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Navigating Christmas in Our PR World

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IKR It’s that exciting, hectic and overwhelming time of the year again. With life seemingly normalizing, most everyone is prepping to go on, if not already on, revenge Christmas mode. After a couple of unChristmas Christmases, we’re all looking forward to Christmas shopping, parties and get-togethers, hopefully with masks still on.

But rein in those horses, or reindeer since we’re talking Christmas. In our PR world, the yuletide season and in fact the entire last quarter of the year is easily the busiest and most frenzied period. Clients can be more intense and demanding, what with pressure from all sides to meet their targets for the year and get the upcoming year off to a good start. So not only are brands rolling out holiday campaigns but they are also leveraging the season to launch new products and/or services. These on top of increasing traffic and sales and people, including executives, preparing to go on holiday like most other people.

For PR people this means workload multiplied several times over. Besides the countless press releases that need to be dispatched for clients’ slew of PR and marketing activities, there are campaigns and events one after the other, from product launches to thanksgiving dinner for clients’ partners to year-end celebrations.

With businesses eager to make up for losses from the previous years and looking to make the most of this last quarter and revenge Christmas sales, can we hope for some Christmas cheer and break?

The answer is, of course, yes. It may be a challenge, especially for smaller PC companies whose personnel headcount consists of mostly new hires. But it can be done.

Plan, plan and then plan some more. It’s not a cliché. Your clients have their yearly, quarterly and monthly targets and plans. Use those to align or realign your quarterly and monthly plans until the year’s end.

Some are lucky enough to be able to kick-start holiday PR plan discussions with their clients as soon as Q4 opens or even before that. If you’re not one of the lucky ones, now may be the time to talk plans with clients or at least get an idea of what they want to do for their products these coming weeks. Either way, strategizing as early as possible would go a long way in getting you on the road to that dream Christmas destination.

Set clear expectations internally and with clients. Easier said than done, we agree. But if you don’t try sitting down with your client and laying out all the cards on the table, then the risks of losing on all counts become even higher.

Your clients would appreciate knowing you’d want to plan ahead and manage the workload before and even during the holiday. Like if you have a way to ensure their website content remains fresh even during Christmas break, that would put their mind at ease. They’d also likely to be more cooperative. After all, they’d also would want to have a break of their own, right?

Make sure everyone in the team is on the same page. You’d be surprised to know that even with all those status checks and update sessions, not everyone in your team knows what’s happening. Especially for crunch times, it’s crucial to get everyone on the same page.

This includes finding out who among the team members are going away and when and for how long. This enables the team lead to revise assignments and schedules accordingly. So for those planning to take time off, it is better to advise your team early enough. If the team lead is the one going away, assigning a deputy and getting him or her ready for the role would be important.

If your team has several events lined up, this also means informing your finance or accounting staff ahead of time so they can budget for all upcoming activities. If there are other teams involved, get them in the loop as early as possible too.

Set targets and action points. It’s not enough to have a plan. That list of your clients’ wants and needs won’t move forward without a clear strategy on both your and the clients’ sides. For each target, be it a full-blast campaign or a content calendar, identify tasks that needed to be done when and by whom. Then track the progress of each task from planning to completion.

For team leaders, set accountability and demand that responsibilities be taken seriously. Team members who are late with their deliverables or constantly need to be reminded might need not just coaching but a serious talk about accountability. Which brings another point: Use this crunch time to get better insights on how each of your team member handles pressure. Goal setting for the next year is coming up soon, and you can use the information for evaluating their performance and identifying areas for improvement or training needs.

Prioritize tasks. We know, there are simply lots of things to do in any given day. Client A suddenly calls for a meeting, Client B demands a quick update over email, Client C wants to send out a quick media release, and so on.

But surely, these tasks do not have the same priority level. Attend to those that need attention first. For some, prioritizing means doing first those items that require more time. For others, it is easier to finish the easiest tasks or those that need the least of their time. Find whichever works for you. Just be sure you’re able to tick off your to-do items for the day. Putting off some of the day’s targets could have an impact on your schedule for the following day, which could eventually compromise your dream Christmas break.

Monitor progress. Real-time monitoring of each step involved in a project or task is necessary. For this, a live tracker sheet that shows everyone in the team the status of each task at a glance would do the trick.

But wait, this is not a simple matter of creating an Excel sheet with items and deadlines. Many of those unfamiliar with project management would simply list the tasks, person responsible and target completion date. The sheet must be updated as and when each task is completed so that everyone in the team would know a project’s status at any given time. If the driver is late or is having difficulty completing an assigned task, that should be reflected in the tracker as well. Whoever is managing the project then could easily follow up or check on the delayed items as early as possible.

Enjoy the work, too. Yes, PR work during the holidays can be very stressful. But it can be loads of fun as well. The secret is in the attitude and perspective.

Try to find a sliver of Christmas joy in whatever you’re doing. If you’re busy preparing for an event, remind yourself it can be a Christmas event everyone in your client’s company is having for the first time in a couple of years. You’d be giving them a better Christmas this year in this case.

If you feel like you’re in a rut drafting that press release, try stepping out for lunch and then squeeze in some quick Christmas shopping. You might get some inspiration for your writing task and check off some items on your Christmas list. Two birds with a single Christmas stone.

What’s your plan B? This can be about hiring temp staff for some of the additional projects. Or you can ready a pool of freelancers that you easily tap for rush jobs that the inhouse team can no longer handle.

Some get interns during this time of the year to help with the increased workload. You can be as creative as you want with your plan B. ‘Tis the season for creativity, after all.

Have some Christmas faith. When all else fails, hang on to the good ol’ fashioned Christmas miracle. Everything will work out just fine.

I remember when I was managing multiple international print trade publications and their online verticals and I would be asked how I managed meeting all those deadlines on time during Christmas despite all the holidays and staff being away, my answer would be: prayers, lots of prayers. Yes, it’s a way to avoid having to explain myself when I was already busy enough. But it’s also true that having divine help supplement hard work makes for a winning recipe.

Step back and make the most of the season. You’ve earned it; relish it. Even if not all of your projects ended up as successfully as you wished and worked for, it is still the season to be merry, so use that excuse to delight your inner child. If your clients were happy with all your work, then all the more reason to celebrate, right?

Enjoy your Christmas!

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