Last week, several of the editors here at the ITBusiness Group received a letter from Maverick Public Relations, which represents Symantec, containing a calling card with 22 minutes of free long-distance calling within Canada.
The hook for the card was, ‘call us anytime you want to chat about Internet security and storage.’ So if I were, say, stranded in Moose Jaw and dying to talk about the latest virus threat but didn’t want to spend a dime, I would have no excuses. Not that I would ever be stranded in Moose Jaw. And even less likely I would be so anxious, particularly in that situation, to talk about Internet security it just couldn’t wait, but no mind.
At first I dismissed it as another cheap PR ploy, but then I conducted a very scientific survey of a few coworkers and I asked them if they could remember some of the swag PR firms representing IT firms used to send, back in the days when their clients actually thought that was a good idea and had the money to wash down the drain. Personally, I can’t remember anything in particular, although I recall the office frequently overflowing with such bounty. It seems to me there were a lot of stuffed animals in circulation at that time.
One coworker says he recalls getting a lot of expensive gift baskets, as well as tickets for events. But he couldn’t recall anything in particular either, nothing that really stood out. That could be the effects of time, or it could well be the reality that bombarding writers with cheap trinkets to crowd their tiny, cramped cubicles in the end serves no useful purpose.
The calling card, though, as a marketing tactic, will probably be much more successful. First of all, it’s something that can be used. Whether or not any of us will use it to call Symantec remains to be seen. But that’s probably not the goal, anyway – or at least not any realistic goal. What Maverick hopes to achieve, I’m assuming, is to cement that connection in tech journalists’ minds between it as the agency and Symantec, the client.
It’s interesting that the card has 22 minutes. Maybe that’s a metaphor for the tech industry itself. A half hour used to have 30 minutes. Now, at least on TV, it only has 22 or so, thanks to the advertising requirements needed to fund those shows.
In any case, the fact is that sometimes less is more when it comes to PR. Fewer follow-up phone calls, for example. And now that I have the free calling card, it will be even easier for me to call you.
Kathleen Sibley is the editor of Technology in Government.