Ho, ho, ho! For PR consultants, it’s always an early Christmas

Ho, ho, ho! For PR consultants, it’s always an early Christmas

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

There may be a recession looming, but according to research commissioned by Give as You Live, more than half (57%) of Brits will be spending a total of £200 on Christmas gifts this year. Eight is the average number of people gift-givers will be buying for, making the average gift value £25. Not bad: this should go a long way towards avoiding the “worst-ever gifts received” which according to the GAYL survey, included used toiletries.

It’s a 21st century maxim that our economy needs Christmas. I imagine many retailers are already wringing their hands over some Christmas 2011 forecasts. But what’s the impact of Christmas for communicators?

The Consumer PR Juggernaut

I’ve worked with some great consumer public relations talent over the years, and I think most would agree that during the Christmas rush, preparation and an organised mind are just as valuable as the bright, shiny object you’re trying to place in Stuff, Stylist or Self.

Good PRs have gotten Christmas down to a science:
• The broad tactics will have been developed and agreed with the client in the first half of the calendar year
• Consumer tech product launches will be optimally timed for the period between CES and spring, to make that product the must-have item come Christmastime, following an aggressive product review programme
• Late summer is when the Christmas countdown will officially start, when longer lead publications are sent gift guide ideas to run in October/November issues
• “One hundred days ‘til Christmas” is another popular wrapper for seasonal pitches and events
• And right about now is when PR folks are revving up the gift guide engine once more, in time to reach weeklies, nationals and onlines

And this is just a partial list! The devil is in the detail: everything from product photography, to the user guide, to the international pricing details must be pitch perfect weeks and months in advance.

If you think this is all a bit much, consider that many companies count on a massive spike in revenues during the 9-12 week run-up to Christmas to make their annual numbers.

BSOs: Not the Only Path to Success

Savvy PRs have also mastered the art of working up pitches into eye-grabbing headlines. My favourite so far has been, “how to create an alternative Christmas”, which is intriguing enough to make you want to read further, without appearing totally self-serving. Media resources like Response Source or Gorkana Media Requests also give you an insight into angles that float the editor’s boat and are generally a great, complementary resource for the opportunity-hungry PR.

Even if you’re not promoting this season’s bright shiny object (BSO), there is hope for using the winter holidays as a reputation-booster for business-to-business brands. Sometimes, it’s a question of timing and opportunism.

“Christmas is a mixed blessing for us. Our main sectors, as reflected in the business and legal press, are a lot quieter mid December-mid January, yet traditionally this is a time when we sign big international contracts for the coming year,” said Andy Rogers, director of communications at the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), who provide professional mediation services to private and public sector clients. When communications are timed around the holiday season, Andy cautions that above all, PRs should be buttoned up and as organised as possible, to secure the best outcome.

“Over the holidays you have to be well-prepared for your activity. Whether a mailing or a press release, if you have really thought ahead, you can still successfully undertake most marcomms activities. You might not hit everyone but you will certainly be competing against less activity. On New Year's Day, a story which might not make it on to page 23 of a national can stand a chance getting on to front page with the right sell-in.”

Last but not least, if you’re in a business that dispenses advice to consumers or other businesses,
or work in a generally forward-looking industry, having your 2012 predictions published in a relevant title can be a great way to demonstrate industry thought leadership. Just make sure they’re not a blatant pitch for your wares; and instead, offer insights into 2012 trends that will impact your customers or industry at-large, and communicate what you’re doing that relates to these future developments.

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