When it was reported in PR Week a year ago that I had joined Intel,
my phone became jammed with PR agencies desperate to win the business of
the world’s largest chip maker. It was something I watched with
interest, as I had joined Intel from a full service agency where cold
calling and maintaining a database had been part of my
Some of the calls and letters were indeed interesting although not
always for the right reasons. A leading hi-tech agency which claims to
do direct mail, mailed me under several names - Mr Hall was one, and the
more abrupt ’Hall’ was another. Meanwhile, my desk groaned under a
turgid array of mailshots and brochures, none of which would have
induced me to pick up the phone. Some were too awful to contemplate -
photocopies of ancient cuttings with spiral bindings, very arrogant
letters listing reasons why I should call immediately.
What surprised me most is that in 99 per cent of the letters, the agency
suggested I call if I am interested. What I learnt at my agency was that
if you said in a letter you would call to discuss, and then did, while
the letter was uppermost in their minds, you often achieved a
Then there were, and are, the phone calls. I admire agencies who find my
direct number but it’s clear that some of the callers are bored or
stressed telemarketers who know nothing about PR and crumble at the
first hurdle when asked a question about media evaluation or such
The only time I have ever agreed to meet an unknown agency after a phone
call was when the MD of a start-up called me, asked if I had time to
speak, and then asked some interesting questions - not ’which agency do
you use and do you plan to review them?’ but questions about my
background, where we had common ground, and media evaluations. We met,
the credentials was satisfyingly free of case histories of clients the
agency worked for years ago, and they got our business.
One of the latest gimmicks is to invite the hassled PR practitioner to
breakfast. The offer of breakfast at the Ritz was one that seemed too
good to miss - but I and a colleague were disappointed to find we were
among dozens of PR people herded into a room to watch an OHP
presentation - with no breakfast, unless you count a plate of croissants
hurriedly passed around.
So, PR agencies, if you want to come across as creative, interesting and
employable, I have a few tips.
Your literature should reflect your image. If sloppy photocopying and
letters filled with punctuation and grammatical errors are your style,
fine. It might annoy you, but I expect your brochures to look stylish
Check and double check your database. We get mail for people who left
five years ago.
Don’t make assumptions, like the IT specialists who are crestfallen when
I tell them Intel targets consumer space as well as the hi-tech
Don’t be timid, either on the phone or in letters. Say you will call to
fix an appointment and then call. I will have remembered your letter if
it was something other than the usual mispelled hokum.
Try to remember something from our conversation which you can use again
when we speak in six months’ time. I was annoyed yesterday when the MD
of a PR agency started his conversation by saying ’we’ve never spoken
before ...’ when I remembered him calling me a few months ago.
Don’t ask me who looks after our advertising and if you can have their
In short, if you convince me that you can sell yourselves, you might
convince me you can sell my company.