PR firms are, in my experience, generally very keen to promote their pro-activity. Back when I did PR, we were encouraged to tell prospective clients that we were out there suggesting story ideas and setting the agenda, rather than letting media come up with all the story ideas and then using us as a conduit to reach clients.
It was all fluff. The majority of PR people I worked with had very little idea how to frame a story. And the one person in the office who, about once a month, actually sold a story pro-actively was considered a bit of a hero.
Which brings me to some recent incidents. I cannot really call them pro-activity because they have been reactions (albeit spontaneous) to stories I have written.
This story about how charities are using the Net, for example, generated a response that said:
“Hi Simon, I saw your story about the charity websites. Would you be interested in writing about my client’s fashion website.”
The thing about this pitch is that it relies on singular induction, never a good idea. That’s because a writer penning one piece about the web does not mean they are necessarily open to other stories about other web sites. I would argue that it is a very long bow to draw when the initial story is a survey of a sector to then pitch a single website.
I did not reply to the mail and there has been no followup. So much for pro-activity there.
A while back I had another contact after I wrote a column in which I wondered about the way security vendors present to market.
A few days later, one security company emailed me their client’s boilerplate, which I argued was not exactly a strong contribution to the debate. Weeks later the MD of the company concerned emailed me some expanded comments. But (irony of ironies) it landed in the Spam.
The same PR company, a few weeks later, noticed another story and out of the blue emailed me one of their client’s devices in the hope I would review it.
This time, they got a result. I have not reviewed the product. But I was asked to fill a page on short notice and with the device staring me in the face, covered the general class of gadget it belongs to.
Were any of these truly pro-active? No. I suspect the agenda-setting blurb I once used was a fiction. Was the reactivity worth it? One from three is not a bad hit rate.