Tying media relations activities to key calendar milestones is a time-honored PR tactic, because it works. But if holiday PR opportunities are approached carelessly, they can be squandered. From Labor Day to New Year’s Eve, fall holidays probably offer the best occasions for media coverage, but the approach needs to be relevant, respectful, and creative.
Your PR team may be determined to grab some visibility during a holiday season, but if the story doesn’t fit, don’t force it. The Christmas/Hanukkah time in particular is so cluttered that a marginal pitch that might slip through on another occasion will probably be tossed out. Having said that, the tie doesn’t need to be literal; for example, Halloween might be an excellent time for a cybersecurity pitch, or even a “scary” near-death business story about an entrepreneur.
A tone-deaf treatment of a solemn holiday can offend audiences or even risk backlash. Even Memorial Day – generally considered the unofficial start of summer and therefore somewhat disconnected from its origins – deserves respectful events or announcements tied to the day itself. Trickier still are occasions that have special meaning to specific populations, like Martin Luther King day, or that are controversial, like Columbus Day (now known as Indigenous Peoples Day in many areas).
Commercializing a serious holiday should be avoided, and it pays to consider the current news environment when planning a specific media pitch. Also, in our opinion, 9/11 is off-limits for anything that isn’t directly connected to the day and its survivors. Remember this absolutely tasteless 9/11 mattress sale ad that featured the mattresses falling like towers? Of course no PR person would create such a pitch, but it’s a good reminder that for many people, serious holidays have deep and emotional meaning.
Solid data-driven PR story pitches are always welcomed by reporters, but especially so during calendar milestones or big breaking stories. It may make sense to generate employment-related statistics on Labor Day, or data on Jewish tradition observance in advance of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The weeks leading up to New Year’s, of course, offer a classic media window for year-end lists and projections for the coming year – all the more compelling when accompanied by data visualizations.
For data-driven PR campaigns that rest on surveys or other research information, your data bureau will need to launch its survey or analysis well ahead of time. Consider the calendar when planning an announcement or new product launch to avoid conflicts or times when editorial or broadcast staffs are reduced. It’s always wise to keep tabs on publication ed-cals at key outlets, taking note of holiday plans that present pitching opportunities. For example, this October Ad Age’s calendar indicates plans to release “The Scary Issue: Brand fails, horror stories, and superstitions” — perhaps an opportunity for that cybersecurity pitch, or maybe a chance for a brand to show its human side with a story about a failed initiative or setback.
The week after Christmas is nearly always a news desert, which can present great opportunities for soft media pitches during that quieter time. But of course those stories need to be locked and loaded ahead of time, because chances are good that most media outlets are working on skeleton crews. Those few reporters that are working will be looking for good content, and the entire process may be more streamlined in the “news hole.” Not only might a good byline be picked up more promptly, but it may also enjoy a longer shelf life.
The December holidays are an ideal time to cultivate media relationships the old fashioned way, face to face at parties and informal lunches. PR pros and journalists rarely have time to meet, so holiday get-togethers can be the best opportunity to do some socializing. So don’t hesitate to RSVP and have some fun while you can, before things heat up again in January!