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Thursday, March 1, 2012

When Should You Discard A Brand Name?

The PR firm I serve as chief marketing officer changed its name (Planned Television Arts) the other day while simultaneously celebrating its golden anniversary. Not many book publicity firms have been around for five decades and spent 50 years building up an excellent reputation as the leading book promoter in the nation. So why change your name now, you ask?

Good question.

Most companies change their names because of a scandal or tarnished image.  Or they are acquired by another company.  Not the case here. We changed it for several reasons.

First, our name was often referred to as PTA.  We often were asked if we’re part of the Parent Teacher Association.  Second, our name had the word “arts” in it, which made us sound like we only promoted high-brow literature, when in fact we promote every type of book.  Third, and most importantly, the name had the word “television” in it.  People either thought we were a TV station or TV production company, or they wrongly assumed we only promoted people on television. In fact, we offer a full-service menu of services:  TV, radio, print, and online.  We media coach, we consult, we write press materials, we do road tours, and we have many specialized genre divisions, such as: business, health, parenting/relationships, faith, politics, and sports.

We decided to get a name that is short and to the point.  It is one that truly reflects what we do – we connect people to the media, no matter what form the media morphs into.  I guess we’ll change our name again if the word “media” gets displaced by some new inventive means of communicating words, images, and sounds.

The old name served us well.  TV was a hot media in 1962.  The decade leading up to PTA’s formation saw record sales of TV sets take place. Gradually, TV commanded a larger viewership than people listening to radio or reading newspapers.  Today it’s the Internet that has our attention and captivates a combination of viewers, listeners, readers, and writers.  It’s a two-way, interactive media, where users are just as likely to generate content as they are to consume it.

We live in a new media landscape that continues to evolve. The book industry also is evolving.  And we evolve with it, name and all. As publicists we are asked to be chameleons, to adapt to the changing pitching environment and media landscape. As a company we have taken it a step further, to change our name in order to meet the expectations and perceptions of the marketplace.

But it’s challenging to give up a household brand.  The name is worth something to those who know us. We didn’t build it up overnight and it will take time before everyone comes to know MEDIA CONNECT (http://www.media-connect.com/)..

As a long-time employer who witnessed 26% of the company’s life, I will always have fond memories of PTA but I look forward to experiencing the benefits of a new era and new name.  Even though we have established ourselves as the biggest book promotions firm, the new brand gives us a youthful, start-up feel.

Often change is thrust onto people.  In this case we voluntarily opted for the change.  That makes it feel better to know you are looking to control your destiny, to take responsibility for your future. Time will tell whether we get to celebrate another 50 years but from where I sit the view looks pretty good.

For more info on our name change, read: http://clients.plannedtvarts.com/PTA50.pdf

Interview With Tim Coates, Founder Of Bilbary

1.      Tim, what is Bilbary and why should book publishers know about it? www.bilbary.com is a new public website upon which we are placing all the e-books in the world that publishers will allow.  The books are to sell or to rent - depending on the wishes of the publisher.

Pricing arrangements are determined by the publisher for both sale or rental, but in either case the publishers' income will be about 80% of what Bilbary receives from the customer. The site has its own 'discovery features and the intention is that the books can be read on any kind of device. Bilbary is working with large wholesalers, so it is possible for a publisher to go through these or to work directly with us. We will provide comprehensive analytics for the performance of every title and group of titles and free access to publishers to this information  for their own books. The site will be international but will respect territorial arrangements made by publishers

2.      What’s your background? I have been in the publishing and bookselling industry for over 30 years.  I was managing director of a number of book retailers in Europe including WH Smith and Waterstones.  I also ran my own large book shop in central London for several years. I have been a publisher; an editor of a series of history books and am a published author with a book coming out later this year.  I have worked in almost every aspect of the business including distribution and marketing.

3.      What is next for the e-book movement?  I really believe that the age of e-books is only just beginning.  The technical possibilities of storytelling and information provision, using eBook formats are immense and extraordinarily exciting.  Moreover e-books are much cheaper to distribute than printed books - we don't need distribution, storage, buildings and lorries and so many aspects of the way we have worked in the past.  There will be no returns!  Can you imagine?

4.      How can publishers, libraries and consumers co-exist?  Both reading and writing, of books, flourish like never before.  All that is changing are the activities that take place in between the two.  Of course there is a role for book stores, publishers and libraries-  they may change slightly what they do-   but the fundamental is the same - and readers are receiving new kinds of service which are extremely useful.

5.      What are the rewards and pitfalls of the changing landscape for the book publishing industry? The benefit in the long term is extraordinary and instant access for readers to the enormous canon of worldwide literature - at a much reduced cost. One pitfall that everyone sees lies in the transition from an industry which is almost entirely of work in print to that which is partly in eBook form -  it is a difficult transition to manage.

However there are other issues that are not so often mentioned.  I believe that in order for the e-book market to be self sustaining there needs to be a very substantial in the conversion of backlist material into e-book form.  One the qualities that make books a more attractive medium for information and entertainment is the extent and extraordinary variety in the heritage of written material.   It isn't sufficient for the industry to concentrate sales in front list - that is not, actually, what we do best. 

The second important development is the need for an understanding that the move to e-books is not essentially a technical one- it is one about access.  That means that for some of the largest groups of readers; children and older people, for example, the excitement of first adopter technical devices like tablets and multi-purpose readers is not what matters.  What really is important is the availability of the entire work of their favorite authors on reading devices they can afford and do not have to worry about.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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