Jingle Bells, PR Sells

Oct 04, 2006 2:47 AM  By

We have been up to our eyeballs lately in holiday pitching for our clients’ products and services. So we thought it fitting to share some of the things you could be doing to promote your business to the media during the holiday season.

Starting in July and continuing through January is the “holiday season” in public relations and promotions. With many religions observing some major holiday in the winter months–and of course the wacky world of advertising hammering home that consumers have to buy, buy, buy– businesses have to take advantage of the holiday PR machine. Whether you have a service or a product, ‘tis the season to promote the heck out of it.

The first thing you need to do is to get into the right mindset. Forget the lingering summer heat or that you are still wearing flip-flops, and get into the spirit (we personally recommend whipping out the songs of the season while you are working). Think trends: What is hot this season? How can you insert your product or service into that trend?

Start by presenting solutions to the problems consumers and businesses are facing. People get insanely busy during the last part of the year. Put yourself into the average consumer’s mind. Think about your own life: What challenges do you have during the holiday season and how do you overcome them?

Once you have the creative juices flowing, start applying them to your PR arsenal. Here are some nuggets for you to start mulling over to get you into the holiday PR spirit:

1) Holiday gift guides. Even though many of them are already wrapped up by early October, don’t be discouraged. We have come across tons that are still open. Get in touch with the editors that you know from your trade publications If you are pitching something else, follow up with them by asking if they have a spot left in their gift guide. If you have a budget for this sort of thing, check out The Gift List, a great database brimming with contact information of media-planning holiday gift guides. It even has a free 24-hour trial. Also, some daily papers run gift guides much closer to the holiday season, as do TV programs.

2) Tip sheets. There are so many opportunities during the holiday season (remember this encompasses everything from Halloween to New Year’s). Your business is bound to have some sort of tip that your consumer or client audience can benefit from. With editorial staff taking vacations, this is a great time to offer your content. Here are some ideas:

* Retail storefronts–offer tips on how to scope out the best deals for gift giving.
* Financial advisers–offer tips on staying within a budget or how to quickly pay off holiday bills.
* Service industry–if it fits your business, offer ways to stay organized or to prioritize activities during the holidays. Time-saving tips are always a big hit during the busy season If you are in the entertaining business, offer money- or time-saving tips when it comes to throwing a holiday bash. Tips for reducing stress and staying fit are also big winners.
* Online retailers–from shopping-cart abandonment to the hottest places to shop online, online retailers, and those companies providing services to them, have ample tip sheet opportunities.
*IT solutions providers–one thing we hope to impress upon you is that you don’t have to be a consumer-product company to garner media attention during the holiday seasons. For example, maybe employees work from home or take lengthy vacations during the holiday season. Tips for securing your employees’ laptops or traveling with technology are sure to get you noticed.

3) Trend alerts. Are you privy to inside information on a hot trend for the holiday season? If you have the scoop on food, clothes, jewelry, or a party trend, sometimes it is best to just skip the press release altogether. If you have recently pitched the media with a news release and you want a reason to follow up, the holidays can be a great lead-in. Craft a pitch that offers new information on a hot trend. and become the source for what’s hot in your industry.

4) Charity. Many companies will donate to charities toward the end of the year. If your company is going to do so, make an event of it. We have one client that is premiering a new product at a VIP event and is giving all proceeds from that night to charity. Or if your company gives out gifts to clients or customers, try sending a note this year saying that you have donated to a certain charity on their behalf. Make sure you contact the charity you are donating to. Many times you can piggyback on an announcement or event that it is doing. Perhaps you can present your company’s donation in person at their holiday event. The possibilities are endless.

Once you have your pitch, you need to pinpoint where you are going to target. Try everything from your local newspaper to trade publications. Seek out large gift guides. If you don’t know where to start, simply type in Google “your business” and then “holiday gift guides.”

Also, don’t forget about your PR 2.0! Blogs are another great place to offer your tips and trends. Use sites such as Bloglines or Technorati to search for blog posts on holiday gift guides or your subject matter. Bloggers are going to be as busy as the rest of us and will mostly likely welcome content during the holiday season.

There are very few times of the year that editorial staffs are reaching out to business owners to feature their products. This is one of them. So make sure you create and execute a holiday PR plan. Do it right and you will have great coverage that will help you ring in a very happy new year.

Amy Chilla and Melissa Gillespie are partners in Innova Communications (www.teaminnova.com), a Ladera Ranch, CA-based public relations and marketing firm.