It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (For Gift-Wrapped Public Relations!)

by Alicia Simpson

Friday, December 4th, 2015

Learn how to use effective Christmas Campaign Tactics All Year Round – a gift from our PR agency


WHETHER you mark the countdown by how many sleeps are left, the number of shopping days remaining or the numerals on the wee doors of an advent calendar, one thing is beyond doubt: Christmas is coming.

With it come the inevitable Christmas campaigns. In my opinion, those marketing campaigns are a bit like Marmite (or given the time of year, maybe I should say they’re a bit like Egg Nog?) – You either love them or loathe them. Some people are crackers for the Christmas campaigns, others are left scowling like Scrooge.

Yet with so much money and effort being poured into the festive ads and promotions, the chances are there will be at least one campaign to melt even the frostiest of hearts. Bah humbug.

Indeed, adverts such as those of Coca-Cola and John Lewis have become synonymous with the beginning of the Christmas season. But how do these brands successfully manage to grab our attention year upon year? Well, that secret sparkle is all in the story telling.

There are several key elements to successful Christmas story telling, and every campaign must contain one or more of these in order to get the desired reaction from its target audience. Indeed, whether your ultimate goal is to break the hearts of the British or simply convince five year olds everywhere that they must have that plastic tractor right now, the more boxes your Christmas campaign ticks, the more success it will have.

Our expert public relations team at Holyrood PR in Scotland know that these essential features are for the entire business year – not just for Christmas. So read on for our top tips on how to add a little magic and cheer to your PR campaign, at any time of the year.


yellow pagesSuccessful campaigns are relatable, because people recognise the characters, the situations or the places.
The Sainsbury’s advert featuring Mog the cat has the benefit of a lovable main character for kids, while also pressing the buttons of adults who worry about all the things that can possibly go wrong on Christmas Day.
Likewise the classic Yellow Pages 1992 mistletoe ad has a touch of innocent and youthful romance that anyone can recognise, all handled in a memorable and amusing way.
It’s not just children or animals that tick the familiarity box; places, too, can portray powerful messages, especially if it’s a place that the consumer can call home. Irn Bru’s memorable snowman Christmas ad was a cheeky alternative take on a festive classic, which also repeated the company’s long history of milking the patriotism of us Scottish folk.
These are all themes that work well beyond the festive season – and your business PR could benefit from this kind of story telling all year round.

Check out these examples of how PR can mine the familiar by

Piggybacking on Wall-E – how we used a cute, easy-to-recognise Pixar characters  to earn national coverage for Panton McLeod
War on Conmen and Counterfeiters – Highlighting situations and problems that all of us can recognise to promote the work of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre
Beating the Postcode Lottery – Making sure your local credentials get the kind of media coverage that boosts the bottom line without worrying about any postcode lottery.


boy and penguinSimplicity is at the heart of every successful story – and Christmas campaigns recognise this brilliantly.
It is a complicated world. So when you have a simple, unambiguous message it can be easier to cut through to the audience, catch their attention – and lodge in their memory.
Christmas ads are all about the heart-warming, meaningful messages, and more often than not use the notion of the importance of sharing, or family, as the central idea of their campaign.
For the past few years, John Lewis have bossed the simple message, by mining themes of love and friendship (the boy and the penguin); of making sure others don’t miss out on simple pleasures (the bear and the hare); and in 2015’s heartstring-tugging offering, the importance of caring for elderly relatives and neighbours (The man on the moon).

See for yourself how keeping a clear, simple storytelling message is a powerful PR tool far beyond Christmas:

The nan who loves naan – see how this woman’s spicy secret to a long, long life delivered amazing media coverage.
Einstein’s PR Guide to Keeping it Simple Stupid! – Read how PR helped Commsworld transform a complex and technical project into a series of simple and easy to understand success stories.
How to Eat an Elephant -Find out how the power of PR simplification helped Sodexo get a handle on a project that seemed too massive to fathom, delivering amazing results.


sainsburysChristmas is indeed a prime time for socialising with those that you love (or perhaps some that you don’t!).
Communicating a message via more than just one platform to speak to as many people as possible is key to the success of any campaign in the digital age.
Creating a hashtag to coincide with the launch of a PR campaign is a powerful tactic and often kick starts an important conversation about your brand with a demographic that was potentially unreachable before social media.
We’ve already mentioned John Lewis’s 2014 ad (already a Christmas classic) but did you realise that #MontyThePenguin was mentioned 14,500 times on social media within just 24 hours of the ad launch?
Or that the Sainsbury’s 2014 Christmas Day Truce TV advert took the top spot in social media, generating more than 20,000 messages on both Facebook and Twitter on the day of its launch.
While the feelgood factor of the festive season is a great time to focus on the power of social media, just like the rest of your business communications it should actually be a year round concern.

Here are some of the top tips from our award-winning PR agency to win at social media at any time of the year:

Reservoir Dogs – find out how we helped Scottish Water say Ready, Set, GO to help make it major social media safety push a resounding success
The Art of Business flirting – find out how digital media including blogs and e-newsletters helped two businesses come together in a highly profitable way
-Granny’s on Facebook! – Why it’s time businesses ditched suspicions about the benefits of social media
-Anti Social Media – Our helpful business guide on the Dos and Donts of building a winning social media presence.


 Fake-Royal-Family-SelfieTelly commercials, print adverts, online promotions – everywhere you look you are going to be bombarded by images of people in Christmas jumpers, red and green flashing lights and Santa memorabilia.
If you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em. With a little bit of imagination you can use the festive novelty items to your benefit – whether making your Christmas cards more memorable, or finding a rich source of pictures for social media channels, which will help put a human face on your business.
Even if you don’t get fully into the spirit by insisting everyone in the office has to wear tinsel-adorned, novelty reindeer antlers, you can still watch and learn.
By keeping an eye on what others do at Christmas (maybe even your business rivals), you can beg, borrow and steal ideas that can be repurposed and repackaged at other times of the year.
Clever examples come from diverse businesses up and down the country – like the retailer who seemed to capture the Queen taking selfies to celebrate Mother’s Day. Or the theme park which earned positive headlines with an April Fool’s day stunt suggesting it was opening a dog’s only rollercoaster?

As an example, here are just a few of the campaigns that Holyrood PR hasbeen involved in:

Chocolate Sprouts – In the past month, we dreamt up a novel way to promote a Chocolate Festival in Perth. Our choc coated Brussels sprouts earned a windfall of positive media coverage.
Old and new clubbers – How our creative photocall delivered a massive boost for kids golf competition
Back to the future – Restaurant’s anniversary took movie inspiration for a hugely successful PR campaign that just kept on giving!
Flexing Creative Muscles – Just like bulging biceps or a six pack, to build an impressive imagination it needs to be worked regularly. This guide shows how our team has regular creativity workouts.

The Proof of the Christmas Pudding is in the Eating – So Do Yourself a Favour and Try a Wee Taste of PR

 At Holyrood PR we believe that stories are at the heart of every business and when those stories are well-told to the right audience, it helps those businesses become more successful, while creating happier more productive workplaces.

We have decades of experiences, cupboards full of awards and accolades and dozens of satisfied clients. You don’t have to wait for Christmas to treat yourself. Give your business the ideal gift at any time of year and unwrap your own PR success story.

We’d love the chance to speak with you about how expert public relations services could help your business to thrive.
Contact our expert PR team below to find out how we can help add a little magic and sparkle to your business campaign.

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Private: Alicia Simpson

The profile and biography of public relations professional Alicia Simpson, a junior account executive with award-winning Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh.

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