Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Tech-PR Trinkets

One of the stranger customs in technology public relations is sending random tchotchkes to accompany a press release. The idea is to ensure that the news sticks in your mind, since the text of the release often fails to do that on its own.

Take the contents of the plain cardboard box that showed up at Post HQ on Wednesday. Inside was a press release announcing a new "Internet security hardware device" called ID Vault that made no reference to the other item in the box: a Barbie playset, in which numerous references to this security doodad had been painstakingly added to a tableau of this young woman at a desk at home.

A corkboard on the wall, for example, featured a Post-It note reminding our heroine to "Buy ID Vault for Ken!" (Whoever added that forgot to write the exclamation point with a heart.) A picture of the product appeared on a calendar. And around our heroine's wrist was one of these ID Vault things--a black module with a USB port at one end, about the size of a human thumb or a Barbie leg.

This isn't even the weirdest thing to show up in the mail around here.

The honors for that, for now, would go to the polished box sent to my colleague Mike Musgrove to herald the release of some new game--and which contained a pair of strikingly realistic toy 9-mm handguns.

They lacked the orange colors or other visual cues ordinarily added to distinguish fake from real; the only obvious tip-off was a metal plate along one side of the barrel that bore the game's name. The mock guns--made of metal, not plastic--even had about the same heft as the real thing.

Mike didn't discover this gift by opening it in the mailroom: Building security called him about it first. (Since the anthrax unpleasantness of 2001, packages get X-rayed on arrival here. I can only imagine the reaction this cargo got when it showed up on the screen. )

Ordinarily, random PR giveaways are given away or auctioned off for charity. But these two seemingly authentic pistols might as well be radioactive--what are we going to do, hand them out to kids? They will probably still be collecting dust inside a Post filing cabinet 20 years from now. Maybe my new Barbie can keep them company for a while, since this playset seems to have safety issues of its own.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 14, 2007; 9:33 AM ET
Categories:  The business we have chosen  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: A New Outlook on Office Software
Next: Shedding Some Light on Silverlight


I thought Barbie and Ken broke up a couple years ago. Why would she be buying him an ID Vault?

Posted by: Larry | September 14, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

An interesting collection of logo mugs was given to the Computer History Museum (in Mountain View) not long ago - 300 mugs, collected by a tech industry headhunter. The story is that they were all displayed in the office - and turned upside down when the company failed. (details at, p.33) Keep that weird stuff, Rob - and offer it to the museum. The ephemera is some of the best stuff there.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

It would be most amusing to see pictures of these two trinkets.

Posted by: William | September 14, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Pictures! We want pictures!

Posted by: Shawn | September 14, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I would love to see an exhibit on the coffee mugs. The link above is broken. My favorite mug is from Magma, it actually "lights up" when the cup is warm.

Posted by: Mital | September 17, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Having been in the PR business for 25+ years and continuing to take great pride in what I do, I cringe whenever I hear someone refer to a PR person as a "flack". Yet, it's just this kind of example that makes me understand why they do. Please, PR professionals. Don't denigrade the profession. Stick to the facts. Tell your story in a persuasive way. Research your audience. And provide editors with the tools they need to do their job. This kind of giveaway is an embarrasment.

Posted by: Paula | September 24, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company