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Lessons in PR & Marketing from Hallmark’s Holiday Movies

Lessons in PR & Marketing from Hallmark’s Holiday Movies

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the holiday season is in full swing, especially at this public relations agency! For me, this also means it’s officially Hallmark Holiday movie season! Each year, the Hallmark Channel airs holiday movies 24/7 from November 1st through Christmas. You might be wondering: What do a bunch of holiday films that follow the same exact plot line and formula have anything to do with PR and Marketing? Well… while I won’t admit just how many of these films I’ve watched, I’d like to share a few key takeaways that publicists and marketers can apply to the work we do. 

Repetition is Key:

If Hallmark had created only a small handful of holiday-themed films over the years, women across the country wouldn’t spend countless hours on the couch, tuning into the Hallmark Channel and wearing branded merch with slogans such as “This is My Hallmark Movie Watching Sweatshirt” or “Oh Hallmark Channel…You Just Get Me!”

As humans, we are creatures of habit – but it takes lots of repetition to create a habit. The “Rule of 7” states that a potential customer or investor needs to “hear” the brand or product’s message a minimum of seven times before they’ll make a purchasing decision. This social media marketing and public relations firm understands this from all angles and ensures that all key stakeholders are consistently reached to drive ROI for our clients.

Build Relationships:

Creating connections is crucial – whether you’re running into your high school sweetheart in the snowy, quaint small town you grew up in (as I said, I’ve watched A LOT of holiday movies) – or managing your business relationships. Most Hallmark movies follow a standard formula: High-powered career man or woman from the big city returns home for the holidays and accidentally runs into their ex, realizes they are meant to be, and a single kiss at the end of the movie seals their future together.

That said, while the concept of building relationships is a major part of the foundation for both Hallmark movies and being a good publicist or marketer, the similarities end there. Our industry changes on a daily basis, therefore we cannot use a generic formula to create and cultivate relationships with our clients, editors/producers, influencers and consumers. For example, this public relations firm is known for its stellar editor relationships. Our publicists build these relationships through highly personalized pitches that showcase our understanding of what they work on – and ultimately why they and their readers/viewers should care about the CEO/topic/product we are introducing them to.  

Know Your Audience:

If you’ve watched enough of Hallmark’s holiday movies, the themes of children and a deceased parent are often part of the plot. The reason being, Hallmark’s core audience is middle-aged females – and the network understands that they struggle to envision a romance without children playing a role. As a result, these viewers are less likely to change the channel during commercials (when the network is making money), because they resonate with the storyline.

As publicists and marketers, it is our job to have a complete understanding of our client’s target/core audiences. This way, we can craft an impactful strategy to help us engage with the right people in a way that is the most meaningful to these key stakeholders – whether it be consumers, new investors or franchisees, etc.  

Learn from the Competition:

The most common theme you will find in Hallmark holiday movies after romantic relationships is a family business that needs saving. For example, in one of my favorites, Check Inn to Christmas, Julia Crawley comes home for the holidays where her family owns and operates an inn. With only one other inn in town, they are constantly competing with the other bed and breakfast for business. However, when a large real estate company looking to buy both inns rolls into town, Julia teams up with the family who owns the other inn to devise a plan to prevent the sale and grow both inns.

In public relations and digital marketing, we often find our clients’ businesses in a competitive situation within their industries (without the romance and holiday magic). When this happens, we must conduct research to learn from our competition. This process entails identifying top competitors, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their product and services and where they’ve been featured in the news. By looking at this information, we can see how our clients stack up, identify trends that may have been missing and, most importantly, make informed and educated recommendations to our clients on the best strategies that will ultimately drive their business forward.

Understand the Heart of Your Client’s Business:

In one of Hallmark’s newest movies, Christmas in Rome, an independent tour guide named Angela crosses paths with Oliver, an American executive that is in town to buy a high-end Italian ceramics company. Oliver hires Angela to be his tour guide around the Eternal City, as the owner will only sell the company to someone who is authentic and knows “the heart and soul of Rome.”

In order to create magic for clients, PR and digital marketing pros must understand the heart of the business and/or product and be authentic. It is important to convey the CEO or Founder’s reason for starting the business or product – and the pain points it aims to solve.  Like Santa Claus, both members of the media and consumers can sense whether you’re being inauthentic.