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Posts tagged ‘100 great PR ideas’

The story of NORAD tracking Santa

In this Christmas Spirit, I’m presenting NORAD tracking Santa, their history and their media focus. Enjoy!

oana vasiliuNORAD Tracks Santa is an annual Christmas-themed entertainment program, which has existed since 1955, produced under the auspices of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Every year on Christmas Eve, “NORAD Tracks Santa” purports to follow Santa Claus as he leaves the North Pole and delivers presents to children around the world.

The program is in the tradition of the September 1897 editorial “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” in the New York Sun.

The program began on December 24, 1955 when a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper which told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.

NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25. Google Analytics has been in use since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. As a result of this analysis information, the program can project and scale volunteer staffing, telephone equipment, and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve.

The NORAD Tracks Santa program has always made use of a variety of media. From the 1950s to 1996, these were the telephone hotline, newspapers, radio, phonograph records and television. Many television newscasts in North America feature NORAD Tracks Santa as part of their weather updates on Christmas Eve.

From 1997 to the present, the program has had a highly publicized internet presence. As mobile media and social media have become popular and widespread as methods of direct communication, these newer media have also been embraced by the program. The layout of the NORAD Tracks Santa website and its webpages have changed from 1997 to the present due to changes in internet technologies, and changes in partners and sponsors for a particular year.

Between 2004 and 2009, people who visited the NORAD Tracks Santa site were told they could “track” Santa in Google Earth. They were given a link to download Google Earth, and then a KMZ file to download. Since 2009, the tracking in Google Earth has been done from the NORAD Santa site, and there is no KMZ file for Google Earth anymore.

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From mid-January until November 30, when one arrives at the NORAD Tracks Santa website, one is greeted with a message to come back on 1 December to “track Santa with NORAD”. During December, one finds a NORAD Tracks Santa website with all the features available. On Christmas Eve, the NORAD Tracks Santa website videos page is generally updated each hour, when it is midnight in a different time zone. The “Santa Cam” videos show CGI images of Santa Claus flying over famous landmarks. Each video is accompanied by a voice-over, typically done by NORAD personnel, giving a few facts about the city or country depicted. Celebrity voice-overs have also been used over the years. For the London “Santa Cam” video, English television personality and celebrity Jonathan Ross did the voice-over for 2005 to 2007 and the former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated the same video in 2003 and 2004. In 2002, Aaron Carter provided the voice-over for three videos.

The locations and landmarks depicted in some of the “Santa Cam” videos have changed over the years. In 2009, twenty-nine “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the website. In previous years, twenty-four to twenty-six videos had been posted.

Better tomorrow,

PR Pret-a-Porter.

Hamlet Cigars and humor

Humor has always been a great method to get people to really feel positive concerning the organization. Many businesses create humorous advertisements, but there’s no cause why PR should not also operate with a sense of enjoyable.

Sponsorship has usually been a popular tool of PR: it generates word of mouth and creates a great impression of the firm. Some firms have even managed to make sponsorship enjoyable by backing something humorous.

Hamlet cigars have usually taken a humorous approach to their promotion. The adverts were so well liked that they were released on video-no little achievement in the advertising world. When tobacco advertising was banned throughout Europe, most tobacco companies scrambled to sponsor sporting events, arts events, and indeed anything that was not advertising. The brand managers for Hamlet decided to continue with their humorous approach, and sought out something jokey to sponsor.

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Thus was born the Poor Sex Award. Hamlet sponsored a prize by the Literary Review for probably the most badly written sex scenes in new literature. The 2004 award went to famous American author Tom Wolfe, who’s reputed to be the only author who did not turn up to claim his prize.

Sponsorship has now also been banned for tobacco companies, which has left a void in the funding of numerous organizations: nevertheless, for a time the Bad Sex Award offered Hamlet a great method to promote itself. Search for something that your target audience likes. Tap into their sense of humor: this might or may not be exactly the same as your personal. Help the individuals you sponsor to publicize themselves.

Most PR individuals like to blow the fanfare when they have something new to promote. Following all, it’s an excellent opportunity to show what could be done with an effective PR campaign, and enables them to give the media something really meaty for a change. But it’s a truism in PR that the greatest successes come from doing something various from what everyone else is doing. So why not have a non-launch, and keep people waiting for the product?

The Harry Potter books have been a huge good results, making their author, J. K. Rowling, a multimillionaire. New Harry Potter books had been large news, and also the publishers were great at teasing the readers: when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published in 2000, bookstores were prevented from selling the book.

News reports came in that 20 copies had accidentally been sold by a nameless supermarket: TV footage of the books being delivered to bookstores in security vans was shown, and (mysteriously) a copy of the book found its way onto the news desk of the Scottish Every day Record, upon which the journalists (equally mysteriously) returned it towards the publishers unopened. Ultimately the official launch took place on July 8th, 2000. Needless to say, there were queues across the block to buy the book.

Make certain that you have something that people will find exciting anyway: this concept works best for new products in a series, such as new models of car, book and movie sequels, and new menu items in restaurants. Set a date for the release of the product and publicize it. Limit the quantity of outlets or the supply of products-this is more most likely to produce an initial frenzy.

Source: 100 Great PR Ideas

Better tomorrow,

PR Pret-a-Porter.

Crisis management: Eurolines accident

I just finished reading 100 Great PR Ideas, written by Jim Blythe, where I found some interesting PR topics, which will be part of my blog content in the next days.

Create a crisis team
Bad things happen in most industries from time to time. Some industries are especially prone to newsworthy incidents—airlines are an obvious example—while others may go for years without anything happening that would hit the headlines. However, if a crisis does occur, it is amazing how fast it can turn from a simple, solvable problem into a PR disaster.

For many firms, such a crisis can be enough to destroy the company. When a Pan American airlines flight was destroyed by terrorists over Lockerbie, the company suffered a PR disaster when it emerged that warnings had been given about a bomb on the aircraft. The fact that PanAm received an average of four bomb warnings a day made no difference to the public perception: shortly afterward, PanAm went out of business. The problem was that PanAm did not have an effective crisis management protocol.

The idea
Many companies have a well-established crisis team who anticipate scenarios that may create PR problems, and work out solutions in advance. When Eurolines, the European long-distance bus company, suffered a crisis they had a plan in place. A Eurolines bus from Warsaw to London was hit by a lorry in Germany, injuring a number of passengers (some seriously). The company’s crisis team were ready: some passengers were hospitalized in Germany, some were given the option of returning to Warsaw, others were given the option of continuing to London.

oana vasiliuAt the London end, a large hotel was booked to receive passengers. Medical staff were on hand to provide help (although of course all injured passengers had already received medical care in Germany) and interpreters were available. The passenger list was checked to determine the nationalities of passengers—not all were Poles, since some had travelled to Warsaw from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and even Russia to meet the connection in Poland. Rooms were booked for all passengers and also for friends or family who had expected to meet the coach. Eurolines’ operations director was also present, as well as the PR officer, to field questions from the Press and specifically to prevent reporters from harassing passengers for comments. A buffet was provided for all those present, and the following day Eurolines issued free tickets for onward connections in Britain, recognizing that many passengers would have missed their connections or whoever was meeting them in London. The organization was exemplary: efficient, effective, and geared to creating goodwill all around. Such a slick approach does not happen by accident—it only happens through careful planning and rehearsal.

In practice
• Choose the right people to be on the team. They need to be senior enough to carry credibility with the firm’s publics, and to understand the possible problems and solutions.
• Arrange for the crisis team to meet regularly to consider possible scenarios.
• Practice—do dummy runs.
• Ensure that team members know how to deal with the Press— having someone say “No comment” to every question is a PR disaster in itself.


Better tomorrow,

PR Pret-a-Porter.

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