Family PR Lessons For (Surviving) The Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time to take a moment to reflect on our blessings, as well as to spend quality time with loved ones. Sometimes we travel long distances to visit with family with whom we rarely spend time — which can make for awkward communication. Families practice their own inscrutable form of PR when reunited for the holidays. Here are some PR-inspired tips for surviving the giving season without getting a migraine.

Stay on message

PR pros know that staying on message is fundamental to rocking a great media interview. It takes discipline and agility to roll with a challenging reporter’s questions. The same goes in family “PR.” For some, it’s essential to not allow conversations to flow into hot topics like politics or religion. For best results, anticipate tricky questions from Uncle Gus or Nanna. Practice answers that gently direct conversations into “pre-approved” topics like football, your new boyfriend, or Nanna’s summer Disney cruise.

PR rules for apologizing 

For some, holiday gatherings may present an offer to bury the hatchet or resolve a long-simmering dispute. Apologies go with family like apple pie with ice cream. An ideal apology contains: admission of wrongdoing, real contrition, and a correction plan. You should also nip new problems in the bud. When you forget to pick up your cousin at the airport due to an early gin and tonic, there will be no way to evade conflict. Don’t be like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who said “we are sorry” – which would only serve to shift blame to the other family members. Finally, inform your cousin about your clear and actionable steps to remedy the problem, by rushing to pick her up or paying for a Super Shuttle, for example. To further show contrition, offer her the last piece of pecan pie.

Pitch your story to grandpa

A classic codicil of media relations is to carefully research your media targets instead of firing out a wide, spray and pray pitch. PR pros waste their own and the journalists’ time by sending stories to reporters on the wrong beat. Once you’ve determined that you want to tell relatives that you’ve moved back in with your parents to take care of dad while his broken leg mends (and not because  you lost your money in online football betting); you should pitch your story only to those targets interested in that type of narrative. Certainly tell your gullible uncle and your unconditionally accepting grandpa; but refrain from pitching your cynical aunt or your big brother, who doesn’t cover your beat.

Family influencers

Public relations is the engine and gatekeeper of reputation management. If your life has become the stuff of speculation within the family, a few PR-inspired tactics might be effective in changing perception. Maybe your family sees your burgeoning acting/restaurant career as comic fodder. Build credibility by mentioning your appearance on an acting podcast or your last call-back. If your efforts fails, enlist the aid of an influencer. Bring a successful actor to dinner to re-frame their perceptions — an invaluable third-party endorsement. Be careful: an influencer guest can be mistaken for a love interest, sending the narrative cascading in the wrong direction! Of course, if the family’s negative chatter is not far off base, a full rebranding effort might be necessary, which would require a long-range marketing/PR initiative covering Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even New Year’s.

Pitch an exclusive to your aunt

If a PR pro has a truly newsworthy story, it may be advisable to pitch it as an exclusive to a key outlet before going wide. You have amazing news —a pregnancy, for example — but want to make maximum impact in light of a sibling’s constant attention hogging. An embargoed release is rarely effective in holiday family scenarios; they always get broken too early. Consider pitching the story to one key relative in private. Tell the one person everybody else listens to the most (and who can’t keep a secret): let’s call her Aunt Phyllis. She is keenly interested in the reproductive beat and will do a deeper, more comprehensive story, which will likely get picked up by everyone else in the family, then amplified on social channels. You will be the center of attention, taking advantage of earned and shared media wins.

These and other “family PR” tactics can help to make this season a fun, non-political, controversy-free holiday. Happy holidays from all of us at Crenshaw Communications!

Media Relations Dos And Don’ts For Holiday PR

media relations dos and don'ts for Holiday Pitching

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.

Holiday season takes thoughtful pitching

Don’t force the story

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.

Do consider the meaning of holidays

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.

Do release some relevant data

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.

Do use editorial calendars

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.

Do work the “news hole”

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.

Do celebrate media relationships  

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!

PR Tips To Win The Fourth Quarter

Suddenly, it’s fall! That means the fourth quarter will be here in no time. Is your PR plan ready for the stretch run to the end of 2018? The summer always goes too fast, so it pays to jump in with both feet after Labor Day. The best PR teams take advantage of the calm before the storm to get their Q4 priorities in order.

PR tips for Q4

PR agencies, you’re running for re-election

Yes, we know the congressional midterms are looming, but there’s a different kind of “reelection” in the air when fall comes. Most companies plan budgets for the following year in Q4, which means they’re evaluating the current spend with an eye toward reallocation. So whether the PR is handled in-house or with an agency, it’s a good time to demonstrate its value. The PR team must continue to perform at a high level and generate measurable outcomes for the fourth quarter. That may mean flawless execution and robust reporting, but it can also mean it’s time to get creative with fresh thinking and add-ons for Q4 initiatives.

Get an early client check-in

A PR action plan needs direction, and if there’s been a summer lull, it ends now. Early September is an excellent time for a review to date, as part of a check-in meeting with the client (whether internal or external.) The idea is to compare notes on progress-to-date, Q4 goals, and priorities. It’s time to set the fourth quarter up for success with a strategic plan, because before we know it, the holidays will be here.

Nail down your holiday plans

The Thanksgiving to New Year’s period is make-or-break time for many brands. For some sectors, like consumer technology, Christmas actually starts in July, when media holiday gift guides are planned and retailers are finalizing plans for the giving season. September is the occasion to assess the company’s year-end needs and firm up all-important holiday plans that help make the year a business success. PR pros will be nailing down earned media priorities, creating seasonal story lines, and even end-of-year lists, recaps, and other content that can punctuate a successful PR season. For seasonal advice, check out these holiday pitching tips.

Dust off dormant contacts

When performing that year-to-date review, PR teams can also identify new opportunities in discarded ideas or even dormant media contacts. A visibility activity that failed to gain traction might be worth retooling for another push in fall. A slight tweak or a revamping could make a big difference. Maybe there are journalists or analysts with whom you have worked in the past, but have recently fallen off your radar. These solid contacts are well worth reviving, more likely than others to welcome a good story opportunity from a trusted source. We shouldn’t close the door on ideas and contacts that have potential to yield PR wins in the future.

Use it or lose it.

Are there extra monies on the spreadsheet for Q4? In most companies, managers don’t get credit for returning portions of the marketing or PR budget. Rather, they’re rewarded for blockbuster programs that help make the year. So it’s best to get creative and call on staff and partners to innovate with new initiatives that fill in the blanks among pre-planned tactics for the fourth quarter.

Get thought leaders mulling next year

The end of the year means recaps and 2019 forecasts that reinforce industry expertise or simply take advantage of holiday news holes. Now’s the time to enlist your best thought leaders to ponder the future and offer insights on the trends that will carry business into the next year. See this earlier post on eight tools for thought leadership.

6 Ways To Get A Jump On Holiday PR

It’s now or never for 2014 PR results! And now is the time to ensure that your team is leaving no stone unturned in leveraging  opportunities for holiday PR events and stories. Here are some items for that list.

Find an unlikely holiday angle. What’s hot in the news right now that you can craft into a holiday story angle? We know some expert will be discussing how lower gas prices will affect travel, but do you represent an expert who can offer insights on what lower gas prices mean to holiday shopping? Or perhaps a psychologist or author to discuss the “positives” of working retail on Thanksgiving Day?  How about proffering a product that falls in sort of a “vice” category but is still hot and trendy?

Stuff your social stream with holiday tips and updates. Serious holiday shopping and planning begin this week. Own some of the chatter by offering timely trivia and useful advice on appropriate SM sites, from unique holiday decor on Pinterest to a party tip a day on Twitter; leverage your client and company expertise.

Pitch plenty of holiday round-up stories. No matter what product or service you have to offer, there is an end-of-year opportunity for you. Scour ProfNet and and HARO for reporters doing “trendiest holiday gifts” or “most ingenious products” and  look at reporters who produce these lists annually, such as “WTF Holiday Gifts”  then think beyond that. Package 1-2 from your portfolio and get a theme going.

Leverage charitable giving. This is a great time to align with a cause that reflects your company’s ethos in some way. Choose a recipient that allows your company and colleagues to do something (collecting coats, eyeglasses, food) or to be part of an event (serving at a soup kitchen, singing at a senior center).  Find a unique way to stay involved all year long and encourage others in your company and networking circles to do the same.

Get those holiday newsletters going. Consider something a little different for a seasonal update. It’s a time to be more personal or humorous and let your readers know your “softer side.”

Schedule those holiday lunches/cocktails. When was the last time you did something sociable with your clients and colleagues? Now is the time to connect on a less business-y level and reinforce your relationships as you go into a new year. Remind everyone you work with how much you  enjoy them as genuine people, not just business associates with one of these fun outing ideas. This goes for media contacts, key strategic business partners, etc. The personal touch can reap lasting rewards in these relationships.