(notes from the SYP Conference 2008)
PR and marketing
What is PR?
At its most fundamental, it is
• Getting to your target audience with the righ message about your product
• Defining what your message is and who you target audience is and what they are likely to read/watch/listen to/download
• and communicating that message (often via a press release or statement sent to a journalist with the relevant brief) to the target audience through editorial (not paid for) coverage in the press, broadcast outlets and online
What's PR like in a publishing house?
• PR is a shared pursuit. Word of mouth starts in house; creating a buzz is a team effort – editorial, sales, marketing and PR all working together. And before the manuscript even reaches the PR department, the campaign to promote that book and author should have already started.
• The Publicity department generally sits between editorial and sales, usually allied with the marketing department
• The publicity career path generally progresses from Publicity Assistant to Publicity Executive, Press Officer, Publicity Manager, and Publicity Director.
Why you should plan your PR campaign
• Only by planning can you take control of a campaign, give your book or author the best chance in a competitive marketplace
• Timeline – this should cover the complete life of a campaign, from proofs and long lead magazine coverage to publication and beyond and should tie in with the sales and marketing activity
• Meet the author – discuss angles including potential news angles; assess whether the author is good interview material or whether he or she is able to write related pieces for the press
• Serialisation is often handled by rights director or agent and has to be worked into the PR campaign. Sometimes you will not be allowed to send out proofs or review copies until a serialisation has run so the PR strategy and timeline should take this into account.
• Think about lead times and when you need to approach individual media –
o Trade press – needs to be done several months before publication to help with sell in
o Long lead magazines – at least six to three months
o Forward planning for broadcast – six weeks
o Weekend supplements and weekly magazines – at least eight weeks
o Features – six weeks
o Books pages – a minimum of four weeks
o News stories – one-two days but with a diary alert
o Broadcast lead-times vary, but initial approaches should be made in good time. Popular book promotion vehicles like Start the Week get booked up quickly, particularly at busy times of year
How Can I Make my Campaign stand out?
• Don't just think about book reviews – there is limited space on books pages, and the books pages are not the most read part of the newspaper
• Features – includes interviews with the author, interview slots such as the 60 Second Interview in Metro, How we Met in the Independent on Sunday; written pieces – from the comment page to general features about the book; picture extracts; inside the author's home; etc
• News stories – think about whether there is news story in the book – a new discovery, new theory – or something newsworthy about the author
• Festivals, shop events and other speaking opportunities still provide excellent vehicles for author promotion but you need to think carefully about whether they are cost-effective
• The Web has become hugely important to national newspapers and broadcast, bringing with it 24 hour rolling news and a hunger for content. A recent report revealed that 45% of the 15-44 age group read online news on a daily basis, compared to 38% who read print products
• Consider how to use the web – does the author have a website or on MySpace or Facebook page? What about a Wikepedia entry?
• Don't forget to engage bloggers who write about books online – or about the subject areas covered by the book. And use your company website as creatively as possible
How to get your message right
• Your press release needs to say what you want to get across, but also needs to fit with the agenda of the media you are pitching to. It needs to be the kind of thing they would cover on their pages or on their airwaves
• This might mean tailoring your message for different media
• Don't assume emailing a press release out has done the job for you – one journalist said recently he gets 400 emails a day and only 3 phone calls. You still need the human touch
• The first paragraph should put the main point of the story across – it needs to grab the journalist's attention because, if it doesn't, they are unlikely to read more than the first two paragraphs
• Use bullet points for emphasis
• Keep the press release brief and to the point
• Avoid jargon
• Avoid value judgements eg "˜the most interesting book ever'
• Avoid second person eg "˜this will change your life'
• Make sure you have all the necessary info – contact details including phone and email, and, where relevant, dates, times, and venue
• Tell people when you've something's gone well. Make sure not only the author and agent knows but your sales and marketing department, the editor, the Chief Exec if needs be. There are, of course, systems you will use in house.
• And if you are finding a campaign difficult, don't keep it to yourself. Talk to your colleagues, talk to your marketing department and work out a solution or a way through.