Holiday PR: Companies Who Believe It’s Better to Give Than Receive

During a time of year when time and money seem to be consistently troublesome issues, companies and organizations are working to share the wealth by generously giving back to the public and their communities. Public relations professionals know the importance of holiday PR and the enormous success that’s possible if it’s done correctly.

Last year, Barnes & Noble’s Annual Holiday Book Drive successfully collected more than 1.1 million books for children in need. Every year, each store selects an organization in its community to donate the books to; recipients include “Reach Out and Read,” “Boys & Girls Clubs of America” and local children’s hospitals. According to its website, the corporation also gives back on a national level. In 2009, it granted 50,000 books to Toys For Tots and another 150,000 books to the New Orleans School District through Reader to Reader Inc., a nonprofit organization that allocates books to schools and libraries in need.

“The Barnes & Noble Holiday Book Drive could not succeed without the passion of our booksellers and generosity of our customers,” Sarah DiFrancesco, director of community relations, is quoted as saying in a press release found on the company’s website. “This is a holiday tradition for us and a great opportunity for our stores and customers to come together to donate new books for children in the community who really need them.”

While media outlets are packed with themed gift guides, recipes and seasonal trends, the holiday season can be a difficult time to get a message out to the public. However, well-timed campaigns offers great opportunities for businesses, organizations and individuals to focus on their relationships with internal and external publics.

Mercedes-Benz of Greenwich builds relationships by remaining involved in the local community through participation with charitable organizations and partnerships with local companies. This year, the dealership presented its Reindeer Festival & Santa’s Workshop, held between Nov. 26 and Dec. 24. Event proceeds will go to “Kids in Crisis,” a Connecticut shelter that helps deprived children and families and works to help them escape unfortunate situations.

Through the “Heroes at Home” program, Sears has collaborated with Cause World to support military service members. The program helps provide support to service members, veterans and their families through joint efforts with various nonprofit organizations, including Rebuilding Together. For disabled veterans, the company’s goal is to raise $3 million and help rebuild 750 homes for military veterans this holiday season. To aid service members away from their families, donors can give online and assist parents coordinating Christmas without help. According to Sears.com, $1,900,000 in gift cards has already been raised this holiday season.

According to a 2010 Cone Holiday Trend Tracker survey, nearly nine out of 10 consumers want companies to support causes this holiday season, and 78 percent want to be personally engaged in these efforts.

“The holidays are a time when companies can go back to cause marketing basics, seamlessly integrating two traditions that define the season—shopping and giving,” said Craig Bida, executive vice president for Cause Branding and Nonprofit Marketing at Cone, in a PR Newswire news release. “Companies can use this time to raise mass amounts of awareness and dollars for critical issues through simple acts of consumer engagement.”

While philanthropic acts of kindness are good public relations practices for a company or organization, going the extra mile through genuine involvement can pay off and may be worth it for a company to forfeit the convenience of simply writing a check. This type of giving back not only strengthens a business, but also builds, maintains or repairs relationships with its publics. Spreading cheer and giving back during the holiday season is an excellent way for companies to help others and help themselves.

By Jessica West

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