Thursday, December 17, 2009

Deck the Halls

Every year the question comes down to marketing from senior management - what are we going to do for the holidays? What will we do for our customers, our partners, our employees, the world? I just wanted to share a few examples from seasons past.

When I worked in New Holland, PA, the heart of Lancaster county and Amish country, I ran the business office and did the marketing for a telephone company with 25,000 access lines (we counted lines not people in those days). Since I also ran the phone store of course I did a holiday sale, hoping to clear inventory and get ready for the next year's phones. My second year I had goals for PR events - activities that would positively impact our customers. So I did a contest - stop by the office (hence walk past all those phones) and fill out a card for a drawing. The winner won a giant (taller than I am) stocking stuffed full of toys. I can tell you the winning family was thrilled - and we all gathered around for photos for the local paper with the winner.

The next year we decided to do this same event for all our subsidiaries in the state (5 phone companies ranging from 2000 lines to our 25,000 in Lancaster). We decided to give out genuine handmade Amish sleds. These wooden sleds were things of beauty and came with a lovely plaque reading handmade in Intercourse, PA. Yes, Intercourse was in our territory and the sleds were gorgeous. Unbelievably there were people who objected to the sleds having that name on the sleds. Even more surreal to me, the sled maker said it happened all the time and changed out the small metal plaques to read Lancaster, PA.

Several years later I was back in Rochester NY and was having a tough year, my mom had passed away and I had this urge to find a way to make a difference. I was volunteering at the Volunteers of America Daycare Center which was for children who were abused and neglected. The stories would curl your hair - think the orphans in Dickens a Christmas Carol. I was able to raise money through the internal communications system, even getting a check for $1000 from our Ceo when he heard about it. I got a list from the Daycare center manager with sex and ages and off I went to Costco. We had enough $ for every child to get two gifts. Volunteers wrapped the gifts (bringing in their own wrap, tape and scissors) and I even secured a Santa and the Telephone Pioneers donated a handmade teddy bear for every child. Three gifts per child. The day of the event I dressed all in red (yes, I was a youthful Ms. Claus - perhaps Santa's) and off we went. If you want a thrill drive through a busy city with Santa in your passenger seat waving out the window. We distributed the gifts - my favorite moment was one of my volunteers bursting into tears. He told me later that the little girl he was sitting with (he's the father of 3 girls) had told him moments before Santa and I arrived that all she wanted was a doll - she'd never had one before (she was 4) and Dave said he prayed over and over - dear god let Jerri have a doll for her. Yes, she got a doll and Dave was a puddle. How does this have anything to do with Marketing/PR? We had the local tv crew there and a camera crew - we were on the 6 p.m. news and were on the front page of the VOA newsletter.

At my last company each year we'd throw a holiday pot luck - everyone brought in a dish. We would do drawings and you won tickets by bringing in a dish, for showing up, and in the last two years you also got a ticket for donating a toy to our toys for tots drive. Our best year we had over 60 presents to donate.

Through the years I've dealt with a wide range of christmas card catalogs. I've had sales people convinced they would do 500 cards - up until the moment they were handed all 500 cards. I've struggled to find a card that has no religious connotations in any way - Happy holidays, dove of peace with a globe in the background is always a winner.

That brings us to this year. Telle and I discussed doing an e-card. I called our fabulous designer Alex and he and I brainstormed. A big part of this quarter had to do with our I am a technical woman video. So he created the I am a technical woman holiday card. Here it is so check it out.
Happy holidays

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