NORAD Santa Tracker: It all started with a little typo…

NORAD Santa Tracker
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa since 1955…and it all started with a little typo.

The story goes that an advertisement for Sears Roebuck & Co. listed a phone number for children to call Santa.

Sears Roebuck & Co Santa ad

No one bothered to proofread the ad, and it was published with the phone number to NORAD, then called CONAD (Continental Air Defense Command). That’s why it’s important to proofread. And yes, that includes calling phone numbers.

Rather than be annoyed that CONAD would have to field calls from children wanting to talk to Santa, the Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, embraced the issue and had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way around the world. Children who called were given updates on his location.

The tradition still lives today as hundreds of volunteers man phones and continue to update children who call. There’s also an online tracker as well, as Santa makes his way around the world.

Shoup did what any great PR pro would do: took what could be an unfortunate situation and turn it into a positive public relations story. Sure, it took more staff hours and probably put them behind on their “real” work, but the ability to make Christmas magical for children, and the community spirit that came out of it was worth it.

The moral of the story? Proofreading matters. Unless you want to end up tracking Santa every Christmas.


#PRFail: If You Are Doing These Things In Your PR Efforts, You Are Doing It Wrong

This article first appeared on

If you are doing these things in your public relation efforts, you are doing it wrong:

Using long words when a short one will do.
We don’t “utilize” something…we use it. A longer, more complicated word slows down the reader and makes them work harder to understand. Make your sentences shorter and strive for a sixth grade reading level. That’s right. Many Americans read at that level, and if you are writing above it, you might lose them.

Starting your press releases (or any communication) with “We are pleased to announce…”
Yawn. Of course you are pleased. But why should anyone else care? Start with a statistic or a story. Refer to a recent news item and make it local. Tell your reader how your news is going to benefit them.

Not using visuals.
Photos, illustrations, graphics, infographics, video. The amount of visual content has skyrocketed in the last five years. Use it to your advantage. Sure, it takes time to create an infographic or snap and upload a photo. It’s worth it though, because it adds another element to your communication and can entice your audience to read more.

Emojis: Use in Moderation

Emojis: Use in Moderation
Using emojis is fun, but they can quickly escalate into an addiction.

It starts out as an emoji here and there in texts. Then you add them to your Facebook posts. And then emails. One smiley face turns into the “laughing so hard I’m crying” face. Then it’s the dancing girls and the dog face and the snowflake. Fire. Airplane. Wine glass.

Have we gone overboard on emojis?

Did you know there’s an emoji documentary?

Or a map that shows what the most used emoji is in every state?

Here’s a website that tracks emoji use in real-time.

You can order a pizza with the pizza emoji.

I get it. Emojis add a quirky,  whimsical feeling to your written communication. But be careful when using emojis in your marketing and public relations efforts.

Is your target audience high schoolers? Then this anti-drug, emoji-only billboard works.

Emoji billboard

Issuing a press release about a new product? Not so much. A well-known car brand did just that. Wrote a press release…using only emojis.

Chevy Cruze emoji press release
Come on, now. That’s just a publicity stunt. Or their PR department has too much time on their hands.

I’m not totally poo poo-ing emoji use. How can you when 74% of adults use emojis every day? But just because a lot of people of all ages use emojis in casual conversation does not mean it’s appropriate for public relations and marketing purposes. Use them intermittently and in moderation, unless your audience is too young to vote.