Julie Jimenez|Dec 22, 2014

The holidays, in addition to being the “most wonderful time of the year,” are also the busiest time for travel companies. Between the shopping deals and holiday rush, companies within the travel space are turning to one of the oldest tricks in the PR stunt book to break through and be noticed – the Surprise and Delight.

The premise is simple: Spring a surprise on an unsuspecting group that will delight the audience and garner buzz.

Rather than inviting media to attend and capture the stunt, companies are relying on strategic partnerships and social media to drive their holiday campaigns.

Earlier this month, WestJet released its annual “WestJet Christmas Miracle: Spirit of Giving,” which found the WestJet team traveling to the Dominican Republic and surprising the residents of Nuevo Renacer with the top items on their wish list. This is a tried and true technique for WestJet – last year’s video received more than 36 million views on social media and set a new standard for holiday viral videos.

Air Canada also jumped into the mix this year with its “Gift of Home for the Holidays” video. Two Air Canada pilots walked into the Maple Leaf pub in London, a favorite spot of Canadian ex-pats, and surprised everyone there with roundtrip tickets to visit their families in Canada. This simple idea is reaping plenty of goodwill for the brand and huge results in the media and online. For the first few days following the release, the video brought in more than 350,000 views, a 3,000 percent increase over the site’s average daily views.

Brands also can use existing programs to get into the holiday spirit without having to make a large investment of time or resources. For example, rbb worked with client AMResorts to add a holiday twist to its existing Dreamers Win campaign, which featured disabled U.S. Army veteran Tyler Jeffries presenting his mother with a surprise vacation as a thank you.

rbb pitched the story to Chicago’s Windy City LIVE, one of the top watched daytime shows in the country, and, as part of the show’s ongoing holiday surprise programming, rewarded three unsuspecting moms with a free vacation to Dreams Resorts & Spas. Aside from reaching the half million viewers of the program, the show heavily promoted the segments on its popular social media channels, which have more than 260,000 followers and fans across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This gave the Dreamers Win campaign an extra boost, and the only cost to the client was the trips.

All of these examples have similar common features: They felt genuine, tapped into key audience desires (like being with family for the holidays), and were timed just right. As PR professionals are planning for 2015 and checking lists twice, spreading cheer is always a good way to connect with customers over the holidays.


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