Received SABRE 2009 Certificate of Excellence in the Digital category for creating and activating a Digital Community for Author Shobhaa De and the launch of her book, ‘Superstar India – From Incredible to Unstoppable’ for Penguin Books, India
Shobhaa De is an author who perhaps needs no introduction for most Indians. From beauty queen; scribe; cultural interpreter and sometimes controversial celebrity; she has done it all. A writer who is often referred to as the Jackie Collins of India, Shobhaa De has added glamour to the publishing industry with her tongue-in-cheek humor and documented some of the most interesting aspects of the Indian celebrity scene for all to read.
Shobhaa was now getting ready to launch her next book, ‘Superstar India – From Incredible to Unstoppable,’ which takes a more serious look at India’s incredible rise since independence 60 years ago and the aspects of Indian culture that should be cherished and those that still need reform. This journey has a special significance to Shobhaa as she was born 60 years ago during the first year of independence.
The Penguin Books and Hanmer MS&L team immediately agreed: The next stop in Shobhaa De’s career needed to be digital. While obtaining national fame, a regular columnist and writer of more than 15 books, Shobhaa De’s online brand was limited to a small series of pages on the Penguin Books India web site with biographical information.
This was untapped potential and her upcoming book and tour across Indian cities would be the perfect time to unveil a way for fans and critics to engage with Shobhaa De online.
This would be a first in the Indian publishing community and a digital first in Asia (as far as we can tell). While the use of social networks and other digital tools is still in its infancy in India compared to the U.S. or Europe, the momentum was growing in 2008. Some Bollywood stars and CEOs have blogs, but the engagement of celebrities, political notables is very limited and Shobhaa De’s campaign was bound to be a trend-setter.
There were some serious challenges to overcome and risks to consider. The primary challenge was to identify the right collection of low-cost online tools that would allow fans to feel a personal connection to Shobhaa, spark discussion while at the same time being highly credible. We couldn’t risk consumers questioning the authenticity of her online presence or the chance that detractors would “gang up” and attempt to spoil her interaction with fans with negativity.
Categories: A3 (India), B17 (Digital), C18 (Consumer Products) Program: Creating and Activating a Digital Community for Author Shobhaa De and the Launch of “Superstar India” Organization: Penguin Books Agency: Hanmer MS&L Program Story The Strategic Approach In addition to the challenges involved with creating an authentic online brand for a controversial author such as Shobhaa De, there was a more practical challenge as well: How to promote Shobhaa De’s digital destination and secure consumer interest? Research The Hanmer MS&L team immediately set out to secure a better understanding of Shobhaa De’s fans, Indian book readers and how to strategically connect an online destination to a physical book. This included a digital audit of consumer comments online to uncover potential topics of interest related to Indian authors, Shobhaa De. A media audit was conducted to understand past reactions to books on Indian society and how Superstar India could be positioned. Finally, an audit of online digital tools in India and their various audiences, popularity and features was conducted to identify those with the highest potential for reaching Shobhaa De and book fans in authentic ways. Strategy: A multi-part strategy designed to build a digital brand, promote the campaign and engage fans was set: Target Audience and Program Insights Shobhaa De as a writer has influenced the minds of the younger generation and they connect with her well. Her tongue-in-cheek humor often takes many by surprise and she has no qualms about using dramatic and stimulating language when describing the sexual escapades of Bollywood stars or the issues in Indian society today. In fact, Shobhaa is known as one of the pioneers of “Hinglish,” a mixture of English and Hindi, that is popular across Indian society today. When looking at the intended audiences one thing immediately became clear: multiple forms of media and interaction would be needed to bring to life Shobhaa’s personality and brand online. Consumers would need to be able to see, hear, exchange and get to follow aspects of Shobhaa De’s life, creative process and opinions in order for the campaign to be a success. To address perhaps the most important audience essential to the campaign’s success, the Hanmer MS&L team worked closely with Penguin Books, Shobhaa De and her manager to uncover the authors personal goals related to interacting online fans, any key requirements and to discuss some of the risks involved with negativity or a perceived lack of authenticity with online celebrity interaction. The research and interaction with the author helped not just to shape an engaging digital strategy, but one that the author was committed to being a part of. Objectives are listed on next page CONFIDENTIAL – Not authorized for public distribution
Design a digital campaign with a single “home base” for Shobhaa De’s digital life, but connect relevant tools and media to this destination to allow fans to discover and interact in multiple ways
Commit to authenticity in every aspect of her online brand – from the information and exchanges to a desire to hear feedback and discussion
Promote the digital destination online using influencers and targeted outreach and offline, using traditional media, a national book tour and grassroots tactics
Engage with fans by keeping the online information fresh and interaction immediate
Monitor to uncover any potential issues and respond accordingly
Seek to learn and adapt the online campaign over time to focus on fan interests.
Creating An Authentic and Exciting Online Destination; Preparing for Launch
Facebook was selected as the most powerful “home base” for her online brand, delivering a way for fans to engage with the real Shobhaa De and offering Facebook’s powerful infrastructure to add content, widgets that interact with fans, photos, video and links to other sites. The website address www.shobhaade.in was created and setup to automatically forward to her Facebook profile, providing an easy link to remember, high page rank based on her name.
A questionnaire was developed by the Hanmer team for Shobhaa De to help populate her Facebook presence and several sessions were held to educate Shobhaa De about the various online tools that would be used, including how to use Facebook, Blogger, YouTube
Finally, content was gathered and a plan was set to keep the destination fresh. Videos were recorded of Shobhaa De addressing fans about her new book, photographs and book excerpts added and plans for Hanmer MS&L, Penguin Books and Shobhaa De herself to update with new content were set
Based on her interest, a simple personal blog was created for Shobhaa and training took place to familiarize with the blog publishing tool and recommended style.
All of these efforts came together to create a profile page and collection of engaging content that was developed by Shobhaa De, were revealing and interesting to fans. The Hanmer team helping to create the profiles, channels and infrastructure acted as a kind of project manager for establishing her brand.
“ This was our first digital program for an author or launch and it has been a success we intend to build upon for Shobaa De and others in the future” – Hemali Sodhi, General Manager, Marketing & Corporate Communications, Penguin Books India Program and Execution Objectives and Results Objective: Create a digital destination for Shobhaa De to interact with fans that is authentic, engaging and sustainable. Result: The personal nature of information, Shobhaa’s blog and the regular content ensured fans immediately fell in love with the site. The thousands of excited, positive comments have continued and have caused others to follow suit. Objective: Build an active community of 1,500 friends after 6 months that can continue to grow over time. Result: After just 2.5 months Shobhaa De’s friend count reached 1,500. After 7 months, 5,000 friends – the maximum allowed on Facebook and other groups/fan pages have been focused on to allow for more to engage. Less than 1% of Facebook pages achieve 5,000 friends and she is the first Indian public figure to achieve this. Objective: Secure media coverage for the digital campaign and add a fresh angle to the traditional book launch attention with this innovative fan opportunity. Result: More than 150 stories have been secured mentioning the digital campaign, URL across television (NDTV, CNN), print newspapers and magazines (DNA, TOI) and online portals (rediff, sify, indiatimes). Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. CONFIDENTIAL – Not authorized for public distribution
Influencer Unveiling and National Promotion at Launch
A month before her book was set to launch, the Facebook page, videos, photos and blog were unveiled in a low-key manner to Shobhaa De’s personal network, bloggers and through Hanmer MS&L teams. The key was to begin to build a base of users, interest and online engagement prior to launch and media unveiling so that at launch visitors would find an already active destination and want to join
Information about the digital destination for Shobhaa De fans and URL were included in all press materials and information about the book. Shobhaa De was also given talking points to use in interviews so that the author herself was spreading the word.
For the 10-city book tour across India, signs and small leaflets were created that promoted her digital destination and URL to visitors and fans, helping to secure targeted grassroots awareness at bookstores
Approximately a month after book launch, the number of friends, comments and visitors to her facebook page and content was growing rapidly. First 300 friends. Then 600, Then 2,000 and still growing.
Sustaining the Activity, Online Content and Excitement For Fans
Shobhaa De began to blog regularly, sometimes every day, to publish a kind of journal for fans, with all posts linked across her Facebook page
The book tour was integrated into her Facebook page with countdown timers, event location, publishing of photos after each event for fans to see.
Fresh book excerpts and photos were unveiled regularly and new Facebook features were added based on requests from fans; media coverage about the book was also integrated
The growing number of friends on her profile and members of her group and fan page were also messaged through Facebook 2-3 times per month to share news, updates and maintain interest
Comments were monitored so that the hundreds of questions and feedback could be easily shared with Shobhaa De and she was encouraged to respond via her blog or with status updates and messages, over time becoming more and more comfortable checking and responding on her own
Objective: Drive awareness and traffic for her Facebook page using YouTube, Blogger, Search Engine Marketing to create high page rank and popularity across the web. Result: Shobhaa De’s Facebook page, blog and YouTube channel all show up in top 10 Google results for “shobhaa” or “Shobhaa De”, even displacing some negative publicity from her past. Objective: Position Penguin Books as an innovative publisher and engage their distribution network in a new way to help promote author, events and ultimately sales. Result: The reaction from retail partners was ecstatic and the initiative helped to strengthen several relationships; the book tour took on a new twist and sales were positively impacted as a result of this campaign.* * Unable to disclose sales figures due to legal agreements in place Facebook Friend Comment