Now in its 17th year, The Guardian Hay Festival of Literature and Arts recently expanded to include a standalone children's festival, Hay Fever, and other year-round events. It hired Colman Getty PR for the second consecutive year to drum up publicity about the festival and raise Hay Fever's profile. Objectives
To increase ticket sales, particularly for Hay Fever.
Strategy and Plan
Aware that many members of the festival's high-brow, literary target audience read long-lead magazines, the PR team chose to release the names of famous authors attending the festival five months in advance. As more information became available, to keep up momentum created by this initial burst of activity, the team picked out different aspects of the festival to highlight to the specialist press according to each title's interest.
Eight press releases were produced targeting literary, music, poetry, science, food, travel, political and women's correspondents on national, regional and local media. There was more focus on children's and parenting magazines than the previous year, and regional newspapers outside Hay were sent details of authors from their area appearing in the festival to provide a local angle.
The team liaised with agents and publishers of authors featured in the festival in a bid to get the authors to mention Hay in any interviews with the press, which provided opportunities for radio and TV to mention the festival before any B-roll or audio clips were available.
Since the media partnership with The Guardian made it difficult for the team to get coverage in other nationals, Colman Getty set out to garner as much coverage as possible in this paper, using its relationship with authors and performers to ensure the newspaper could cover the festival extensively.
But the team also made sure other national broadsheets and tabloids had opportunities to cover the event, providing unusual photo opportunities of authors, such as Jasper Fforde accepting his prize pig. The team was also careful to allow local Hay media the same access to celebrities as the nationals since, as the town's population increases from 1,300 to 80,000 during the festival, the organisers were keen to get local residents on board.
Measurement and Evaluation
The Guardian's coverage included an entire G2 section devoted to Hay, and more extensive news, features and diary coverage than in previous years. Seventeen other nationals covered the story, along with ten regionals, 14 specialist magazines and 14 foreign and international news outlets.
Broadcast coverage included a Channel 4 documentary, the BBC Radio 4's Today programme and a further six radio programmes. The Hay Fever children's festival also received coverage in ten national children's media outlets.
In total, there were more than 100 pieces about the Hay festival in the national press, excluding The Guardian's coverage, and more than 95 pieces in the regional press.
Overall bookings were up by 12 per cent on last year and Hay Fever ticket sales increased by 33 per cent.
'There was no bias at all towards The Guardian,' said Daily Mail fiction editor Hephzibah Anderson. 'Colman Getty handled everything immaculately and was extremely helpful at getting me access to authors and pointing out aspects of the festival I'd be interested in.'