Opinion: Opportunities in the season of goodwill

As the industry gears up for the festive break, a quick SWOT analysis of the increasingly extended Christmas shutdown provokes a few thoughts, both celebratory and curmudgeonly.

The strengths of the break to PROs are obvious. Refreshment, reunion, celebration, reflection on triumphs and a chance to return fired up with all those resolutions and ideas to supercharge business, reputation and career in 2007.

Weaknesses include the unshakeable consumption-induced lassitude that might mean dragging back to work in the new year saddled with feelings of dreary repetition, rather than of sparkling new challenges. Plus the danger that clients have used the break as the trial run for a longer period of dispensing with PR services (for example, all of 2007).

Opportunities, are the most interesting area for analysis. Unfortunately for those disposed to forget work during the Christmas period, the best opportunities present themselves during the shutdown. They spring from the relentless 24/7, 365-days-a-year nature of the modern media beast.

The business of Westminster and Brussels ceases as politicians enjoy long holidays and the courts shut down. Acreage of print and chunks of airtime committed to reporting political debate and the processes of law and order fall vacant: they are up for grabs as newsrooms become places of desperation, with wire services silent and cries of ‘give me a story - or anything that looks like one'.

Enter the smart PR executive bearing gifts of brand-plugging surveys, gifting page items, well-presented releases, briefings and stills for inclusion in sales guides, lifestyle trend pieces, and spokespeople on any half-relevant subject. PROs providing these will be hailed as saviours by journalists. Relationships can be built on the gratitude of a desperate journalist towards the PRO who cared enough at Christmas to present any gift-wrapped offering masquerading as a story.

Opportunity comes, too, with the need to be available for crisis management. It could be a toy that chokes a child, self-igniting Christmas lights, an E.coli-in-turkeys scare. Imagine the premium rates from purveyors of any of the above were the media to elevate any such threat to the prominence reser­ved for plane crashes and changes of government.

Any threats? Maybe that good PROs never give themselves the break they deserve because of dedication to clients, businesses and careers.

Have a happy Christmas, everyone.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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