HarperCollins cele­brat­ed 200 online

To mark its bicentennial, publishing giant HarperCollins used the web and social media. Material from its archives was used extensively, and through an intensive cooperation across the Atlantic. Dawn Sinclair, corporate archivist, shared this, and more, when she spoke at History Marketing Summit 2018.

Publishing house HarperCollins, the world’s second largest publisher in consumer market books, traces its roots both to Scotland and the United States, being the creation of many corporate mergers. The company counts 1817 as its founding year – so Dawn Sinclair, the company’s archivist in Glasgow, literally sits on over 200 years of publishing history.

When the company celebrated 200 years in 2017, it decided to use the anniversary as a way to inspire more reading and to promote its products. HarperCollins created a special web site for its bicentennial, a site called

Each book that was featured on the site – and there were many! – also linked to the company’s e-bookstore. So anyone who felt inspired, could buy it just a click away. The site comprised five sections, all of which were linked to each other:

  • Timeline:
    A journey through the company’s history of the company, from 1817, when brothers James and John Harper opened a simple print shop in New York in 1817 and released their first book, an English translation of the Roman philosopher Seneca Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Scottish Glasgow, two years later, Chalmers & Collins Bookshop and Printing Works released their first book, The Christian and Civic Economy of Large Towns of Dr. Thomas Chalmers.
  • Stories:A number of significant stories from the company’s 200 years.
  • The HarperCollins 200:  Featuring 200 selected books from the company’s roster, all books that in different ways have put their marks on the literary culture. There are titles from both Sidney Sheldon and Harper Lee, to Nobel Prize writers, such as Gabriel García Márquez. To help compile the list, HarperCollins enlisted the help of libraries and bookstores around the world.
  • Why I read:
    Various authors share why they write, why the read and the books that inspired them.
  • Inside the Archives
    See some of the treasures contained in the HarperCollins archive, such as letters from authors such as Agatha Christie, photographs, original manuscripts and illustrations.

To build the campaign site, a communications team was established with members from both the US and the UK, including both archivists and marketing members. The archivists worked closely together, as HarperCollins has archives in both New York and Glasgow.

“It was important that the message was global and appealed to people in different parts of the world. It was also important to get a balance between the perspectives on our side of the Atlantic and on the American side,” said Dawn Sinclair, archivist at HarperCollins in Glasgow.

Everything on the site should be interactive and engaging, opening up for hours of exploration. At the same time, not everyone can spend that much time on a website. So for those with less time on their hand, a short film was produced, one that also could be shared in social media.

// See the film “200 Years of HarperCollins” //

The material was then reused and spread on social media, to, for instance, over one million followers on Twitter.

“We wanted to reach as many people as possible, in different countries and cultures,” said Dawn Sinclair, “and we got an incredible range. There are people everywhere who love books, and with the help of social media we could reach a lot of readers who shared the material on the site. We received very good results in the promotion – and did not have to advertise.”

The activities also broke through into traditional media, where Dawn Sinclair was interviewed in both the press and the BBC.

Without a working archive, however, the project could not have been implemented. The archive, and the corporate history that it carries, have become obvious resources for strengthening the brand.

“Stories are the centerpieces of our business, and the archive is full of those,” said Dawn Sinclair.

read all about History Marketing Summit 2018!

See the HarperCollins short film, 200 Years of HarperCollins