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Ho-Ho-Whole Lotta PR Wisdom from Santa

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Posted At: November 28, 2012 1:50 P.M.
by Sam Nathews

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… an overweight, elderly man bellowing “HO-HO-HO” through the whiskers of his long, white beard while riding in a magical sleigh filled with Christmas gifts and powered by nine flying reindeer?

That’s right — Santa Claus is coming to town. And along with all the toys and goodies, he has loaded a bit of public relations insight into his big, red gift bag for all the good little PR pros to enjoy.

Ol’ Saint Nicholas is one jolly old elf whose image is deeply embedded in the minds of children and the memories of adults all over the world (…awareness objective? Check.), and millions of children scribble letters addressed to “The North Pole” telling him the things they hope to unwrap on Christmas morning (…behavior objective? Check.).

He’s been the lead actor in more than a few Hollywood blockbusters, the fancy of many-a-singer (what’s up, Sinatra?) and has graced the pages of children’s books for generations.

Oh, and the best part? (Hold on to your mistletoe!) It didn’t cost him a penny.

Here are three gifts I’ve received from The Father of Christmas that can apply to PR:

Behold! The power of storytelling. SPOILER ALERT! Santa doesn’t actually exist, but he is very much alive.

For hundreds of years, the legend of Santa Claus has survived in the minds of children and adults, alike, from all different backgrounds through the proverbial time machine of storytelling.

How can you create a story about your client or brand that will live in the minds of the public long after you’re gone?

Make your own chimney. Adversity is a part of life, and it is something that everyone will encounter at some point — even Santa Claus.

In the movie “The Santa Claus,” Santa arrives at the home of a family that didn’t have a chimney. This is a bit of a hurdle in the present-distribution process, but did Santa let that hurdle stop the race? No, he used magic to make a chimney appear!

Now, it’s true that most of us don’t have the luxury of magic, but we do have the ability to think creatively to solve problems. When something unexpected pops up, don’t call it quits and head back to the North Pole to eat cookies, sip hot cocoa and hope for better luck next year. Make your own chimney.

Spread the Christmas cheer! By the way, when has Santa ever been invited to shimmy down someone’s chimney? In reality, Santa is a criminal. Every Christmas, he commits millions upon millions of instances of breaking-and-entering — and gets away with it!

How?

Santa never shows up empty-handed. He leaves a gift in the living room of every home he (unlawfully) enters, and he dishes out a hearty “Merry Christmas” to everyone he meets. Those gifts (read: kind words and displays of appreciation) have earned Santa an endless reservoir of goodwill.

Now, I am in no way encouraging you to say nice things so people will look the other way when you break into their houses. I am simply saying that, over time, thoughtful words and actions can be woven together to form a safety net to catch us when we fall, gaining us a little understanding and patience while holding off the wolves for a while longer.

At the Bank of Goodwill, Santa is Chairman.

In the spirit of Christmas, I share these gifts with you. I hope Santa doesn’t mind my re-gifting! On second thought, that naughty list sounds kind of fun.

What has Santa taught you?

  1. Jaycee Edmiston says:

    I think Santa also teaches the values of preparedness and delegation, both absolute necessities in public relations. There is no way to possibly prepare for every situation thrown in the direction of a PR practitioner, but experiencing and learning from every situation ensure personal growth, while promoting the growth of the company or client. Santa and his crew spend all year crafting toys for kids to enjoy, just as us practitioners can spend months or even years on initiatives or missions that promote beneficial outcomes. To realize that being thoroughly prepared and proactively adjusting based on the way situations present themselves is to realize that you must only focus on the factors you can control. Second, there is a lesson to be learned from the way Santa delegates to his elves. Knowing what is in your job description and what is not is an important operating factor. That is not to say that one should not go above and beyond for their client; it means passing the responsibility to those who could execute it best is crucial for the element of teamwork. The contributions of fellow employees could turn up the most effective or efficient ideas, and tasks that are too large for one person could easily be conquered with the help of a few.

  2. Claudia Calhoun says:

    I think the main thing I take away from Santa is that it is what is done behind the scenes and when no one is looking that counts the most. Working it PR, we aren’t always going to be the center of attention or in the ideal situations (like Santa at a house without a chimney), but it is work that is necessary and our “Christmas” will not run without it. We have to leave “gifts” for the journalists, reporters, board members and other publics that they will be excited about and that are good as far as the work we put into it goes, or our credibility is shot and people stop believing in us. All in all, we should strive to work just as hard behind the scenes and in the tough situations so that our “Christmas mornings” are something that people are excited about.

  3. Jill Honeycutt says:

    First, I would like to address how much I enjoyed this blog post. I thought it was a very creative idea with interesting and entertaining tidbits of information about public relations. Second, I want to play off of the last comment posted with what Santa has taught me. I agree that we as PR practitioners must always keep our key publics in mind and get them excited about something like Christmas morning. Even though Santa Claus is not actually real, he remains the face and logo of Christmas. He has the credibility and continues to have children all over the world still believe in him. This is something that one should strive for in his or her career—to build one’s credibility and to leave a lasting legacy (whether it be a successful logo or promotion).

  4. Santa also does a great job with branding and keeping a consistent image. There are not many variations of Santa’s image. It is consistent and it carries a theme. Large, jolly, white beard with red clothing. Every holiday mall Santa looks the same. We all should work toward creating our own theme and image that is consistent in everything we do so that our brand then becomes recognizable and attributed to our work.

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