We reveal what it’s REALLY like for Agency PRs at Christmas

By the time the festive season is really upon us, it’s fair to say that most people working in PR would be very happy to see the back of anything Christmas related. Controversial opinion?

At the risk of sounding like a scrooge, I can reveal what it’s really like for those of us who work in PR.

Yes, festive fatigue is an issue, we have to be prepared for Christmas crisis communications. But we’re not all like The Grinch! It is also a great opportunity to be really creative and enhance your brand reputation.

What makes a successful Christmas campaign?

Planning for Christmas starts early, really early. We’re talking January (if not before). Christmas campaigns give brands the opportunity to be more creative with their PR and marketing with the most successful becoming iconic and synonymous with the start of the festive season.

PR forms a vital part of Christmas activity, from formulating the messaging, refining the audience and launching the campaign. Whether you’re a fan of Christmas or not, everyone has an opinion on Christmas campaigns.

The tried and tested Coca Cola truck advert has been on our screens for 25 years. And who doesn’t look forward to the John Lewis advert? More recently, Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot and Cadbury’s Secret Santa have started to steal the march with their heart-warming storytelling and free chocolate postal service.

Sometimes Christmas campaigns can break too far from the traditional…remember when Greggs majestically placed a sausage roll at the centre of a nativity scene back in 2017 to promote its advent calendar?

Greggs Christmas Campaign It created headlines like: Greggs sparks calls for BOYCOTT after nativity scene Jesus replaced with sausage roll and Greggs says sorry for replacing baby Jesus with a sausage roll in nativity scene for Christmas ad campaign

There’s no doubt that Greggs knew exactly what they were doing. Greggs’ PR team would have been prepared for the reactions on social media and press enquiries.

Brand loyalty for Greggs is huge. It’s one UK-wide brand that authentically pulls off a no-nonsense approach to PR and marketing and the fans love it; they took a risk and it paid off and generated a lot of press coverage from it.

Why a PR’s work is never done at Christmas

But, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a drama of some sort. With this in mind, we have to be prepared to deal with media enquiries at any time. Whether it is Christmas or not, the news doesn’t stop so we need to be prepared to take media calls at all times.

Health and pharma, transport and logistics, retail, food and drink are all key sectors that continue during the festive season.

PR’s role is to manage the reputation of your business, so we’re here to help when something goes wrong, and at this time of the year, it can be anything from a fire, supplier problems or an employee scandal.

I might be mid-way through Christmas Karaoke (yes, it’s an unusual tradition in our household), but rest assured I’ll be available to deal with media calls if they come in.

How to prepare for a Christmas crisis

At the start of December, it’s wise to set some time aside with your PR team to discuss any potential issues which may arise.

Are there any operational issues expected as a result of Brexit? What’s the contingency plan if people fall ill over Christmas? Are there any other proactive campaigns running? Is there an on-call rota?

Your business should have a crisis communications plan in place. Use the time to review the protocol and refine any pre-prepared media statements. Make sure all senior leaders and PRs are aware of the escalation process, have a list of key people who have access to social media channels and the company website so you can respond quickly, in light of any issues.

The more planning that is done ahead of time, the better. Your PR team will always keep an eye on what is happening in the news and will flag anything which is bubbling which could impact your reputation.

Click here to download our free 10-step guide to crisis communications.

Has Christmas been cancelled this year?

Normally the two months preceding Christmas are a blur of client parties, networking lunches, drinks and nibbles – sometimes two events in one evening! This year has been a little different, but it will be a year that we’re sure to remember.

This year Christmas communications are all about humanizing your business, strengthening your brand reputation and making people smile. Campaign activity has been low key as businesses, rightly, focus on their people or partnering with a charity.

Top communications tips for a covid Christmas

At the time of writing this blog, it’s not clear what Christmas will look like because of the covid pandemic. But you can still be prepared to make the time run smoothly, here are my top tips to make sure that any Christmas communications don’t have a negative impact on your brand reputation.

  • Make sure any proactive activity aligns with your brand values and is sensitive to the wider context and the issues impacting your audiences. Not sure? Sense check planned activity with your PR team.
  • Implement an on-call rota to manage press enquiries and communicate key contact details with the senior team
  • Express gratitude. Personally thank your people and loyal customers for their support. A small gesture can go a long way.

However you’re spending Christmas this year, make sure you take some time out to relax, refresh and recharge ready to start 2021 with a positive mindset.

Written by
Kevin Cooke
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