Report on the 31 October member meeting

It was a full house at October’s member meeting held in the HarperCollins’s office high above the city in London Bridge. We heard from winning campaigns from four marketers working across fiction, non-fiction and children’s, moving on to Steven Pearson and Lawrence Francis from Premier who shared tips on how to maximise earned media with examples from their inspiration Paddington, Game of Thrones and Durex campaigns.

The meeting closed with the announcement of the BMS Awards by Nielsen’s Hazel Kenyon and a round-up of #BMSShoutOuts and a 30-second pitch from Kate Neilan (Vintage) for the hilarious upcoming title, How to be Successful without Hurting Men’s Feelings by Sarah Cooper.

Rosanna Boscawen (Vintage) on Multi-Title: Vintage Minis

Up first was Rosanna Boscawen talking about the Vintage Minis Campaign, promoting a short series of small books from some of their best-loved authors.

The minis started with 20 titles in 2017 and launched with great success reaching sales targets. As well as beating their sales target for year 1 in 9 months, the launch titles also added a new layer to the VINTAGE brand, which reaches over 650,000 readers online. This year’s campaign was to launch 10 new titles to the series in April 2018.

The objectives were as much about brand visibility and growth as about sales targets. With the brand occupying both online and offline spaces, this created different challenges. Each title needed to be treated individually and work within the brand, as well as being targeted at a clear audience. The main elements of the campaign were:

  • Design: Keeping it fresh with new style photography of all 30 books.  The design was used across the campaign and shared with retailers. This ensured that as the online activity grew so that the spread of the mini-brand widened. Keeping in mind that everyone has different needs, we also updated the physical assets.  
  • Bespoke partnerships: The key objective was to make new contacts: we needed to identify the right partnerships to match the brand values and aesthetics on the selected 30 titles, which would help us extend the campaign activity. Five major partnerships outside the media were generated including:   
    • Grace & Thorn Florist: Before publication in April, we set up a competition for Mothers’ Day in March with florist Grace & Thorn where a bouquet and five copies of Helen Simpson’s Motherhood could be won. This was promoted through online adverts and social media and resulted in lots of sign-ups and reach of the target audience.
    • Foyles: Foyles was key to the campaign. The Vintage design team set up a window display at the Charing Cross branch of a bookshelf in the shape of a Vintage Mini, on which all the books in the series were placed. A video of Vintage Minis at Foyles Charing Cross was filmed setting up of the display, then shared across Vintage and Foyles channels which gave the brand a prominent position.
    • Emerald Street: Emerald Street achieved a major uplift in our list of subscribers with another competition
  • Influencers: Highlighted individual titles with influencers and showed the breadth of the list without feeling impersonal. In 10 days we reached 10,000 followers.
  • New retail channels: These included galleries and non-book outlets

This was very much a team project, from the series conception to the campaign execution. This investment from colleagues across the business was key in ensuring we met our objectives. We reached new audiences through partnerships, opened up the VINTAGE backlist to new readers, and secured prominent positioning for the brand, both on- and offline. We also gained invaluable insights from the campaign to inform future publications in the series.

Orlando Mowbray (HarperCollins) on The Doctor’s Kitchen by Dr Rupy Aujla

The Doctor’s Kitchen was launched in January with a medical doctor-author specialising in General Practice. The challenge was how to successfully launch a new cookery book into the competitive Health Cookery and fitness market and knew it was important to grow his brand as soon as possible.

How did we do it?

  • Core audiences: We identified two key audiences for our cookery title namely:  
    • Young (25-34-year-olds), ABC1, digital savvy, metropolitan audience, interested in health and fitness, frequently following other influencers on Instagram
    • A more traditional cookery-buying audience, which is older (35+), suburban and interested in cookery and healthy eating with more disposable income.
  • Core Message: It was essential to make the campaign work for both our target audiences. We surveyed a panel of readers testingThe Doctor’s Kitchen cover and proposition in the context of current healthy eating cookbooks, subtitles, taglines, blurbs to see which they engaged with and what they felt negative about. We then followed this up with an in-person focus group. The resulting phrase that resonated the most was “what you choose to put on your plate is the most important health decision you can make” so it became a mantra for the campaign, helping to balance the message between the science and food.
  • Partnerships: We filmed behind-the-scenes and recipe videos, released 2 free ebooks and secured partnerships with Stylist and Emerald Street as well as creating recipe cards promoting the book which we distributed at events and other relevant places such as with ethical online greengrocer Farmdrop to include with their deliveries to customers.
  • Collaborations with personalities/influencers. We built a great deal of advocacy among the trade and the influencer strategy was fundamental to the campaign to add credibility. We collaborated with relevant personalities with large social followings such as Joe Wicks and BOSH! as well as smaller but influential bloggers.
  • Podcast: in order to help build the audience and engagement, we worked with the author on the Doctor’s Kitchen Podcast. The first series was released weekly counting down to the book with branding tying into the book. Following the success of the first series, we invested more in Series 2, which featured interviews with experts in a range of medical specialisms and helped bridge the gap between the first book and the second which is out in the new year. The third series is out in the spring to coincide with his second book.

The campaign resulted in 32,000-unit sales (TCM) as of May (now at 44,000), exceeding the target of 20,000-unit sales (TCM).

Q:  Did you pay for activities? No, it was purely based on his social media following and after Apple joined in. We were surprised to see how much it grew.

Kat McKenna (Pan Macmillan) on Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This debut title by Tomi Adeyemi, an American Nigerian, was published on 6 March. The book was bought in a multi-publisher auction and came with a film deal already agreed. There was also at the time big discussions around diversity in Young Adult (YA) literature (and still are).

The five things we learned from this campaign were:

  • Identifying and targeting key audiences, Key audience stream is the super fans/trailblazers, teenagers/YA readers but the title was blessed with fantasy element so we could target the rising fantasy market in the wake of the popularity in titles like Game of Thrones. It was also important to reach Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) readers. 
  • Bringing a world to life. This book is a fantastic story so how could we get the message out? We approached the US team and they syncronised with us on the marketing. We printed maps within the book to give readers a sense of that world and created a global sampler strategy to build a buzz in the trade and align it with the US.
  • Global, Global, Global. We worked with global publishers. We had the same strapline, same messaging, and same samplers. We had monthly calls with the US team, which helped us to maximise the big moments in the US, such as the book being chosen by Jimmy Fallon Book Club, to amplify our social media conversations and convert those to sales.
  • Define a Brand look and stick with it. Sticking with a brand look helps to make it look like an established brand. We used it on all publicity, reviews by influencers and the podcast features to help build the brand. We also paid for advertising on the London Underground with the strapline on the poster.  
  • Keeping your brand in focus all year round.  We were flexible about budget pre-publication and achieved a good number of pre-orders.  The launch in March was followed by PR in June and a tour of the author in July which amplified the effect.  We worked closely with the author throughout and are currently working with them for a sequel.

In the marketing of the YA genre, one of the things that worked well was the different events we organised such as samplers at the Black Panther premier. There was a much higher proportion of BAME readers attending Tomi’s events than previously seen in UKYA events. It was heartening and very satisfying to find that our campaign had broadened out to a new audience.

Chloe Healy (Vintage) on The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This novel is about sex in Georgian society and commerce. There was a fierce competition for the title with nine other publishers bidding against us. The first challenge was marketing at the pitch stage. After our pitch, we were asked unusually to produce some more ideas, so we put together a two-year campaign and made our offer in Guineas and successfully won the book. We started planning 18 months ahead of publication as we were setting out to establish Imogen as an exciting and fresh literary voice and identified two audiences.

To reach these audiences our campaign focused on:

  • Booksellers. We knew we had a potential massive bestseller so booksellers were completely essential. Therefore a huge amount of the campaign was engagement with the booksellers for the long-tail campaign.
    • Walking tour: The book is a novel of London, Imogen staged a walking tour leading 40 booksellers around the locations of the books and ending with drinking at a Georgina inn. Imogen visited 52 bookshops, one for every week of the year, and it led to us having 20,000 books pre-sold on publication.
    • Bringing sight and sounds of Georgian life to London: we built a Georgian parlour room in Foyles which attracted the attention of shoppers and passers-by who stopped and took photographs. For the launch party, we turned Hatchards Piccadilly into a 1700s party scene by building two stages and sourced actors, costumes, make-up artists and props to recreate two key scenes from the book as well as actors in sandwich boards ringing bells and giving out tickets.  
  • News media: An announcement was put into the Evening Standard
  • Design: Vintage’s Creative Director sourced Georgian Textiles found original silks for the jacket which we used in everything, plus Hanbury jewels for press and campaign activities. Our MD gave all the staff the afternoon off to read the proofs and we encouraged them to use hashtags. It was noticeable that a bigger than usual level of Instagram stories appeared of the proof unwraps to show off the stunning artwork.  The first big thing we did was a VIP hardback print run – with a pineapple on the cover and had bespoke pineapple necklaces made. This was followed by an extensive paper printing. We also commissioned shell necklaces.
  • Partnerships: Floris Perfume, founded in 1730 on Jermyn Street joined in with a great competition prize which went very well.
  • Organised events: A Vintage party was organised in Cheltenham, a vintage breakfast around Imogen, and videos of the Imogen filmed at Dr Johnson’s House and the top books of the year newsletters to 300,000 Penguin and 13,000 Vintage subscribers.
  • International: We posted recyclable coffee cups at Frankfurt which helped with international sell in.

The publicity team highlights included interviews in The Observer, and The Times and The Sunday Telegraph, in which they showed off some of the assets we had created, as well as on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. The title was also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for fiction 2018. 60,000 copies sold across all editions.

Steven Pearson and Lawrence Francis (Premier) on getting the most out of earned media

Steven Pearson and Lawrence Francis briefly introduced themselves and Premier, a PR agency at the heart of culture and entertainment. Premier started up as a small entity focusing on the film industry, but now it has over 150 people working at the firm and it specialises in performing arts, television, publishing, gaming, consumer brands, and not-for-profit as well as the film industry.

Both speakers come from PR backgrounds and their talk focused on getting the most out of earned media. They offered three different (non-book) case studies which they hoped would give inspiration for lesser-budget book campaigns.

1. Paddington (2014)

The challenge of introducing a sceptical audience to a very different Paddington, and reach beyond the cinema audience.

The decision taken was to create a cultural moment of the film by having 50 Paddington bears created by artists, designers, and celebrities which tracked the bear’s favourite places in London.  The bears would then be auctioned off with proceeds going to the NSPCC.

The challenge was to identify the right celebrities and to find sponsors for each of the bears. Celebrities and artists approached included Kate Moss, David Beckham, and Julian Watson. We then made a video The Paddington Trail showing how this was done. Visit London came on board, which led to us being able to recruit Barclaycard as the head sponsor and they were able to find 50 separate statue sponsors as well. Some of the publicity was localised and some were national. Working with the NSPCC was a fantastic opportunity as it created authenticity. The results from a PR perspective were 700 pieces of editorial coverage, £500,000 was raised for NSPCC after costs deducted, and a twitter reach of 37m.

2. Game of Thrones (2014)

Premier had worked for the last eight years on GoT and we were now at a key moment of the life cycle of the series. It was necessary to deliver awareness of the home entertainment nature of the Game of Thrones and so we decided to change the name of the Hereford town Kings Langley to the fictitious Kings Landing from the Game of Thrones for one week in February.

This involved working with the local council and reaching out to local schools, businesses, and pubs all of which were encouraged to get into the spirit of the Game of Thrones. Fans took to social media to tweet photos of themselves at the sign, using the hashtag #KingsLandingUK.  HBO, the American premium cable and satellite television network behind the programmes, even had a competition to win a trip to Kings Landing. The budget was £1,050 and the only cost was changing the signage for the town, a traditional PR picture stunt, yet it resulted in good coverage within the US, in The Sydney Herald and spread globally. HBO, the American premium cable and satellite television network behind the programmes, even had a competition to win a trip to Kings Landing.3

3. Durex

Premier has worked with Durex on a global level and we were set a challenge to develop an earned media campaign focusing on getting young people to talk about sex, so it was crucial to focus on educational element and authenticity.

The main target audience was not broadsheet readers but young adults, therefore influencers were essential and were viewed in the same way as journalists. Our answer was to develop the “Durex Condom Emoji – Support an official Safe Sex Emoji!” campaign, which questioned why there wasn’t an emoji for safe sex and started a #condomemoji as part of a petition – a simple creative idea not requiring much of a budget, based on how everyone communicates using emoji.

By building simple funny assets including the video we would get the conversation going and hopefully end up being shared on social media. We just needed one journalist to see it for coverage to spread further. Petitioning to have a safe sex emoji around the world generated a viral effect.  For authenticity, partnerships were crucial so we reached out to health and sex charities including Terrance Higginson Trust etc. Durex also donated condoms to UNAIDS.

The results were huge. Over 1200 pieces of editorial covering PR value of approximately £15m. We trended on Twitter globally 15 times during 8-month campaign period with total reach of 350m. Winner of 9 industry awards. The biggest payoff was the building of the relationship with charities and the repositioning of the client.

To summarise, when thinking of PR think about:

  • Photography: Think about what a journalist will use
  • Video content: This is also important, as videos are shareable in the news generation – is there a broader angle that can be made news out of this?
  • Celebrities: Important to have a figurehead for your campaign
  • Social media: Do not just direct your social media to consumer engagement but think of who else will be reading it such as a journalist which can break the story
  • Events: Create engaging events
  • Influencers: Try not to always pay influencers and offer them something more valuable to them
  • Partnership: Try to broaden out your reach with partnerships

30 -Second pitch with Kate Neilan (Vintage) on How to be Successful without Hurting Men’s Feelings

The meeting ended with a 30-second pitch by Kate Neilan (Vintage) for the forthcoming title How to be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings by Sarah Cooper, a hilarious look at how women can achieve their dreams, succeed in their careers and become leaders, ‘without harming the fragile male ego’. For Halloween, what could be scarier than an ambitious woman? When the author told the title of the book to men, some said they were genuinely hurt, some were hurt but didn’t want to show it and some laughed. And for men if it piques your interest, there are “men achievement” stickers because You Deserve It.