5 minute read

“They didn't quote what I said! Why should I bother?”

5 reasons why you didn’t get quoted…

The bread and butter of any public relations strategy is media engagement – securing opportunities to speak directly with journalists from a wide range of outlets, across your target audiences and geographies. Sharing your voice, your institution’s values, your expertise and successes with credible media gives you a greater platform to be seen and heard, as well as actively demonstrate your worth.

So it can pose a huge problem when those chances to speak and be heard don’t come off. Aside of the initial disappointment of waiting for an article to publish, only to find you’re not included in it, it can be hard to muster the enthusiasm to try again with another outlet – especially if you’ve been disappointed a few times.


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Why does it happen? Of course, there is never a solid guarantee that when you speak to a journalist it’ll result in press coverage, but if you’ve found yourself omitted from an article on more than one occasion, rather than blaming the journalist or an overly zealous editor, it’s worth reflecting on your own contributions and considering what you could be doing better…Are you making any missteps?

talks too much

1. You oversold yourself

In attempting to capture the journalist’s attention, you or your team have bolstered your credentials a little more than is strictly accurate – or perhaps you’ve agreed to talk on a topic in which you only have a limited knowledge. Regardless of which route you took to secure the interview, it’s likely that the limitations in your knowledge will become apparent the more the journalist speaks with you.

Never mind the fact that such a scenario pulls into question you (and your institution’s) credibility, it will be incredibly difficult for a journalist to make good use of the content you’ve shared with them. Forget appearing in that article – chances are the journalist will not approach you, or even your colleagues, again as a result.

2. You didn’t answer the question

A journalist is not looking to do you favours or blindly promote you. They will often have a story angle in mind, a narrative to pursue and are relying upon your expertise to build and shape their discussion. All too often, an interviewee uses an opportunity in front of the media to shift the narrative away from where it started to focus instead on the interviewee’s own priorities. At that point, whether the information you’re sharing is interesting or not, a journalist can no longer use the material you’ve given them as it simply won’t fit into the wider story.

If you’re very, very, fortunate your discussion might spark a new idea for the journalist to cover, and they may well come back to you for a future article. But, nine times out of 10, you’ll be perceived as wasting their time.

didn't say anything

3. You had no opinion

The journalist has put a question to you, or has asked for your opinion on a topic, and you have refused in your response to indicate this way or that. Whilst being put on the spot might feel uncomfortable for you, for a journalist it is incredibly frustrating as it leaves them with nothing to write about. Choosing to hedge your bets in an interview and sit yourself firmly on the fence offers little to an interviewer when it comes to telling a story. As a result, they’re likely to go and gain the perspectives they need elsewhere.

4. Your language was too academic

Which brings us to language… you might well have shared some important insights with the journalist which directly dealt with the topic at hand and provided some important food for thought, but none of that is any good if the language you use to share these perspectives cannot be understood or easily quoted by the journalist.

5. You didn’t do anything wrong…

A highly frustrating, but possible outcome of a media interview. It might be you said all the right things, struck up a great rapport with the journalist and left the interview feeling confident about how it all went. The journalist might have felt the same, but in the course of interviewing other people or sitting down to write their story, the narrative might have shifted somewhat, their word count might have been slashed, or your own insights might not sit as well alongside others as they’d hoped. For whatever reason, it is common to be cut from an article simply for convenience or the “greater good” of the piece.

It's frustrating for sure – and especially as there’s little that can be done to change the outcome. But PR is not advertising – there is never a guarantee that the time you put in will guarantee the result you want.

On the plus side, if you truly have given a solid interview and the journalist has values your insights, the chances are they’ll want to approach you again in future for another opportunity.


Whilst there’s little we can do to change this last point, the first four can be easily tackled. To help improve your chances of being quoted in the press, consider;

1. Only put yourself forward for the right opportunities

If you squarely meet the interview criteria, and can be available in good time for the journalist, chances are you’ll not only be far more likely to be interviewed but that your interview will be the one that features throughout the resulting article.

2. Keep it focused on what the journalist needs

It’s easy to think that a journalist might have taken an interest in interviewing you because of who you are – whilst that might be true of celebrities or public figures, more often than not a journalist is motivated by what you can bring to a discussion – your credentials or experience in the subject they’re reporting on. If you can’t provide what they need, they’ll seek another source. Remember, whilst PR may serve some of the same purposes as advertising (i.e: getting seen) the two are not the same, and an interview with a journalist is not an appropriate platform for blunt self-promotion, if this has not already been agreed to ahead of time.

Instead of seeking blunt self-promotion, sharing your expertise and wider insights on the topic at hand will do the promo job for you. If you prove to be a sound source of knowledge and reasoning you are far more likely to not only feature in an article, but may also find yourself called upon in future to contribute to more pieces.

great interview

3. Have courage in your convictions

Academia needs evidence, but media need opinions. It can be daunting to stick your neck out or pin your colours to a particular mast when those opinions are held up to be seen and picked apart by the wider world. However, for a journalist, it is exactly this courage in your convictions that is needed.

In academic circles there is, of course, the concern of reputational management to always bear in mind, and it can feel somewhat risky or perhaps even fraudulent to speak or offer ideas to a journalist without backing them up with outside research and evidence, or even to then offer the counter argument. However, the general media often does not need such levels of detail from their interviewees. For a journalist, what qualifies you to offer your opinions an insights is your academic position, the topics of your previous research and, crucially your ability to talk about them in a clear and compelling way.

Whilst there are news reports that deal in fact, much reporting delves into analysis, further discussion, “what if” scenarios and opposite perspectives. It is here that academics have a chance to shine by engaging in thought leadership, making suggestions and offering food for thought for a journalist and their readers. Opinions are gold.

4. Keep your language “press-friendly”

It’s important to remember that the linguistic styles of the vast majority of media is entirely different to what you might find in an academic journal, or what might be expected of you in a research paper. For academics, media engagement provides a means of sharing their research expertise and findings with an audience beyond academia – to people, industry and beyond. For your work and your words to have impact, they must be shared in a way that best suits the audience. This is not only true of academia but indeed any industry littered with the shorthand and jargon that those who operate outside of it would have little chance of understanding. Keep such barriers in mind when you speak with media and try to explain things plainly without dumbing down. At BlueSky, we refer to this as making things “press-friendly”.

And the results, when they work, make it more than worth your efforts


Author: Kerry Ruffle 

Kerry is the Head of Practice at BlueSky Education and a former BBC journalist.

Recognised in the graduate management education arena as a leading authority on communications for the industry, Kerry has more than a decade of experience in the media and public relations.


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