I’m totally one of those holiday fanatics.
I want to be at every tree lighting, carol singing, present exchange, holiday bake-off, and I say yes to every holiday party invite. Of course, I’m also a PR professional (and blogger), so my life is hectic even when it’s not the holidays. A whole month of festivities and a steady workload?
Yeah. It’s no wonder I suffered a burnout post-holidays last year. True story.
Here’s the thing. As PR professionals, it’s in our blood to give everything 150 percent. We don’t stop until every last possible pitch is sent, every interview is prepped with care, and until we know with absolute certainty that our clients are the hap-hap-happiest they could possibly be.
But we’re not Santa’s elves, so if we think we can do all of that plus the demands of the holidays? We’re just setting ourselves up for failure. So what if I told you there’s a way to do it all this holiday season? Simply by planning ahead, setting realistic expectations and promising ourselves to be everywhere and be all the things.
Here’s the deal. The holidays are busy, both for businesses (especially retail) and PR professionals. But the reality is, unless your clients are in the retail space or they’re secretly Santa, it’s going to be a slow PR time for them.
In my experience, most clients are quite understanding of this as long as you set proper expectations. Let them know that December can be a slower month for pitching - especially in the days leading up to Christmas and until after the New Year - but that there are a number of other things you can be working on to get them ready for the New Year. Some may think of it as a waste of money to be paying you when you can’t be pitching, but in reality, it’s actually a great time for you to get creative and work on some exciting campaigns to come. If you can clearly communicate this to your clients, everyone can be happy at the holiday party.
Lastly, be transparent when it comes to what you and your team are taking for vacation and let them know in advance. Don’t send an email to clients in the days leading up to your holiday break to let them know the office is closed until January - no one will be happy if you do that. If you’re planning to shut down for more than the usual bankers holidays, just let them know well in advance to ensure they have everything they need and can ask any questions they might have ahead of time.
This ties in to my last step. You KNOW things are going to slow down mid-month, so ensure that you’re planning to launch companies and products ahead of the lull. There’s a short window of time between Thanksgiving and the holidays. I always recommend that if you must launch ahead of Christmas, try to do it in the first two weeks of December. That way, you can spend the week after Thanksgiving pitching and your launch happens well in advance of everyone trying to finish their assignments ahead of vacation.
Got a retail product that is a Christmas Wish List must? Pitch it early. Despite the heat that PR pros and companies get for pitching their product for Christmas round-up posts (spoiler: journalists LOVE to complain about the number of pitches they get for these types of things) if you genuinely have a product that will be a hot ticket this year, there ARE outlets out there that do want these kinds of pitches. The secret is getting your product into their hands NOW.
Translation: the minute you finish this post, start doing your outreach. Subscribe to platforms such as HARO who are regularly looking for perfect products for holiday gift guides. I see them EVERY day. And real talk - if you’re only planning to unveil your product in early December, you’re probably going to miss this year’s gift guide deadlines.
We’ve all been guilty of it. The Starbucks holiday drink menu comes out. They light the Rockefeller tree. Your co-worker is listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and suddenly all you want to do is pitch holiday angles all day long to journalists.
STOP! Eat a candy cane. Pour some egg nog. Watch Elf. Shake it off.
Otherwise, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to pitch a tech outlet “Why Santa Needs an Email Automation Platform” or a business outlet “Entrepreneurial Lessons from Santa Claus” and the response is going to be colder than the ice at the Rockefeller rink. Seriously. Just don’t do it.
While there are smart ways to pitch holiday themes, try not to rely on them solely. Trust your gut. If it sounds a little too cheesy, it probably is. Give journalists what they want this Christmas, not a Santa pitch.
Speaking of giving journalists what they want. It’s important to recognize that journalists and the media, really do slow down for the holidays. Sure, the media doesn’t shut down completely, but it’s important to know that in the days leading up to Christmas Eve, if you’re pitching anything but breaking news, you should call it a day and go on holiday too.
Despite my attempt to do everything in my power to be pitching the media, sending out press releases, and booking interviews right until the clock hits 5 p.m. before the holidays start, I’ve realized over the years that most journalists are one of two things: on early-vacation or struggling to get everything done before they go on vacation. What does this mean for you? Unless you have breaking, breaking, breaking news - they won’t have time for your pitch.
I don’t care HOW great your founder story is, how meticulously perfect that round-up piece your team put together is, or how mindblowing your whitepaper on workplace culture truly is - between December 22 and January 1 is probably not the best time to be sending that one to the newsdesk.
Are you ready for this? Grab a peppermint hot chocolate, light a fire, hang your stockings and relax. Stop and watch those snowflakes fall. Spend time with family and friends. Volunteer to deliver Christmas packages to the less fortunate.
Be in the moment.
The holidays are but one small period of time in the year and if you’ve followed these steps carefully, then it’s now time for you to enjoy them worry-free. And if you must work, spend your time wisely planning for 2017, dreaming up powerful PR campaigns for your clients, or catching up on some great PR books to learn new tips and tricks for an epic 2017.
Seriously. If you’ve been saved from sending a Santa pitch, you deserve it.
Crystal Richard is the Director of PR at Onboardly where she helps her clients share their story with the world. An avid writer and media enthusiast, Crystal is a born storyteller. She is a proud East Coaster and recently launched East Coast Mermaid, a destination for anyone that ever felt they should have been born at sea. You can follow her on Twitter @crystalcrichard.
Photo: Christmas balls via Shutterstock