Active Measure

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One of the most regular subject lines that crops up in my email is the question “Are you working on anything we can help you with?” and it always puts me in mind of one of the great journalistic maxims: to be active instead of passive.

That rule is meant purely in a grammatical sense. Don’t write, “A man was arrested by the police”. Say, “Police arrested a man.” It is clearer, more concise and makes for a more robust tone.

And I think what’s true for journalism is equally true for PR. The best PR pitches (and I get plenty more of them than my weekly moaning here implies) aim to be proactive, to offer up ideas that we may not have thought of and make us sit up and pay attention.

Just waving at us from across the virtual street and saying “Here if you need us” – which is effectively all an “are you working on anything” email is – is the ultimate in passivity and will seldom bring any rewards.

It’s true that just occasionally the stars will align, and I’ll be looking for a new low-calorie ice cream or whatever just at your speculative email lands, but let’s face it, the chances are slim.

Normally it comes across – I’m sorry to say this – as just a little bit lazy, trying to make me do the running while you sit back and take the credit if things work out.

A bit like inviting me to a party and then when I say yes, asking me to supply all the booze.

They say we form our opinion of people we meet within the first few seconds. I’m afraid the same is true of press releases.


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What Tony Thinks... "Who knew that ship cooks had to have a special qualification by law. I certainly didn't. It's always a bonus when you learn something new from a press release." See press release


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