BOSTON: Book publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is telling the story of its evolution to a media company nearly a year after it emerged from bankruptcy protection.
On Friday, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said it bought Tribal Nova, an educational technology company that develops digital games, products, and services for pre-school children. The acquisition is the latest step by the publisher to expand beyond its textbook heritage.
“We're now focused on moving forward and looking at ourselves as a company that serves lifelong learners,” said Bianca Olson, VP of communications at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “We're looking at how we can deliver content to a huge range of audiences.”
Last month, communications and CSR head Mary Cullinane expanded her role to become the company's first chief content officer. As CCO and EVP of corporate affairs, Cullinane is responsible for driving educational content strategy and development, including new digital products and services.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is reaching out to national and industry press to talk about its plans for the future and Cullinane's new direction. It is also focused on executive communications and thought leadership discussing its transformation to a media and content company, Olson said. Next week CEO, president, and director Linda Zecher, who joined the company in 2011 from Microsoft, will speak at the Education Innovation Summit in Arizona.
The publisher launched CuriousGeorge.com this month, a platform that includes apps, e-books, and games for children, as well as digital educational resources for teachers and parents. The site has a large social media component, Olson said.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tried to position the bankruptcy process as a “new beginning,” Olson said. It reached out to customers, vendors, authors, and its 3,500 employees to reassure them of the company's future. Its communications strategy during the period included proactive media relations, social media, conference calls and videos with the CEO, and a dedicated website section for employees and customers, she explained.
“One of the reasons we were successful is senior leadership put communications at the center of things,” Olson said.
Fleishman-Hillard is the company's corporate agency.