December 25: The greatest PR campaign in history?

December 25: The greatest PR campaign in history?

Nicholas
McDavid

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

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INSPIRED by a video my cousin sent me, I have decided to share this previously written bit of creative writing from my personal archive:

Before I begin, I would like to define some terms which are important to this article. Here, marketing is defined as the set of activities one engages in to get the consumer/members of the public to buy into and buy a product, service, or idea. Public relations or PR are the strategies and tactics one uses to inform and/or change public opinion, whether it be in a targeted or all-encompassing manner, as well as what one does to maintain a favourable image.

On the morning of Christmas Day, December 25, 2019 I was outside, throwing out some garbage, as I am always cleaning and cleaning up after my little boys. It's a full-time job! After I disposed of my refuse I saw my neighbour coming in from work. I safely assumed it was work based on how he had been dressed. My neighbour, along with his wife and son, is a Jehovah's Witness. I quite like my neighbours! So, as he was walking up to his driveway I said to him that I know we don't tell Witnesses “Merry Christmas” — this is the one definitive thing I know about such interactions. He said to me that he was very appreciative of what I said (this gesture), and remarked to me that when he was at work, although everybody knew he was a Witness, they were all still wishing him “Merry Christmas”.

So I asked him if I could, at least, wish him “Happy Holidays”. He told me that he still wouldn't accept that because the reference is still tied to a pagan holiday. I then said, “I wish you all the best!” He smiled and nodded and then went inside. It was his “pagan holiday” reference that led me to write this article and it forms the core idea behind it.

I had a super amazing history professor at college in Caldwell, New Jersey, Dr Mullaney, who taught me and my classmates for two semesters of western heritage. It was here that the knowledge of this “pagan holiday” was explored in-depth. It was very interesting.

December 25, as many might know, is not the day Jesus was born. But it is the day Christianity decides to celebrate this monumental occasion. According to a side discussion a few days after Christmas Day, with the nanny of my boys, Jesus was born in October. Who knows! So, why then?

One of the greatest missions of the early church/early Christian church was converting people. “Showing them the light,” as it were, especially those who were seen as pagans — people who believed in other gods or multiple gods and not the one true god. This was a daunting task!

So how then was the early church to have the best chance at succeeding with their mission? It was known back then that many pagan religions across the board celebrated the 25th day of December with great symbolism and meaning. Therefore, the early church decided on what could debatably be the greatest and longest-running PR campaign in history — that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated this day, and they would use this to shake, rock, and sway “pagan public opinion”.

It worked and has been working for a very very long time! Some put this timeline as over 2,000 years, with Christianity having the largest following of any religion. As a practitioner who loves marketing and PR, I often like to find the links and connections between these disciplines and real life and historical events. To me, marketing and PR are a part of life, and much more than a profession or something we study. Before these things were formal or recognised disciplines, history is filled with instances and personalities who utilised these techniques in the greatest ways possible. Straying no further from Jesus, who is already mentioned in this article, among other things, Jesus of Nazareth could be considered history's greatest marketer and PR specialist.

I wonder what one of my favourite people, Fr Chambers, who happens to be a Catholic priest, would have to say about all of this. I am surely going to find out.

Nicholas McDavid is mobiliser, creative services provider and solutions finder at Ideas Hub. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or nicholas.mcdavid@gmail.com.


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