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Nine ways to make sure your PR sparkles this Christmas

Never mind the warm, sunny weather, now is the perfect time to be thinking about Christmas. Here are some top tips to make sure you get plenty of coverage during the festive season.

1. Be sensitive to shifting consumer priorities

Eloïse Selwood, senior account executive at comms agency Aduro: “Christmas is known as a period of mass discretionary spending for consumers. Traditionally, during the last three months of each year they are targeted with campaigns that reinforce the need for excessive spending in order to have a successful festive season. The fact is, the cost-of-living crisis is looming larger than ever this Christmas and it isn’t going anywhere. Consumers’ priorities have shifted and the festive season will be a pinch point for many, meaning that campaigns must be responsive to this. Brands need to take an open and honest approach to their Christmas campaigns and tackle this topic head-on in order to resonate with consumers. Our Christmas campaign for charity In Kind Direct outlines the real ‘Christmas Must-Haves’. This activity works to shine a light on what many people are going without this Christmas, such as basic hygiene products to keep themselves clean.”

2. Don’t talk ‘value’ talk ‘better’

Michael Lamb, creative strategist at PR firm M&C Saatchi Talk: “People will be more cautious in their spending, trimming budgets for everyday items and gifts, but more consumers are searching for value and premium gift options, driven by a desire to justify their expenditures.

“After four years of stress people need a little more from brands than discounts and three-for-two gifting. This year, brands need to work harder to change the conversations and experiences in-store and online with their customers.

“They need to change the tone from value and discounts and talk to people about buying less everyday items but better. And they need to put the product in their hands in engaging ways so they can trust their money is being well spent on food and drink that’s enough to go round and tastes great.

“Now when it comes gifts, adding that magic Christmas dust is even more important to help people feel better about buying less but better. Brands need to put on a show that excites and delights shoppers and transports them away from the stresses of everyday life, at least for a little while.”

3. Get going now!

Orla Moran, MD of consumer packaged goods at PR agency Hill+Knowlton Strategies: “With budgets tighter than ever, people will be looking to make the most of the remaining pay days until Christmas so as to spread the cost. The media is responding to this with even the dailies already publishing festive round ups to help people avoid the pinch. Lift that embargo and go, go, go!”

4. Spread some joy

Orla Moran: “Christmas will be decidedly unmagical for many this year. There is a greater role for brands to spread the joy and, with the rise of faux OOH, an opportunity to create magical experiences that can make everyone smile by being universally accessible.”

Armarni Lane, digital PR manager at digital marketing agency Wolfenden: “We’ll see a shift in tone from the consumer-heavy campaigns of Christmas past. Instead, there’ll be focus on the ‘joy of’ and ‘magic of’ Christmas above all else, with brands attempting to spread the festive cheer without appearing to be guilting consumers into stretching their wallets.”

5. Concentrate on the ‘why?’

Armarni Lane: “PRs need to tap into the ‘why?’ of their brands’ offerings to really cut through the festive noise whilst still being mindful of economic pressures - ‘Don’t just buy this iPad because it’s shiny and you can watch Netflix, buy it because you’ll be able to Facetime loved ones unable to make it to Christmas.”

6. Road test your ideas first

David Brookes, co-managing director at agency Thinking Hat PR: “First, if you’re unsure whether the big campaign idea could cause reputational issues, consider road testing the idea with a few non-PR friends you trust. I’ve often found they point out things you haven’t previously considered about the campaign.”

7. Choose the right ambassador

David Brookes: “Choosing the right ambassador can be key to striking the right tone. We previously worked with Deliveroo on a campaign called Crackers Cracking Hunger to help support struggling families at Christmas. We selected comedian Kojo Anim who himself had faced hardship growing up. By selecting a comedian who could directly relate to the campaign, the impact was greater and resulted in a flagship piece in the Daily Mirror.”

8. Maybe DON’T do a Christmas campaign!

David Brookes: “If you’re a brand that’s firmly part of the cost-of-living debate and has previous controversy attached to the issue, consider sitting this one out. An energy company launching a CSR campaign over the festive period is like lighting a match in a wooden house, it’s probably only going to end one way.”

9. Focus on between Christmas and New Year

Alex Singleton, journalist and author of The PR Masterclass: “Forget the run-up to Christmas. Instead, create stories for between Christmas and New Year, when newsrooms are lightly staffed. A good idea submitted mid-December, but embargoed for between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, allows a journalist the time to draft a news story before Christmas. That means they can spend less time in the office during the festive break.

“There’s often a dearth of weighty stories that week, so try releasing an opinion poll, commissioned from a major polling agency, which addresses one of the big themes in public debate. Last year, on 29 December, KPMG received significant attention for a poll showing that two-thirds of consumers planned to cut non-essential spending in 2023. It was a good story, which secured significant coverage in The Times and The Guardian, but it may well have benefitted from its timing, too.”

But enough about Christmas PR - it is only 15 weeks until the big day, so maybe you should be out getting your Christmas shopping! You will find there are already plenty of Christmas cards out on display. Sigh…

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