The nation’s eyes will turn to the small town of Punxsutawney, Penn., to watch with bated breath as a small furry rodent—a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil—emerges from its burrow. As legend has it, Phil’s shadow determines whether spring arrives early or winter sticks around for another six weeks.
To mark this ground-breaking holiday, here are five tips PR pros can learn from Phil and Groundhog Day:
1. Take your time.
Don’t launch a campaign unless all systems are a go. No one wants to end up in the hole, so stay in the shadows until your strategy is performed, the necessary tasks are taken care of, and a back-up plan is in place.
2. Give a face to a brand or idea.
Phil is the furry face of Groundhog Day; people have come to know and love the holiday because of this brown creature. Creating a mascot for a brand can give it a personality and build recognition. Really, who doesn’t smile when Phil shows up on television? Mascots usually generate positive, happy feelings, which may help build awareness, loyalty, and profits.
3. Test the air.
Not sure whether a product or message is going to take off? Do a pilot program, or introduce it slowly to a small, select group to gauge interest. If attitudes are feeling a bit chilly, pull back until you can make the necessary tweaks to help ensure a warm reception.
4. Speak the audience’s language.
To reach target audiences, use words and images that resonate well with them. At many Pennsylvania Groundhog Day celebrations, only the Pennsylvania German dialect is spoken. Often, those who speak English must drop one coin per English word spoken into bowl at the center of a table. Likewise, you will be penalized if you don’t study how your audience communicates.
5. Provide a reason to celebrate.
For many people, Groundhog Day is an excuse to have a good time, whether they believe in Phil’s predictions. No matter if the groundhog sees its shadow in Punxsutawney, thousands will be eating, drinking, giving speeches, and performing skits. Similarly, getting people excited and giving them a reason to have fun can offer just the ammunition a PR campaign needs to shoot ahead.
6. Don’t expect to be right every time.
Groundhog Day organizers say Phil is right about 75 to 90 percent of the time, and meteorological records show the groundhog’s success rate is lower. The point is: PR pros (like groundhogs) can’t get it right all of the time. Not every project is going to be a slam-dunk, and it may take longer to get the results you want than you predicted. In time, however, spring will come. By learning from your mistakes and practicing trial-and-error, your success rate will spring up, too.
Happy Groundhog Day!
Hana Bieliauskas is a project manager in the Columbus, Ohio, office of CMA (@CMABuildsTrust), a national public relations agency based in Kansas City, Mo. Follow her on Twitter @hanab08.