It costs over 1 million dollars to put up the 4 day Jaipur Literary Festival; let alone profits, JLF does not even recover its costs.
If you ask “Why not?”, then you must take on the people who complain about making literature, the kind tightly bound in the illusion of people browsing in quiet bookstores, a commodity in every sense of the world. The kind where MBAs sit in rooms, pace through meetings and spend nights fretting about the bottom line.
The casualness of the JLF 2013 was visible everywhere – no wi-fi, boring food, a hum-ho lineup of speakers and topics, all this because the JLF doesn’t really want to sell in the real sense of the word. Through the prism of PR, however, there are obvious ways it can still sell.
It’s the simplest, and the most important message in any sales campaign, advertisement, slogan, but you did not see it at the Festival. Were there trailers for books, big standees advertising books, or a limited-edition box set? Or even a simple announcement to check out a stall? This is where Chetan Bhagat succeeds over the kind of big names invited to the fest; his books, with their bright primary colors, thin sizes, easily consumable words are designed as packages for sale.
Do the PR, and do it right
The PR strategy for JLF seemed well-intentioned, but maybe focused on the wrong core messaging. A few casual mentions in interviews , a quiet name-drop by the writers attending – and that’s it. Borrowing the popular ‘Field of Dreams’ quote, “If you build it, they will come”
- Sponsors will, because you’re creating value.
- More attendees will, because they’ve been engaged. Whatever it is the JLF could have sought to drive in their PR campaign, that’s what these potential audiences would have responded to.
Instead, all the common man knew that there was a literary event in Jaipur, and writers were speaking there, even though it was billed as the “biggest literary event on Earth.”
Successful PR is also important for clients to establish relevance. For example, while Google hosted the Google Mughal Tent, no one could make out why. Did Google give out free wi-fi to let people tweet (or Google +) about it?
Know Your Audience
The last-minute attempts at publicity were spread too thin. A cricket match between cricketers and writers to simply communicate that one past-his-prime cricketer (Rahul Dravid) would be speaking? It’s a watery, and very obvious “lets-get-some-coverage” that still gives us no reason to want to actually GO to the event.
Ask for Money
With a million dollar price tag, why is there no clear revenue stream?
It is not certain books would sell (Oprah’s biography didn’t sell, even as Oprah herself visited last year). Why not keep a nominal Rs.100 price tag to establish fixed revenue stream from the 1 lakh –plus visitors.
Hopefully, as the JLF continues to grow, the organizers will realize that growing the event and alienating your core base do not necessarily need to go hand in hand. The event is prized and cherished by the literature community and we hope that, next year, the focus will be back on literature.
Written By Kunal Anand for Image Management