5 PR Lessons to Learn From Hanukkah

Hanukkah Sameach! And "Oy to the World!"

This past Sunday marked a celebration that is sacrosanct to Jewish people worldwide — Hanukkah.

The annual “festival of lights” lasts eight days every year, and this year, will end on Monday, Dec. 14. Why the lighting of the menorah and playing of the dreidel?

The eight nights of lighting the branched candelabrum represent the eight nights a one-day supply of oil miraculously lasted for a small band of Jewish people in 165 B.C.E. fighting to defeat the Greek army.

While you are looking up the holiday on your favorite browser, did you know there are actually some public relations rules of thumb to learn from the Festival of Lights? Here are five PR lessons to learn from Hanukkah. Chag Urim Sameach! 

1. Origins Matter. 

Source: The Jewish Museum

For those scoring at home: The story of Hanukkah is recorded in the First Book of Maccabees, which is part of the Apocrypha. If you don’t happen to have a copy laying around, the Feast of Dedication is mentioned in the New Testament Book of John, chapter 10, verse 22. Unfortunately, because the Jewish calendar (Year 5776, Kislev is our December 2015) lands upon this hallowed month, many equate Hanukkah as the “Jewish Christmas,” when it is really the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century.

It’s amazing the conversations you can have with an orthodox Jewish person, or even someone from Israel, just by knowing a little of that origin. It’s the same in PR: Your pitch must involve the basic foundation of your story. Without providing that understanding of why, you will never get to discuss the what. Ask a journalist if you don’t want to believe a former one. And, uh, Mazel Tov with that.

2. Spelling Matters Too. 

hanukkah shirt
Source: Luconic.com

Probably nothing has been misspelled more in the human vernacular than this holiday.

Hanukkah? Chanukah? Khanukkah? 

There are many more if you fancy the research. There is no exact translation in English for the word we call this Jewish holiday. Nada. Nyet. None. No way, Jose. The fallacy is based on phonetics. The word starts with “H” or “Ch,” the second consonant is “nn” or “n,” the third consonant is “kk” or “k,” and the word ends with “ah” or “a.”

If you are pitching something during this eight-day celebration, you could get some slack if you choose one of the less-common spellings because of something you may have learned at Temple. For other words in the human language, journalists are far less lenient or understanding. A friendly tip: If you believe Microsoft’s spell check is the best editor or eyeballs you need on your communiques, may I recommend another line of work?

3. Oh, Meanings Matter as Well. 

Source: TheWisdomDaily.com

As previously stated, Hanukkah is not the “Jewish Christmas.” In fact, the holiday is older than “Christmas” because the Maccabees were searching for oil long before Jesus ever made it to the manger. The menorah itself simply acts as a reminder of the one-day supply of oil that lasted eight days. The other traditions remind Jewish people of the actual victory over the Greeks. The entire span is a dedication, which is what “Hanukkah” means in the first place.

Often, when “other folk” see kids playing with a dreidel or eating a sufganiyot (that’s “oily doughnut” to you and me), they either assume it’s just silly or actually stop to ask. The same is true for a soldier and the almost obligatory “Thank you for your service.” Have you ever asked what precisely that service was? Protecting our country is heroic. Knowing how that protection came is empowering. There is meaning in any story — sorta like the stories you pitch every week. Imagine how successful your pitch would be if was empowering too.