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Deck the Halls: How to Approach the Holiday Season as a PR Practitioner

Published on November 13, 2023, 3:43 p.m.
by Chloe Petro.

The holiday season is finally here, which means so are holiday sales, campaigns, philanthropic efforts and more. Every single year consumers partake in holiday traditions of extra shopping and spending during the season to be jolly.

What the consumers don’t see is all the time and effort that goes into achieving a successful holiday season for a brand. PR practitioners and agencies are put to the test during the holiday season; they must put their best foot forward while thinking ahead of time, creatively and ethically.

Preparing for the most wonderful time of the year

The holidays are a hectic time of year and sneak up on everyone. Suddenly, consumers have to buy gifts for family and friends and attend dozens of holiday events. So, how do PR practitioners keep up with all the festivities? They plan.

Photo via Adobe Stock by Rido

Forbes article published in early September 2023 mentioned that “planning for a highly competitive season should start now.” Additionally, it noted that consumers are purchasing earlier than ever. In 2022, 56% of consumers started their holiday shopping in October. So, what are PR practitioners doing with this information?

Some practitioners are thinking about the holidays in the summer. Lindsey Della Rovere, account executive for BML public relations, said that she and her team conduct agency-wide brainstorms as early as June and present ideas to clients by August or September. This way, when the holidays roll around, their projects are ready to run.

Lindsey Young, a seasoned PR practitioner who is currently with ASTRSK, said that going into the holiday season requires organization and ample planning. Young noted, “We make sure all of our ducks are in a row [before the holidays], and any announcements we want to make are out before or after the holidays.”

She also mentioned that one of ASTRSK’s recognizable clients, Baked by Melissa, started pitching products to holiday gift guides in the beginning of October to make sure its brand was at the forefront of media outlets’ minds. Young said when pitching this early, it is important to provide media with everything they could need to successfully launch information about their products. Helpful materials to provide include media kits and other media relations documents.

Decorating the campaigns

The holidays present a unique time for PR practitioners to do what they do best: Be creative. Holidays mean many things to many different people, which gives practitioners a lot of leverage. The season can bring joy and peace but can also cause sadness for some. Practitioners can tap into these emotions, childhood memories and much more to capture their audience.

Della Rovere said that every brand does something exciting during the holiday season, and it is easy to get lost in the news

Photo via Ashley–Target Trendsetter’s Instagram (@targettrendsetter)

cycle. “This is why it is so important to stand out compared to other brands,” she explained. “To overcome this, my agency really focuses on developing creative and sometimes wacky campaigns for our clients that are different from the rest.”

Last year, she and her team planned and executed a Thanksgiving recipe campaign with Fresh Del Monte. The campaign highlighted Fresh Del Monte products through a series of unique holiday recipes created by a registered dietician and chef. The campaign was a success and secured interviews with 10 TV stations.

Here are some “wacky” holiday campaigns that have caught Della Rovere’s attention: Hidden Valley RanchNog, Oreo Candy Canes and Jimmy Dean’s sausage scented wrapping paper.

PR spreading cheer

In The Hoyt Organization’s “Public Relations Planning Tips for the Holiday Season,” the first tip listed is “Launch a Charitable Campaign.”

But the most important takeaway from this tip is “choosing a charitable campaign that your company really believes in.” Randomly choosing an organization to donate to during the holidays isn’t a good long-term strategy and does not come across as authentic to consumers.

Photo via Adobe Stock by Anna Voloshyna

“People feel more charitable during the holidays, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with utilizing that to get money for a charity that you’re passionate about,” Young explained. “It’s just doing it [donating to an organization during the holidays] for the first time just to make the news is where it becomes unethical.” She added that brands should work with an organization all year round, not just during this giving season.

Season’s greetings

Evidently, planning something as large as a whole PR campaign or as small as a black Friday discount takes ample preparation during the holidays. Here is the most important takeaway to any PR practitioner reading: While it’s too late to start a big holiday campaign for the 2023 season, it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2024 season!

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