December 19, 2003 by Colin
Memo: To all Regional Distribution Managers
Issue: Communicating during Uncomfortable Situations
The Santa Claus, Inc. corporate PR Department has worked on a number of possible scenarios that could be encountered by employees during the valuable Christmas rush. While Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the Chief Elf remain the principal corporate spokespersons, every employee must be prepared to deal effectively with suppliers, aviation officials, parents, children and, sometimes, law enforcement officials.
Working through past incident reports, we have created this series of handy guides for employees on resolving stressful situations.
Getting Busted at the 7-11
While the logistics staff make every effort to ensure that the sleigh is fully stocked with hot chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers, we have found that Santa and his reindeer sometimes require a more substantial meal. For most of the year, it means picking up some Chicken Tikka takeout. On Christmas eve, this is a little more difficult, especially if Santa is on the road with the sleigh.
Given our unusual operating hours, Santa Claus, Inc. has found that 24-hour convenience stores are the most available source of Santa’s favourite foods: tacos and Dr Pepper. In the past, storeowners understood the urgent midnight munchie runs of very portly elderly men dressed in red velour, but the increasing number of drunks coming home from office christmas parties has soured them on Santa.
As a result, Santa is frequently being harassed by convenience store owners convinced he is going to “wheze da juice” and run without paying. Here are some tips for avoiding a confrontation with a shotgun wielding store owner:
- Gout is not an excuse for parking the sleigh in the handicapped space.
-Do not use your Santa Claus, Inc. building pass to wheedle a discount.
- Do not try to pay with the Pokemon cards from the Jensen house.
- “Ho, ho, ho” might not be seen as a greeting by some female customers.
- $50 solves everything. It’s under the hat.
Getting caught by a six year-old
Despite all of the Chief Elf’s technological advances, the noise of the reindeer, sleigh, chimney and bored elves poking the reindeer will wake someone up during the night. Some adults go out of their way to encourage children’s mischief. It is important to maintain the illusion of magic, happiness and giving that is Santa Claus, Inc:
- “Holy Crap! What the hell are you doing up!” is not an acceptable greeting.
- Don’t skip out on the milk and cookies, even if you’re lactose intolerant.
-Remind the child that Elves need to use washrooms just like the rest of us.
- $5 will not buy the silence of an eleven-year old boy. FHM will. Take one from aan elf – they hoard the magazine.
Sleigh Accident at Toys ‘R Us
Despite the stagnant economy, it is still hard to find skilled sleigh drivers – especially ones under four feet tall. This has meant an increase in SRDC – sleigh related damage claims. The cost of these claims is naturally reflected in our insurance premiums.
Both to boost morale and undermine Santa Claus, Inc’s competitors, we have begun training our new sleigh drivers in Toys ‘R Us parking lots. This provides open space for maneuvering a large sleigh and team of reindeers as well as plausible deniability.
- “That rich red scratch down the side of your Lincoln could have been caused by that car there, sir!”
-Remember – the sleigh handles like a pig at slow speeds. Why do you think we land it on the roof, and not the driveway, when doing deliveries?
- It also holds about 300 shopping carts – which can be sold off at $300 a pop.
- As the settlement with Wendy’s will attest, the sleigh is NOT drive-through friendly!
Bar Fight on Boxing Day
Inevitably, Santa, elves and other employees will come across one or two people who did not get what they wanted on Christmas morning. Some may even claim Santa does not exist, and will attempt to undermine the work of Santa Claus, Inc. through scientific deduction. If some of them (or you) have been drinking, this discussion might get animated, even physical.
- Logic doesn’t usually work on drunks. The Rope-A-Dope might, though.
- No matter how many elves are with you, you will not win the fight. You are fat, and elf arms aren’t long enough. This is why every elf always carries a sock full of coins.
- If the police ask, you grew the beard on a bet, and these are your pajamas.
- If will take up to 48 hours to post bail. It will take us that long to sell enough handmade wooden toys to get the money.
December 17, 2003 by Colin
Memo: To Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Chief Elf
Issue: Preparing for
interviews with the
As the holiday season approaches, I would like to remind you of some basic tips and techniques for dealing with members of the media. I’m sure most of this is old hat, but my colleagues in the seasonal entertainment PR industry are still mocking me about the Santa’s Summer Cruise Wear photo shoot you did for Portly Fashion magazine. Remember the cardinal rule for a winter celebrity: no-one needs to see Santa’s knees.
Keep the message upbeat
Santa Claus, Inc. is a good news story. You have very good positives, and very, very low negatives (as long as we keep the factories in North Korea under
wraps). Because of years of cultural appropriation, we have become the personification of winter fairy tales from countries across Europe. More importantly, thanks to our longstanding partnership with Coca-Cola, we have established an international identity as a joyful and reassuring personality in a number of retail, specialty, wholesale, direct and e-business channels.
This will only continue if Santa Claus, Inc. is represented by personable and upbeat spokespersons: Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Chief Elf. Last season’s totally inappropriate FHM interview and companion piece (Does Mrs. Santa really know who’s naughty and nice?) may have resulted in a temporary spike in views to the image gallery on the Santa’s Workshop website, but it did nothing for sales of the children’s sleepwear line.
Please remember what the focus groups said: Santa is wholesome, he is understanding, he is approachable, and he makes reasonable compromises when faced with children’s demands. (sidebar to Chief Elf: “The Taiwanese make hose things from twine and bark” is not an appropriate answer to a probing question from CNET about a competitor’s new digital camera)
Meeting the Press
Please remember that the PR department spends a substantial amount of time preparing for the holiday season and seasonal coverage in printed media, including magazines, newspapers, trade journals and specialty association magazines.
Remember the initial messaging sessions in June, led by the Research Director? Those messages are driven through every contact with these outlets, with the intent of positively affecting the public’s perception of Santa Claus, Inc. at our most vital moment: the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Preparing for Television Interviews
Remember – make eye contact with the interviewer. Pretend the camera is not there. Any sudden eye movement between the two will make you seem shifty nd untrustworthy.
Remember: for television appearances, Santa ALWAYS wears the uniform. Santa does not dress in Alexander MacQueen suits. He does not appear on the Today Show in Joseph Abboud casual wear. Santa is reknowned for wearing half-moon reading glasses: he does not wear tortoiseshell glasses left over from the 1970s corporate parties at “54.”
Similarly, the Chief Elf ALWAYS wears an elf hat (with required bell) and wooden togs. The two minute interview on NEXT@CNN last week was very informative, but the “Gates Sux” t-shirt detracted from the overall message we were trying to convey.
Finally, Mrs. Claus will NEVER, EVER again appear as a Barker Beauty on The Price is Right. While the initial concept was approved, we should have foreseen the potential embarassment of a “summer splashing” prize package – with Mrs. Claus illustrating the value of a hot tub.
We really should have learned from our past appearances on the Match Game.
Preparing for Radio Interviews
When doing a phone interview with a local radio station, please make sure all nearby stereos, computers and televisions are turned off. Not only is microphone feedback a possibility, but sometimes the radio listener can hear the noise in the background. The interview with Rick Dees last year went well – except for the portion where listeners could hear certain Ned Beatty lines from the WTBS broadcast of Deliverance then being shown in the Elf Lounge.
Also – be very aware of added sound effects. While the Santa Claus, Inc. PR department does provide sound files of reindeer grazing and elves caroling for use in radio and tv broadcasts, some unscrupulous show producers have been known to insert sheep sounds and other inappropriate noises into the broadcast.
Meeting an Editorial Board
Meeting the editorial board of a newspaper provides an opportunity to present a sweeping view of the work and interests of Santa Claus, Inc. Santa, Mrs. Claus and Chief Elf, as corporate spokespersons, can all participate in editorial boards, with appropriate preparation.
While board members expect spokespersons to be open, honest and frank, spokespersons of Santa Claus, Inc. should never use the phrases “You never heard it from me, but …” or “While at the biker bar, I …” or “FAO Schwartz had it coming …”
December 16, 2003 by Colin
Memo: To all Regional Managers
Issue: Recent Incidents involving Seasonal Character Hires
As you may be aware, some stores in the chain have recently suffered embarassing public relations incidents because of poor hiring decisions – particularly in the selection of Santa and associated Elf characters.
In the Texas region, a part-time Santa recently decided to ride the bucking ronco brought in as part of a cross-promotion with a local country radio station. While there were no injuries – among store patrons – the store’s lifesize Nativity Scene now only has two wise men and Joseph looks remarkably like last fall’s standalone pop-up for Tiger Woods-brand clothing.
In upstate New York, our seasonal Santa met some overly friendly “elves” at the “gentleman’s club” next to the mall. After a free lunch and some extended imbibing, our seasonal hire drove the young ladies home in a “borrowed” service van from the appliance department. 35 mail boxes and a deer later, he was arrested.
Once again, let me remind you of the personality traits and behaviour we expect from our key seasonal Character, Santa:
Guidelines for portraying Santa Claus
Jolly, not sarcastic
Friendly, not saucy and suggestive
Engaging, not overly touchy-feely
Chipper, not liquored-up
Red velvet hat with white cotton or fur ball
Red velvet coat with white trim and cuffs, not red velvet coat with biker colours
White shirts, not mesh shirts
Red velvet pants, not leather pants
Black boots, not cuban heeled boots
“Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!”
“And what is your name, little boy/girl?”
“What would you like me to leave under the tree this year?”
Santa does not say:
“Ho Ho Ho! Daddy’s Home!”
“And what is your name, mommy?”
“How ’bout I make a special delivery?”
Santa’s helper is:
Dressed like an Elf
Santa’s helper is not:
Dressed like a Santa Groupie
When leaving the Display Area, Santa says:
“Pardon me, kids! I’ve got to check on the reindeer”
“I think Mrs. Claus has my coffee ready.”
“I have to go check my list for who’s naughty and nice.”
When leaving the Display Area, Santa does not say:
“Watch out kids! The Sleigh’s double parked and Santa doesn’t want another ticket!”
“Excuse me kids! I’ve gotta shake the weasel!”
“Me and the Elf have some important business to discuss.”
Please remember these guidelines when hiring Seasonal Characters.
A/National Manager, Cross-Platform Marketing