If I Were Santa’s Public Relations Guy…

Santa and his laptop For such a high-profile, influential figurehead, Santa’s PR could really use some work. I mean, the merchandising is pretty neat but there’s a lot more potential there.

So… here’s what I’d suggest if I were running Santa’s communications.

Set some objectives

Every year, Santa does the same things. Naughty/nice list, requests from kids, Christmas Eve gift run, blah blah blah. Nothing seems to change. I doubt that Santa even measures his success each year – does he know if he’s doing a good job? What defines success for him? Is it:

  • 10% more happy kids each year?
  • Higher ratio of nice kids to naughty kids?
  • Lower elf turnover?
  • More letters from kids?
  • Higher merchandise sales?

Santa needs to decide what success means, set some objectives and measure against that. Of course, without these objectives the rest of these recommendations are guess-work.

Tailor the messaging

“Ho ho ho” and “Merry Christmas” are catchy and all, but do they really speak to all of your audiences? Kids, yes, but what about parents, toy manufacturers, and your elves? Needs some work, I fear.

Capitalize on public appearances

For the love of… Santa… someone get some media advisories out for those mall appearances! Santa makes a lot of public appearances but right now shows a Harper-like distain for the press. The big dailies might not care, but local TV and print would lap it up. Seriously, every one is a tailor-made photo op. This one’s a no-brainer. Get some notices out there.

Two-way communication

Right now, you find out once a year whether Santa considers you to have been naughty or nice throughout the year. That’s like getting a failing grade on a report card at the end of the year, having thought you were doing ok all along. Meanwhile, people send all of their requests in to him, which promptly disappear into a black hole until Christmas. How about some feedback?

Santa (or his elves… just disclose who it is…) should give regular feedback to people. He could even use social media tools to help do it – if little Timmy steals his dad’s credit card, for example, he might get a Twitter message letting him know that Santa’s on to him.

The same goes for Christmas lists. If Samantha wants a pony and Santa knows there’s no way that’s happening, he should let her know that early-on rather than raising her hopes and crushing them at the end.

Crowdsource the naughty/nice list

Keeping that naughty/nice list up-to-date takes a lot of work! Why not put the resources doing that to better use by outsourcing (no, crowdsourcing) that list? Just set up a wiki and let kids’ parents go to work.

Ongoing communication

Santa's new spokesperson? Santa’s a one-hit wonder right now. From October to December he’s up there in the public eye, but then he disappears for the other nine months of the year.

How about some ongoing publicity? Build a relationship with people instead of these once-per-year transactions.

I’d go offline and online for this. Maybe a few announcements and media tours of the toy factory throughout the year? A photo op here, a handshake there… However, given his global audience, he’s going to be spread too thin if he tries to do it all himself. Santa needs to recruit a spokesperson or two to help out with the workload; I’m thinking Buddy the Elf might be a good candidate – he’s good with soundbites

On the online front, Santa’s blog is *okay* right now, but he could do more. A decent URL would help, for starters, but beyond that the site could use a redesign and a lot more regular content throughout the year. Beyond the obvious community-building and awareness benefits, you want it to be a go-to place in case of crisis – in case Rudolph poops on someone’s head from on high or something. Also…

Community community community!

Santa’s community is one of the best out there, but right now it’s under-used. People want to interact with Santa but they can’t. Some kind of community site, whether it’s a group on Facebook, a Ning network or a custom-built community on Santa’s own site, just makes sense.

Bottom line: own your brand

There are dozens/hundreds/thousands (really, do you want to count them?) of Santa imitators out there right now, both on and offline. Santa needs to get out there, establish his own brand and own it.

Those are my thoughts – what would you add?

Back to the eggnog…

(Image credits: BrainFit For Life; Alan Markfield)

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.