Joel Rickett, who writes for The Bookseller, gave me a helpful run-down on why World Book Day has been such a success for UK book publishing and bookselling. Right at the heart of its success has been the ‘incredibly potent voucher scheme’ which puts a £1 book token in the hands of millions of children each year. This focus was a masterstroke because, from the off, it secured the goodwill of parents and teachers. Joel points out that there is now a very effective team, with a degree of operational independence, running the event, and the PR has been very strong, led by the prominent publishers and orchestrated by Liz Sich at Colman Getty. The PR has been very effective, but it does not always work (the attempts to focus on adult readers have been less successful than the school-targetted projects) and it is key to success to keep ringing the changes. Each year there is a fresh angle. Joel points out that the local PR has also been very effective, with author appearances at hundreds of bookshops up and down the country.
So far this informal inquiry has four take home messages for the first Magazine Week: (1) focus on a core, other-directed (generous or altruistic), activity which is at the heart of the week:- whatever it is, it must not be too obviously a ‘retail gimmick’; (2) make sure that a good PR firm is in the planning — with a modest but adequate budget; (3) if at first you do not succeed, then try, and try, and try again….. and (4) encourage the good and the great who lead the industry (the likes of Nicholas Coleridge, Duncan Edwards, Peter Phippen and Sylvia Auton) to become involved and committed. Such a quartet could be the consumer magazine industry’s riposte to Gail Rebuck, Tim Hely-Hutchinson and Nigel Newton, mentioned in the last post.