season messagingAs the Netherlands grinds to a halt during the upcoming Carnaval week, I wondered if other countries and regions have similar times or events when PR efforts will fall on deaf ears. A quick poll among my fellow Code Red participants provided some interesting local insights.

By: Paul Zeebregts, Director at Zeekhoe Communicatie

Here in the Netherlands, the festivities of ‘Carnaval’ are upon us. Carnaval, also known as ‘Mardi Gras’ or ‘Fat Tuesday’, is more than a one-day event in our region. Especially in the south of the Netherlands, which is traditionally Catholic, every year in late February or early March, depending on the timing of Easter, Carnaval is a pre-Lent celebration. For 4 days prior to the Wednesday that marks the start of Lent (also known as Ash Wednesday), the public in the southern Netherlands, Belgium and some parts of Germany, take to the streets (and bars!) in colourful and strange costumes, wearing wigs, make-up and masks for a massive party. There are parades in almost every town and city, and people are literally dancing in the streets. Most of all, Carnaval is supposed to be one big last brawl before Lent prohibits the consumption of food and alcohol. However, very few people observe Lent during the following 40 days.

It is virtually impossible to reach anyone during Carnaval in the southern Netherlands. Many people take days off for the celebration and some companies close their doors altogether. The rest of the country doesn’t partake in these festivities but does enjoy what they call ‘Spring Vacation’. They do so predominantly on the ski slopes of Germany, Austria, Italy and France, so where the streets in the southern Netherlands are packed, those in the north are half empty.

Carnaval, as you can imagine, is not a great time to publish your news in the Netherlands. As a PR agency, we strongly advise our clients to hold off with their press releases until the festivities have ended. In other regions, other times and events are also not suited for your PR campaigns, as a number of participants in the Code Red Network tell me.

Vernon Saldanha of Procre8 in Dubai, UAE: “Most tech journalists in the Middle East tend to be expats which is why our region seems to face an annual Christmas exodus. As such, December is a slow news month and unless a client has some very ‘significant’ news, I wouldn’t recommend making any announcements, arranging events, or pitching media round-tables.”

The Christmas slowdown is second only to the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan which is observed in the region for obvious reasons, says Saldanha. “During this 40-day period of fasting, most businesses work shorter hours (to accommodate those that are fasting) and as such business does tend to grind to a snail’s pace. Ramadan does not follow the Roman calendar and depends on the sighting of the moon which is why it moves each year. I would recommend speaking to your PR agency at the start of the year and budget this slowdown in to your PR plans for the region.”

According to Virginia Frutos of Everythink PR Boutique in Madrid, Spain, the Christmas Season is especially long in her region. It runs the entire ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’, from December 24 to the day of the Three Wise Kings (January 6th). “The focus of PR is consumer’s and the seasonal topics. The same happens in the summer, when the vacation season is spread from July to September. If we are thinking about product launches or events during these times, it is a big NO in our market. However, if we want to talk about safe shopping (Christmas sales), security trends, Wi-Fi connections in airports, summer holidays and traveling… this can be the time to get the message across, specially through TV and radio.”

“If we consider general information newspapers, in the Christmas context we have a good opportunity to talk about what is coming in 2018. We’ll publish forecasts and insights in how cybersecurity/cybercrime/ransomware is going to be part of people’s daily life. This is an excellent time to talk about the future, such as the developments in the internet of things and visions related to robots, home automation, self-driving cars and, of course, how to optimize the security of this all!”

Elaine Banoub of Primary Communication in Surrey Hills, Australia, tells me the later in the year it gets, the worse the timing is for making a major PR announcement in Australia. “As a rule of thumb, the cut-off point for pre-planned announcements should be late November. Australian journalists will typically cover stories for January onwards from this time, so ideally any announcements made at the tail end of this period won’t be time-sensitive.”

Additionally, many Australian businesses close from around mid-December through till mid-January, says Banoub. “Any major PR announcements during this period can mean that it can get lost in the wash of holiday stories. And sometimes it can have a negative impact – announcing something not directly tied to the holidays during this period can give the impression that an organization/business is trying to hide something from the public. This may not be the case, but perception is everything in PR!”

Banoub points out that there are two major exceptions: “The first is if a client has a consumer campaign that’s directly tied to the holiday season. The second is when a client is releasing predictions for 2018. Towards the end of the year, the Australian media thrive on articles based around this kind of material; if it’s pushed out to the right outlets, it can deliver an end-of-year PR coup with good exposure for the brand.”

In the Nordics, the holiday season is also not the best time to share news, says Susan Rose of Susan Rose Communication in Stockholm, Sweden. “It would be a waste of good resources. The worst time to make a major PR announcement is the last week before Christmas until mid-January. In the summer, interest in news slows down from the start of Summer on June 21 until the middle of August. In July, however, NOBODY cares about any news.”

In Israel, some global holidays are observed, but Anat Messing of Wanaka PR in Ramat Gan, Israel, tells me the Jewish calendar offers its own unique holiday seasons. “At Christmas and New Year business is as usual. However, there are two seasons when things slow down significantly. The first is in September-October, when we celebrate three different holidays during a period of almost a full month. The second is one week in April, during Passover. Usually the market becomes very slow during these periods and many people travel in and out of the country. Sometimes, from September to October, people may leave for an entire month. Therefore, while it is not advisable to come up with important news during these times.”

Messing points out that these ‘slow times’ offer great PR opportunities as well. “It can be a good time to publish less important content. Also, many journalists are out of the office and by-lines or press releases can fill the gaps. That provides our clients with the opportunity gain valuable exposure they wouldn’t get on a regular business day.”