The quote is in the (e)mail

Posted November 22nd, 2010 in Uncategorized by Jeff Bentoff

I remember the surprise I felt the first time a newspaper reporter told me that I should simply email him a quote for a story he was working on – no need to talk. Up until that time, it was de rigueur for reporters to get their quotes from interviews, which can sometimes result in misquotes, misunderstandings and lost messages.

Today, quotes and interviews by email are more common the ever. The benefits to the interviewee? Harder to be misquoted (not impossible – more on that later) and easier to control your message. The downsides? Less of a chance to engage in conversation and generate understanding, which sometimes can help you get your message across.

Why not just insist on doing all interviews by email? Because most reporters feel they should decide. Feel free to suggest email if that what works best, but try to avoid requiring it, especially on a regular basis.

Giving reporters a blanket email-only ultimatum will backfire, as that puts reporters in the positions of stenographers, something they don’t like. Read here about how such a policy didn’t work recently for the mayor of Trenton – it wasn’t a happy reporter that wrote this column.

Don’t expect email interviews to solve all your problems. Remember that email quote I gave to the reporter I mentioned at the beginning of this blog?  When I saw it in print the next day, I was amazed to see that I was misquoted. Not enough to make a difference, but somehow, my quote in the paper wasn’t exactly what I emailed in.

Technology isn’t going to take out the variability that comes from adding humans to any process. Which is a powerful reminder that your job as a communicator will always be to know your message and work hard to get it across.

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