Four Calling Birds – 20 years of Christmas greetings in PR
By Xanthe Vaughan Williams
F ourth Day’s name comes from the song The Twelve Days of Christmas.
As a PR agency the “four calling birds” connection made us laugh when we started up in 2002. Birds are still at the heart of our branding and we have a soft spot for Christmas.
This might be why I have a thing about Christmas cards. I know they aren’t at the top of everyone’s priority list and postal strikes this year haven’t helped, but I’d like to put in a good word for them. In the corporate world, they’ve come on a bit of a journey over the past 20 years, since Fourth Day launched. In 2002 almost all companies sent them. We used to regularly receive large cards from suppliers we didn’t know we had. Season’s Greetings from XYZ Printing would feature a group picture of employees wearing Santa hats and forced grins, while inside would be a page of photocopied signatures. Nonetheless, given the volume, they made the place look cheerful.
There were then a few years of mixed media and mixed messages. Worrying about sensitivities had us saying “happy holidays” for a while like our American colleagues, and then moving to “happy new year” so that we could send joint cards from our French, German and Moroccan teams. Christmas and New Year both feature in this year’s edition.
Meanwhile the move to online greetings was inevitable, but so far I don’t think it has shown corporate engagement at its best. The pictures of Christmas baubles that people attached to emails in the early days have been replaced by fancier animations, but the direction of travel isn’t looking good.
The curse of Christmas Present is the email that informs me that my card will not be in the post because its would-be sender is instead making a donation to charity. As a recipient I’m very pleased that this sender has decided to make a sacrifice for charity but slightly less pleased that the sacrifice was my Christmas card. My immediate sentiment is not to think “how generous.”
Of course, finding addresses and writing and posting Christmas cards is hugely time-consuming and I completely understand why companies choose alternatives. There are many good examples of these, from personalised video messages to charity e-cards. It’s just important to remember that it’s about the recipient rather than the sender. I think that many PR agencies understand this instinctively – we’ve often received personal messages, cards or small gifts from fellow agencies and partners, and they always make us smile. We find that even our own cards often trigger thank you notes.
I’m not a complete stickler for paper-based products, though I do prefer them. But my wish for Corporate Christmas future is that seasonal greetings will be truly personal, not simply a message from an e-CRM. In the meantime we’ll keep on with the cards. And if anyone knows where you can find eco-friendly glitter, please let me know.
This was also shared as an article on Xanthe’s LinkedIn profile.
Xanthe is a co-founder and director of Fourth Day PR