Note: this is not a religious post, and is meant neither to proselytize nor offend.

Tomorrow Christians around the world will be celebrating the birth of Christ.

Image: Martin LaBar via Flickr, Creative Commons

And even many non-Christians will be relaxing, perhaps joining in the revelry (as many of my friends did when I was growing up in India).

Now, I grew up in a Christian home, but I still think there are some interesting lessons we can learn on effective public relations from the history of what is now the largest religion in the world.

Here are three.

Jesus as the ultimate storyteller

Regardless of the accuracy of the story of Jesus (when exactly he was born, who the Magi were, etc.) the one thing that comes across when you look at the stories surrounding Jesus, was his ability to tell a great story.

Look at some of his parables. They’re vivid, they contain imagery, and they’re simple.

And part of why Jesus used imagery and every day references was so that the people he told these stories to could relate to them.

But they’re not so simple that they don’t relate to his teachings, or that you don’t get what those teachings are.

What all these stories have in common is that they all have a more-or-less related theme, which is essentially how and why to live a good life.

And it’s their very simplicity that made them easy to grasp and, in turn, for people to share them.

What we can learn: having a lot of bells and whistles to tell our stories with is great. But having a simple yet strong story is even better.

The Apostles as evangelizers

When Jesus set out to spread his word, initially he did it by himself, telling his stories in public places.

But after a while, he found a group of people from a range of backgrounds – from fishermen, to a freedom fighter, to a tax collector – to take on this task.

You could say that in addition to being a great story teller, he was the ultimate crowdsourcer.

What an interesting bunch of people he brought together.

And the one thing that they had in common was that they believed strongly enough in Jesus’ teachings to continue with the charge he had given them after he died.

In fact, that’s where the word “evangelizer” comes from.

While I would hate to see anyone die a horrible death, it’s remarkable how strongly the Apostles believed in what they were doing; so strongly, that many of them were martyred because of it.

What we can learn: conviction is a powerful tool. Conviction in our work, our clients, our organizations is essential before we can begin to convince them.

The Bible has “the greatest stories ever told” … by a vast number of people

The Bible isn’t just one story; it’s a vast collection of stories by a wide range of authors.

While there are several different versions of the Bible, the one thing we know is that they were handed down from generation to generation primarily by word of mouth.

Just imagine how many people were telling these stories, for them to have survived, in some shape or form, to the point where they were recorded in writing.

How they must have shared them in their homes, at their places of worship, while working in the fields, while sharing a fire to keep warm.

There’s no way they would have survived to the present day, had people not been energized enough to share them.

What we can learn: the more we are able to energize our communities, the better our chances of converting them to evangelizers.

You may already have seen a couple of the Christmas-related videos making the rounds lately.

The more popular one is A Digital Nativity, but A Social Network Christmas is fun to watch as well.

What do they have in common?

A terrific story.

Since they tell the story through the imagery of social networks, we can relate to them instantly.

As a result, people from all different walks of life are jazzed enough to share them with each other (I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen the Digital Nativity video in my Facebook friends’ streams, or on Twitter).

And I don’t think I’m making wild guesses when I say that Excentric, the Portuguese digital marketing agency that created the “digital nativity” video, will be deluged by prospective clients.

After all, in just a couple of weeks, the video has made it onto CNN and its views on YouTube are climbing by the second.

Jesus. The Apostles. The Bible.

Religion aside, there’s a lot more there that we can draw on to improve our practice of public relations.

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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