CAMPAIGNS: Publishing - Bloomsbury casts spell for Potter sequel

Client: Bloomsbury Publishing

Client: Bloomsbury Publishing

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Publicity campaign for the latest Harry Potter novel

Timescale: May - 19 July 2000

Budget: Undisclosed

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

held competitions.

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.

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