Laura – Guest Lecture with Fran Roberts

When I decided to study for my MA in Publishing at UCLan, I knew that social media would be an invaluable resource. Networking is key to building contacts and knowledge about the industry, so I decided to dust off my Twitter account and follow an array of publishing professionals.  One of the accounts I started to follow was @3ofCupsPress, a micropublisher based in London. Through this account, I became aware of Fran Roberts (@CatwomanFran), Marketing Manager at Reaktion Books (@reaktionbooks). She seemed to have lots of exciting things to share about publishing and great book recommendations. So, it felt like meeting publishing royalty when our tutors announced that we would be having a live meeting with Fran as part of our course.

Joining us virtually, Fran was really friendly and supportive during the session, breaking down the difference between marketing and PR for us. Fran also discussed lots of the campaigns that she has worked on, explaining the different approaches and how her career has progressed since she first started.  Fran doesn’t make everything seem as if it always goes right first time – she was realistic and gave us examples of when things hadn’t gone as expected and how she had adapted to those occasions.

First on Fran’s list was to let us know what to expect in the marketing department. Planning and writing weekly social media content, maintaining constant communication and relationships with publications and other departments and analysing returns on investments (ROI) during campaigns form part of Fran’s role, but working closely with authors is also important. We were all impressed when Fran told us about the time she worked with Mary Berry!

So why is marketing such a brilliant career path? Marketing can be really exciting and creative. Whether it’s the words used in the social media campaigns, the posters displayed in prominent places along the London Underground or designing branded wrapping paper to support a Christmas campaign, Fran loves it all. Fran describes marketing as “selling without the sell” and to do a good job, you need to be constantly creative, thinking up new ideas.

And the challenges? Fran was realistic that not all marketing campaigns are accompanied by a huge budget and it is possible to have a zero budget in some cases. But this means you have to be even more creative and look at ways of achieving freebies along the way to drive the campaign in the right direction. Part of Fran’s role is to be reflective about the success of a campaign and to be able to pinpoint the exact moment an idea hasn’t worked as expected so a plan B (or even C, D or E) can be executed.  Alongside creativity comes strategy and logical reasoning and sometimes they impact on the choices you have.

My biggest takeaway from the session was definitely Fran’s top tips for getting a role in marketing.

  • Maximise your administrative or office experience
  • Be comfortable with Microsoft programmes and design packages such as Adobe InDesign
  • Be conscious of the marketing around you every day – which campaigns stand out and why?
  • Develop some design experience, perhaps using programmes such as Canva
  • Have experience with a variety of social media channels and the advantages of using each one to achieve different results

A few weeks ago, these skills might have seemed a long way off, but already as a student on the MA at UCLan I have been given the opportunity to delve into these areas, developing my confidence and building new skills – and I’m excited about everything that is still to come!