Communicating – it’s the business of the public relations practitioner. And to a large extent communication involves symbols and stereotypes. Cutlip, Center and Brown remind us in Effective Public Relations that “The symbol offers a dramatic and direct means of persuasive communication with large numbers of people…Symbols have been used since the dawn of history to compress and convey complex messages to the multitudes”. We are effectively reminded of their power to communicate during the holiday season. We’re surrounded by symbols this time of year – icons like Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Rudolph was the brainchild of Robert L. May, a 35-year-old advertising copywriter for the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department store. In 1939, May was commissioned by his supervisor to create an original Christmas story that the store could give away to shoppers at holiday time. Drawing on his own childhood experiences (he had experienced ridicule because of his slight frame), May dreamed up a title character who was ostracized by his fellow reindeer because of his glowing red nose. For 69 years Rudolph has encouraged children (and adults!) to esteem character qualities over appearances. This morning I treated my 6-year old granddaughter to her first visit to a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. Her attention was drawn to the huge fireplace, where someone had “decorated” the deer head hanging there with a glowing red nose. She turned to me with a horrified expression and asked “Nina, is Rudolph dead?” It was a vivid reminder to me that as PR professionals we often handle powerful images and concepts and that we need to carefully consider all the audiences that may be impacted, even the smallest.