Amplification station | The book business can learn from other industries, and accordingly the Bookseller’s Marketing and Publicity conference held a panel featuring Jen Callahan Packer, Director of Brand, Insight & Planning at HarperCollins (formerly Sky/BBC), Chris McCrudden, Strategy Director, Golin PR (formerly Midas PR) and Albert Hogan, Director of Group Marketing & Audience at Penguin Random House (formerly Universal), chaired by Preena Gadher, MD of Riot Communications.
So to begin, how different is the leap from the world of TV to books? “Books are sexy,” says Jen. Everyone is jealous when you work with books. It’s real, passionate and nice. Agenda free. She’s specifically impressed by the openness to partnerships. In terms of film, the difference was a shock to the system, but publishing is more paralleled to the music industry. There’s a core of it dealing with a product that could change people’s lives.
As a general observation, the standard of publicity is high on books versus elsewhere; it’s partially passion, but it also comes from the fact it’s a difficult industry to get into – which also ties into the diversity issues – and you have to fight to get in, so when you get there, you put in the work and more.
Outside of books, there’s two key category levels: first, you want someone in a supermarket, for example, to want coffee, then you want them to want your coffee. How do publishers fair on this brand level? Not well. They think on an individual campaign level – and on this front publishers outperform others – they have lots of little campaigns, but fail to make a case of books in general.
Trying to celebrate reading as a pastime more is key – they need to think bigger. What’s the bigger picture? Where is reading going?
Digital companies are hard to compete with because they want scale instead of profit. Audible is the exception in publishing – they’ve pushed Audible as a brand, but listening as an experience. They shout about books in general. Think about the experience and worldview, build a brand and talk about it everywhere you go. Mills & Boon are a key example of fame and meaning beyond a book.
Back to branding reading as an activity – it’s more than just cups of tea and cake. Film posters are pretty shouty, but they’re tailored to an audience need. Publishing needs to make some noise and be provocative. TV isn’t afraid to be, and neither should we.