Comms pros reveal top tips for Christmas comms

How are your Christmas comms plans going? Every year I publish a guide to help internal communicators get organised.

This year it’s packed with advice from practitioners who kindly accepted my invitation to contribute. My thanks to comms friends and clients who have revealed their thoughts alongside my own.

I hope you find this article useful to help you prepare. The question I asked them to consider was: “What’s your top tip for Christmas comms?”

The best gift
I’m going to be publishing a series of Christmas-related articles over the next couple of weeks. Topics include the best gift Comms pros say they could receive. What would your answer be?

I will also be publishing ideas for Secret Santa gifts. If you have one to add or tips to share, do comment below, Tweet me @AllthingsIC or get in touch.

Before you say it, I know it’s only November. However, my poll on Twitter this week revealed it’s the right time to publish this post. So no Grinches please!

Let’s get started
As internal comms pros work to position themselves as strategic and trusted business advisers, I know how much frustration there can be when your company expects you to suddenly be a seasoned events producer on top of your day job and you end up working tactically.

I hear you, you’re not alone.

So what can you do? I have a whole checklist at the end of this article for you to work through.

Involve your employees – don’t copy what other organisations do. Choose what’s appropriate for your company and culture.

I can see the value in giving employees a break from the norm, and a reason to do something different in a bid to make the working environment that bit brighter.

In recent years it’s been a challenge for comms pros to keep morale up when budgets are being slashed. You may be in the middle of or working through a change project and the timing to ‘have some fun’ is dire.

Being seen to spend money on Christmas celebrations when people have lost or are losing their jobs for example, is just one challenge the festive season can bring.

If this has been a dreadful 12 months for your organisation, the end of year internal communication is an opportunity to be honest. Don’t gloss over it recognise it has been tough and acknowledge contributions from employees, to enable you to move on in 2018.

Find out more: Want to learn about change communication? Invite me to teach you via a remote Masterclass

What’s your top tip for Christmas comms?

“Keep it upbeat and inclusive, not everyone celebrates the festival but everyone closes out the year and looks forward. Celebrate the wins and talk about opportunity for the future.” – Kim England, Global Community Director, @miss_england_19.

“Help your Chief Exec ‘keep it real’ in their festive message. The onset of the festive season doesn’t mean we should forget about crafting messages with the audience in mind. If your organisation has been through some difficult times in 2017, telling colleagues that it was ‘tough this year, but get ready folks it will be even tougher next year’ probably isn’t going to go down very well. For me, a good seasonal message from the CEO just says thank you, recognises contribution and galvanises support in a simple and authentic manner.” – Martin Flegg, Internal and Change Communications Specialist @martinflegg.

“As a *cough* award-winning Christmas communicator, I could go on about this for pages but my top tip would be: use this unique time of year to do unique things, and go beyond the ordinary.” – Adrian Stirrup, Internal Communications Officer, @adrianstirrup

“Do something different. don’t enforce fun.”  – Simon Rutter, @southendscribe.

“Firstly, please call Christmas, Christmas. Christmas is too special to be turned into a politically correct exercise. The whole world knows it’s Christmas, so even in global companies, we should acknowledge that it’s Christmas. In my 20 year-career, I’ve never come across any individual who has been offended by Christmas-themed messaging, yet some comms teams get paranoid about what they can and can’t say. In terms of comms, I always recommend end-of-year review videos, they can be so motivating for everyone. In terms of festive messages, it’s OK to be sentimental at this time of year. Always involve front-line teams in festive comms. They bring a perspective which money can’t buy. It makes the comms function more accessible and approachable for the year ahead.” – Ejaz Khan, Communications Consultant, @ejazwrites

“Plan early, use the opportunity to be strategic with messaging, but also have a little fun.” – Katy Hetherington, Internal Communications Manager, @LadyWriterSWE.

“Keep things simple.” – Catherine Bissell, Internal Communications & Engagement Consultant, @catbissell 

“Whatever the job throws at you, only you can choose how you feel about it. Focus on your personal resilience and look after your mind.” – Hayley James, Head of Internal Communications, @haylo_pr.

“Just be prepared. I think many Comms pros seem to be worried about what terminology to use and if anyone will be offended. It’s Christmas, just say what it is! Also if you work in an operational area make sure your snow comms is up-to-date.” – Advita Patel, B2B Communications Manager, @Advita_p.

“Relax and re-engergise over the holiday period.” – Ray Harrison, Intranet Specialist, @rrfh.

“Keep it light-hearted, yet tied to your strategic messages.” – Marsha van Moorsel, Internal Comms Consultant, @mvm94.

“Your presence is equally as important as your presents; share your gifts but have a personality too.” – Andy Johnson, Engagement Specialist, @AndyNJohnson.

“Embrace silly season. It’s not a time for landing serious strategic messaging, on top of everything else people are worried about – so nothing wrong with having a bit of fun!” – Kate Shaw, Senior Internal Comms Manager, @kes1981.

“Prepare early so you can join in the festivities without worrying about anything.” – David Manning, Internal Communications & Employee Engagement Lead @aDavid_Manning.

“Less is more! Keep it simple and fun.” – Jan Fitzgerald, Group Comms Manager @commsjanfitz.

“Recognition – Christmas is the time to recognise the work of your organisation over the year, thank them and look ahead to the challenges of the next – it’s a good time to reinvigorate teams and motivate people behind your vision for the future (in year-sized chunks!)” – Jo Hooper, Head of Corporate Communications, @JoHoops.

“Plan early, but don’t start too early, that’s for shop displays and we know how much people hate those.” – Ross Tarbard, Senior Internal Communications Officer, @rosstarbard.

“If you do enjoy a quieter period, take some time to reflect on your learnings over the past year and implement them into a plan of action for 2018 to help achieve your goals.” – Anne-Marie Lacey, Managing Director, @AM_LaceyPR.

Your guide to Christmas comms

If you are in the thick of planning for Christmas, here are questions I encourage you to ask yourself and things to think through:

  • Plan, plan, plan – identify what it is you want to achieve, and determine your approach, channels, timeline and budget
  • If you don’t know already, talk with employees to see what expectations are, particularly if you’re new in role
  • Work alongside other departments to pool resources and ideas e.g. Facilities and HR
  • No/low budget? Look at what was done last year to see if you can use previous content to get you started
  • If you’re expected to organise something for the whole company, can every department contribute financially?
  • Use existing methods of communication rather than buy something new e.g. turn the menu Christmassy if you have one or create festive backgrounds for your intranet or digital signage
  • Encourage employee participation e.g through competitions, creating videos, speed-networking events etc
  • Make decisions that are applicable and acceptable locally as well as globally – be mindful of culture and customs in your organisation
  • Don’t create a ‘them and us’ Head Office vs other offices/location scenario
  • If you have a network of comms champions, now is the time to really use their eyes and ears (and hands!) to deliver Christmas cheer
  • Remember those who can’t take part. E.g. if you run a 24/7 operation and host Christmas parties or events, be sure to find ways to include and thank those employees who will be working
  • Post-Christmas ensure you review what you did and capture any feedback or thoughts to help you prepare for the following year’s festivities
  • Be creative, have fun and enjoy!

What would you add to this list? What’s your top tip for Christmas comms? Was this article helpful?

As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

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Thank you for stopping by,

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 17 November 2017. Updated 2020


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