Creating memorable holiday greetings

One of the most satisfying moments of the year is my trip to the post office to send forth an annual newspaper, whimsically titled The Christmas Spirit. Each December issue includes a short history of a holiday tradition, a family recipe, and a brief update about the quirky things my wife Toni and I have been up to throughout the year. (And yeah, we usually gush about our adorable dog too.)

Much of the appeal of this post office trip comes from finishing the job—it means the writing, printing, signing, sealing, and stamping are done. But it also marks the beginning of a season of goodwill that transcends the holiday hubbub. Clients I haven’t heard from in months will call or send a message, sometimes just to say hello, sometimes with a project. One called while I was writing this article just to say “please don’t ever take me off the mailing list!”

That’s because the Spirit is unlike any other greeting that most people I know receive. It’s old-fashioned in a vaguely Victorian way, personal, tangible, and sincere. In the last few years, since I started promoting my services to the Green market, it’s also become FSC-certified.

Now I’m not suggesting that you steal my idea and publish a Victorian-style holiday broadsheet of your own (though I won’t come after you if you do), but if you aren’t sending some kind of holiday greeting, you’re missing one of the best marketing opportunities of the year. This can be said about any business, but the holidays offer creative professionals a special chance to show off their skills. Here’s a few tips to make your greeting something special:

  • Be yourself—Don’t try to look like a big corporation if you aren’t one. Be real, and make your greeting a statement of your organization’s personality.
  • Show off your flashiest skills—Don’t be afraid to think outside the card. Some of the most memorable holiday greetings I’ve received recently have included interactive web presentations, dimensional items, and even holiday trading cards (I still need the Three French Hens to complete my set). Are you a poster designer? Send a poster-sized greeting. If audio is your forte, create a custom carol or audio experience. This is one of the few times of the year where you get to be your own client and do everything the way you want to. Take advantage of it!
  • Stick with your established voice—It’s important to show your organization’s personality, but use a design and writing style consistent with the other communication you send throughout the year.
  • Embrace (or create) your own traditions—Most people understand that reaching out during the holidays is a friendly gesture, even if you’re reaching across a cultural divide. Yes, there are still some folks out there who will get offended if your traditions differ from theirs, but do you really want to work for them? Other people find “generic” greetings just as offensive, so you won’t be able to please everyone. Bottling up what you find truly meaningful won’t make your holiday message more acceptable; it will make it forgettable. So don’t stress too much about saying “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Winter Solstice,” “Happy Holidays,” “Namaste,” “Yule,” “a Festivus for the rest of us,” or whatever. The important thing is to express goodwill. (You’ll be a lot more memorable if you send those Saturnalia cards anyhow.)
  • But don’t let tradition stress you out—Annual rituals can be fun, heartwarming, and memorable, but they can also create a lot of work and anxiety. What felt energizing and creative for the last ten years might be drudgery this December. If the only emotion you’re feeling about a long-standing practice is dread, it may be time to apply your creative talents to the holidays in a new way. Give yourself permission to grow, change, and experiment.

There’s still time to get your holiday message out, but don’t fret if you can’t make the December 25 deadline. You can always send New Year’s Cards or pick some other holiday (mainstream or obscure).

Have a splendid whatever, and I’ll see you in 2013!

Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for creative agencies and green businesses. He’s a regular contributor to the CFC blog and publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at www.wordstreamcopy.com.

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