CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I've got a major press event next week and my client wants us to

give the journalists a gift, branded with the client's name. They're

keen to give away a clock, but I can't help wondering if this is the

right choice. What do you think?

Ms. R, San Francisco

A: Who do you think I am? The stationery woman? But since you ask, I'll

tell you what I spotted outside the venue of one of the last press

conferences I attended as a reporter. A trash can full of discarded

mugs, proudly emblazoned with the name of the company hosting the

conference. I wouldn't like to have been the PR person accompanying the

client on the way out of that hotel.

The point is that you need to think very carefully about what might

actually prove to be useful to journalists, rather than just what you

can afford to give them. Everyone already has mugs, towels, clocks, etc.

Give them something relatively bulky and not particularly unique and

it's destined to never make it all the way back to the journalist's


Relevance to the story or company is great, but the most important thing

is to find something that the journalist will actually want to keep,

forever reminding them of your client. I've lost count of the number of

plastic pens that I have abandoned within seconds of them emerging from

the press pack. But the one gift I've kept for three years is a thin

silver pen that happens to fit perfectly into the loop on my filofax.

Maybe that was good luck on their part, but it seems more likely that

they spent a little more on each individual gift, and were more

selective on who they gave them away to (oh, I flatter myself).

So forget the usual old mugs, clocks and baseball caps and think about

something that will really make journalists smile, rather than groan, as

they pull it out of the bag.

Q: I'm an account executive, and have worked in hi-tech since I started

in PR three years ago. But I don't want to get pigeon-holed in this

area, especially as jobs are thinner on the ground since the market

downturn. How can I move sectors when the only experience I have is


Mr. P, Boston

A: First the good news. You are first and foremost a PR person, not a

hi-tech PR person. All those skills you have learned in the past three

years are not wasted. You now know how to muster up a press release in

half an hour with minimal information from the client, right? And how to

deal with a journalist so that they see you as a helpful resource,

rather than an annoyance?

Of course you do - and these are exactly the skills that will see you

into your next position, which you should regard as your stepping stone


Redraw your resume, playing up your skills rather than actual client

experience. But consider using your hi-tech background to get into an

agency with b-to-b clients which also has some non-tech consumer


Once you're in, you can eventually set about moving yourself across to

an account you'd rather be on. Far easier to do this from inside.

Of course, you might already be in an agency with non-tech clients. So

volunteer for new business teams working on non-tech accounts to get

extra experience. Chances are, your agency will be as keen as you are to

get out of tech into something more healthy in the long-term.

- Got a problem that no one else can help with? Try Pandora. E-mail her

at pandora@

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