Digital Dilemmas: What type of Christmas e-greeting should I send this year?

Emails, e-cards or a video starring the CEO in a santa suit?
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor on

Emails, e-cards or a video starring the CEO in a santa suit?

'Tis the season to be merry - and for cash-strapped companies to spread festive cheer digitally. So what's the best way to deliver e-greetings this recessionary season? silicon.com's Natasha Lomas deconstructs this Digital Dilemma.

It's that time of year again - the season when your marketing department merrily comes to ask how the company will be marking Christmas. Budgets are as lean as Scrooge's pantry, resources are a frozen tundra where hungry wolves roam, meanwhile the CEO has barricaded himself in his office with the Christmas bonus list and is refusing to hand-sign 300 Christmas cards like he did last year - pleading RSI and fear of ID theft.

The stand-off is tense until some bright spark suggests going digital this year. Hallelujah! Trees can live, budgets can breathe a sigh of relief and the CEO will be seen in the office before 2010 - possibly even bearing good tidings of end-of-year bonuses.

But now you're faced with a new dilemma: what kind of festive e-greeting is appropriate? Will a warmly worded UK All email be considered a wise and welcome choice this recessionary Christmas? Or maybe you should think about sending out a batch of faux cheery e-cards - a smattering of seasonal bling on the cheap?

Or perhaps you reckon you should pull out all the stops and defy the downturn with an all-singing, all-dancing bespoke corporate Christmas video to up staff morale - persuading the CEO to don a Santa suit, issue a presidential year-end address in the vein of the Queen's Speech and conclude with a rousing rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful. Decisions, decisions.

A word of warning: Tread softly, for the world of 'digi-cheer' is bedecked with cringe-worthy affectations such as the word 'digi-cheer' - for which we can thank The Gap. Follow the link if you want to see how not to do corporate Xmas e-greetings (courtesy of The Gap Cheer Factory) - unless, that is, you want to spread festive fear and loathing in your Finance department which is entirely possible in these cash-strapped times.

Video certainly packs the biggest Christmas punch in your bag of potential e-tricks. Do it right and your company could end up on the Best Places to Work list, do it wrong and you'll make Ghost Hunting with the Happy Mondays look like Citizen Kane - and no one wants that.

Make no mistake: in producing a well-pitched Christmas video the list of potential pitfalls is longer than the average child's Christmas wishlist. First up: can anyone in the company sing without causing wildlife to flee and small children to cry? If not, it's probably unwise to record the noise in a medium where others can witness it in perpetuity. The video will end up on YouTube, as inexorably as Sir Cliff ends up as Christmas Number One.

Ditto can any of your staff juggle, jig, jive, jitterbug or produce an original yet catchy festive jingle that pithily sums up your business? No? Well that just leaves the festive address. Which sounds suspiciously like an oxymoron. Can there be such a thing? Unless the CEO has the rapier wit of a stand-up comic, or the mere sight of him/her wearing a Santa hat is cheer enough for an economically depressed workforce, there's cold e-comfort to be had in a seasonal speech. Sorry.

Of course there is another option. If you want to be a proper professional you could pay for some real talent - of the BBC variety - to front your corporate Christmas video message. However, if you're not giving out any bonuses this year expect your workforce to rise up en masse and oust their leadership for splashing cash on a C-list comedian when it could be going on more substantive things like, er, headcount and pay rises.

Undoubtedly a cheaper option is to send e-cards. Everyone gets one, everyone gets to feel a bit festive and slightly special, right? Wrong. Sending an e-card is the digital equivalent of scraping a barrel and sticking the result in the post. Don't go there. Seriously. They look terrible, they sound hideous and they smell like malware. Moreover, if against all odds the e-card actually manages to vomit up its contents onto staff desktops (it's a digital rule of thumb that 99 per cent of e-cards deliver only a 404) the resulting flashy atrocity will give your workforce a collective headache. Or worse. Face it: you'll have enough hangovers to deal with the morning after the office Christmas party...

So, the answer to a successfully merry e-Christmas is as follows:

  • Companies with in-house X-Factor wannabies take the video route - but make sure it's seriously good or seriously funny. If you can't get angelic singing, talking reindeers and tinsel that explodes in festive fireballs don't bother. There can be no half measures in Christmas films.
  • For companies with no in-house talent to draw on, I'm afraid it's time to pen that pious UK All email - explaining how pennies are terribly tight so you've decided to save on buying cards but merry Christmas anyway! And if penning that's too painful then it's time to invest in a signature-signing machine for the CEO.

Do you have a digital dilemma keeping you awake at night? Want a few pointers on business netiquette? Help is at hand - email editorial@silicon.com and the silicon.com team will scratch their collective heads on your behalf.

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