Public Relations During the Holidays: How to Grab the Media’s Attention

  For many businesses hoping to share a message during the holiday season, it may feel like issuing a press release or sending out a media pitch will be like screaming into the crowd at a rock concert. There is already so much noise in the atmosphere that it’s not likely you’ll gain the attention you’re hoping to receive. I’ve seen this happen and it can be true. What can also be true, with the right strategy and creativity, is that your business’s message can really stand out amidst the holiday chaos. In fact, it could be an ideal time to reach out to the media and get a “bite!” Here is some tried and true advice for breaking through the holiday noise and using this season as an advantage to gain media coverage for your business or organization. Don’t shoehorn in a holiday angle. Sure, everything around you might feel like you’re inside of a Christmas snowglobe. From the commercials you see on television, or the junk mail in your inbox, and the tunes on your radio. But don’t lose focus of the fact that things still exist outside of and completely unrelated to anything “holidays” right now. This may be true of the news you have to share about your business. Unless your message is authentically tied to the holidays, I feel strongly that it’s better to keep your news true to its core messaging rather than attempting to shove it inside a holiday box. A grand opening event or book launch is still newsworthy even if the timing of its announcement is in no way, shape, or form connected to the holiday season in which it takes place. If your store sells unique holiday gifts or your book would make a nice stocking stuffer, then maybe there can be a nod to the holidays within your press release. But in my experience, this stands to muddy the waters and shift the focus away from the real message which is the astounding accomplishment of creating something new and how it stands to impact the community it aims to serve long after the holiday season has passed. Do be mindful of what else might be on the media’s editorial calendar. Sure, a lot of reporters, editors, and other media contacts are tasked with finding great holiday stories. And they can likely fill them fairly easily because it’s what everyone else is pitching to them. Dare to be different! Consider what else may be on their editorial calendar that’s not at all related to the season of giving. Depending on where your business is located, this could be something to do with winter weather or activities, common health concerns this time of year, even a topic tied back to the political cycle. I promise it is possible to effectively write and pitch a press release during the months of November and December without using any of the common holiday keywords like “gift idea,” “giving Tuesday,” “Small business Saturday,” or “charitable giving.” Don’t get me wrong, in the right context those make great story angles. But don’t give up hope if your news doesn’t carry a holiday flare. Instead, focus on appealing to reporters who need to cover a non-holiday beat. Don’t go completely silent over the holidays. No news is good news. Maybe, but only if you’re trying to hide something negative. In most instances, I’d rather see my clients take control of their messaging and be the first to speak on a particular topic. There is always something to say! And if you can’t think of something relevant or important to say, hire a PR professional who thinks like this for a living. We have been quite literally tasked with making products like toilet paper and cement exciting. What do you want of your customers right now? How can you be helpful and useful to them? Even if your call to action is to simply save the date for a future announcement or to ask an engaging question like “Tell us one goal you want to achieve before the end of this year!” I’m confident you have something important to say over the holiday season that will help keep your business and brand top of mind. Do be strategic with the timing of your attention.  What is the holiday season like for your business from a workflow perspective? If you are able to accomplish your PR goals and earn some great media coverage that will bring customers flocking to you, are you prepared to service them well? It can be a blessing and a curse to earn media coverage over the holiday season. If this is a slow time for your business, it’s a blessing! This means you have the bandwidth to manage any outreach and capitalize on whatever business this stands to bring your way. In contrast, if your business is already struggling to keep its head above water while meeting the demands of holiday purchases and projects, you may want to rethink how a PR boost will play out for you. Don’t bite off more than you can chew; it’s the best way for a business to choke. If you find this second instance to be true of your business, it’s one of the limited times I will recommend pausing on any PR or media outreach until you can better handle whatever publicly this sends your way. Don’t give up hope if you don’t get immediate results. And most importantly, the holiday season breaks a lot of the standard rules of thumb for media outreach. The hard truth is despite all of the aforementioned advice you may still not achieve the outcomes you desire. Don’t give up! Give yourself (and the media) grace for what might not have been the right messaging at the right time. Instead, learn from the disappointment, pivot your messaging, and put together a game plan to kick off after the dust – or tinsel – settles a bit. If you do choose to try your media outreach strategy again in the New Year, consider how this may open many new opportunities to tailor your message to the “new year, new start” theme that will quickly replace the holiday buzz. Do you have news to share before the end of the year and face the daunting task of breaking through the holiday noise? Share concerns or questions in the comments below!