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Is Christmas cancelled in PR this year?

Is Christmas cancelled in PR this year? Well the answer is, in our best pantomime voice: “Oh no it isn’t!”. There are still many ways to promote brands and have fun. Below we list top tips for making Christmas 2020 both a fruitful and happy one.

Plan, plan, plan
Laura Bamford, PR manager at agency Motive PR: “The key to a successful PR campaign is always careful planning and preparation, but this rings true for Christmas 2020 more than ever. Like almost everything else, key dates and events in the festive calendar have had to take a backseat so flexibility is a must. The fact ‘Christmas in July’ was pushed back to September says it all.

“Read the room and make sure there are elements to your campaign that can withstand all the unexpected changes that come with Covid-19. You need to be able to adapt to deadlines and briefs that could change or be pulled altogether. The emphasis on online is greater than ever too, so bear this in mind when preparing your assets”.

Don’t push spending
Laura Bamford: “Above all, remember that this has been a difficult year for everyone – journalists and consumers included – and there probably isn’t going to be a focus on splurging and splashing the cash like there usually is at this time of year. Make sure your campaigns reflect this.”

Give tips to journalists
Yen Goo, owner and marketing manager of online retailer Paguro Upcycle. "Customers will be looking to save money this year, but that doesn't mean that Christmas is cancelled! Instead, focus on offering useful tips and advice that journalists find are actually useful to their customers. Can you offer first-person advice on how to have the best Zoom Christmas party? Or what about how to create an upcycled Christmas present, with the environment on everyone's mind?”

Get in that gift guide
Yen Goo: “Of course, we all want to get our products in the coveted press gift-guides. When emailing journalists, don't suggest your most expensive product, but instead your most popular. Ask your client or marketing team which products are the best-selling, and then suggest them to the journalist. They'll be thankful that you're offering them insight into product trends, and they can then tell their customers where to buy 'what everyone else is loving this year’.” 

Rosie Davies-Smith, founder of PR agency LFA and of platform PR Dispatch: “The UK press produces some of the most comprehensive and exciting Christmas gift guides in the world and each year millions of people turn to these gift guides to help source presents. PR can be frustrating and maybe overwhelming when you’re facing your busiest sales period, but one thing we do know is that the brands that stick with it and contact the press regularly are the ones that do the best. You have to be in their inbox to have a chance. A successful campaign will contact a larger variety of magazines than usual as those that don’t normally publish shopping pages publish gift guides. This Christmas small brands and black-owned businesses have a higher chance of being featured. The press want to support these businesses reflecting recent shifts in society during the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Humanise your brand
Nimrita Bassi, managing director of agency Marketing Essentials Lab: “Audiences are increasingly wanting their brands to be humanised. They want the brand to have a unique personality and characteristics that set the brand apart. They want their brands to be relatable and authentic. Companies that want to use a humanised approach need to start by studying their target audience and identifying what traits they relate to best. These should be incorporated in all kinds of communications being promoted by the brand.

“One way to humanise Christmas campaigns is to create content collaboratively with customers. Creating content collaboratively with customers will engage audiences. Engaged customers are more likely to buy from your brand. The best ways for companies to increase engagement is by taking their customers along their journey. “Previously, there was a tremendous barrier between the customer and the brand. The time is now to eradicate this virtual barrier and form better connections. Social media usage has soared in the last three months, and brands need to seize the opportunity and involve their customers to boost engagement in their Christmas campaigns.”

Look at latest stats
Jessica Ward, managing director at marketing agency Crown Media Solutions: “It’s going to be a very different Christmas for PR. We’ve just conducted some research into how the pandemic is affecting gift shopping so clients can promote their products and get the maximum income out of the festive season. It shows one in four Brits will be spending less on festive gifts this year, but there’s some festive cheer, almost a quarter (23%) said they were planning to spend more on gifts than last year. You can download the report for free at“  

Make positive change
Pete Way, creative director at communications agency BCW Global: “With 2020 being so uncertain and festive celebrations largely on hold this holiday season, it’s time to focus on creating positive change through creative ideas that resonate with the new world we find ourselves living in. Christmas is the season of giving and sharing with those around us, and helping the next generation to stand out from the crowd and break into the industry is one way brands can help the future workforce to get through this difficult time. For example, through our Stand Out With HONOR campaign, in partnership with leading creatives from across the industry, we will help young students upskill through a global creative programme that’s been designed to provide development opportunities for those looking to enter the workforce.”

What about the Christmas party?
Never mind all the work that has to be done, what about the partying? Not all agency Christmas parties are cancelled, Adam Hartley, head of content at PR agency Spreckley, describes how fun can still be on the menu: “Our Christmas party this year at Spreckley was going to be a rather sophisticated and polite virtual wine and cheese tasting over Microsoft Teams. However, what initially promised to be a rather muted affair has since morphed into something that is bound to be far more riotous, reckless and downright dangerous. We’ve booked a Berry Bros & Rudd spirits tasting expert, to give us all a top Christmas tipple, via a tasting session with a difference. We’ll each tuck into our bumper hamper while sampling the very latest and most in-demand rums, whiskeys, vodkas and gins. Then, of course, we look forward to recording the results and holding the .MP4 file in a secure vault for any future blackmail or bribery purposes…”

A party isn’t the only way to get your team in a festive mood, James Crawford, managing director at PR Agency One, suggests other ways to keep everyone’s spirits up: “It’s going to be a strange one for sure. Even if we’re out of national lockdown by December, this will dramatically change the Christmas shopping window and the ‘golden quarter’. E-commerce will be in the driving seat with greater emphasis on digital PR and SEO.

“If the country does remain in a national lockdown, it will be especially important to regularly check in with your teams. My top tip for helping to keep staff happy and motivated is to adopt regular video calls to see how your staff are doing and feeling. These allow for detailed catch ups on account work and sell ins, so staff feel supported and less isolated but more importantly, it’s giving staff that human contact that working from home doesn’t allow. 

“We’re hoping to be able to mark Christmas in a special way this year, as a thank you to our teams, who really deserve something to look forward to! In the past, our Christmas parties have been in Oslo, Amsterdam and Budapest, but something tells me the party might be mothballed this year. I am not sure what will replace that, but whether that involves doing something in a socially distanced way or simply sending out thoughtful gifts, it’s going to be a tough Christmas for a lot of people, so we’ll be doing what we can to make it that little bit better.” 

So let’s not hear anyone say “bah humbug!”. It may be hard to stay positive during yet another lockdown, but at least you can try to make this Christmas as good, and as profitable, as it can possibly be.

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