Sunday, July 27, 2014

Blowing off the gift guides

To you, it may be mid-summer. To a PR person, it's now the Christmas season.

By Sigismund von Dobschütz (Own work)
 [GFDL ( or
via Wikimedia Commons
Public relations people can't use regular calendars. Especially if they're working on product publicity. Most need to gear their PR strategies to reach consumers in the November-December retail window.

Which is why I loathe "Christmas in July" media events.

The people at Cision have created a 2014 Holiday Gift Guide pitching kit. You can download it here. It may be useful if you have clients who sell packaged goods, pricey hams, electronic products, or sports items, and who count on PR to help drive their year-end sales. Such a "kit" can help you spend the next few weeks convincing print, broadcast, and online media to include those products in their roundups.

You may get a 15-second mention on the Today show. Or a few lines on a tech blogger's page. Or a few re-pins on Pinterest.

My view? Most gift guides are like store-brand potato chips. Empty calories. No nutrition. Time wasters. Easily forgotten. 

There are more gift guides than you can realistically reach. And each has the shelf life of a bruised poinsettia. Did that gift guide suggest a Sony camera or a Canon? Living.Well says they cover the entire gamut of consumer items, from pets and video games to wines and spirits. Who's really ready to sift through all these gift ideas?

Not me. Your client's product will likely get lost in a sea of gift guide recommendations.

So, I recommend blowing off the gift guides. 

Instead, try a PR strategy than helps your client earn recognition for doing the right thing, and let the halo effect of that effort influence audiences. Maybe it's a partnership with a regional or national children's charity. Or a well-orchestrated effort to provide meaningful job training or housing for veterans. Or a significant cause marketing strategy that puts food on someone's table in lean times.

As a PR person, you can promote these good works without the retail fol-de-rol. Skip the gift guides. And give assignment editors and segment producers real stories to share with readers and viewers.

PR people are often great persuaders. Well, here's your chance. Persuade your client that one more 50-word blurb in a holiday gift guide won't generate nearly as much brand value as a well-planned effort to reach out to those in need.