In this digital age, an online presence is a key part of apublisher's identity. So when a corporate reorganization brought together theMacmillan Children's Publishing Group at the end of 2008, the goal of developinga digital snapshot of the new group was also hatched. First up in that plan isthe blog called Get to the Point, launchedearlier this year. "We came up with the idea when all seven of the children'simprints were merged under one umbrella," says Karen Frangipane, director ofmarketing and digital for the Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. "We begandeveloping a number of online initiatives and the blog was one of those. Someof the imprints already had an online presence, but we thought that the blogwould be a fun, interactive way to come together and present ourselves as one unifiedgroup."
Frangipane explains that at the outset of the planningprocess, "we assembled different marketing gurus from various divisions withinthe company, people who were regularly reading all sorts of blogs, and formed a‘blog task force.' " The group met regularly to discuss what kinds of things itwould like to see in a blog and designed a framework for its features and a schedulefor posting.
"We came up with a basic schedule of Monday through Fridayposts," says Kathryn Hurley, the blog's project manager, who is also associateonline marketing manager at Macmillan Children's. Soon, Saturday and Sundayposts popped up on the calendar, too. A typical week's lineup looks somethinglike this: Monday: an Events Post publicizing a book-related function and aTitle Post spotlighting a particular book. Tuesday: an Staff Post and a "What'sOn My Desk?" Post, both of which delve into the inner lives of staffers.Wednesday: a Booklist Post featuring company titles that fit a theme, and aThis Day/Week in History item. Thursday: a Title Post and a Teen Review of abook. Friday: a Year of the Book entry, which currently features four authorsfrom the fall 2010 list discussing the stories behind their work. SaturdaySketch: sketches from an illustrator, and Poetry Sunday: a selection from abacklist poetry anthology.
Having a blueprint of what runs on what days keeps everyoneon track and also provides organization for readers. "We try to tag posts asmuch as possible in case someone doesn't read the blog for a few days, or someonewants to find a particular entry," Hurley says. The task force plans outroughly six weeks of content at a time, then meets again to discuss what'sworking, what's not, and what to plan for the next cycle. The six members ofthe team share responsibility-each takes a week-for getting the posts into shape."The meetings are informal," says Frangipane, "and for a corporate initiative,it is pretty informal, as well."
The blog shines the spotlight not only on Macmillan titles, butalso on the people who work on them. Marketing coordinator Sally Kim has writtenposts about the presents (read: books) that she brings her nephews every timeshe visits them, posts that are replete with pictures and embedded video ofthree-year old Jonathan trying out the Priddy book Wipe Clean Animals. Ann Diebel, creative director of FSG andRoaring Brook, wrote about, and showed examples of, the visual evolution of thejacket-and title-of the book now called Birthmarkedby Caragh M. O'Brien, which pubbed last month. Author Barbara O'Connor wrote achronology, including photos of her workspaces (and pets), telling how long ittook her to write her fall 2010 book TheFantastic Secret of Owen Jester.
"We have a careful balance of content," says Frangipane,"and we wanted to make it really diverse." To that end, the blog's creatorsknew that many contributors would be required. That's where an "all hands ondeck" approach comes in. "We want to keep the blog friendly and personal andwelcoming," Frangipane notes. "Different voices help us do that."
Though some contributors are more hesitant than others, "mosteveryone we ask is willing to participate," says Frangipane. "We do go aboveand beyond to make it a good experience; to make them really feel a part ofwhat we're doing."
According to Hurley, enlisting colleagues to help has been agreat success-and is surprising and rewarding in many ways. "What we find whenwe reach out to staff," Hurley says, "is that people here have reallyinteresting jobs. It's cool to see what people do on a day-to-day basis." As anexample, she points to a recent "What's On My Desk?" piece by Steve Cohen, evp andCOO of the Macmillan Trade Publishing Group. In his entry, Cohen shows off some"Flatiron Building-related memorabilia" and other artifacts from his publishingcareer. Highlights include a window from the original FlatironBuilding restored as a picture frame,a London streetsign for St. Martin's Place (the inspiration for naming St. Martin's Press) that is believed to be 200 years old, a Civil Warcannon ball, and two seats from the now-demolished Shea Stadium. "You wouldthink that as an executive he would be kind of buttoned-up," says Hurley. "Buthe really had a ton of fun with it."
Frangipane agrees that staff blog entries are enlightening."You have the opportunity to learn about staff members," she notes. "You see adifferent side of them. They might talk about their outside interests, theirlikes and dislikes." And now that more people have seen the blog, potentialcontributors have begun to come out of the Flatiron woodwork. "Anyone who workshere is welcome to blog," Frangipane says, "and more of them are coming to usnow." In addition, many of those who have already written something are nowconverts and want to give it another shot.
Looking ahead, Frangipane says that the blog willcross-pollinate with the Group's Web site and digital newsletter to create marketingefforts that capitalize on the different strengths of all three digitalcomponents. Frangipane and Hurley also plan to take the collaborative spirit ofthe blog outside the company. "We're hoping to extend invitations tobooksellers, librarians, and educators to contribute as well." Frangipane says."We'd like to reach out to the industry."