6 PR lessons from Santa Claus

He makes a list and checks it twice—just as public relations pros should. Stuff your stockings with these pieces of advice from Kris Kringle’s yuletide protocol.


Editor’s note: This story first appeared on PR Daily in December 2011. We’re featuring it again, because ’tis the season.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—if the holiday rush hasn’t crushed you yet.

Whether you’re filled with the spirit of the season, or humbugging your way through December, there are a number of PR lessons you can learn from Santa Claus.

Make a list, and check it twice

Imagine if Santa gave a Barbie doll to a child asking for G.I. Joe? In PR, building lists is obviously a crucial and tedious task. How many PR pros have been outed by bloggers because of stray pitches arriving in their inboxes?

If the man in the red suit can do it, so can we. Make sure the elves helping build lists are all aware of this important task, but in the end, the sender is responsible for what gets sent. Check it twice, even thrice.

Plan, prepare, and deliver

To ensure he delivers every year, Santa gears up for the gift-giving season by planning and preparing months in advance.

In PR, we don’t have months to prepare. Many times, we don’t even have minutes to prepare, but if we have a basic plan for a crisis or media opportunity, we should be able to deliver.

Never promise anything to the media that you can’t deliver within their deadline. We can’t all be batting a thousand like St. Nick, but we should try our best.

Share everything

Have you ever received a cease-and-desist letter from the North Pole? Santa doesn’t trademark his likeness.

In the world of social media, it’s better to share images, logos, content, etc., with everyone and anyone who cares. I’m not saying don’t protect your brand image, but strike the right balance between sharing and being overprotective. I tell clients to make their images, logos, content, etc. available for users. It would help drive more awareness about their brand.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Probably the most recognizable syllables uttered in the world, but if we remove two of the three, it might get you a beating.

Santa’s tagline, for a lack of a better term, has become an integral part of his brand. So, don’t knock ad agencies if they come up with something witty that we, as PR pros, might find corny. We are all creative in our own way and have a way with words. Some that immediately come to mind are “Think Different,” “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” “Don’t Leave Home Without It,” and “Can You Hear Me Now?” I’m sure you can name the brands behind all these taglines without Googling them.

Big rep

When I say rep, I don’t mean PR rep. (To this day, I’m still trying to figure out who reps him and the North Pole.) What I mean is that his reputation is as wide as his red suit and as big as his black boots. He might be the most recognizable person in the world, more than Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and Angelina Jolie combined.

How many times have Santa’s name and likeness been dragged in the mud? Lowlifes from bank robbers to street scam artists have taken advantage of his cheerful image, yet we still all love him. It took centuries to build this kind of reputation.

Inform your clients that building a solid reputation takes time and effort, but it’s worth the investment.

Show you care

Santa is associated with presents and children. That’s been fantastic for brands that show they care for disadvantaged and needy children. It is the season of giving, but why stop there?

As PR pros, we are in a position to turn the spirit of the season into a year-round effort. I advise clients to incorporate an ongoing cause-related PR program into their annual plan. It’s a great way to give back to the community and build an emotional connection with their audience. The love, good will, and loyalty a brand receives can’t even be measured.

Represent a toy company? Got toys to donate for a toy drive for the needy children at Austin Children’s Shelter. Let the author know. Speaking of the author, Joe Vasquez is the CEO of VASQ PR, a start-up firm he founded in 2010, when he left the lovely holiday lights of New York City for Austin. A version of this story appeared on the blog PRBreakfastClub.

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