13 inspiring Shakespeare quotes for communicators

Shakespeare’s birthday already? Time flies.

When you work for Mark Ragan—our CEO, as well as a Shakespearean actor and
bardolitor—you can’t avoid being swept up in the merrymaking every
April 23.

Here at Ragan Communications, we’ll by quaffing tankards of ale
and feasting on
pigeons, a couple of short-legged hens, a joint of mutton, and
ill-roasted eggs.

To honor the peerless Bard, I called for communications tips inspired by
his great words.

Here’s a sampling of the quotations beloved by erudite communications pros,
as well as several of my learned colleagues:

1. “The wheel is come full circle.”

At this moment in
“King Lear,” Edmund’s bad deeds have come back to haunt him, says Amanda Plecas, vice
president and chief creative officer at Waterhouse Public Relations.

“We should know that what we say can come back to us later—we should be
thoughtful with our words,” she says. “Be fully accurate, open and honest.”

2. “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”

Heather Taylor, communications coordinator for MyCorporation.com, finds
inspiration in

“The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

“Don’t wait until the absolute last minute to deliver on anything,” she
says. “Work ahead on your existing assignments, and plan ahead with your
editorial calendar.”

[RELATED: Take a three-minute communicator evaluation to see how you stack up.]

“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

Ruthless Lady Macbeth might terrify us, but let her serve as a warning to
PR pros, says David Langton, president of Langton Creative Group.
“Whether it’s a media spot, an ad spot or a spot on a podcast, show or
website, Shakespeare reminds us that no one wants to experience bad
communication or PR. The last thing you want to do is alienate your
audience so much that they are screaming for you to get out of their

4. “Cowards many times before their deaths; The valiant never
taste of death but once.”

Julius Caesar stoically declared this, and we all know how he ended up: dead.

Still, Jason Roop, who does content marketing and public relations for Springstory, offers this sage
interpretation: “When you find yourself holding back from your story,
getting to the heart of your message and connecting with your audience
authentically, take the advice from Julius Caesar to be bold, courageous
and true.”

5. “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts
never to heaven go.”

This quote from Claudius in
“Hamlet” inspires Holly Lanier, PR coordinator for
Paradise Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations. She explains, “In the PR world, it’s easy to use empty phrases and
produce a lot of fluff … but in my experience it’s always important for
PR professionals and internal communicators to be genuine and imbue their
words with meaning and intent.”

6. “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Many communicators said they are inspired by Polonius’s advice to Laertes
in “Hamlet.” Brad Plothow, vice president of marketing and communications
at Womply, exhorts: “Write shorter, tighter. Get to the point. Stop burying
the lede. Completely eradicate ‘I thought you’d be interested in this news’
and similar filler-fluff from email pitches.”

7. “Men of few words are the best men.”

Ted Kitterman, editor of PR Daily and actor, prefers
“Henry V” as an alternative to Polonius’s orations. “While we can all agree that
shorter is better,” Kitterman avers, “the character Polonious continues to
talk for quite some time after promising to be brief, to the chagrin of his
son and breaking his own rule, which is a lesson for all communicators.”

8. “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you,
trippingly on the tongue.”

Mark Ragan often threatens to have us banished from staff meetings and sent
to the stocks if we saw the air, bellow like town criers and split the ears
of the groundlings. “The entire ‘Speak the Speech, I pray you’ lecture by
Hamlet to the Players could be applied to public speaking and the hazards of overdoing it,” he

9. “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”

“Hamlet” also inspires Jonathan Rick of Jonathan Rick Group. “The best
writers agonize over the perfect word,” he says. “We never tire of going
back and forth over which locutions work best, and our fingers
instinctively know the keyboard shortcut in every program for the

10. “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

Mariana’s demand for truthfulness
“All’s Well That Ends Well” gets a thumbs-up from Katie Powell Bell with Icon Media Group.

“As a PR professional, my job is to be transparent always,
especially when it’s hard, to best serve my client and that contact,” she
says. “It’s not always easy but leaves you with a reputation of excellence
and honesty, which is always a win.”

11. “All that glitters is not gold.”

Ragan.com editor Robby Brumberg urges you to consider the Prince of
Morocco’s words in
“The Merchant of Venice” and stop “chasing after new, shiny features and platforms.”

Citing the quote, Taylor adds, “Do not mark your success by vanity metrics,
like the amount of followers you have on social media platforms or likes
you get.”

12. “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

Ragan Executive Editor Rob Reinalda (another actor on staff) finds
inspiration in this quote from
“All’s Well That Ends Well.” “Maintain a generosity of spirit in your professional dealings,” he says,
“but be aware that some might not respond in kind and that ethics have a
way of mutating.”

13. “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win
by fearing to attempt.”

Jeremy Thompson, a Ragan fulfillment associate, notes Lucio’s exhortation
“Measure for Measure.”

“Believe in yourself and go for it,” he says. “Whether it’s fearing to put
an idea on the page or the public speaking jitters, trust that you have
something important to say, and if you say it with importance other people
will feel it, too.”


(Image via)

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