The Big Christmas Countdown: ‘Tis the Season for Festive PR
Sinead Doyle, head of consumer PR at Belfast agency, MCE Public Relations provides a step-by-step guide to making the most out of your Christmas PR and marketing campaigns.
PR is for life, not just for Christmas. That being said, there are certain times of year where PR and marketing efforts tend to step up a gear. The festive season is the perfect example of this – for many consumer focused brands with products to sell, Christmas is big business.
Christmas is getting earlier every year – I spotted my first Santa picture in September – but it’s not too late to invest in a little festive PR. Here are a few helpful hints.
Get a Move on
If you haven’t planned your Christmas PR and marketing campaign, you’re already well behind the big brands, who, believe it or not, have been working on their strategies since last Christmas. If you’re a small company or business, you have the benefit of agility but you still need to move fast if you want to get your message out. You’ve already missed the boat in terms of monthly magazines, so you need to re-focus and think carefully and creatively about the available platforms and how you’re going to reach your target customers.
Understand Your Objectives
Any good PR campaign will be objective based. If your sole aim is to get your picture in the paper, stop now and ask yourself why? PR for PR’s sake is ill-advised and often a waste of time and money. Ask yourself, what is it you really need to do: sell more products, services or tickets to an event? Understanding your objectives and who you are trying to target, will help shape your approach, which is particularly important at this time of year, when competition for space and airtime is particularly tough.
Find Your Voice
Cultivating a consistent tone of voice for your brand, company or product should be your primary objective when speaking to consumers directly. This is particularly important on social media where there are no filters between you and the customer, but consistency in all your communications is important. If your website, social media, advertising and PR are speaking to consumers in different ways, then you run the risk of split personality syndrome – like that one drunken colleague at the Christmas do every year.
We’ve all heard the hackneyed saying that ‘a picture tells a thousand words.’ It might be a cliché but at Christmas, festive photography is a popular way of getting a business message across. If done well, a good Christmas PR picture can provide a visual break for readers amongst heavier news stories, whilst helping businesses get their message across.
If you can’t afford to employ a PR company or consultant to oversee your festive photo shoot, ensure you think it through. Use a professional photographer; think creatively about possible props and don’t try to cram every member of your company into the photo – less is most definitely more as far as populating your picture’s concerned.
Most importantly, read the papers and look at the types of pictures that are being placed and target your pictures appropriately. Some newspapers will send their own staff photographers out to cover picture stories but resources are tight, so lighter stories will tend to be overlooked for breaking news. Don’t try to create a picture story if there isn’t a story to begin with – there needs to be some intrinsic news value: an event, news or announcement that will justify a photographer covering the story.
Social media offers a low-cost opportunity to reach consumers directly. But it comes with a health warning.
Speed is your friend and your foe when it comes to social media. The opportunity to reach potential customers directly and instantly is very real but with every tweet or Facebook post comes great responsibility. You don’t necessarily need a PR or marketing consultant to run your social media but you do need someone that knows what they’re doing, and crucially, someone that understands the look, feel and personality of your brand and represents that well at all times.
Whilst Christmas is a key time for selling consumer goods, promoting your business, product or service on social media should not be a hard sell. One-way communication is not the answer. You need to develop meaningful conversations with your customers, create interesting and engaging content and ultimately start building relationships. That means you’re there every day, not just in the run up to Christmas.
Hosting a festive gettogether for key clients, customers and media is a good way to say thank you for their support throughout the year. Inviting a few select journalists, bloggers and social influencers that you’ve worked with, (or would like to work with in the future) to a Christmas drinks reception can be a useful way to build relationships as you move into 2015. This is not the time for long corporate speeches – a brief welcome and thank you will suffice- let the networking take place over the mulled wine bowl. If it’s appropriate, you could also hire a photographer to capture some social photography for use on social media and potentially in selected press also. Most importantly, set a date and get the invitations out ASAP – diaries are filling up with events most weeknights between now and Christmas.
Don’t Get Put on the Naughty List
I may be labelled the Grinch for this but to be clear, the jovial, jaunty spirit of the festive season is no excuse for poor grammar and punctuation. Nor does the limitation of Twitter’s 140 characters excuse grammatical sins. Bad grammar does not make you or your brand or product remotely quirky, interesting or entertaining. It makes you appear uneducated.
I might be a particularly zealous grammar freak but as a rule, I don’t buy products or services from people that shout at me in capital letters, or try to emphasise a point with 10 exclamation marks where one would be too many. If you’re not clear on the rules, put Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss on your Christmas list – you’ll thank me in the long run.