THE BIG PITCH: How do you best communicate consumer messages thisholiday season?

LISA KOVITZ - Managing director, Burson-Marsteller, Brand marketing

practice, New York

The Grinch will not steal the holiday season this year for marketers who

really understand how the media is handling non-war related news.

Gift idea stories should have been pitched to magazines months ago, with

the pay off coming now. As for newspapers, every one in this country

publishes some kind of lifestyle coverage on a daily basis - even

specializing it to food, technology, home, and entertainment - so

there's lot of room there. For television, holiday shopping trends will

be canaries in the coal mine on the health of the economy - those "Black

Friday"/day-after-Thanksgiving stories could be a great opportunity for

products sold in large malls, where every station sends reporters in

droves on that day. Certain gifts may be just right for the country's

mood to nest and find comfort. Getting coverage for those products is

all in how they are presented and pitched.

ROSEMARY OSTMANN - Director, consumer marketing & technology, Middleberg

Euro RSCG, New York

The key to communicating consumer messages this holiday season is to

understand how your brand fits into the changed landscape. Strategies

that worked in seasons past will not work this year. That doesn't mean

your core values as a brand change. It simply means that companies must

rethink how they are relevant to consumers. The uncertainty associated

with the economy and further terrorist attacks forces us to be more

thoughtful and cautious about how we approach holiday spending. Research

also shows that Americans feel guilty about spending money on holiday

gifts when those around them are dealing with unthinkable losses at a

traditionally joyous time of year. The news hole is smaller, but it's

not closed entirely.

Holiday spending is a key driver of our economy, and most people agree

we should not turn our backs on the topic altogether. This year,

companies need to assume an empathetic voice and help consumers make

smart decisions that they can feel comfortable about. It is also

critical to show how a brand fits into the trends that are already

starting to surface, including increased online spending, consumer

insistence on straightforward marketing messages, heightened appeal of

opportunities for self expression, and demand for home entertainment

products that allow consumers to spend time with their loved ones.

RENE EDELMAN - Executive vice president, PR21, New York

While journalists are covering the aftermath of the September 11

terrorist attacks, the nation's heightened security concerns, and our

wartime economy, it is more important than ever for public relations

agencies to ensure that all communications with the media this holiday

season are tasteful, thoughtful, and consistent with current news

trends. There is a strong desire on the part of businesses and

politicians to restore consumer confidence by fostering Americans'

sensible shopping with a "return to basics." Morning talk shows such as

Live with Regis and Kelly, newspaper feature writers and consumer

editors will do holiday shopping segments. They may be focused, for

example, on consumer technology products you can use in an emergency or

for survival, such as cell phones and pagers, as well as household

staples, such as gourmet soups and water. There will be opportunities

for consumer, healthcare, and travel companies to provide smart travel

and health tips and promote creative family time. Also, with the

proliferation of online media and cable and digital TV, there are

numerous outlets in which we can place our holiday shopping stories.

TOM GOODMAN - President/CEO, Goodman Media International, New York

We have been working on the 75th anniversary of the Neiman Marcus

Christmas Book and we've continued to work with contacts on the high

end. We launched the campaign soon after the September 11 attack, but a

lot of early pitching had been done. The national programs don't have as

much time to devote to softer news, but there still is some time. For

instance, we were scheduled for a segment this past Friday on Today.

(You've got to dig a little deeper if breaking news happens, this had

been scheduled for October 11.) We're not putting all our eggs in one

basket, we are trying to keep all the contacts alive. None of the

pitches are completely off the table, we're continuing to pitch because

the attitude of producers and what they'll do can change very quickly.

Sometimes they immediately dismiss you, and your initial reaction is to

give up. We haven't fallen into that trap. We've been aggressive without

being abrasive about keeping our contacts while not ignoring second tier


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