Our worlds – media, culture and campaigning – have been much in the news recently. We’ve had the Leveson inquiry, the investigation into Jimmy Savile and the BBC and then the clash between Maria Miller, the new Culture Secretary and cultural leaders throughout the country - and from Boris too - at the threatened cuts to the arts.
The world of publishing has had its share of headlines too, not least the announcement of a merger between Penguin and Random House. I regularly come across people who think that Four Colman Getty is purely a publishing PR agency. It’s not hard to see why, since some of us started our careers in publishing. And of course we have a brilliant portfolio of high profile clients in the world of books - The Man Booker Prize, Jeffrey Archer, Val McDermid, the Agatha Christie estate, to name but a few.
But in fact at Four CG we work across the cultural scene and cover most aspects of the arts world – prizes, anniversaries, festivals and exhibitions, museums and galleries, music, visual and performing arts. And that’s without even mentioning our campaigning and social media teams!
Still, publishing does remain a core area of our work and expertise, so we are much engaged with the ongoing shifts in that world, as the old order changes and gives way to the new.
Over the last couple of months alone, for example, I’ve come across half a dozen new business start-ups with different models to challenge the traditional publishing process.
Some of the new kids on the publishing block are already making an impact. Our client, Unbound, which was launched in 2011, is a revolutionary crowd-funding route to getting books published, where authors pitch their book ideas directly to their readers. Just this month, Sue Black proposed her new book on Bletchley Park and, with the help of a couple of tweets from Stephen Fry, secured the necessary funding in a mere five days. A slightly speedier deal than of old!
It’s the same old story, and now with an added digital spin. The big publishers get bigger – and smaller publishers spring up to fill the vacuum that’s been created.
The 2012 Man Booker shortlist was a case in point, a terrific example of the crucial role that small publishers can play. Amazingly three out of the six shortlisted books came this year from small out-of-London houses. As soon as the news was out, deals were struck with larger publishers, which is good news all round. But without the small publishers it’s quite likely that those books would never have seen the light of day - far less the glare of publicity that they subsequently enjoyed.
Moving on to non-fiction, The Samuel Johnson Prize has this year found a new sponsor, a philanthropist who is passionately interested in books, reading and literacy and whose wish is to support the prize anonymously. The BBC, who has been a brilliant supporter of the prize for the last decade, continued to be the prize’s broadcast partner with fabulous coverage on BBC Twos The Culture Show and on Radio 4’s World at One.
The awards ceremony took place a fortnight ago with a formal dinner for 200 guests at RIBA. NGS Explorer-in-Residence, Wade Davis, flew in from New York to be named winner for Into the Silence, his 10 years in the writing account of Mallory’s expeditions to scale Everest, against the backdrop of the impact of the Great War and British Imperialism.
It was one of the best years I can remember for the Samuel Johnson Prize and totally underlined our strapline: ‘all the best stories are true’.
The Right Hon David Willetts chaired the prize with terrific passion and energy… which neatly leads me on to another November highlight: Parliament Week. This is an initiative co-ordinated by the House of Commons and House of Lords, to raise awareness of Parliament and encourage people to engage with the UK’s democratic system and its institutions.
We were the first external agency ever to be appointed by the House of Commons - to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Big Ben in 2009 - so we were thrilled that the campaigning team was once again taken on for this project. The action–packed week, last week, offered a programme of activities across the UK looking at how and why the House of Commons and the House of Lords matter to everyone.
Finally, I’m pleased to report that The Four Colman Getty PEN quiz raised £21,000 last week. It’s a challenging evening – it’s a frighteningly hideously competitive event with all the print media out for blood, and with brain-numbing questions. And all in such a good cause. As the sponsor I’ve always felt that it would be rude to win – which is just as well since we tend to come in near but never at the top…
I’ll leave you with one of the questions from the night. What food can be cooked in more than a hundred ways? Please do not send me answers on a postcard…
Being Scottish, I’ll be celebrating Hogmanay at this time next month so you’ll hear from us again in January. Meantime I hope you have a happy and peaceful holiday.