How to write a powerful CEO Christmas message
It’s December. Summer is here. Christmas trees are up. Carols are on repeat. Unopened books are patiently waiting to be read during the holidays.
But before we see out 2021, leaders and CEOs must first recap the year that was. That means writing the end of year CEO Christmas message to staff and stakeholders.
It’s easy to follow the template. Search your files for last year’s message and update it with this year’s events and next year’s outlook. Tick the box. Christmas message done.
But to do so is a missed opportunity.
Your Christmas message is a chance to talk to your staff and stakeholders. An opportunity to thank them for their effort and support, to re-energise and motivate them, to outline your vision and priorities.
It’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate real leadership—your leadership.
If you are yet to put pen to paper, here are five tips to help you write a more powerful CEO Christmas message.
1. Have a key message
You’re probably thinking my key message is Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Wrong. Your key message should align more broadly with your leadership priorities. Perhaps it’s about your organisational culture or how you have achieved change this year? Before you start writing your Christmas message, think about what you want to say to your staff and stakeholders. Seize the opportunity.
2. Use specific language
What’s my Christmas wish for 2021? That leaders kill corporate jargon. Slay it with a sword and vow to never talk such gibberish again. Corporate jargon is killing good communication and stopping you from connecting with your people.
In your Christmas message, use specific language. When you use specific language, you conjure up an image in the minds of the audience. This allows you to transfer ideas.
When you use non-specific language (or worse, corporate jargon), you give the audience a series of clues to decipher. The audience will overlay their own life experience to decipher these clues, all differently interpreting your message.
Here’s an example.
Non-specific language: A large animal, with brightly coloured toenails, walks across a busy city street, during the busiest time of day, to enter a building filled with books.
What are you thinking of? Which large animal? What colour toenails? Which city around the world? What time of day? What kind of building filled with books?
That’s a lot of work for your brain and your answers to these questions depend on your own life experience and preferences.
I highly doubt everyone who reads this will think of the same answers.
I’ll now re-write the sentence using specific language.
Specific language: An elephant, with bright orange toenails, walks across Macquarie Street in Sydney, during the morning peak hour, to enter the state library.
See how powerful communication is when you use specific language? Specific language allows you to transfer ideas to others, to conjure up imagery in their mind.
When you write your CEO Christmas message, use specific language.
3. Tell stories
Leaders hesitate to tell stories when speaking to staff or stakeholders. You fear putting one team in the spotlight when so many have done extraordinary work. But without stories, it is hard to highlight lessons or evoke emotions. Without personal stories or examples from this year, each year’s Christmas message starts to sound the same.
So how can you tell personal stories so they resonate with everyone?
Easy. The story itself is not the hero. The hero is the meaning you attribute to the story, it’s the point of the story. And that meaning—the reason why you chose that story to tell—can have universal applicability.
For example, you might talk about the attitude of a particular team and then say how you witnessed that same attitude across the organisation.
A story about one person can in fact be about millions of people.
4. Choose the right tone
Your CEO Christmas message should have a dash of nostalgia as you look back at the year that was and a good dose of optimism as you look to the future.
My only caution is that optimism should be measured with realistic expectations. Don’t make promises you have no control of or can’t keep. Without a crystal ball, you can’t promise 2022 will be better than 2021.
Being overly optimistic may erode trust and resilience if the year ends up tougher than envisioned.
5. Look to the future
Think of your CEO Christmas message as having a beginning, middle and end.
At the beginning of your CEO Christmas message talk about the year that was. Think about how you want your staff and stakeholders to feel. What emotions do you want to evoke? Do you want them to feel proud? Then tell a story or anecdote that will evoke that emotion.
Use the middle of your CEO Christmas message to state your key message. What’s that one message you want to convey to your staff and stakeholders? It should align with your leadership priorities.
At the end of your Christmas message speak of next year. This part of your message should be optimistic and visionary, it should inspire and motivate. Use emotive language. You might want to tell another story or anecdote. Or maybe you want to end with a metaphor or analogy. No matter how you choose to end your CEO Christmas message, it should inspire your staff and stakeholders and motivate them for the year ahead.