Meet VP of Public Relations Katherine Orr

- by BlogMistress

ko3Welcome Katherine Orr, Vice–President Public Relations, Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Katherine, or “KO” as her colleagues call her, joined Harlequin in 1980 and has been instrumental in changing the media’s perception of Harlequin from the Canadian publishing house that reprinted romance books from England to a leading publisher of women’s fiction novels on the world stage.
For nearly thirty years, Katherine has maintained Harlequin’s family approach to communicating and promoting its now 1200-plus author base and, through the enlistment of topflight P/R agencies and freelancers, oversees P/R plans for a variety of Harlequin’s top-selling authors. P/R at Harlequin works in concert with the overall strategies of the marketing plans for each imprint and the supports the overall mission of the company to entertain and enrich women’s reading experiences wherever and whenever they shop.

Public Relations at Harlequin

by Katherine Orr

Public Relations at Harlequin is quite different than when I started back in 1980—at that time, I was the only publicist in the building here at Harlequin’s world headquarters in Toronto and the Romance Wars were in full swing. I was at the first RWA in Houston with media helicopters overhead wondering what in the Dickens was going on below and I was on radio in Philly arguing with a feminist about reading romances being a woman’s right of choice and I was on CNN when we launched Harlequin in Russia.

Today, my department numbers 8 in total: two Senior Managers, Heather Foy and Michelle Renaud, Publicity Manager Shara Alexander in New York for our Non-Fiction and Kimani publicity programs assisted by Publicist Jessica Rosenberg, Megan Lorius Public Relations Manager for our unique philanthropy program More Than Words, Don Lucey our Senior Writer ( he does Worldbeat News, our in-house digital author newsletter and all our press copy) and of course Maureen Stead, veteran Publicity Assistant who makes sure our authors receive their covers, authors series books are reviewed in RT and organizes all of our author travel.

We all have different skills but our dedication to Harlequin is our common bond—we are always looking for new ways to promote our brand and, new ways to promote our authors who have become their own brands in the 20–plus years I have known them. These days, with emails flying, books in a variety of formats and with shrinking media outlets it’s a real challenge to constantly be “out there.” But we are.

We’ve just streamlined our efforts. Our authors tour where we know they will have the best exposure to their readers and the media and our key trade partners, and  we are heavily supporting our authors with digital programs such a blog tours, contests and influencer outreach. We look for angles in the top national magazines, key product placement for our authors’ books in magazine and newspaper gift guides as well as profiles for authors who have achieved cult-followings like Debbie Macomber.

Today, social networking is more important than ever (romance authors knew this way before the world did!) and we are here to help our authors reach out digitally through the fantastic counsel and coaching that Malle Vallik, our Director of Digital Content & Social Media has initiated through her online tutorials for authors. Our Harlequin/Silhouette books continue to be our mainstay, our originals, and if you look at our gallery exhibit, The Heart of a Woman we did this past June in New York, you will see how this wonderful changing variety of novels has represented women through the years and will continue to do so. The next few decades will be fascinating. I just may turn 60 again myself!

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8 comments

  1. Welcome Katherine. :) Wow, what a history. :)

    When I sold my first Blaze 5 years ago, everyone I told, even people who don’t ever read romance, knew that selling to Harlequin was a big deal. :) It’s a household name.

    I’ve popped up to the Toronto offices now and then, and love to meet everyone. Hope I’ll get the chance to pop in and say hi sometime, :)

    For discussion, what is the biggest challenge in promoting Harlequin? and if authors only have time to do one or two things to promote, what do you think is the most effective/important thing to do?

    Sam

  2. Okay, this is totally off topic and irrelevant, and does not acknowledge this interesting interview and list of accomplisments… but can I just say? I love your hair! In your photo. I’ve always wanted my hair to look like that, and it never has.

    LauraR

  3. I have to second my vote on the cool hair.
    One area of marketing and promotion I’d personally love to see if the Medicals in North America. Any chance of that happening in my lifetime?
    Molly

  4. Well, I had to go back and look at the hair. Yes, great hair and I’m jealous. I have fine, thin hair that’s always been a challenge.

    Now to my question–the important stuff. A lot of authors run contests on their Web sites to draw readers and give away gift cards to Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Borders. I would love to give away a eHarlequin card. That way I know the reader is buying Harlequin books, even if it’s not mine. I write for Harlequin so that’s where I want my hard earned money to go.

    Any chance of eHarlequin gift cards in the future?

    Thanks for sharing your amazing career at Harlequin.
    Linda

  5. Hi Katherine! I’m going to echo the awesome hair comment :-)

    And to thank you for all the fabulous work you do to bring awareness and positive focus to the Harlequin/Silhouette books and the authors.

    Samantha already asked the big questions that were in my mind, so I’ll just add on to those by asking what effect you’re seeing to sales with the shift to offer so many of the titles in ebook, and do you think there’s a promotion angle that authors should be using to take advantage of that availability?

  6. Is there any promotion you consider a waste of resources, such as bookmarks or newsletters or booksignings that weren’t arranged by the publisher?

  7. I was lucky to see Katherine in person this past May, hard at work during the opening night of the Heart of a Woman exhibit in SoHo.
    Linda, your idea for the eharlequin gift card is genius! As a Harlequin author who lives overseas it would be wonderful to be able to offer this to my readers and friends I’m making here in Russia.
    Thanks for all of your hard work, Katherine!

  8. Hi everyone— I have answers to your questions but first, thankyou for the hair compliements! I nearly fell off my chair….It sure doesn’t look like that today—electric rollers and then rain….
    First, promotion: we still feel bookmarks are good promotional vehicles because they can remind readers of your backlist, so I would suggest doing as inexpensively as possible. Being a pal of your local bookstores does work—even just popping in to sign stock is a nice thing to do to build relationships with staff. And I hear from a lot of bookstore owners that candies and chocolates are a nice reminder of you ( I know, I know, but they still say it!)…
    Linda—Unfortunately we do not have coupon functionality right now. We’re currently investigating gift certificates in the eBook store. We’re also looking at this option on the print site.
    We encourage authors to highlight that eBooks are always available, for front kist and our increasing backlist. we are adding to our backlist eBooks on a nongoing basis, titles that were not previously available in this format so readers can find the books they missed. And we are always looking for suggestions. I will get an answer on the Medicals!–back to you shortly….cheers, KO