As part of #WorkInPublishing week, Clarissa Pabi, senior marketing executive at Ebury Publishing (Penguin Random House) talks to jobs in books about her career in marketing.
How did you start your career in publishing?
After graduating from Oxford University in 2012 I applied for lots of publishing and creative industry internships. Following several rounds of interviews at the then Random House, I was fortunate enough to secure a year-long internship via Creative Access at Penguin Random House. Creative Access is an incredible organisation and without them I don’t think I’d be where I am today. They work with the UK’s most successful creative firms and help young people, from under-represented communities throughout the UK, access careers in publishing, TV, film, theatre, music, advertising and more. Half way through my internship with Ebury Publishing, I was offered the newly created role of consumer outreach and marketing coordinator. I’m now the company’s senior marketing executive and won The Bookseller Rising Star Award 2017, an award which profiles ‘forward-thinking individuals from all aspects of the trade whose actions have caught the eye and who have been singled out as possible leaders of the future’.
What led you to a career in marketing?
When I was a student at Oxford, and also studying for my A-Levels, I worked on several extracurricular projects via marketing agency Livity; partnering on campaigns for brands such as Island Records, the Guardian, The National Theatre, Penguin and The Women’s Prize for Fiction. This involved me doing exciting things such as being a digital editor for Penguin’s Spinebreakers website (the first online community for young people interested in reading and writing), launching a zine with the Guardian after the London riots and helping shape some of the marketing direction for newly signed Island Records artists. I’ve always been interested in storytelling (which is what led me to study English Language and Literature at Oxford) and I knew that if I worked in marketing it would be marketing something that I believed had inherent value. Moreover I also studied maths, physics, and philosophy alongside English at A-Level and so I loved the opportunity that marketing offers to be creative but also analytical!
How did you progress into your current role?
Since I joined Ebury 5 years ago I’ve had 4 different marketing roles which I’ve loved: Creative Access intern, consumer outreach and marketing coordinator, digital marketing executive and senior marketing executive. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work on an eclectic range of books and global transmedia campaigns for the likes of Doctor Who, instamum Clemmie Hooper (How to Grow a Baby), Dr Edith Eger (The Choice) and the musician dodie (Secrets for The Mad). I won a Book Marketing Society award for my work on Dan and Phil's international bestseller The Amazing Book is Not on Fire, which included the marketing of the hardback, audiobook and a 20+ date theatre tour. I think that the success of my campaigns, and work I do around the wider business, has resulted in more responsibility and allowed me to progress. I think that I’ve also benefited from having invaluable advice from inspiring people within the publishing and creative media industry such as Di Riley, Natalie Jerome, Sara Cywinski, Josie Drobin, and Tamara Howe. Ebury publish the most incredible business and personal development books which have also helped me enormously. My favourite is Originals by Adam Grant, which I’d highly recommend (and not just because I worked on the marketing campaign)!
What skills and experience are needed for roles in marketing?
I think that creating something that results in a desired action from a group of people/target audience is essential in terms of experience you need in marketing. I think the key skills that can form this experience include originality, organisation, creativity, agility, strategic thinking, an always learning mind-set, the ability to work in a team and an understanding of what motivates people to behave in the ways that they do.
How do you continue to learn and improve your skills? What advice would you give to someone trying to start or progress their career in a marketing role?
When I was an intern, for one evening every month I’d attend masterclasses across the creative industry organised by Creative Access. These took place at companies like Penguin, Sony Records, The BBC, ITV and the Times. Hearing people from across the publishing industry and the creative industries speak about their work and expertise at masterclasses was particularly useful in terms of learning and improving my skills. I think that applying insights from other industries to your own job, whatever stage you’re at allows you to develop your expertise so that you can take the lead and offer something even more unique and valuable to your company. This is what I did and continue to do to learn and improve my skills.
My advice would be that you should continually look to learn from others to improve your own skills and expertise. Go to events, read books and articles, listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, and learn about the latest marketing techniques – and talk about these things with your peers and managers. Audio identities and podcasts are something I’m really interested in having worked with several podcasts, like Mostly Lit, since the start of 2017 to market books; and having acted as the executive producer on a podcast for BBC Books’ Now We Are Six Hundred as part of my marketing campaign. And so most recently I attended a talk on podcasts by Audioboom along with colleagues from across Penguin Random House and learned a lot!
What is the most interesting project you have worked on?
Many of the interesting marketing projects I’ve worked on revolve around technology and social media, which I’m extremely passionate about.
Last year as part of my marketing campaign for Dan and Phil’s second book DAPGO I commissioned a development team to build a web application whose launch trended above the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Twitter. As part of the marketing campaign for their first book (#TABINOF) I led and worked with teams to create the world’s first conductive ink book produced by a publisher (this involved a book cover made from ink that conducts electricity so that you can plug headphones/a speaker into the book and hear audiobook clips) and the first binaural audiobook trailer (a trailer made with 3D sound), which received over 4 million views.
This year one of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on involved Dame Gail Rebuck’s Fresh Perspectives initiative. I worked with a cross-functional team of four – colleagues from Penguin, Freemantle Media and Sony BMG – to pitch a new business idea directly to the c.e.o. of Penguin’s parent company Bertelsmann, as well as the c.e.o.'s of UK owned Bertelsmann companies. The entire process was incredible and I learned so much from our mentors and team leader Darryl Foster. The project has been given the green light and I’m excited about its progression!