Friday, 17 October 2014

A Day In the Life Of… Harrison Kelly, Managing Director of Flatcap Asia

Harrison at the Jaipur Literature Festival
A Day In the Life Of...invites people involved in book selling and the publishing industry in Asia to describe a working day.

Flatcap Asia is a Hong Kong based arts and literary PR agency for Asia. The company works with a range of global clients from the creative industries including BBC World News, ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, Random House UK, Harper Collins, BAFTA, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the British Council. Harrison Kelly founded Flatcap Asia in 2010.

“I usually start my day around 7am. I have a bad habit of reading all my emails on my iPhone immediately when I wake up whilst still sat in bed. If it’s a particularly busy day this takes up valuable time as I usually have to re-read them all again in the office before I reply.

On Monday mornings I like to arrive at the office for around 8am. Flatcap is based in The Hive, a co-working space in Kennedy Town, just a short 10-minute commute from my apartment on Hollywood Road.

When I arrive at the office, I re-read all my emails and reply to most of them before 8.30am which is when Charlotte, Senior Consultant at Flatcap Asia, arrives. Charlotte and I will then discuss how the campaigns for several of our clients are going, and set out the priorities and tasks for the week ahead.

At the moment we are managing a title campaign in the East Asian press for Tim Clissold’s latest book Chinese Rules on behalf of Harper Collins. As the books pages in newspapers are increasingly being cut, it’s our job as a PR agency to get the book and the author out of the books pages and mentioned across other sections of the media where the author may find a new readership – in the opinion pages, or the lifestyle pages for example.

We often have to think of creative angles to get a journalist’s attention and interest in writing about a book – particularly if it is a fiction or literary fiction title, which is only published in English and isn’t set in Asia or by an Asian author.

Mid-morning, I usually have a conference call with one of our regional clients such as BBC Global News to catch up with their team and update them on the PR campaign. Although we specialise in literature, we represent clients from across the creative industries whether it’s TV, film, journalism, theatre or education.

When lunchtime arrives – often all too quickly – I tend to head into Central two or three times a week to catch up with a journalist, a sponsor or a client. Public relations really is an industry built on relationships, so it’s always good to meet up with colleagues for a good chat and a nice lunch deal – of which there are many in Hong Kong.

At 2pm, I usually have a call with the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival team in Delhi. Through Flatcap I consult as Head of PR for the Festival, which is the world’s largest free literary festival welcoming 250,000 guests, 800 media and 250 authors over five days. It really is a huge logistical feat. My role is to set strategy and direction for the traditional and social media campaign of the Festival. I’m fortunate to have a brilliant team at Edelman India, another PR agency, that work on the ground in India handling the campaign on a day-to-day basis.

The rise of literary festivals in Asia is, in many ways, down to the huge success of Jaipur, which started with a handful of authors back in 2006. I actually began my literary PR career at the Hay Festival in the UK, before working at the Edinburgh International Book Festival right before I moved to Hong Kong. There is an indescribable magic in the air at literary festivals; it’s certainly an addictive energy for those five adrenaline-fuelled days in Jaipur each January. I am looking forward to visiting the Singapore Writers’ Festival later this month – but as a punter! – and seeing Naomi Wolf and Suchen Christine Lim, as well as browsing the Festival bookstore to discover the new contemporary voices of Singaporean literature.

Mid-afternoon I catch up with Jan and Louise who also work with me at Flatcap Asia. I don’t speak any other language except English, yet the company works on a daily basis in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese and so I am very fortunate to have great staff members who can execute this non-English language media activity on behalf of our clients.

Around 4pm, London begins to wake up and so when I see The Bookseller’s Morning Briefing ping into my inbox, I tend to take half an hour out to catch up on the latest trade news from the industry as well as having a look on Twitter to see what is driving the news agenda of the day.

Many in the publishing industry are nervous about the rise of e-books and the demise of print. Regardless of age, the data shows consumers still want print books. The key challenge for the industry is maintaining a workable revenue model which accounts for the changes in delivering published work to readers. I think it’s important to learn lessons from what happened to the music industry in the early 2000’s. Thought it’s hard to predict what publishing will look like in 12 months’ time, never mind in 12 years, I do think print will always maintain its place and be consumed alongside digital.  

In many ways, for marketers, the digital challenge creates an exciting opportunity as the traditional avenues of reaching an audience for a book are suddenly been disrupted (or complemented?) by other platforms, particularly social media, which allow readers to discover books, authors or genres they may never have come across in a bricks and mortar store.

Around 5pm, emails from our clients in the UK begin to come through and so I turn my attention to that. One client we work with a lot is BAFTA (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts). Since last year, BAFTA has been hosting a range of activities in Hong Kong, aiming to inspire the city’s next generation of aspiring film, TV and games professionals. It’s been great fun supporting them on the ground here in Hong Kong.

Towards the end of the day I tend to focus on more admin related activity. This can be boring things like sorting out my accounts or general business management, through to more fun stuff like pulling together coverage reports for our clients. I am working on two of these at the moment, one for StoryWorthyWeek, an annual storytelling festival in Hong Kong, and one for Susan Barker, the incredibly talented author of The Incarnations, which we recently represented. A coverage report gives the client an overview of the campaign to date as well as showing all the media coverage earned so far, as well as the reach and value of the coverage.

I usually leave the office on time at 7:30pm when I will head out for dinner with friends or head out to see a production by one of our theatre clients. There is a really strong English-language theatre scene in Hong Kong, and thanks to groups such as Liars’ League and Hong Kong Storytellers there is also a growing live literature scene too.”


Twitter: @HarrisonJKelly / @FlatcapAsia 

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