Holiday PR Campaigns

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By Megan Devin

The year has been zooming by, and before you know it, the holiday season will be upon us. You’re probably thinking, can’t we at least get through Halloween before we start thinking about the holidays? For many companies, that’s, unfortunately, a “no.”

The truth is, if your brand is geared toward PR campaigns, the holiday season is the biggest time of the year. A successful holiday PR campaign means appearing in those top holiday gift guides and a massive boost in sales. To achieve this, you needed to start on the PR process yesterday.

Why Holiday PR Campaigns are Important

According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season can constitute up to 30% of annual sales for a company. Even if your company doesn’t see that type of spike, you’ve probably noticed at least a little bump. By focusing on a proper campaign, you can turn that little bump into a sizeable increase in sales. 

Imagine what doubling your holiday media impressions could do for your business. And think about those holiday gift guides. If you’re not in them, chances are your competitors will be. Every brand, company, and website are going to be capitalizing on this time to bring in extra revenue. And this massive swell of content will render most campaigns useless. 

If you’re going to keep up, you need full-frontal exposure across multiple platforms.

Creating That Successful Campaign

The next question is, how do you go about creating a successful campaign? For that, you will need to do the following:

  • Choose a theme
  • Prepare photos and videos for product pages
  • Determine which influencers you want to work with
  • Collect written and video content for distribution
  • Schedule your content marketing strategy
  • Determine which ads best fit your product or service
  • Schedule ads alongside content marketing strategy
  • Drive engagement 

Upfront, the amount of work required for a successful holiday campaign can seem distressing. That’s why breaking it down into steps helps.

Choosing the Theme

Creating the right theme is more than just coming up with the right slogan. It’s a way to create unity across all your platforms to cultivate a memorable experience. When REI—an outdoor equipment retailer—closed its stores on Black Friday with the hashtag #OptOutside, they were making a statement in line with their outdoorsy products. 

Digital + Traditional PR

For holiday campaigns, you want to do the same. Think about how your brand fits within the holiday spirit. HotelTonight, a last-minute hotel booking service, capitalized on the slogan “visit, don’t stay,” by playing on the trope of how visiting family for the holidays can be overwhelming. They were able to offer their services (booking a hotel) and remain relevant during the holiday season. 

Photoshoot for Products

Imagine shopping for a new pair of sunglasses and finding that the website’s product photo looks like it was taken on a first-generation flip phone. One where the edges of the sunglasses are blurry, and the lighting is unflattering. Buying from this retailer is out of the question. In fact, you’re more likely to report it as a scam than to buy it.

Having high-quality pictures and videos of each product is important to customers. Lush, a cosmetics retailer, has videos of their bath bombs auto-play on their product page for customers to see what colors it will produce.

Seeing is believing, especially during the holiday season when customers are buying gifts without ever holding the product. 

Influencer Marketing

Another aspect of building a proper holiday PR campaign is whitelisting influencers. Influencers are considered word-of-mouth marketing. Their followers treat them as a reputable source, and when influencers recommend a product, it’s equal to a friend making the same recommendation. 

Sending your product to a few key influencers around the holiday season can be a helpful way to get onto some holiday gift lists, as many influencers also have blogs. When working with influencers, consider the following:

  • Work with micro-influencers – Micro-influencers are social media personalities who have less than 10,000 followers. In these smaller circles, the influencer can respond and converse with their followers, making them seem personable. They have more sway over their audience than macro- or mega-influencers, and they are significantly cheaper.
  • Segment your audience – Break down your audience using several factors from age, demographics, geography, interests, personality, etc. Use these different segments to create customer profiles. Once you have a few different “typical” customers, you can identify which influencers target those groups.
  • Note the downsides – Influencers are human, which means they’re prone to mistakes, and they don’t always censor what they think. They are also likelier to publicize these mistakes and views because it’s what makes them authentic. Remember that if your company endorses an influencer, you are liable for what that influencer posts. To avoid any mishaps, build a strong relationship with the influencer before working together.

Content Marketing

While you’re building up photo and video content and determining which influencers you want to work with, you also need to double down on content. Written copy, blogs, articles, and social media posts are all content marketing. 

Remember that every other company is going to be increasing its content load. To avoid being buried under the competition, you have to start generating your content strategy now. Some tips for marketing around the holidays are:

  • Don’t focus on sales – The holidays are a time for gift-buying and shopping at malls and wait… Sorry, it’s about family and sharing and peace among people. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on sales around the holiday time (considering it’s one thing everybody’s doing). When creating content, always return to your theme and create messaging that orbits it. 
  • Keep it relevant – If you’re a furniture store, create a narrative about not having enough seats for all the family to be comfortable. If you’re a grocery store, come out with recipes for the holidays. Also, let customers know what new deals and products are coming out for the holidays. This will keep your messaging on theme.
  • The schedule moves quickly – One minute, you’re preparing a feast for Thanksgiving. The next minute, you’re wrapping presents and putting out cookies for Santa. The holidays go fast, so make sure your content aligns with this schedule. For example, there’s no point running Thanksgiving-related content in December.

Create and Schedule Ads

Shoppers buy an average of 16 gifts during the holiday season. With over 300 million people in the U.S. alone, that’s already about 5 billion products being bought and sold. To capitalize on this staggering number and gain yourself a piece of the pie, companies need to advertise.

There are several ways to get your message out, including:

  • Social media ads
  • PPC advertising
  • TV ads
  • Print ads
  • Radio ads
  • Direct mail

For online advertising, use your content marketing to guide you. First, determine when your audience is most active throughout the week, then pay for ads to run at those times.

Drive Engagement

Once you have all your content prepared and the holiday campaign is beginning, the last step is to change and adapt to drive engagement. With how fast internet culture changes, be sure to jump on any major trend.

  • Internet memes – Remember the ice bucket challenge or when planking was a thing? These are the kind of internet memes that are accessible to all companies. As November and December close in, it’s important to leave room for improvisation and to capitalize on trends.
  • Hashtags – Creating a hashtag unique to your company, and your theme can have huge benefits during the holiday season. Harkening back to our earlier example, REI’s #OptOutside is a mark of pride to outdoor enthusiasts—perfect for their brand and their theme.

Why You Need to Start Now

Logistically speaking, if you want to appear in holiday gift guides, you must have the content ready by November 1st. While some “last-minute gift lists” come out in December, most are going to be popping up in November. 

These gift guides are published in both print and digital. By splitting your efforts between the two, you can maximize the viewership you reach. Each one, however, has different content requirements.

  • Print – Magazines, newspapers, billboards, and direct mail are all types of print advertising. Most print advertising works a full two to three months out, which means you’ll need to have your ads ready by the end of summer. And you can bet companies are already paying premiums for the best spots. 
  • Digital – Although digital has more leeway with regards to its timeline, it also has significantly more competition. Putting your ad somewhere online is equivalent to putting a billboard out in the desert. Maybe people will see it, maybe not.  It’s best to have large volumes of quality content spread across multiple platforms, to increase your chances with digital marketing.

How to Begin

The number one problem companies run into when performing a holiday PR campaign is time—specifically, not enough of it. To truly benefit from holiday marketing, companies need to start early, plan for two months’ worth of content, and to schedule and execute on a strategy.

If your company has tried holiday marketing in the past to no avail, reach out as soon as possible. We’ll hop on a call to discuss past efforts and strategize what went right and what went wrong. Then, working together, we can develop messaging around key products and strategize the best outreach program for them. 

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Sources:

National Retail Federation. Winter Holiday FAQ’s  https://nrf.com/winter-holiday-faqs

Business Insider. REI’s CEO says that the company’s decision to close on Black Friday helped the retailer survive the retail apocalypse  https://www.businessinsider.com/rei-closes-for-black-friday-survives-retail-apocalypse-2018-10

Wall Street Journal. Shoppers’ Gift to Retailers: Increased Holiday Spending https://deloitte.wsj.com/cio/2018/11/25/shoppers-gift-to-retailers-increased-holiday-spending/