One of the biggest goals of marketing your law firm online is connecting with a new group of potential clients. The key word here, though, is connecting. If your marketing efforts reach out to new clientele, but then alienate them, it’s a negative in the long run because you’ve both missed the opportunity to bring them onboard, and made it more difficult to connect with them in the future.
One way to alienate potential clients is by offending their religious practices. Handling religion can be as difficult as handling politics in your legal blog. One facet of this issue is the growing expectation for people and companies in the U.S. to say the words, “Merry Christmas.” These words, however, cater to one group while alienating all of the others, making December a tricky time for advertising Therefore, we at Myers Freelance offer a general recommendation of two alternatives for this Catch-22:
- Don’t mention the holiday season, at all, or
- Say “Happy Holidays.”
Religion in the United States
According to the Pew Research Center, the United States is a predominantly Christian country, with 70.6% of people identifying themselves under the Christian banner in 2014.
However, that leaves nearly one out of every three people who do not call themselves Christian. Among these are Muslims, Buddhists and people of the Jewish faith. However, the lion’s share of those who don’t self-identify as Christians in the U.S. – comprising a quarter of our country’s population, and growing rapidly – are those who remain unaffiliated or live secular lives. These include atheists, agnostics, and those who simply don’t care very much about religion. The Pew Research Center’s results show that two of the most common elements among this group are their lack of conviction that religion is important in their lives, and their lack of attending religious services.
Therefore, based on these numbers, 29.4% of Americans either don’t actively celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas, or actively celebrate something else, entirely.
The Alienating Assumption of “Merry Christmas”
Whenever you say the words “Merry Christmas” to someone you don’t know, you make the assumption that they celebrate Christmas. This is especially problematic precisely because Christians make up the majority of the population in the U.S. – the assumption has the aura of intimidation to the person you’re talking to.
Of course, it’s rare for non-Christians to admit that being told to have a “Merry Christmas” is offensive. Not only is it an increasingly unpopular opinion to have, but also, to an extent, non-Christians in the U.S. are desensitized to the issue. After all, the cultural significance of Christmas in December and now much of November is steep – just turn on the radio or drive around your neighborhood at night – and aspects of religion permeate everyday life for the rest of the year – just look at the money in your pocket.
For non-Christians, being wished a “Merry Christmas” by a stranger is just another reminder that they’re on the outside, making them feel excluded and putting a bad taste in their mouth. From the viewpoint of legal marketing, this is a setback that might never be overcome.
The Push to Re-Christianize Christmas
On the other hand, there is a movement among some religious groups to “put Christ back in Christmas.” One of the central tenets of this movement is to do away with any other season’s greetings other than “Merry Christmas.”
It’s still fairly uncertain how many Christians are onboard this movement. However, looking purely at the numbers, it would take more than two-fifths of self-identified Christians to be behind it to equal the number of non-Christians in the country.
Myers Freelance Recommends Dodging the Issue
Between alienating non-believers and angering Christians, it might seem like there’s no good way to handle the situation of what is supposed to be a joyful time of year.
That’s why Myers Freelance carries the professional opinion that the best thing to do is actually the easiest thing to do: Nothing. By writing your legal blog posts the same way in December as in August, Myers Freelance recommends refusing to make a statement, thereby stepping out of the discussion entirely.
If you do want to make note of the season, then a generalized “Happy Holidays” likely offends the least number of people. Additionally, those who are offended are likely to be vocal about it, spreading word of your firm and raising the question or whether all publicity is good publicity.
Of course, there are caveats to this recommendation.
The primary caveat is your law firm’s unique brand. If part of that brand is promoting your personal beliefs, then continuing to do so during the winter season is almost expected. Your brand is what matters.
Another caveat is your firm’s unique location and practice area. The figures provided by the Pew Research Center found that different parts of the country are more religious than others, and that age is a large factor in how religious someone is. If you’re focused solely on the numbers of the potential clientele you can reach, then an estate planning law firm in Alabama should be less concerned with alienating non-believers as a general practice firm in Vermont.