Why Wasn’t I Quoted?

So...you followed the advice in my previous post. A reporter expressed interested in your organization's story, and you were interviewed. Congratulations! But when the story ran, your comments were nowhere to be found. Bummer.

Don't be discouraged. Reporters often interview more people than they can include, especially for in-depth stories. Nevertheless, someone was quoted. How can you increase your odds next time of being that someone?

1. Do your homework.

Before you can comment on a story, you need to understand not just the subject, but the angle. The more your comments relate to the specific direction of the story, the greater your chance of being included. Draw clear connections between your comments and the story angle. Before you speak to the reporter, learn about the reporter's organization, past stories the reporter has written, and the topic you'll be discussing. You'll come across as more knowledgeable and confident, and you'll find tidbits that will help you connect with the reporter.

2. Say something.

Reporters are looking for a point of view. Don't give them a flabby, politically correct answer: "Well, it depends…" And stating the obvious: "The flood got everything wet." Provide a clear, articulate statement that expresses a viewpoint: "I think the board made a mistake, because defeating the motion will have a detrimental effect on schools by increasing class sizes." That's the type of comment a reporter can use to tell a story.

3. Make the reporter's job easier.

To increase your odds of being quoted (and decrease your odds of being misquoted), use clear, short statements. If a reporter can't follow you, they won't quote you. Worse yet, they might misunderstand you. Help the reporter out. If you sense yourself getting off track, stop and succinctly repeat your main point.

4. Remember, reporters are human too.

My first-grade teacher was right: we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We all know talk, talk, talkers. Eventually, you tune them out and half-heartedly listen for an opportunity to get a word in edgewise or extricate yourself from the conversation altogether. Reporters are no different. They'll stop listening if you drone on and on. If you're not getting visual or verbal clues that the reporter is listening (they're still taking notes, nodding their heads, asking follow-up questions), stop talking! Then re-engage them.

5. Show some respect.

Reporters are extremely busy, even more so now that there are fewer of them. And they often cover multiple beats. They face nearly constant deadlines and frequently juggle several stories.

So, first and foremost, be ready to speak when they call. Don't waste their time with too much off-topic conversation. Don't ask when the story will appear. (They often don't know; just monitor the newspaper and/or website). And definitely don't ask them to send you a copy of the story, either before or after it goes to print. (Only their editor gets to make changes to the story, and reporters have better things to do than send you clippings.) Resist the urge to harangue them about issues at the newspaper that are beyond their control. ("My newspaper is never delivered on time" or "the paper is biased" or "our ads don't bring us more business.") And finally, remember to say "Thank you." By respecting the process, and the reporter, you'll build a mutually beneficial relationship.

6. Don't give up.

Sometimes you'll do everything right but still won't get quoted. Don't despair. If you provided useful information and didn't waste their time, they'll call again. And the next time, you'll be even more ready.