The Texas Book Festival celebrates the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination, experienced by more than 20,000 people each year through the annual Festival weekend in and around the state Capitol. The Texas Book Festival also produces the Texas Teen Book Festival, gives grants to public libraries, offers the Reading Rock Stars program to connect children’s authors with low-income elementary school children, and produces year-round literary programming. Brenda Thompson Communications served as the Festival’s public relations agency from 2012 through 2015.
Brenda Thompson Communications greatly expanded statewide and national visibility for the Festival by increasing media contacts and coverage, positioned it as one of the nation’s premier literary events, helped attract a new generation of diverse attendees and supporters, forged important and lasting partnerships, and exponentially increased its year-round engagements with key audiences.
Examples of our strategies included:
Created media lists with 6,000-plus key statewide media, national literary reporters, industry influencers, and niche reporters based on emerging themes.
Managed 167 media credentials for the statewide media, national literary reporters, photographers, and bloggers covering the 2015 Festival.
Created a new Festival announcement approach to obtain more media coverage by revealing a “sneak peek” author list with a handful of big names before the full lineup announcement in the fall.
Forged partnerships with local economic development and cultural organizations including the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Austin African American Chamber of Commerce, the LBJ Library, and Austin Film Festival.
Created a press section on the TBF’s website to house key resources for reporters writing stories about the organization.
Major media placements across the nation and in Texas
In 2015 alone, Brenda Thompson Communications garnered 2,118 print and online stories, and 574 broadcast stories for the Texas Book Festival. The total viewership of broadcast stories was 7,241,865, and the publicity value was $647,330.24.
Media coverage included:
256 unique features in statewide daily newspapers including two front-page spreads in the Austin American-Statesman, a three-page article in the Dallas Morning News, and dozens of features in the Austin Chronicle, among others.
Six Associated Press stories picked up across the United States by 753 media outlets.
19 national features in publications such as the New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Los Angeles Times, Bustle, Publisher’s Weekly, Lithub, AARP The Magazine, Travel + Leisure, USA Today, CNN International, and Entertainment Weekly.
42 features in magazines including Garden & Gun, Texas Monthly, Texas Highways, AAA Journey, Austin Monthly, Tribeza, and Arts & Culture Texas.
24 radio and podcast interviews with Festival authors and TBF’s leadership team including on National Public Radio, The Lit Up Show, KAZI Book Review, KUT, KOOP Writing on the Air, and more.
57 television interviews, six television stations on-site providing live coverage, and all-day national broadcasts by C-SPAN BookTV on both days of the Festival.
1,042 website news items and blog posts.
Expanding social media content and engagement
Brenda Thompson Communications created the year-round editorial calendars and all of the content for the Festival’s social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, and started its Instagram and Pinterest accounts. We established an official hashtag (#TXBookFest) that gained 521,305 impressions during the 2015 Festival, and exponentially increased engagement. Social media accomplishments in 2015 included:
Instagram fans increased by 859 percent—from 143 to 1,420.
Facebook fans increased by 101 percent— from 5,557 to 11,173.
Twitter fans increased by 57 percent– from 6,057 to 9,549.
Campaigns for the Festival’s 20th anniversary, and the new Texas Teen Book Festival
Brenda Thompson Communications created public relations campaigns for two major milestones in the Festival’s history: its 20th anniversary in 2015 and its acquisition of the Texas Teen Book Festival in 2014.
For the Festival’s 20th anniversary, 20 stories were collected from prominent Festival authors, attendees, volunteers, and supporters. We shared these stories on social media and the blog, in a life-size timeline at the Festival, and recorded stories in the studio for NPR’s Texas Standard radio show. Brenda Thompson Communications also announced 20 major authors at the “sneak peek” reveal event—20 authors for 20 years— which helped to create buzz and attention for the anniversary as well as the Festival.
When the TBF acquired the Austin Teen Book Festival and rebranded it the Texas Teen Book Festival, Brenda Thompson Communications managed the announcement. The first Texas Teen Book Festival under the auspices of TBF featured 29 Young Adult genre authors and drew 4,000-plus attendees. More than 150 YA bloggers, three television stations, two local newspapers, 11 major literary publications, and 78 school librarian blogs covered the event.
Crisis to opportunity for fostering and celebrating cultural diversity
When the Texas Observer published an op-ed criticizing a perceived lack of Latino and Latina representation at the Texas Book Festival in 2013, the organization came under scrutiny for the lack of diversity in its author lineup. Over the next year, Brenda Thompson Communications ramped up efforts to feature multi-cultural authors and books in social media posts, email newsletters, and story pitches to minority-focused reporters and outlets.
We had significant news releases translated into Spanish, and Brenda Thompson Communications garnered 52 stories in Hispanic-focused outlets. These included Latino Magazine, FOX News Latino, NBC News Latino, NewsTaco, and a front-page story in Ahora Si, among others. We arranged six interviews for Spanish-speaking authors on Hispanic television and radio shows including Univision’s Buenos Dias Austin, Telemundo’s Despierta Austin, and Radio Mujer. Additionally, we secured 14 African American-focused media stories including The Villager, Ujima Magazine, SoulCiti, Afram News, Black Issues Book Review, and Black Family Digest.
The increased emphasis on minority authors and topics helped to mitigate the damage and restore the Festival’s reputation as an organization that champions diversity.