone with some clout.

At the end of the day, if you have a really great story, you’ll find a really great home for it. Positive news may not always make the front page, but as long as the politicians don’t have something noteworthy to say, you just might have a chance.

Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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