Public Relations Holidays: Valentine’s Day

For many, Valentine’s Day is marked by those classic symbols of love: Enormous heart-shaped balloons, boxes of chocolate, rose pedals and fire emojis.  But for others, Valentine’s Day means poor eating choices and a healthy dose of dread. The latter group is comprised of two types of people: Singletons, and people working in public relations or journalism.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that those of us who spend Valentine’s Day single may take to watching more Netflix or crying with an ice cream spoon in our mouth, but it’s likely less clear to the outside world why PR’s and journalists aren’t excited about the holiday.

From the outside looking in, you may imagine Valentine’s Day as a marketer’s dream—a single day crammed full of commercial opportunities, bursting at the seams with options for slick ads appealing to emotion and begging couples to spend money on one another.  I mean you can hardly go into a store without being assaulted by a combination of the color pink and teddy bears—and that may be the problem.

The Valentine’s Day market, like many other notable holidays, is saturated beyond belief. With everyone wanting in on the action, how can you possibly plan to stand out?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Valentine’s Day Isn’t Just the 14th of FebruaryAs you may have noticed, holiday seasons tend to start early around here, especially when the option to make money abounds. Valentine’s Day promotions begin as the New Year’s confetti is being swept off the floor, and Halloween hardly waits for us to finish grilling Labor Day burgers before making its spooky advance across stores. PR planners should consider launching campaigns just as early. These things happen on the same date every year. The masses aren’t going to forget it’s happening, or miss the link, simply because you sell your story a few days early.  Remember that the market is saturated, and you’ll have a bigger chance to stand out if you beat the rush.
  1. Think Outside the Rose-Colored BoxThis is easier said than done, we know, but you suggest a Valentine’s Day campaign and we can probably pull a dozen examples of it having been done already. We get it: People are falling in love; people look better with loose satin sheets swirling around their flawless bodies; it wasn’t really Valentine’s Day if you didn’t buy her jewelry, was it dude?

    Our advice, though slightly cynical, is aimed at creating a campaign that can actually resonate with people.  Think about the reality of your own life when making marketing decisions. Would you rather have flowers with an expiry date, or a hand-written note? Can you afford to take your partner to the nicest restaurant in town, and did you even remember to make reservations? How many lackluster gifts have you been given that you’d rather trade for time with the people you love? Do you even like Valentine’s Day?

    Marketing and the Holidays

    If you can answer these questions genuinely, then you the marketer can probably gain some real insight into your audience. The reality of holidays, but especially this one, is that it’s likely a larger contingent of your audience isn’t waiting around to express their love to a partner. Chances are good that short of a couple kind gestures, this Wednesday will be fairly normal for people—even the ones in real loving relationships. Valentine’s Day matters for high school kids and dudes who have dug themselves into enormous holes that they really need out of.  Why not talk openly about that? Refreshing honesty on a day dominated by overt affection just might do you some favors.

  1. Not Everyone Is In LoveAs Taylor Swift recently noted, “I’m perfectly fine, I live on my own. I made up my mind, I’m better off being alone.” If you ignore the way the entire rest of that song goes, it’s a perfect example of the fact that not everyone is completely, deeply in love. And like Taylor, some people may actually be perfectly fine with that. Try not to alienate those people.

    This realization seems to have dawned on more groups in the past few years, as ‘Galentine’s Day’ and ‘Singles Awareness Day’ have come to fill the empty space around Valentine’s Day. And don’t forget about the couples that are so woke they intentionally withhold celebration of the holiday as a way of shirking society’s expectation that they express their love through formal and ‘disgustingly commercial’ means.

    Be brave. Use this audience as an inspiration to take a novel approach, whether it serves increased ice cream sales, or takes a serious look at the negative impact the holiday can potentially have on people.  Nobody ever made waves by playing it safe.

  1. Think About Why You Want to Use Valentine’s DayNow we don’t want you take these tips as an attack on this holiday, because they’re not. But perhaps more than any other holiday, Valentine’s Day has a formula that’s exploited by marketers on a nearly unparalleled schedule. We also understand that some brands, products and services may be better suited to this day than others, and their PR teams will want to run campaigns.  That’s cool.  But make sure and take a hard look at your motivations.  Does your brand really stand to gain anything from using Valentine’s, or are you simply jumping on the bandwagon?

    Try and stay off that thing whenever possible.

Performing strong campaigns has always been about standing out, and creating content around holidays should stick to the same standards. The pursuit of perfect holiday public relations and marketing campaigns may become more about doing what other people aren’t than just doing what you think works.  Wanna’ set yourself apart, or take a flying leap off that bandwagon? We’ll be your Valentine. 


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