Christmas movies are often little more than nostalgic background noise during the holiday season, but many festive favorites conceal unexpected pearls of wisdom for communicators.
Unlike most Christmas presents, which lose their luster before December ends, these lasting lessons can alter your perspective, strengthen your approach and fuel your communication strategies for the new year.
So, light the fire, simmer the mulled wine, and unwrap the timeless communications lessons of these five Christmas classics.
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
In the Frank Capra classic, George Bailey is the striving everyman who puts his own dreams on hold to look after his family and friends. When disaster strikes, he fears his life has been meaningless.
Enter guardian angel Clarence, who shows him what life would have been like had he never been born. Only then does George recognize the impact he’s had.
Our workplaces are full of George Baileys—colleagues who are doing a steady job every day, yet sometimes lose sight of how much difference their work makes.
You, communicator, have the power to be a guardian angel—just like Clarence. Through recognition, appreciation and a simple, sincere “thank you,” you can uplift those who feel down, deflated or depleted.
You can highlight the impact your colleagues have on customers or other stakeholders. You can recognize people for consistent daily efforts, not just major achievements. That’s an easy way to instill a powerful sense of purpose, contribution and achievement—and an easy way to create a wonderful workplace.
“Miracle on 34th Street”
Department store Santa Kris Kringle is the world’s most engaged Father Christmas. His immaculate outfit and vast knowledge of toys set the highest standards. He treats every customer with equal attention—finding out their wishes and going the extra mile to deliver them.
Kris is also a role model for inclusion. No child is overlooked or left out, including the deaf girl with whom Kris renders “Jingle Bells” in sign language (in the Richard Attenborough version).
Kris has just one tiny flaw, at least according to his department store employers: He believes he is Santa Claus.
When a rival store conspires to commit the star employee to a mental institution, Kringle’s employer finds itself in a PR crisis. Do they disown him—or act in line with the company’s values?
Here, Kris’s colleagues demonstrate the importance of speaking truth to power. They persuade their senior leaders to decide what they truly believe in—and to act accordingly. By publicly supporting Kris, they change public opinion and enlist the whole city’s support in his defense.
Sometimes we need the courage to do the same. We communicators can (and should) use our position to highlight how our leaders’ actions may be perceived—and avert our own crises as a result.
The wonderful film adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ book, “The Snowman,” has been a beloved Christmas Day staple for more than 35 years. Yet it has no words or dialogue.
It’s a striking reminder of the power of pictures and visuals—and a wonderful example of “showing” instead of “telling.” Image-driven stories force the audience to uncover and interpret meaning for themselves.
“The Snowman” also packs a strong emotional punch. Even without dialogue, the film deftly plucks heartstrings by vividly transporting viewers to a time of magical childhood adventures, wonder and innocence.
These are principles we can all use in our communications. Let photos and video drive your storytelling, pack your content with emotion, and be concise.
Great leadership can make a huge impact on people’s lives. That’s certainly the case in “White Christmas,” in which entertainers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis plan a lavish recognition event to restore the pride of their former commanding officer, General Waverly.
Wallace and Davis “go big” on recognition, enlisting hundreds of former colleagues to give a Christmas Eve surprise party at Waverly’s struggling ski lodge. In doing so, they create an unforgettable moment neither he nor his colleagues will ever forget.
“White Christmas” offers an annual reminder of two truths about giving substantive, genuine recognition. First, the unexpected almost always trumps the expected. Second, don’t be afraid to go big.
If someone deserves a massive “thank you,” create an event that will linger in everyone’s memory.
Regardless of where you stand on the “Is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas movie?” debate, the film offers pertinent lessons for communicators.
New York cop John McClane faces Hans Gruber’s criminal gang in his bare feet, with no support or weapons. Obstacles and assailants come thick and fast. However, he marshals his few resources to turn the odds in his favor.
Like any great communicator, McClane quickly establishes eyes and ears on the ground, building trust with beat cop Al Powell so he can find out what’s happening outside the building.
He’s also creative in his use of office resources. Whether it’s using swivel chairs, gaffer tape and elevator shafts to create makeshift explosives—or stealing the terrorists’ radios to listen in on their conversations—McClane pulls out all the stops to achieve his goals.
Whatever your budget, you can harness the never-give-up spirit of John McClane. It just takes a willingness to try new approaches—and take a few risks along the way.
Over to you, communicators. What new approaches or strategies will you prioritize in the new year? Please share your thoughts, along with your favorite holiday films.