Rethinking World Book Night because of lockdown

The Reading Agency organises a national celebration of books and reading – World Book Night. Every year, on April 23rd, organisations and individuals hold booked themed parties, arrange book swaps and organise events. The aim is to connect people from all backgrounds, inspire others to read more and celebrate how reading enriches lives. 

It was our job to deliver a PR campaign that that centred around World Book Night, raising awareness and increasing participation.

The Work

Historically World Book Night is an offline-event, taking place in homes, libraries, offices, hospitals and prisons across the country. This year, 2020, the year of Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown – we had to respond quickly and think differently.

We focused our campaign on social media and created the hashtag #ReadingHour. We approached hundreds of authors and celebrities, including Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo, Matt Haig, Adam Kay and Jacqueline Wilson to support the #ReadingHour and conducted a survey about their reading habits during lockdown. This created engaging conversations between authors and the public keen to know what they were doing and how the lockdown was affecting them. This, in turn, caught the attention of traditional media outlets, resulting in unprecedented up take, securing extensive nation and regional broadcast, print and digital coverage.

There were interviews and featured content on the Today ProgrammeWoman’s HourEmma Barnett Show, and Front Row. Mentions of World Book Night appeared on BBC Radio 2, Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, Radio 6 Music and in news bulletins throughout the day. The story was also picked up by regional BBC stations including: BBC Berkshire, BBC Cornwall, BBC Somerset, BBC Solent, BBC Lancashire, BBC London, BBC Shropshire, BBC Sussex, BBC Surrey, BBC Three Counties, BBC Kent. Other broadcasts included Sky News BreakfastScala RadiotalkRADIO and Talk Radio Europe.

For print and digital, World Book Night led the BBC Arts & Entertainment news page all day, and appeared in the Guardian, The Times, Press Association, The Independent and i newspaperSky News website, Time OutThe Bookseller and hundreds of regional outlets including: Belfast Telegraph, West Midlands Express & Star, The Irish News, Southern Daily Echo, Telegraph and Argus, Shropshire Star and York Press.

The Results

The Twitter handle @worldbooknight had a potential reach of 9 million on the day, and the hashtags #WorldBookNight and #ReadingHour were trending in the top 5. The main tweet had a potential reach of 1.7million and. A 68% increase on 2019.