One learns many things in the U.S. Navy—leadership, risk management, and a fascinating ability to sleep standing up—but a good deal of it didn’t resonate with me until years later.
One of the greatest life lessons I learned was the value of creating a routine that protected something vital.
At this time of year many communicators create holiday lists, find the perfect gifts, and reach out to those we work with and represent. The entire industry does it—it’s become an unwritten law. When the end of the year rolls around, you send out a cheesy card and a gift that lets executives you work with know you are thinking of them.
In the Navy, the holiday season also is a time for cheer and care packages. I have fond memories of receiving cheese, meats, magazines, and shampoo from strangers around the country. The care packages often came with letters telling us how important we were to the folks at home.
When you are in the military, dates don’t matter very much. Soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen often deploy during the summer or spring.
On the flip side, if you were deployed during the holidays, but home for the summer, the fact that there were no major holidays happening didn’t lessen the experience of being back. You were just happy to be around your loved ones.
How This Relates to PR
At this point, you may be wondering, “What does any of this have to do with holiday gift-giving or client relations?” I'm sorry to tell you that your card and clever gift are a dime-a-dozen during the holidays. Make no mistake, I am not urging you to avoid sending a gift during December—only that it’s a bit less special since everyone is doing it.
To this day I couldn’t tell you who sent holiday care packages while I was deployed. I remember receiving them, eating the food, and passing around the magazines. Still, I can’t recall who sent packages during the holiday season.
Conversely, an aunt, a stereotypical Italian from Queens, sent me a care package of really great cheese and salami in June. I likely will remember that for the rest of my life.
Twenty years later, I still remember the taste, smells, and joy of receiving an impromptu care package. How does this relate to PR? Don’t just send cards and thank-you gifts in December. Pick random points throughout the year to touch base with executives and clients. For those who lead teams, try this with those staff report to you. I guarantee they will remember you sending them cookies on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday in August.
Take them to lunch or drinks to demonstrate you value the relationship, not because it’s December and everyone is doing it. It's a cliche to say PR is a relationship business. Thing is, it's a cliche because it's true.
And don’t make connecting with executives, clients and employees as routine as changing batteries in your smoke detector. Even if it’s pre-planned and scheduled, make it seem special. Since PR pros make their living creating experiences, doing so for those you work with or who report to you, should not be difficult.
Happy holidays a wonderful new year to all. May 2020 be filled with wins and great communications. Fare winds and following seas.
Anthony LaFauce is SVP at Clyde Group. He gladly accepts gifts of meats and cheeses year round.