Welcome 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!