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How Holidays Can Drive Your PR Campaign
Special days -- familiar or not -- may provide a news hook.
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 by Marsha Friedman

Marsha FriedmanIt starts with a client of mine who is a dog crusader with a cause. She's written seven books about it, and just released a new one. Her passion is animal rescue -- specifically dogs from animal shelters. It's a reasonably narrow cause, but she has been getting a great deal of attention, and October is going to be even bigger for her. You see, October is national Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). For our client, it's a month made in heaven for her message.

So far, her print campaign has produced several interviews, several requests from specialty publications for bylined articles from her, and we are gearing up for some potential TV interviews as October grows closer.

That's not to say her campaign wasn't getting interest prior to the announcement of Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, but there is a more universal point to be made here. If one is enterprising enough, it is extremely easy to research and discover a "holiday" of sorts related to just about any topic, cause or company.

There are days set aside to commemorate the anniversaries of Civil War battles, the invention of popcorn, birthdays of dead celebrities, the invention of the rotary engine and just about anything you could possibly imagine. There is even a printed resource, Chase's Calendar of Events published by McGraw Hill, filled with literally thousands of listings for holidays from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Also, don't be afraid to do some creative Google searching to find out if there are any "holidays" related to your message. You may be surprised with what you find.

For instance, National Teen Driving Safety Week focuses on getting teens to reduce distractions while driving, such as the use of cell phones and PDAs. We've used this week to help a few clients get their messages out to the public. One such message was about trackable car GPS systems and was aimed at keeping teens safe on the road.

For another client, we pitched their message about responsibility being one of the traits of a successful teenager, which was a great fit for the Teen Driving Safety Week. The key thing was to use the date as a way to help focus on a message that was relevant to BOTH the audience for the holiday and the intended audience for the client's message.

With our dog expert, national Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month was ready-made, but that doesn't mean it was a simple process.

We planned many weeks in advance to hit the long lead publications in late July with a written article and pitch for the client, which is already resulting in coverage in those outlets in October when they arrive at the newsstands. Moreover, we will begin to pitch her for TV interviews nationally about four weeks prior to October 1st, helping producers to plan their potential segments in a comfortable time frame. Finally, we are updating the print article to reflect the timeliness of the event for when we hit the short lead outlets the week prior to October 1st. So, it's not enough to have a good "holiday" to co-opt for your campaign. You have to plan far enough in advance to take advantage of it.

Finally, you need to be completely ready -- and available -- to face the press once the campaign begins.

So find the holiday that relates to your message, whether it is for your book or product, and then plan carefully to execute your PR tactics around that date. It might take an evergreen campaign pitch and make it instantly relevant to everyone simply because it appears on the calendar.

Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI, is a 20-year veteran of the public relations industry, who provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms.
She is also the author of the book, Celebritize Yourself.

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