Imagine being told to stand in a room full of people this Christmas and the only aim for everyone while in that room is to shout the loudest, louder than everyone else.
Obviously, that’s not going to happen – mainly because it’s not safe to do that right now, of course – but also because, well, it’s pretty pointless. 
That’s exactly what trying to stand out at Christmas is like, though. In relation to business, everyone is trying to do the same thing. Everyone is trying to preach the same messages. Everyone is sharing festive and New Year offers. We’re even at a stage where everyone even has a go at creating their own Christmas ad. 
Sure, that’s one way to stand out at Christmas… if you’re a huge brand name with a huge following. No problem. You’re going to dominate the share of voice.
What about the little guy, though? The local business owner that is also trying to shout, but just hasn’t got a voice strong enough to match that of the elite business? What can they possibly do?
Our advice to you – don’t follow the elite. Dare to be different. Dare to stand out in an entirely different way. The festive period is a special time for everyone – even during a pandemic – and there are things you can do to stand out. 
What might surprise you, is that it’s easier than you think to achieve.
You might not know where to start doing that, but hopefully, after reading this article, you might have a few small ideas of what to do next to ensure your voice is just as loud as everyone else’s in the room…

1. What are you doing in your local community?

Christmas is a special time for a number of reasons and one of those is how charitable and generous our nation becomes in supporting causes and those most vulnerable at this time of year. 
It’s something we have done here at Hallam, as we teamed up with Emmanuel House Support Centre to support its annual Winter Appeal. Our staff came together to donate £1,000 worth of clothes, items, and food among other things, while several members of the team volunteered their services, too.

One of the other best examples of giving back to the local community this year has been in Hartlepool, where Middleton Grange Shopping Centre set up a landing page for its Giving Tree initiative for its customers to buy presents to support local charities. Usually held in the shopping centre, it was moved online this year with an initial target of 1,500 presents being donated. 
Incredibly, at the time of writing this piece, 164,535 presents have been purchased and donated – not just for kids across Hartlepool, but across the UK! Meanwhile, it’s traction across social media has also gone through the roof after the campaign was shared across Facebook and Twitter and received more than 28,000 shares and 14,000 retweets.
These phenomenal figures were not achieved by doing something groundbreaking, but something that had its community at heart. 
These are great PR stories and a sure way of getting your business or brand noticed during a congested December. 
So ask yourself now, what are you doing within your community? Are you supporting a charity or a cause that is close to your audience’s hearts? 
If the answer is yes, start shouting about it.

2. Embrace the festivities, but remember there’s more to Winter than Christmas and New Year

Sure, Christmas and New Year get a lot of attention, but there are two whole months that follow it.
A lot of focus (and money) goes into Christmas, but as a smaller business, wouldn’t it be more prudent to think about how your campaigns and messages can last beyond a few weeks and stem the length of winter.
As an example, are you in a position to provide data, insight, and comments in winter breaks, winter wonders, the change in weather, consumer habits after Christmas, Blue Monday, and post lockdown in your industry – just to name a few?
I’ve picked out a couple of eye-catching examples of this. Below is a campaign run by Ocean Finance looking at the most affordable European city breaks over the winter period.

Content like this does take time, but there is another case in point I can give you that was so simple, yet so effective, as part of a winter campaign and it comes to you all the way from Canada!
Maybe you have a product that is perfect for the winter months and you’re wanting to generate leads. Fowler’s Digest, which produces natural supplements for digestive health, is proof that you don’t need to run an all-singing, all-dancing, campaign to generate interest.
With a simple giveaway, they held a prize draw in which customers just had to share their full name and email address to be in with a chance of winning. Simplicity at its best. The business collected new leads without putting in place something too tasking and was able to advertise a key seasonal product.

Content and PR campaigns like this will ensure that your business and brand remains relevant even after the Christmas decorations are taken down and will – excuse the cheesy pun – melt your competition who chucked all their eggs in one basket for Christmas.  
I’m not saying that you have to go all Scrooge on me, though. There’s nothing wrong at all with a digital festive ad here, a personalised email campaign there, and a sprinkle of Christmas creativity on your social channels. 
After all, we’re trying to stand out. Not alienate ourselves!

3. Be unique. No-one can do you better than you

The first two points will give any business a good barometer of what is required to stand out in the loud vacuum that is Christmas, but this third tip is even more important than the first two.
Just be you. 
PR is not all about how many links you can drive back to your website or how many pieces of coverage you can get. Sure, it’s a big part of it, but another significant part of it comes packaged in the things you do on a daily basis on your social media channels – a place where you can control the narrative and how an audience perceives you.
No-one will be able to tell your business’ story better than yourself and your colleagues and this is something we’d advocate not just during the festive season, but to be something that is implemented into your PR and content strategy all year round.
Below is a list of a few quick and easy wins that will make you stand out this year:

  • Take and share pictures that anyone outside of your business wouldn’t be able to take – present images that show why your place of work is the best around and promote culture.
  • Be personable with your business and brand – make it something your audience wants to engage with and don’t be afraid to spice your channels with a bit of humour from time-to-time… when appropriate, of course.
  • Tie your brand into what is happening around the world – can you force your brand name in as part of your national/international conversation? Monzo, among other brands, did a pretty good job of doing just that when those random monoliths started appearing (what is that all about by the way?)
  • Champion colleague advocacy and give them free rein to talk about the great stuff your brand is doing behind the scenes – either work-related or within the community.
  • Engage with your audience – if you receive a comment on a post, take the time to respond to it – whether it’s positive or negative – and show you care. No-one wants to talk to a faceless organisation.
  • Promote User-Generated content – an obvious one, but still a tactic that is very undervalued. Let your audience be part of your voice (who knows you might get a corker of a PR story out of it).
  • Think long-term – Cut the promotions and deliver content that adds value. My colleague, Julio Taylor, recently wrote an excellent article about this for The Drum and I urge you to give it a read.

4. Get ready to hit 2021 hard – take time to strategise and plan for the future

What I hope you have learned over the course of this article so far is to think long-term.
Christmas and New Year are a great time of the year. Within the guidance and the rules (of course), take a well-earned breather and spend time with your loved ones. Eat good food. Drink plenty of mulled wine. This year has been tougher – and stranger – than most. 
More changes are afoot, though.
News of a vaccine has spread like wildfire over the last few weeks. Ultimately, what that means is that people are gearing up for a return to normality (whatever that is) at some point in 2021. 
That said, time is on your side so use Christmas and New Year to not only try and stand out now but stand out long into the future. 
Whatever happens, digital is here to stay and will remain a pillar of business. Don’t see what you do across social as an option, but instead as a priority, and take the time with your colleagues to plan out how it can be maximised into the future.
That’s something else we can help you with, too.
The team here at Hallam recently launched its Future of Digital Marketing: 2021 edition eBook, which is full of top tips, advice, and predictions for the digital world is going to look like moving forward and what businesses need to think about, particularly when it comes to getting the best out of your PR and content marketing.
We had a blast writing it. Hopefully, you will find it just as useful as part of your long-term PR and Content strategy planning!

5. And finally, outreach – is it a good idea to send out press releases between Christmas Day and New Year?

In short, we advise against it.
Journalists deserve a break just as much as anyone else at this time of year. They will be working, just far less frequently, and they will be aiming to get the majority of their stories and articles ready to be published in advance of the big day.
After all, no-one wants to be scrambling on Christmas Eve.
If you have any PR or New Year stories up your sleeve, get them sent into publications the week before Christmas – leaving ample time to send another email closer to the day itself to make sure they received it. 

Wrapping up with a list

I wouldn’t be able to write a Christmas related blog without finishing with a list, right?
To summarise below is a checklist of actions you can take immediately that will keep you front of mind this festive season:

  • Think about how your business can add value within your community or how you can support a worthy cause
  • Yes, embrace the festivities, but ask yourself whether you can provide content that would be relevant during the entirety of winter
  • Be the masters of your own PR and messaging and use your social media to create long-term branding
  • Keep your brand human and keep your content engaging
  • Digital is now a priority, not an option. Plan how you can continue to use it effective post COVID-19
  • Journalists deserve a rest, too! Get your PR content over to them a week before Christmas Day – including your New Year stories – giving ample time for follow-ups

Christmas and New Year is a great time of year. Hopefully, you find that this will help you stand out in a room full of brands that are trying to shout as loud as possible.

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