Riot Communications’ Director, Adele Minchin, shares her thoughts on our recent campaign for Penguin Random House, staging Penguin Presents, and how we helped our client create their biggest brand moment of the year.
Once a year, the world’s number one publisher, Penguin Random House, gathers in the region of 1,500 employees from all areas of its business, to celebrate and showcase a selection of their authors, the breadth of their publishing and the power of books and reading to change lives. It is the one opportunity Penguin Random House UK’s CEO, Tom Weldon, has to address the entire business all gathered together in one place. It is a moment to communicate the brand’s social purpose and impact in the world, demonstrate how Penguin Random House is a cultural force and a relevant, exciting and dynamic media and entertainment brand. It serves to motivate, inspire, engage and instil a sense of pride and community in Penguin Random House’s workforce. Penguin Presents is one of the most important pieces of internal communication the company undertakes. We were thrilled to be hired once again in 2019 to help mastermind, project manage and execute this major piece of corporate communications for Penguin Random House’s biggest brand moment of the year.
The date was set for 6th June 2019 and the location would be the iconic London Palladium. The work started nine months in advance and was a herculean team effort.
Being clear of the objectives was a vital first step. We designed and led a brainstorm with the creative team at Penguin Random House to nail exactly what we were trying to achieve. Keeping brainstorms on track, on time, inclusive, open, safe and energised is crucial. Good brainstorms produce excellent results which should form the foundations of your work and be a consistent touchstone throughout your project.
With so many elements to putting a show of this scale on, building a strong team who would work collaboratively and creatively, with a shared vision and ambition was essential. With our colleagues at Penguin Random House, we identified a core team who would each have their own part of the project to own, shape and deliver. Working with people’s strengths, skills and expertise ensures you have a dynamic group of professionals who are focused on results for their specific area. Our role of communicating a clear vision from the outset, maintaining consistent communications, bringing stakeholders on board early and including them in decision-making and the creative process, as well as providing streamlined systems and processes for workflow management were all key factors of a successful outcome.
With clear objectives, a strong team and robust systems in place, there is space and freedom for the creative process to take place. Penguin Random House sought to move beyond the conventional sales conference model that is usual for the publishing industry where forthcoming books are presented with jackets and publication details, and instead wanted to challenge the traditional perception of publishing, providing an immersive experience for the audience, showcasing Penguin Random House’s authors and their ideas with theatrical staging and a sense of wonder. Understanding this, we helped secure the right partners and third parties to make this a reality. The action wasn’t confined to the auditorium – everything from the invitations, the arrival, the refreshments and more was engineered to surprise and entertain. Having the right partners on board to bring your vision to life is essential.
The beating heart of a show of this kind is, of course, the talent. Getting the right mix of diverse, new voices, established literary figures, global thinkers, entertainers and agenda-setting, cultural leaders was a big and joyful part of our role. The communication of the vision, the detailed briefing, a sensitivity to and understanding of the people you are working with, as well as a clear expression of your expertise in talent management are all vitally important when handling talent. We were rewarded with an utterly inspirational talk from the world’s most renowned living artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, a superb appearance from Grime artist, Stormzy, announcing the winners of #Merky Books New Writers Prize, stand-up comedy from debut children’s author, Humza Arshad and much, much more.
The theme for this year’s show was Penguin Imagines with the aim of sharing a hopeful vision of how books and reading can have a positive effect on people’s lives. Here at Riot, we only work with clients who make a positive impact in the world. And so I’ll end with the words of Penguin Random House UK CEO, Tom Weldon, ‘I truly believe that Penguin Random House has a unique opportunity to shape the world for the better. When Allen Lane created Penguin in 1935, his motives were both ‘missionary and mercenary’. We are a proudly commercial company with a social mission at our heart. We can use our voice and the power of our brand to champion the causes we care about, be it freedom of speech, literacy or inclusion.’
We are still glowing with pride to have helped bring this vision to life. We are filled with inspiration, our brains stuffed with ideas and information.
Photo credit: Mike Marsland