The An Post Irish Book Awards will be presented in Dublin tonight.
Making sure that they were in the forefront of all of our minds over the last number of weeks since the shortlists was announced and the voting started has been Breda Brown, PR Director at Unique Media.
Entertainment for Business is all about shining a light on the work that goes on behind the scenes within the Entertainment sector and this week, in the midst of the madness of promoting a major event like this, we grabbed time with Breda to bring you an insight into the role she has played in the run-up to one of the biggest nights in the publishing year…
Entertainment for Business: How has it been promoting the Awards under a new banner this year?
Breda Brown: Unique Media has worked with the Irish Book Awards since its inception in 2006, and currently manages all communications aspects of the initiative including the Public Relations, Event Management, Social Media and Stakeholder Engagement.
We are a team of book lovers, so we are delighted to work on what is perhaps the most significant event in the Irish literary calendar, as it brings together the entire literary community – readers, authors, booksellers, publishers and librarians – to recognise and celebrate the very best of Irish writing talent.
We have worked with the Irish Book Awards organisation over the past 12 years to grow the initiative from a one category event in 2006 to what is now a 16-category black-tie awards dinner for over 550 people. The fact that the ceremony is now televised on RTE, demonstrates just how far the initiative has come.
An Post came on board this year as the new headline sponsor of the Irish Book Awards and it has been wonderful working with their in-house communications team for their inaugural event.
Our challenge was to ensure that a range of internal and external stakeholders were aware that An Post had taken over the sponsorship. We achieved this through consistent and clear communication across a number of channels with these stakeholders, which includes readers, publishers, authors, agents, booksellers and the media.
As well as the headline sponsor, we also have a range of category sponsors, including great brands such as Specsavers, EUROSPAR, Love Leabhar Gaeilge, Eason, Bord Gais Energy and National Book Tokens. Unique Media liaises with sponsors throughout the planning and execution of the event, ensuring their requirements are met.
We also have a range of media partnerships in place. Unique Media brokered all of these arrangements with RTE Radio1, Ireland AM on TV3, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and The Journal. We also manage this activity on an ongoing basis. This year, RTE came on board as the Official Media Partner for the An Post Irish Book Awards and has done a wonderful job of promoting the initiative across its radio, TV and digital channels.
A few years ago, Unique Media successfully negotiated with RTE to have the ceremony televised and we now work with the broadcaster to ensure all is in order for this to take place. An hour-long highlights programme is broadcast and achieves very high viewership figures, bringing the initiative to an even wider audience. We act as a liaison between the Irish Book Awards, their camera crew and RTÉ during the commissioning, filming and post-production phases of production of the TV show.
Is the mainstream media as respectful of awards based on popular taste and voting as opposed to those that are judged?
Yes. We have found that the Irish media are extremely supportive of any initiative that promotes books. Media coverage has grown year on year, with wide support and positive reporting from key journalists across the features, news and arts sections of national and regional media
The entire campaign achieves its annual aim of putting books firmly on the agenda and highlighting the wealth of writing talent we have in Ireland. We know this because public voting has increased every year – with over 60,000 now voting, showing that consumers are very much aware of the initiative.
Do you feel that the authors are especially engaged?
The authors and the wider industry were delighted to hear that An Post had come on board as the new sponsor for the Irish Book Awards, as it secured the future of the initiative, which is a not-for-profit organisation.
Without sponsorship, this event wouldn’t happen, so that is why it is wonderful to have such an iconic Irish brand backing the event
Do you feel they do enough to promote themselves or is that a different skill set that they leave to publishers?
Social media has proved to be a very important publicity asset for authors. It gives them a direct channel to their readers, and readers get to know them better through these forums. This, combined with the work done by their publishers to secure media coverage across traditional and online outlets, has helped authors to increase their brand awareness, in both domestic and international markets.
Which of the books shortlisted this year have you read and that you think will be popular in the awards?
I’m a serious book lover and have read quite a range of the titles on the shortlist this year.
Each year, I’m always blown away by the exceptional quality of writing that we, as a small nation, produce every annually. We just get better and better. Whereas once we were known purely for our literary work, we now have a wonderful range of successful writers across a variety of genres such as crime, popular fiction, non-fiction, sports and children’s books.
I review crime novels for the Sunday Independent, so I’m lucky to get to read a lot of crime writing over the course of the year. I can hand on heart say that the quality of the work by Irish authors in this genre is outstanding. I have read a lot of international crime, and the Irish writers knock it out of the park every time with brilliant plotlines, characterisation and all round fantastic writing.
Tell us a little more about Unique Media and the clients you work with?
Unique Media is a communications consultancy which provides strategic cross-platform media solutions to clients from all sectors. The company is celebrating 15 years in business this year and we have a team of ten highly experienced and passionate people who love what they do.
Unique Media was co-founded by myself and Al Dunne, who, between us, have decades of experience in PR, broadcasting consultancy, radio presenting, radio programming, print and radio journalism and overall media management in Ireland, the UK and across Europe.
We provide PR, Media and presentation skills training, advertising services, video and Podcast production, event management and more.
As myself and Al have such a strong background in broadcasting, we have a fully equipped broadcast studio on-site which allows us to provide media training and presentation training courses, produce radio advertisements, produce videos and podcasts and also provide recording, narration and voice-over facilities.
Gay Mitchell, former MEP, TD and Minister for European Affairs, is our European Political and Public Affairs Adviser. He works with clients to offer objective advice and guidance on how to approach the often challenging political and public affairs systems that exist in Ireland and across Europe.
We are very proud of the fact that we have built extremely strong partnerships with many of our clients and have worked with them for a number of years. This is because we continually evolve with the ever-changing marketplace to ensure our clients always get the results they require.
We are trusted by some of the best-known companies and brands in Ireland and the world including Guaranteed Irish, The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, The An Post Irish Book Awards, Core, UPMC Whitfield, GSK, The Sunday Times and The Times, Ireland edition, Glanbia, Bibby Financial Services Ireland, The Pregnancy & Baby Fair, Boann Distillery and Boyne Brewhouse, Valeo Healthcare and Valeo Food. It’s a diverse mix.
How do you find the diversity of dealing with politics on one hand, entertainment on the other?
This diversity is part of our overall company strategy. We never want to be overly reliant on one sector, so we ensure that our client portfolio is spread across a number of industries. These include Healthcare, Financial Services, Telecoms, Media, Technology, Health, Sport, Legal, Food, Drink, and Retail.
This wealth of PR and Communications experience across a range of sectors has equipped us with the variety of skills and insights required to build positive communications platforms that connect with relevant target audiences. It also ensures we are in a position to offer a more holistic approach to any campaign we undertake for a client.
You have made strong strides in podcasting. Do you feel this is a medium with real growth potential over the next few years?
As we have a broadcast studio in our office, we are in a position to produce any required audio or video content for clients. Podcasts have become increasingly popular in the past few years and we now produce a range of podcasts for brands. For example, we produce the weekly ‘Greatest League in the World’ podcast for the FAI’s SSE Airtricity League. This is presented by Con Murphy and Conan Byrne and has received a wonderful reaction since it launched earlier this year.
We also produce the Inside Books podcast, which features interviews with people associated with the world of books such as well-known authors, publishers, editors, agents, critics, booksellers and more.
I present the podcast and love it, as it gives me a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people from the books industry. It’s released every two weeks and we have produced 30 episodes at this stage, featuring interviews with some great names such as Paul Howard, Anthony Horrowitz, Rachael English, Sarah Webb, Pat McCabe, Peter Carey, Jo Spain, Dermot Bolger, AJ Finn, Sarah Davis Goff and Lisa Coen, Sinead Crowley, Mary Kenny and Stefanie Preissner.
You will find the Inside Books podcast on itunes or on the SoundCloud platform.
Podcasts offer an intimate link to your audience. Listeners can access the content at a time that suits them and I believe we will see this area explode even more over the coming years. One aspect that is really important however is the quality of the production. I hear a lot of podcasts that sound like they are recorded in the bottom of a barrel. This is usually because the individual behind it has no sound or production experience.
You have to remember that listeners are used to hearing quality audio when they listen to the radio, and they therefore have an expectation of good quality when they tune into a podcast. If you don’t deliver on this, you will lose audiences very quickly. There is only so long you can listen to someone who isn’t even talking into the microphone properly. If you can get the content, the production and the promotion right, you could have a winning combination.
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Image Credit An Post Irish Book Awards