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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

Photo credit: Anthony Upton/Photocall Productions.

Five tips for successful charity partnerships

Last week I had the huge privilege of working with the team at Oxfam to launch a new partnership between the aid and development charity and Riot client, Moomin Characters.

The partnership centres around Moomin creator Tove Jansson’s short story The Invisible Child, which is about a little girl who turns invisible after being badly treated by the woman supposedly caring for her – but reappears and regains her place in the world after being shown kindness and respect by the Moomin family. The book is on sale at Waterstones, Oxfam shops and the Moomin Shop Covent Garden with the full £4.99 price going to support Oxfam women’s projects worldwide. It has already been a huge success, with a reprint of the book being ordered just three days after the launch thanks to such high sales.

Planning the launch got me thinking about the potential pitfalls of partnerships, so here are my top five tips for making sure your charity link-ups really make a difference:

1. Authenticity.  The partnership between Moomin Characters and Oxfam came about in an organic way, and fortunately it was a very natural fit – the two organisations hold the same values of compassion, kindness, tolerance and respect for others, and the story of The Invisible Child mirrors Oxfam’s women’s projects so well. If you’re tasked with identifying potential charity partners for your clients, make sure there’s depth and logic behind your suggestions – and that you’re not just doing it because it looks good.

2. Occasion.  Partnerships such as the Moomin/Oxfam one require the generosity and hard work of a whole range of people. A launch event is a great way to not only announce your partnership to the media, but also to thank and reignite the enthusiasm of everyone who has contributed to making it a reality. We launched The Invisible Child campaign at the Finnish Ambassador’s Residence in Kensington Palace Gardens, where the Ambassador gave a speech about how the partnership was fitting given Finland has always been a leader in women’s rights (adding to the campaign narrative) and videos of Oxfam’s women’s projects were shown (reminding everyone of the reason we were there).

3. Collaboration.  PR doesn’t work in isolation, so it’s crucial to mobilise as many networks as you can to help create noise. Waterstones and Oxfam both briefed their shops to share news of the campaign across their social media channels and we were blown away by how enthusiastically they rose to the challenge with photos of the beautiful in-store displays they had created. We also worked with Moomin.com to arrange for the story to go live simultaneously in English, Finnish and Swedish across all its channels. Provide your partners and supporters with assets as early as possible so they can plan their own communications.

4. Appropriate ambassadors. Right at the beginning of the campaign we briefed Oxfam on the demographics of Moomin fans so that they could find someone from their amazing network of celebrity champions who matched that and could connect both audiences. That person was the brilliant Gemma Cairney, who spoke so passionately about her trips to visit Oxfam projects at the launch event. Gemma’s very genuine engagement with Oxfam’s work was what made her the perfect person to front the campaign. We also provided Moomin goody bags, including copies of The Invisible Child, for Oxfam’s wider network of supporters, so that they could share news of the campaign on social media. The total potential online reach of ambassador activity so far is a giant 2,343,000 people.

5. Persistence.  An essential quality for any PR person, but particularly relevant here when you’ve got a reasonable chance of being told by at least one journalist that charity partnerships are ten-a-penny. Don’t be afraid of returning to contacts you’ve already pitched to after the campaign has launched, letting them know how successful it’s been – it could be what they need to convince them to cover it. If your campaign is to run over an extended period of time, milestone announcements will help keep the partnership front of people’s minds and encourage more supporters to join the fundraising effort. As always, persistence is key!

 – Caitlin Allen, Campaigns Director