8 takeaways from Michelle Obama’s Becoming campaign

POSTED ON: 12/06/19 TAGS:

by katie


Last month, Amelia Fairney and Rose Poole from the Penguin General marketing team presented some of the highlights of the huge campaign they ran for Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. Even if you don’t have a former First Lady for an author, there is plenty to learn for people planning for event publications:

1) Early consumer insight / analysis is really worth it

9 months ahead of publication, the team went out to speak to people and find out what Michelle Obama means to them. This informed the strategy around the campaign.

They took a film crew to create voxpop videos. These were used as part of the digital campaign further down the line, reaching over 500k people, and are still being used now.

2) Pull in colleagues from across the company

A taskforce was created from across the whole of Penguin Random House – the only criteria for entry was that you had to love Michelle Obama.

This taskforce brainstormed ideas and also gave feedback on the Marketing & Publicity campaign presented to them.

They felt invested in the book from the beginning and acted as both a sounding board and a great source of ideas.

3) Speak to retailers early

When the cover was ready in Spring 2018, the team went on an UK-wide tour of bookshops. This allowed them to ask questions and tailor specific plans to customers.

In turn, bookshops felt real value and were kept constantly updated.

Waterstones was the biggest retail partner and their support was crucial. They ran an exclusive pre-order competition to win a trip to New York and also held a big author event with them.

4) Start advertising early

The social advertising started in May, and audience groups were built depending on response, with the team really responsive to results.

There were 150 creatives and they saw 45k clicks to retail for a spend of £8k.

5) Create a news moment

There were no firm publicity commitments until late in the day and so the team needed under the radar ways to engage people.

A giant mural created a news moment. The team partnered with Dreph, known for his empowering portraits of black women. He chose what to draw – he didn’t want to just recreate the book jacket.

It was very authentic and he also did interviews about it for publicity, becoming a spokesperson for the book.

Candice Carty-Williams – a Michelle superfan – also did a live review on the Penguin website.

6) Identify the right partners

The team worked with The Advocacy Academy, a social justice fellowship for young people from marginalised communities in London.

They ran an event to fundraise for the Academy selling the book for £5, and also ran a staff book sale with proceeds going to Academy.

The Academy came and spoke to staff at PRH and some of their advocates attended the South Bank event. This relationship, set up for the book, is now ongoing, and has also provided a legacy which is an issue so important to Michelle Obama.

In the week leading to the Michelle Obama visit, the team partnered with GalDem. They partnered on a pop-up shop in Bloomsbury with a programme of events themed to issues that Michelle Obama cared about.

The team also identified the top influencers in different segments, putting careful thought into how to reach and work with them. With the book under strict embargo, they weren’t able to offer much apart from enthusiasm!

7) Don’t forget the audio

Read by Michelle Obama herself, the audiobook was a way to reach non-traditional book buyers. The team devised a plan for the year, including pre-order advertising and early excerpts online. They also offered an exclusive extract to Apple News.

Radio ads sampled the audiobook on Classic FM, and podcast activity has included sponsorship on biggest book podcasts.

BOTW on Radio 4 coincided with launch of the BBC Sounds App – a happy coincidence but also another chance to use the audio.

8) Maximise events

There were two events – one with the Elizabeth Garrett School and a sell-out event at the Southbank Centre.

The team worked with PRH Audiences at both events – capturing content and data, and leading the conversation online. The school talk was videoed and bundled with curriculum resources to send to teachers for classroom use.

Giant banners provided great photo opportunities while they were able to invite Influencers to the Southbank as a thank you for all their support.

Those are the things WE took away, but we’d love to know: What were your key learnings from the presentation?

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