Become more quotable—and maybe even go viral

January 24, 2024

For sheer efficiency, being quoted in the media remains one of the most effective ways subject-matter experts in professional services can earn attention and credibility with key audiences.

But just getting quoted is one thing; being remembered is another.

Few things please reporters and their editors more than expert sources who know how to give memorable quotes. Like sprinkled pixie dust, good quotes make stories sparkle, and on-air discussions pop.

It’s a skill worth honing. For one, reporters take note of their favorite sources and keep them top-of-mind. When a source gives a good quote, it can also have a snowball effect, triggering reporters at other outlets to call. The increased media attention can then lead to new business.

Becoming more quotable is not magic. It just takes some thinking and preparation. Before any interview, it’s crucial to spend as much time as possible preparing some talking points. But it’s not just a question of knowing the relevant facts; it’s framing them in a relevant and lively way.

Here are three ways that can help experts get there:

  1. Use metaphors and similes.

    When Warren Buffet addressed a Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting a few years ago, he emphasized the importance of his company keeping plenty of cash on hand. But he didn’t leave it there; he framed it in a way everyone could understand. “It’s like oxygen,” he said. “It’s there all the time, but if it disappears for a few minutes, it’s all over.” Dramatic? Yes, but also effective. You don’t have to be an accountant or corporate finance expert to understand what he’s talking about. In preparation for an interview, try taking a complex idea and completing the sentence, “It’s like…” or “It’s tantamount to…” Just make sure the comparison is something that we can all relate to. Generally, the more surprising the metaphor, the stickier the quote.

  2. Put numbers in context.

    In an interview with CNN, NYU business school professor and podcast host Scott Galloway was asked about a possible overvaluation of the electric vehicle market. “[K]eep in mind, Tesla could drop 80 percent and it would still be worth more than General Motors and Ford combined,” he said. “The electric vehicle market, if you take Tesla, Rivian and Lucid, are worth more than I think the top eight automobile manufacturers—and throw in Boeing and Airbus. So there’s a lot of air that could still be let out of this balloon.” The answer is effective because of the context. He didn’t simply give Tesla’s valuation; he stacked it against multiple other car manufacturers, which helps put the scale in perspective. In addition to comparative values, making an equivalent comparison is an effective way to put numbers in context.

    In a podcast I recently hosted for JAMS, a partner at Latham & Watkins did this effectively. She noted, “it’s predicted that by 2025, cybercrime will cost the world economy around $10.5 trillion. Just to put that in a little bit of perspective, which means that in a sense, cybercrimes will have the world’s third-largest GDP, behind the U.S. and China.” If she had just cited the number, I likely wouldn’t have remembered her observation.

  3. Play on words or coin a term.

    In May 2021, Bloomberg News quoted organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz for a story on the right way to quit a job. Klotz, a professor of management at Texas A&M University, had studied the exits of employees for years. After speaking with students, business leaders and employees, he believed the pandemic had fundamentally shifted the meaning of work. “The great resignation is coming,” he told Bloomberg. Yes, it was Klotz who coined the phrase, which would become ubiquitous. So would Klotz’s name, which has appeared over 950 times in the media since, according to a search on Lexis-Nexis.

    This is another area in which Galloway thrives. In the same interview cited above, he was asked about the metaverse, and which tech companies would thrive. He predicted that it would be the Appleverse and not the Zuckerverse that would dominate. Genius? No, but again, the words are effective at crawling inside the brain and staying there.

Of course, no one can predict when a phrase like that will take off. And few have the name recognition of Scott Galloway and the gravitas of Warren Buffett. But with a little more thought and preparation before an interview, experts can give themselves the best shot at being remembered and understood.

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