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@ prweek.com.