Lessons from the Christmas party


As the Christmas party season gets into full swing, I thought I would dissect these social gatherings, looking at how and why some people are more successful at navigating them than others and what lessons we can learn. In some ways, it’s very easy to draw parallels from these occasions with our approach to PR and interacting with our target audiences in a professional setting – albeit minus the booze.

First lesson: Don’t be the bore

We’ve all been there: sat next to that person who only talks about themselves and their achievements for three hours, interspersed with stories that have no end (and definitely no punchline) as you glare angrily at the host for trapping you next to them…

From a comms point of view, this is a mistake that businesses make all too often; the use of broadcasting over storytelling and talking over listening. It’s easy for brands to get so wrapped up in pushing out their message, they forget that it might not always be of interest to their customers.

Storytelling has become an essential part of any PR campaign, with creating memorable and lasting content the holy grail. One of my favourite pieces of Christmas storytelling this year is Burberry’s Christmas campaign, ‘The Tale of Thomas Burberry’, the core of which is a three-minute film about Burberry’s real-life inventions. It is a beautiful piece of cinematography, using leading British actors to create an original, bitesize piece of content that absolutely encapsulates and communicates the essence of Burberry: innovation, quality, and quintessential Britishness.

Here, Burberry has got it spot on: they have listened and understood what makes them stand out from other luxury brands; they have taken something at the very heart of the brand by using the tale of its founder; and they have told a story that communicates this without being pushy, boring or obvious. And further bonus points for the fact that it is in a format that can easily be shared to create a conversation.

Lesson two: Add an extra helping of personality

I recently read an interesting article about the importance of knowing your brand’s personality, and how this should be an integrated factor in every aspect of the business, from recruitment to PR.

Just like telling a joke to a group of people at the Christmas party, knowing the tone to strike and how much and what type of humour will go down well is key to finding success with your audience. It’s about a fit of personalities and, as a brand, you need to be conscious of reflecting that personality both inside and outside your organisation.

From a PR point of view, the key to success is knowing your audience thoroughly and knowing how to communicate what makes you stand out from the crowd in their language. Social media is a great way of building up that rapport with your customers, and of developing your company’s voice and tone.

Getting this right 100% of the time is often tricky, but sticking to a very simple trait of your company’s internal personality is often a good starting point: are you quirky, innovative, or people focused? People want to see the same personality no matter how they interact with a business, so effectively creating your brand’s distinctive personality and communicating it internally and externally can be a very powerful tool in standing out to the people that matter.

Lesson three: Everybody loves a good Christmas jumper

There’s always that person that rocks up, whatever the dress code, in their finest festive knitwear. While this isn’t always appropriate, more often than not a funny, original Christmas jumper goes down a storm, and is a great conversation starter.

The same goes for creating Christmas content for your brand. Getting into the Christmas spirit is a great opportunity to get noticed, but it’s essential that it’s done in a way that stands out from the crowd.

We see this every year with the big department store race to create the most tear-jerking Christmas advert. It’s always the one that does something a bit different and just that bit cleverer that really takes the biscuit – let’s not forget how Aldi stole the show in 2015 with their parody of John Lewis’ man on the moon advert. It’s all very well creating something festive and heart-warming, but if all your competitors are following the same model, the impact is lost in favour of someone who thinks outside the box.

And finally: Don’t overdo it and embarrass yourself

When you wake up in the morning, you don’t want that feeling of dread at what you might or might not have said to the boss while slopping your tenth mulled wine over their white top.

Similarly, you don’t want your big Christmas PR stunt to be in the press for the wrong reasons, as Japan’s theme park Space World found out the hard way recently. The park had run a seasonal gimmick in their ice rink, only to find that their customers generally found it tasteless and vaguely grotesque to skate over dead fish and sea creatures. The lesson here is again to stick to highly targeted campaigns appropriate to your target audience – and generally stay away from divisive issues that could cost you your reputation amongst many of your customers.


Here’s to your PR campaigns performing as smoothly as you this party season. Merry Christmas from everyone at Target!

Madeleine Gayfer

Account Executive