Traditionally a time for giving, Christmas appeals are a key moment in the third sector calendar to raise awareness and much-needed funds. But for charities competing against their 166,000 counterparts, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
Gaining widespread media coverage in the lead up to Christmas is key – but when is the right time to start thinking about a PR strategy, and how far in advance should you start talking to media publications?
As the days grow warmer and longer, it’s hard to believe that Christmas is already on people’s minds – but in the world of the media, the festive period has already started.
Monthly glossy magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Woman & Home, work months in advance and typically compile their Christmas editions mid-year, so it’s important for charities to be talking to these titles in July/August.
Many people are also surprised to learn that media titles with a weekly model, like Pick Me Up!, Chat and Woman’s Weekly, will start compiling their Christmas gift guides and festive features from October, so again it’s important to ensure that you are speaking to these titles nice and early if you want to see a product or services featured within them at Christmas time.
Therefore, to stand out, charities need to begin planning and putting into place tactics to ensure that they are front of mind for journalists – well before you hear Chris Rea sing through the radio.
To help you understand what planning is required to make your charity campaign a success, below we have put together our top three tips based on our 15-year experience in helping our third sector clients to achieve media cut-through at Christmas time.
Get ahead of the game
In-depth features can go a long way in raising awareness of your charity and its cause – they’re a great way to communicate key messages about your Appeal and beneficiaries and can also provide the opportunity to offer expert commentary from a key spokesperson; in turn boosting your charity’s credibility in the sector.
Many journalists writing about charity campaigns also like to include case studies in their features, as they are a great way to pull on the public’s heartstrings and demonstrate how your fundraising has helped people in real life.
However, liaising with case studies and journalists can take time – to give your charity campaign the best chance of being published, it’s essential that you reach out to longer-lead titles, such as monthly glossy and weekly magazines, far in enough in advance to coincide with journalist planning meetings.
Think outside of the box
What makes you different? When competing for coverage amongst thousands of other charity Christmas campaigns, you need to make sure that yours packs a punch.
There are several ways you can do this – holding a media event, gifting journalist with hampers (if your charity has a Christmas retail offering) or organising a ‘learn over lunch’ Q&A to name just a few.
If your charity has a retail arm, holding a Christmas in July event is a great way to showcase your product offering to media. Primarily used in retail and PR conversations, the concept is built around the notable shift in buying behaviour and media lead times. By engaging with media early, you will increase your chances of being included in ‘gifts that give back’ gift guides and festive features.
Charities looking to promote bigger messaging campaigns may also want to consider promoting nationwide fundraisers or launching a social media competition which challenges the public to take part in a festive activity to raise awareness and funds.
Whether you’re appealing for volunteers to help over the busy festive season, donations to buy Christmas presents for the vulnerable or food parcels for the homeless and hungry, thinking creatively will help to ensure that your charity and its cause is viewed as the Rudolph of the reindeers.
Consider celebrity endorsement
Onboarding a well-known celebrity to front your campaign can be a powerful way to boost your charity’s profile and reach – both in the media and in the eyes of the public.
New audiences who may not have otherwise known of, or felt strongly about, your cause will have their eyeballs on the campaign because a popular face is endorsing it.
Celebrities often have their diaries booked up months in advance, therefore, to increase the likelihood of them saying yes, it’s important to approach someone who has a natural synergy with the charity and get your ask in as early as possible.
You can read more about the benefits of celebrity endorsement here.
If you would be interested in discussing how we could help your charity campaign stand out this Christmas, get in touch with our award-winning Third Sector team today.