Client: Bloomsbury Publishing
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Publicity campaign for the latest Harry Potter novel
Timescale: May - 19 July 2000
JK Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was
published three years ago, followed by two sequels. The tales of the teen
wizard have been a publishing phenomenon.
Their appeal to children - and adults - is unparalleled and they have been
praised for their invention and for inspiring children to read.
The latest instalment in the story of the adolescent magician, Harry
Potter and the Goblet of Fire, has been awaited by children, parents and
the media with bated breath.
To gain exposure for the publication of the fourth instalment of the Harry
Potter tales, and to sell as many copies of the book as possible.
Strategy and Plan
In February this year the publication date for the fourth in the series of
the Harry Potter books was announced as Saturday 8 July.
At the behest of the author it was decided that no pre-publication reviews
would be allowed, so as not to give away the plot to children in
JK Rowling said she would dedicate eight days to the publicity campaign
for interviews and a book signing tour. To create a visually appealing
campaign it was decided that the author should conduct a tour of the UK by
steam train. This fitted in with Harry travelling on the ’Hogswarts
Express’ steam train to his magician’s school. Bloomsbury liased with
Heritage Rail Traction to hire a steam engine, and with Railtrack for
approval of the scheme and to work out a rail route. The train was painted
red and branded the ’Hogswarts Express’.
Before the tour, Bloomsbury invited national newspapers to pitch for an
exclusive pre-publication interview with Rowling. The Times won the pitch
and was granted an interview in May, which was also published in the
Railtrack only approved the train tour on the Tuesday before the
Bloomsbury sent out ’golden tickets’ to bookshops across the UK. These
would enable children get their copy of the book signed on the train.
It was left to bookshops as to how they would give away the tickets -many
The train tour started on Saturday 8 July from Kings Cross station, where
the Hogwarts Express starts its journey in the books. Rowling arrived in a
blue Ford Anglia, as featured in the second book, Harry Potter and the
Chamber of Secrets. The train took Rowling to various UK locations -
Didcot, Kidderminster, Manchester, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Perth -
where children with ’golden tickets’ were allowed on-board to get their
copies signed. Children without tickets were able to queue separately.
Selected media were granted interviews on the train, including foreign
press and broadcasters. From 17 July further book-signings were held in
the South of England over three days.
Measurement and Evaluation
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire received pounds 5 million in advance
To meet the massive demand, many bookshops in the UK stayed open over the
entire weekend following publication. A lot of retailers have already sold
The launch gained universal coverage in the UK media. Media abroad also
covered the launch - including TV and press coverage in Australia, Canada
and the US.
A little bit of PR magic went a long way to ensure Harry Potter’s latest
adventure was a bestseller - although to some extent this was
The public and media frenzy did create some adverse media attention about
the volume of the crowds and the lengths to which children were prepared
to go to get hold of a copy. One woman at the Kings Cross media launch was
reported to have been restrained by police for dangling her child from a
30ft bridge to get a better view.