Media Training for Santa

Memo: To Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Chief ElfIssue: Preparing for interviews with the media --------------------------------------------------------

As the holiday season approaches, I would like to remind you of some basic tips and techniques for dealing with members of the media. I'm sure most of this is old hat, but my colleagues in the seasonal entertainment PR industry are still mocking me about the Santa's Summer Cruise Wear photo shoot you did for Portly Fashion magazine. Remember the cardinal rule for a winter celebrity: no-one needs to see Santa's knees.

Keep the message upbeat

Santa Claus, Inc. is a good news story. You have very good positives, and very, very low negatives (as long as we keep the factories in North Korea under wraps). Because of years of cultural appropriation, we have become the personification of winter fairy tales from countries across Europe. More importantly, thanks to our longstanding partnership with Coca-Cola, we have established an international identity as a joyful and reassuring personality in a number of retail, specialty, wholesale, direct and e-business channels.

This will only continue if Santa Claus, Inc. is represented by personable and upbeat spokespersons: Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Chief Elf. Last season's totally inappropriate FHM interview and companion piece (Does Mrs. Santa really know who's naughty and nice?) may have resulted in a temporary spike in views to the image gallery on the Santa's Workshop website, but it did nothing for sales of the children's sleepwear line.

Please remember what the focus groups said: Santa is wholesome, he is understanding, he is approachable, and he makes reasonable compromises when faced with children's demands. (sidebar to Chief Elf: "The Taiwanese make hose things from twine and bark" is not an appropriate answer to a probing question from CNET about a competitor's new digital camera)

Meeting the Press

Please remember that the PR department spends a substantial amount of time preparing for the holiday season and seasonal coverage in printed media, including magazines, newspapers, trade journals and specialty association magazines.

Remember the initial messaging sessions in June, led by the Research Director? Those messages are driven through every contact with these outlets, with the intent of positively affecting the public's perception of Santa Claus, Inc. at our most vital moment: the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Preparing for Television Interviews

Remember - make eye contact with the interviewer. Pretend the camera is not there. Any sudden eye movement between the two will make you seem shifty nd untrustworthy.

Remember: for television appearances, Santa ALWAYS wears the uniform. Santa does not dress in Alexander MacQueen suits. He does not appear on the Today Show in Joseph Abboud casual wear. Santa is reknowned for wearing half-moon reading glasses: he does not wear tortoiseshell glasses left over from the 1970s corporate parties at "54."

Similarly, the Chief Elf ALWAYS wears an elf hat (with required bell) and wooden togs. The two minute interview on NEXT@CNN last week was very informative, but the "Gates Sux" t-shirt detracted from the overall message we were trying to convey.

Finally, Mrs. Claus will NEVER, EVER again appear as a Barker Beauty on The Price is Right. While the initial concept was approved, we should have foreseen the potential embarassment of a "summer splashing" prize package - with Mrs. Claus illustrating the value of a hot tub.

We really should have learned from our past appearances on the Match Game.

Preparing for Radio Interviews

When doing a phone interview with a local radio station, please make sure all nearby stereos, computers and televisions are turned off. Not only is microphone feedback a possibility, but sometimes the radio listener can hear the noise in the background. The interview with Rick Dees last year went well - except for the portion where listeners could hear certain Ned Beatty lines from the WTBS broadcast of Deliverance then being shown in the Elf Lounge.

Also - be very aware of added sound effects. While the Santa Claus, Inc. PR department does provide sound files of reindeer grazing and elves caroling for use in radio and tv broadcasts, some unscrupulous show producers have been known to insert sheep sounds and other inappropriate noises into the broadcast.

Meeting an Editorial Board

Meeting the editorial board of a newspaper provides an opportunity to present a sweeping view of the work and interests of Santa Claus, Inc. Santa, Mrs. Claus and Chief Elf, as corporate spokespersons, can all participate in editorial boards, with appropriate preparation.

While board members expect spokespersons to be open, honest and frank, spokespersons of Santa Claus, Inc. should never use the phrases "You never heard it from me, but ..." or "While at the biker bar, I ..." or "FAO Schwartz had it coming ..."