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Public Relations: The Search for Serendipity?

by Jack Santos  |  September 14, 2010  |  2 Comments

Like many of my Gartner colleagues, I get inundated daily with requests from publicists.  They want to get on my radar, help me see the “Next Big Thing” before anyone else, get me introduced to the “In Crowd”.  I used to feel guilty about not replying to publicists, or public relation folks, or analyst relations people. My neighbor does PR for a living, my daughter did it.  And “legitimate” news folks disdain it.

But I find that I get so many requests it’s almost impossible to reply within an eight hour day…even if they ask me to with two or three attempts.  Sorry. That’s just the way it is.

It seems that serendipity is really the “next big thing”. The accidental discovery of something pleasant, valuable, or useful.  It used to happen at a cocktail party, or while on vacation.  Serendipity  happens at the most unusual times, during the most prosaic conversations.  On a plane. Or at a family gathering.

In  world of email, online chat, and webcasts,  it seems, the traditional serendipitous ways of having chance encounters are being enhanced by supercharged reaching out…and this is the way it works for PR.  Not that there isn’t a method to the madness of who to reach out to by the PR people. Like looking for high value targets in branded, visible situations.  So it is with Gartner.  All in the name of “getting the word out”.

 A lot of what I do is calculated, planned, measure, folded, stapled, and mutilated.  But there is still room for serendipity.  And sometimes what comes across my desk (or a phone call), even matches what I am working on, or a need I have. But most of the time it doesn’t.  Or it’s just overwhelming, and filters kick in.

 The trick is building a relationship with key folks in PR, or AR,  and relying on them.  But how does that get started?  Serendipity.

But where I draw the line is with unsolicited, automated, predictive dialing calls from political candidates.  “Hi, I’m <enter name here> and I am calling to make sure you get out to vote for me on Tuesday”.  As much as I hate  ignoring a PR call, in that context the unsolicited reaching out is a surefire way how NOT to get my vote.  I suppose that, in a way, is serendipitous too.  Damn shame that in my career I was a part of the business decision to move ahead with those automated systems…not serendipity:  karma.


Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Public Relations: The Search for Serendipity?

  1. Dear Jack,
    Just some not-so-serious comments …

    The “search for serendipity” is an oxymoronic phrase if there is such a thing. But then “Serendipity happens at the most unusual times” is like stating the obvious – I mean by definition, serendeipity is supposed to be the discovery at the unusual time and place :-)

    Finally, “karma” is a wrong choice of word. What you probably intended is “prarabdha” (again coming from Sanskrit – I dont know if this is also a word stolen into English yet by any dictionary).

    “Prarabdha” is the current effect of a previous action (cause) either in the current life or previous. Whereas “karma” is the current action (cause) that initiates future effects – again, in the same life or potential future lives, if any.

    Hope you enjoyed that. Btw I do enjoy your blog.


  2. Jack Santos says:

    Thanks, Gautam! I appreciate your comments, and compliments. The title was intended, and a backhanded slap at PR. As for stating the obvious – you’ll have to get in line behind my wife – she accuses me of that all the time! Thanks, also, for the clarification on prarabdha vs. karma…

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