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Christmas in July: Now Is The Time To Plan Holiday Content

The holidays happen at the same time every year, yet inevitably, many of us start panicking and organizing last-minute brainstorming sessions in October and November.

I get it. Planning ahead can be difficult, but man, does it pay off, as you’ll see in the examples below.

The holidays are a perfect time to delight and surprise your audiences and to express your appreciation. The best example of this that I’ve seen is from WestJet, one of Canada’s largest airlines. You’ve probably seen the Christmas Miracle video because, well, it’s been viewed more than 47 million times!

You’re also probably saying, “But Rebeccah, our business or organization could never pull off something like that.”

Touché. So you can’t have a real-time Santa who delivers expensive gifts like big-screen TVs, but the point here is the inspiration. What could you do to plan a memorable experience for your clients or customers? And, how could you build content around that experience to share the joy with a mass audience?

It’s worth noting that what made the WestJet video so effective wasn’t the expensive gifts. It was the idea that a corporation cared and that it orchestrated something truly memorable.

The WestJet video required a huge amount of logistics, but the rewards in terms of relationship-building and positive exposure were priceless. You can do the same, even on a smaller scale. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you plan holiday content:

Create And Cover Your Own Story

WestJet could have – and probably did – send out news releases about its holiday surprise, but the beauty of technology is that you can create your own content and distribute it yourself.

This calls for a paradigm shift in the way businesses think about marketing. Say it with me: “All businesses and organizations are publishers.”

When you’re planning an event, you need to plan for how you’ll tell the story through photos, video, blog, social media, email, your website, etc.

One important point here: Great content does not automatically build audience. “If you build it, they will come” does not apply. There are a lot of people creating engaging content, but unfortunately, no one’s seeing it. Bringing a content strategist in on your planning from the beginning will help you develop the most effective strategy for making your story stand out.

Tell Stories From The Heart

The holidays are about magic, laughter and joy. What can you do to capture that for your audience?

Think about the content you respond to yourself. What makes you share a Facebook video? Most often, we share content because it sparks a strong feeling within us, and we want others to experience that.

Make people laugh. Make them cry. Make them feel a sense of urgency about helping someone else. Storytelling is the way to the heart.

Align Content With Your Mission

Content should reinforce your values and mission. It can’t be contrived or forced. It has to align with your unique story and what your audience already knows about you.

Here’s an example:

The holidays can be a difficult time for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. I work with a regional Hospice organization that recognizes this. Holiday content for Hospice involves creating opportunities for people to remember or honor their loved ones, sharing coping tips and offering information about where to turn if you need help. That content complements the Hospice mission of care, comfort and support.

Invite Your Audience To Make A Difference

Inviting your customers or clients to social action, and then documenting what you accomplish together, builds community around your brand or organization.

In Tallahassee, every year, the local newspaper partners with Catholic Charities to publish information about local families in need. The newspaper publishes descriptions of 50 families including their basic needs and their holiday wishes. Community members then volunteer to purchase food, clothes and gifts. Readers look forward to the program every year. They start calling in early November, asking when the information will be published.

People love an opportunity to make a difference, and they especially like it when you give them clear directions and tangible actions. Most nonprofits receive a majority of their funding in the last quarter of the year. The holidays are great time to make an impact. What could you do to rally your audience to action?

Everyone Loves A Contest

The TLH Cookie Exchange is another example of holiday content from my newspaper days.

In early December, we invited readers to come to the Cookie Exchange in our lobby and to enter their favorite cookie into a contest to be named “Cookie of the Year.” We had a team of taste testers that picked their 12 favorite cookies. Then, on the 12 days leading up to Christmas, we featured each of the bakers, their personal stories and their recipes. The winner was announced on Christmas Eve and received a trophy. (This would be a great idea to adapt for a local bakery!)

How could you engage your audience members in a contest? What you do doesn’t have to be expensive. Beyond the personnel time involved, the Cookie Exchange came at little cost, but it was fun for readers who competed for the distinction of having the “Cookie of the Year.”

These are just a few ideas and considerations to spark your imagination as you plan your holiday content.

For additional ideas, check out the links below, and as always, I’m here to help!

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