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Purposeful and beneficial team away days

‘We’re going to have a team away day’ is the sort of sentence usually met with universal groans from colleagues as they stare at the 5,000 emails and counting in their inbox and the To Do list running across ten pages. An entire day spent away from the desk can feel like a monumental waste of time (‘Remind me, how is shooting a paint ball at Gary from Accounts’ head contributing to our bottom line again?’).

But an away day done right, can have fundamental, long-lasting benefits to the development of an individual, team and business. They can meaningfully bring a team together, inspire honesty, allow for transparency, improve lines of communication, generate ideas and create solutions. We love an away day at Riot. We down tools for the day, put the out of office on and head out to an external venue where we can hunker down to get practical, get inspired and get fat on break-time brownies.

Riot’s 6 tips for a successful away day:

A clear purpose to the day is essential. Everyone needs to know exactly what the objective of the day is in advance. The agenda must reflect the purpose and not veer from it. The purpose of our most recent away day was to specifically focus on our new business strategy. The purpose of our next one will be skills consolidation – we’re all going on a negotiation skills course. Everyone in the company has inputted into the agenda of this course for maximum impact.

A realistic agenda carefully timed out in advance. The away day is an opportunity for the team not to be racing around feeling rushed, overwhelmed and deadline driven. The away day should create a sense of space and freedom for clear thinking and clear communication. Trying to fit too much in will leave everyone feeling harassed.

Set conscious intentions for the day. A powerful exercise to get everyone in the right frame of mind from the off is to ask everyone to share their intention for the day. What do they want to get out of the away day? What quality will aid them in that endeavour e.g. patience/openness/generosity? Lay out picture cards on the floor or pin them to the walls, random images from goldfish to rainbows, the Taj Mahal to a set of keys. Each person chooses a picture that represents their intention and shares it with the team. This picture is kept visible to them all day as a reminder. Come back to the intentions at the end of the day and ask everyone to reflect on how they achieved their intention.

Create a safe space for participation. A successful away day involves everyone feeling as though they made a valuable contribution and to do that were able to be honest, open and transparent. People need to feel safe to do this. A set of rules laid out at the beginning is a good idea and might include:

  1. reserve judgement
  2. no negative responses or behaviour
  3. every individual will have time and a platform to speak
  4. every individual’s contribution is valid
  5. ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood.’

Make the day fun, creative, unexpected. Remember the purpose of the day at all times, but within that bring the day alive with exercises, games, activities that challenge and excite. At Riot away days we’ve done everything from the spaghetti tower marshmallow challenge to a rock, paper, scissors championship to creating magazine cover stories. Each activity has fed into our higher purpose but has resulted in lots of laughs, chafed knuckles and tears of frustration. Not your average day in the office.

Invite feedback. Finally, always end the day with feedback from the team. A good old-fashioned bit of circle time is uniting and is a clear indication that you want to learn from your team.

Happy away day!

Here at Riot we LOVE a debut – whether we’re launching a new voice we know is going to resonate on a global scale, like we did with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, or running the “the UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (The Telegraph), the Desmond Elliott Prize.

Over the past six months or so we’ve had the great pleasure of working with the team at Hutchinson to promote a particularly special debut – Tara Westover’s extraordinary memoir, Educated. We were thrilled with the coverage, which included The Times Magazine, Observer New Review, Harper’s Bazaar, Stylist, FT, Economist, Press Association, BBC Online, Channel 4 News, BBC Radio 2 Steve Wright and BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, to name but a few.

To celebrate the success of the campaign and Educated becoming an international bestseller, we thought we’d share some of our top tips for launching debuts:

  • Having a book published can be quite a daunting process, so it can be reassuring for first time authors to get to know others who are having the same experiences. Shout out to Amy Baker and Rosy Edwards who run The Riff Raff, a community for debut writers. Getting your author featured on their podcast or in the line-up of one of their monthly events helps to build buzz, but also gives the author the opportunity to meet supportive peers who will hopefully go on to champion their work.
  • Identifying the right influencers and early adopters who can help position the book and generate word of mouth is of course crucial for a debut. Another shout out is due here to the wonderful Caroline Sanderson, who is such an incredible supporter of the books she loves. Having such an important figure from the book world on board can help you get cut-through in the mainstream media and Caroline’s early coverage of Educated in The Bookseller was invaluable to the success of the campaign.
  • A tip for your pitches – don’t be afraid to tell media what else you already have in the bag. Nervousness around this is understandable as worded badly it can make the recipient of your pitch feel like they’re late to the story, but worded right, and with the inclusion of a bespoke angle specifically for that outlet, it can help convince them this is going to be an important and high-profile book that they really should be covering.
  • Given that your author won’t have an existing fan base, you need your coverage to be as wide-reaching as possible. Focus on working with media to create shareable content. Two examples from the Educated campaign are this BBC Online piece, which featured on the UK and International homepages all day on the day it went live, and this video interview shot by the Channel 4 Digital team, which has been viewed on Facebook over 130,000 times.
  • Lastly, plan for longevity – how are you going to keep your author relevant and interesting to journalists beyond the publication moment? Are there any hot topics that you could establish them as experts on? If so, use the publication moment to secure coverage in special interest titles, such as the TES, which you can point to later as evidence of them being a respected spokesperson on those issues. This will help you secure additional pieces of coverage further down the line – for example, comment pieces on current affairs.

Caitlin Allen, associate director

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve been retained by Penguin Random House to promote the hotly-anticipated new title from global superstar Yuval Noah Harari, author of the multi-million selling Sapiens and Homo Deus.

Riot Communications has a long history with Harari, having handled publicity for his two previous books and, in the process, helped establish him as one of the world’s most exciting thinkers, with fans including Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg. Both titles remain in the top ten bestseller lists years after publication.

After illuminating our past and possible futures, his new book, entitled 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, will see Harari apply his trademark clarity, vision and refreshingly broad perspective to the here and now, helping us to grapple with a world that is increasingly hard to comprehend. Written in easily digestible, bite-sized chapters, it will take readers on a journey through some of today’s most urgent issues, including terrorism, fake news and immigration, as well as turning to more individual concerns, from resilience and humility to meditation.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century will be published on 30th August 2018 by Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Vintage, and Riot will work closely with the in-house team.

Joe Pickering, Publicity Director for Jonathan Cape, said: “‘I think it’s impossible to overstate what a phenomenon Yuval Noah Harari’s books have become, and Riot have been there every step of the way. We wanted them on board from the start with 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and are looking forward to working with them to make this the huge success it deserves to be.”

Co-founder and managing director of Riot Communications, Preena Gadher, said: “A writer like Yuval Harari – who combines such great depth of understanding with real flair and a lively, entertaining style – comes along once in a generation. It is a huge privilege to have worked with him, and the brilliant team at Vintage, right from the beginning of this journey, and we are so excited that this will continue with the publication of 21 Lessons later this year. It’s an incredible, vital read that will appeal to both existing fans and new readers alike, and we can’t wait to share it with the world.”

2018 has gotten off to a great start here at Riot HQ as this week we learnt that our La Belle Sauvage launch campaign has won a PPC Quarterly Award. Not only that, but we have THREE of our campaigns shortlisted for the Annual Award.

Judge, Steven Cooper of Waterstones, said: ‘I don’t think it was guaranteed that the publication of La Belle Sauvage would be the publishing event of the year, but this publicity driven campaign made it so. Successfully rejuvenating a beloved series of books relies heavily on the sensitive balancing of the old and the new, and this campaign did that across its various strands. Alongside extensive coverage across traditional media, the campaign also sought to reach new readers with ambitious, and successful, use of social platforms, Facebook Live and influencers. The events programme, which made excellent use of limited author time, perfectly balanced the need to reach large audiences with a sensitivity, through choice of venues and interviewers, to what makes Pullman’s work so special. The lead up to publication wasn’t without its issues but this was well managed by the team of publicists, resulting in the author and his book remaining at the heart of their message. Customers responded positively, and the standout publishing moment of the year was born.’

Two of our campaigns – World Book Day and Moomins – are going head to head in the Generic category, whilst our work on Philip Pullman’s smash-hit ‘equel’ La Belle Sauvage is a contender in the Children’s category.

The winners will be announced at a dinner in London of Monday the 5th of February. Keeping our fingers crossed!

Riot Communications has been engaged to promote the second volume of the smash-hit bestseller and agenda-setting book, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo.

The first volume – which celebrates the lives of 100 extraordinary women, providing real-life role models for girls in fairytale form – has become an international phenomenon. It was the most successful Kickstarter campaign of its kind, and has now sold over a million copies worldwide since publication last year. The LA-based authors decided to create volume two after being inundated by fans with suggestions for a second edition.

Riot Communications will promote the UK edition, published by Timbuktu Labs – the children’s digital media company created by both the two authors – on 28th February 2018, in time for International Women’s Day.

Favilli said: “Riot shares our passion for female empowerment and out-of-the-box thinking. They immediately understood that Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls is something bigger than a book and proposed a plan that is perfectly aligned with our values and our vision. We chose them after reviewing proposals from three different agencies and we can’t wait to start working with them.”

Riot Communications MD, Preena Gadher said: “We couldn’t be prouder to be working alongside Elena and Francesca, whose journey has been nothing short of inspirational. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is much more than a book: it’s a global movement for female empowerment, a sentiment that resonates strongly in our agency, so this is something of a dream project for us. Girls need exposure to positive role models in the stories they read, so for us this is more than a PR campaign: it is a moral imperative.”

For further information about the campaign contact Katy MacMillan-Scott on 020 3174 0118 / katy@riotcommunications.com