The holidays are an insane time of year. Anyone who works knows what I mean: we lose half our working hours to the holiday season, and everybody is planning for the next year while trying to wrap up this year’s loose ends. And while anyone who works in a business feels this, few industries feel it more than PR.
If you’re promoting yourself or your business, I’d be willing to bet that you’re trying to capitalize on the holidays — as you should. If you can make it work, it’s a great way to stay on top of your customers’ minds as they enter the new year. But here’s the thing: everyone else is thinking about this, too. How can you stand out in the most crowded time of the year for PR?
The holidays aren’t that different from any other time of the year. In PR, the winner of the news cycle will always be who can tell the most captivating and relevant story. You’ve got to find your hook and meet the news where it’s at. Remember that the holiday season is broad — there’s more to it than Christmas shopping. Are you a retailer that shuns Black Friday deals and shuts down on Thanksgiving to give your employees a day with their families? There’s a hook there — it makes people care about your business. It’s all about the story.
The holiday season extends past Christmas, too. Do you have something that ties into New Year’s? Perhaps you’re a personal trainer who releases daily exercises in December that people can practice during the holidays to prepare for the new year. That’s a slightly different angle from the hundreds of “New Year, New Me” promotions we begin seeing in January. We have a client named Arlen Music Productions that stars in one of the nation’s top New Year’s Eve shows at the Bellagio Hotel. They could invite any music act from Hollywood or Vegas, yet they come to this Chicago band year after year to be part of one of the biggest national NYE shows in the country. We work with Arlen Music on their PR for a variety of things, but this was the perfect hook to get attention around the holidays: they’re the only Chicago band participating in this giant show. Our PR campaign for them is focused on maximizing this appearance. There’s so much we can do with that to extend the story.
Sometimes, however, finding your hook just isn’t enough. You’re trying to make a statement during the noisiest time of the year. How do you accomplish that?
Be original. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see another article from a finance expert telling me the secret to shopping through the holidays without going into debt is to avoid charging anything to a credit card. Not only is that advice tired, it’s just not realistic. Can you offer something else? Do you specialize in helping people get out of debt? What if you created a holiday survival guide around how to shop without adding to your debt — what else can people cut down on during this period? That’s interesting.
Do your research. Because good PR is all about figuring out how to stand out by telling a unique story, you have to understand what your competitors are doing this time. How are they pitching themselves? What stories are you seeing from their world? How can you differentiate yourself from them? Once you’ve got a good sense of that, try out your pitch to your family and friends. Watch their reactions. You want to capture attention right away. If you haven’t done that yet, try again.
Plan early. The news cycle begins thinking about the holiday season in the summer. Print magazines have their holiday spread finalized in July. It’s important to understand how far in advance others are thinking about this, even if you’re just starting your pitch. If you understand this, you’ll have an edge. Find the stories your target publication is already publishing. This will give you a good idea of what angles they’re going for, and will give you a sense of how to cater your pitch to what story arc they want.
Here’s the thing: this advice isn’t exactly revolutionary. Anyone in my industry knows these tips. Every single PR person is pitching similar stuff for overlapping industries. It’s up to you to cut through the noise with unique tips. In all my years of doing TV, I’ve produced segments over and over again where people offer the same advice. People don’t want to hear the same things! People want to hear something completely different. I work with my clients to turn their expertise into something sexy. Polish it up and shape it into something totally new or something the news is already writing about.
Everyone has a story to tell, but it’s your job to craft your story in a way that would interest an audience. This should empower, rather than scare you. Not every product or service is revolutionary, but there’s a story in everything. Get creative. I can’t wait to see your story in the news.
Michelle Mekky is president and founder of Mekky Media Relations Inc.