The lights, the decorations and the Christmas music are in full swing anywhere you go in the city these days. From big shopping extravanganzas to ‘stuff-a-bus’ campaigns to tree lighting ceremonies to the Starbucks red cup fiasco of 2015, it seems that the holiday season is always the time of year business after business tries to out-do each other for the PR spotlight. Case in point with WestJet’s admittedly impressive stunt in 2013.
This Christmas, forget the large-scale, consumer-focused, out-of-this-world PR campaigns to promote your brand and services. Because, let’s be honest, not many businesses have quite the PR/marketing budget that WestJet has.
Few things give people the warm fuzzies more than a simple heartfelt – and sometimes awkward – Christmas card in the mail. As the holiday season approaches, take this opportunity to send out festive cards (bonus points for snail mail!) to clients and business partners to nurture existing business relationships and to tip the scales in your favour for potential new business relationships in the new year.
In PR, we always talk about the importance of key messages. Don’t miss an opportunity to incorporate these in a company Christmas card! More than just wishing ‘Happy Holidays’ or saying ‘thank you’ via email or social media, use your card as a way to remind clients, past and present, of what makes your business unique and the value you can bring to help them meet their business goals. Think about the big themes that give your company its character and charm and use them as the foundation of your card.
Maybe all your employees are big advocates of health and fitness. Or maybe everyone at the office is an obsessive coffee drinker with an unusual love for cats. It doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be flashy, but utilize your creativity to incorporate your company’s voice, personality and character into a holiday card without just relying on your company logo and tagline to do the talking.
From the message, to the wackiness of your graphic design, this is the perfect opportunity to capture your brand’s values and personality in a non-invasive, feel-good way. Be classy about it – no one needs to see your website URL in bold 20-point Arial font across the front – but use this card as a PR tool to reinforce your brand values and keep your business at the forefront of people’s minds.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. The wine flows, mince pies are in abundance and parties become the norm during the working week.
Yet for those PRs willing to work hard throughout silly season, there are rewards – and not just from Santa – for their efforts.
So how do you capitalize on Christmas from a publicity perspective? Here are some suggestions:
Christmas gift guides: Do you have a client looking to reach consumers with a cool new product? If so, then now is the best time of year for product PR withoutnecessarily having to pay for advertising. Naturally the competition for placement in these gift guides is fierce with many other retailers looking to capitalize on the same opportunity. However if your product is interesting and relevant and you have imagery to showcase its beautiful design, then go for it. Be warned: you’ll want to start your pitching early as some gift guides decide on content in summer.
Freebies: Who doesn’t like free things, especially in December, the season of giving? Certainly no one in my address book. Consider sending ‘stocking fillers’ or other gifts and gadgets from clients as a way of getting media attention. Always provide journalists with a story along with the gift to give them a reason to write about the treat you’ve provided.
News hijacking: Christmas becomes a major focus for many Canadians during December, and that means journalists turn their attention to this topic as well. Capitalize on this interest by pitching story angles relevant to the season. Put forward a quirky angle or offer a perspective that’s unique to your client to heighten your chances of media interest. Trends in particular can generate headlines.
Timing: I’ve noticed a ‘black hole’ appears in the PR scene between Christmas and New Year. Most PRs are on holiday so the number of stories being sent to media is minimal. This is a great opportunity if you’re willing to work. Issuing a news story – so long as it’s relevant and timely – between Christmas and New Year can go further than it typically would. If you decide to telephone pitch you may find you leave a lot of voicemails. However those journalists in the office are almost guaranteed to be having a slow news day and will therefore be more receptive to suggestions than normal.
We all know that December is for planning as well as partying, and work time is spent focusing on 2014 plans for clients. However taking time out for media relations can lead to a spike in coverage, which is always a fantastic way to finish a campaign.
And if all else fails, the New Year is just around the corner, providing a great opportunity to pitch trends and predictions, which works for almost any client from any industry.
For PR professionals, the festive period, or ‘Silly Season’ as it’s known, offers a unique opportunity. As companies and journalists alike unwind for holiday celebrations, there is a lack of news and news writers – leaving an empty void for the savvy PR professional to fill.
So how can you capitalize on this opportunity?
Firstly, choose the right story to tell. Inevitably, reporters will be flooded with pitches about consumer products as Christmas is the key trading period for retailers. However, if you’ve got hard-hitting business news, then you’ll have an attentive audience, hungry to hear about it – as business news is sparse at this time of year. Equally, it is a great chance to push ‘softer’ stories (for example, research or trend pieces) that you may otherwise struggle to place.
Secondly, know which journalists are in the office. As with most professions, there is a mass exodus in the media over the festive season, and you need to know which few, dedicated faces remain. When speaking to journalists throughout December ask about their holiday plans – so you know who is around. There is nothing more depressing than a lengthy sell-in where no one answers the phone.
Finally, use embargoes to your advantage. No one wants to be working around the clock at Christmas – including journalists. Give them time to write up an embargoed story (to be published between 26th and 31st December) before Christmas kicks-off; they’ll thank you for it. You get coverage, the journalist gets a break.
And as for social media? Social media usage, Facebook and Twitter in particular, rockets at Christmas. This is unsurprising given the increasing number of smartphones and the popularity sharing festive messages with friends. Again, use this to your advantage to push your message to an audience that’s more engaged than normal.
Of course, the downside is that while other professionals are drinking mulled-wine and being merry, PRs need to stay focused, work hard and think creatively to capitalize on this opportunity. However, what better Christmas present to give a client than unexpected, wide-spread coverage?