Early next year the Harvard Business Review Group—which includes Harvard Business Review Press, Harvard Business Review magazine, and the Harvard Business Review website—will move, along with parent company Harvard Business Publishing, into a new space at Boston Landing in Brighton, Mass. The move to a one-floor, 125,000-sq.-ft. space—about a third larger than its current multifloor space in Watertown—is aimed at increasing collaboration within the HBR Group, which was created in 2011 when the press took on the name of the group’s best-known property.
The name change four years ago was only the beginning: in the intervening years, the press and magazine have begun working together closely. Ideas from HBRP books appear in the magazine, magazine stories go on to become books, and graphics from books appear on the website. “At HBRP, every book we acquire has to work in the ecosystem of the entire HBR Group,” said HBRP editorial director Tim Sullivan.
To create this publishing ecosystem, the book and magazine staff work together in teams, something the new offices will continue to foster. “We’re really rethinking the layout to be a more open and collaborative space,” said HBRP publisher Sarah McConville, v-p of marketing for the group. “We’re trying to create areas where you can do focused work.”
Sofas and chairs will fill open spaces that have large wall screens so that designers and editorial teams can view visual materials during meetings on the fly. A project room with laptops and tablets will let editors and designers test other kinds of projects, such as the toolkit with slide decks and PowerPoint presentations created last year for readers of A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin’s Playing to Win.
“If you think about growth opportunities in our category, we’re not going to see huge growth in e-books,” Sullivan explained. Instead, he sees toolkits, which contain a facilitator’s guide, customizable meeting decks, and real-world case studies, as a better way to satisfy the needs of the users of HBR Press’s books. It’s all part of the press’s mission to publish books that help improve the practice of business management. The press is also looking at other products to help managers share ideas from its books.
“We have a very good sense of who our customers are,” McConville said. “We believed that having a direct relationship and deep knowledge of our customers would allow us to better serve them and give our authors wider access to a valuable audience of influential business professionals. We invested in a marketing database and tools that, thanks to HBR’s magazine subscription business and e-commerce through hbr.org, now has over five million records of individuals who have a direct connection to our content and the HBR brand.”
The group can segment users by demographics—industry, expertise, level within an organization, company size, location—and in a unique needs-based segmentation at the individual level. “This helps us anticipate and promote the topics, formats, and product types that will be most appealing to [users],” McConville added.
While HBRP reaches out to consumers, they also reach out to the press and the magazine, and not just through the website. HBR Group is the largest branded group on LinkedIn, which restricted its community to one million members. And it boasts the highest social shares per story among top business publishers, according to NewsWhip.
That the press’s collaborative branding efforts are working is evident in the numbers. “We just finished our best year ever,” Sullivan said, noting that HBRP did this at a time when the business book market has changed significantly. Close to 17% of the press’s sales were direct to consumer; another 38% came from the international market. Although it’s still the biggest channel, less than half of HBRP’s sales come from retailers in the U.S.
This calendar year, HBRP will publish 25 books and will continue to build out its branded lines. In May, the press launched its first annual best-of collection, HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2015, part of a series of definitive articles from Harvard Business Review. It will follow up in December with HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2016.
December also marks the publication of the press’s first HBR collection of articles centered on a brand-name author rather than a theme. The Reader series, which will publish one book a season, will launch with The Clayton M. Christensen Reader.
Although the branded books have similar formats and bold type covers, HBRP will continue to publish nonseries titles that stand out thematically and visually, such as Get Backed (Nov.) by entrepreneurs Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis. This 9 in. × 7 in. four-color landscape paperback offers tips on creating a pitch deck and building relationships.