Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

[MARKETING] Why we shouldn’t make up quotes for people in our marketing stories

It can seem easier for writers and content creators to write the quotes from “actual people” marketing materials. It’s one way to make sure they stay on message, I suppose. 
Marketing materials, of course, can include printed pieces, other offline items and all kinds of digital components, including ads, blogs and eNewsletters. And many marketers want to highlight people stories because we relate to other people and their stories. Especially when those stories are highly relevant and appear genuine. 

The key with these human stories is though to use actual human’s stories. And that means we aren’t writing their stories, but in fact are reporting them more and then write those versions.  I am not accusing anyone here of making things up, but I’ve seen cases where marketers:

  • Use multiple people’s stories melted together as one for “greater” impact 
  • Wrote quotes for people based on their marketing plan and not the actual story 
  • Used another organization’s or a parent organization’s story that may or may not fall into one of those above categories. 

This topic actually bubbled to the top of my mind when I was speaking at a conference and an audience member asked if we should fix errors in patient quotes? That’s slightly different from what I’ve been discussing above, but related. 

In general, it’s most authentic and real to stay close to somebody’s words and facts. 

I do think we shouldn’t write quotes for people in our stories. 
Instead, ask them questions to get those quotes and details of how your product or service has made a difference in their lives. Once you have those quotes, use them. But fix glaring grammatical mistakes. 

I was quoted in an American newspaper after I just moved to the United States from Germany in the 1990s. My English was broken and they quoted me verbatim. What’s the point of that? To show off I got some language learning to do?

During one project, a content producer didn’t fix grammatically incorrect quotes  and a vice president said: “I know we want these to be her words but that’s not correct English.”

The content producer just didn’t catch it and we should always fix mistakes. But don’t change the basics of the content. Keep it human, but not wrong. It doesn’t show character and the person won’t enjoy others telling them they don’t know their grammar rules. 
But yet it’s important to keep the content to the context of the person’s story and words. Even in the largest metro areas, people know people. So, let’s say my story gets published on an organization’s blog or print magazine. Chances are my network will see it. Depending on who the person is that network can be quite huge. 
When people bring up the published piece to the person featured, we don’t want them to say: “oh yea. Marketing wrote that. It’s not exactly what happened at all.”
Word of mouth travels too and in some cases can spill into digital or other channels with even larger audiences. 

Today’s takeaway:

It’s great to share other people’s stories when they are worth sharing, but be careful to keep them real and authentic and don’t write a made-up marketing story with a person’s name attached to it. 

Share human stories that are worth sharing and help your organization and the audience at the same time. 

Don't miss the next blog post:

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Christoph blogs on The Authentic Storytelling Project and is a globally recognized content marketing expert. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015. He works with healthcare organizations and other brands around the globe.

Related Posts

Why (marketing and communications) leaders just shouldn’t interrupt peopleĀ 

Formal marketing and communications leaders often are leaders because they: Know their industry and know what works  Are often right Know what they want or at least  think they know what they want Aren’t afraid to share their opinion Of course the last item can sometimes lead to the interrupting of people- maybe intentionally and […]

Read More

What titles should I use on my content marketing team?

Content marketing titles are all over the place! Dare I say they are out of control? Maybe that’s too strong but the lack of uniformity is there. Even for a guy who makes a living in making lack of uniformity work for organizations.  Being unique has a certain level of not being uniform! Nonetheless content […]

Read More

June 26 – Free upcoming webinar

Click on the image for more and to register:

Let’s talk!

Updates in your inbox! No spam!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Hire your next content marketing strategist here

Is it okay to swear in blog posts?

My Authentic Storytelling Book

book cover crop

"Get Real: Telling Authentic Stories for Long-term Success" discusses why you, your organization and anyone really should consider sharing authentic stories with each other ... READ MORE

My customer service book

Confirmed talks


Berlin, Germany
June 29, 2017

Raleigh, NC
Aug. 22, 2017


Annual conference
Reno, NV
Oct. 8-9. 2017

Austin, Texas
Oct. 23-25, 2017

book now

Speaking feedback

Top twitter accounts to follow for marketing

Top 10 Content Marketer

on Klout 2016


Official PayPal Seal


social media book

Stories from the Social Side Book

%d bloggers like this: