Managing an Unexpected Twist
in a story

Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest: Crisis Management

The Situation

In 2012, Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Lit Fest was returning with its 3rd edition. The city’s premier international literary festival was back in town to enhance the cultural quotient of its audience. Our task at hand was to create awareness about the festival, and get the news of its rich, diverse line up of speakers to the right ears.
However, in the midst of the festival, we were faced with an unexpected twist in the story. Girish Karnad, distinguished playwright and actor and a speaker at the event, had lashed out at the Lit Fest organizers and publicly questioned their decision to accord a Lifetime Achievement Award to Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul. The press picked it up instantly, and we knew we had a crisis at hand that needed to be managed quickly and effectively.

What We Did

We had formulated a thorough media outreach strategy with the objective of establishing the Mumbai Lit Fest as one of the most respected literature festivals in the country.

As CNN IBN was a priority publication for the festival, we exclusively broke the story with them, and then followed it up with a media release. Throughout the campaign, we ensured that the entire line up including workshops, performances, awards and exhibitions received adequate coverage.

We followed this up with giving special invitations to sector-led media as well as bloggers from the cultural and lifestyle space. They were given a chance to have focused interviews with Anil Dharker, the festival director, as well as the authors, artists and workshop organizers participating in the festival. As a result, the entire target media was engaging with the festival.

Once the Karnad-Naipaul controversy erupted, we got into action with the media. The exclusive piece of the entire video was given to CNN IBN, following which it was shared with Times Now, NDTV, and all leading papers. Following that, we issued a statement from Dharker defending the decision of the Lit Fest. We also approached Farookh Dhondy, respected author and Naipaul’s friend, to pen an article for Times of India which dismissed Karnad’s remarks in support of the Lit Fest. As a final step, we gathered other experts to share their opinions on the topic, with discussions being aired prime time on TV channels, live interviews taking place, and the news being covered in key publications.

The Results

The media management of the controversy raised the profile of the festival exponentially as a cultural platform of diverse opinions and ideas. We had managed to ensure that the defense of the festival’s decision had adequately been shared with all key media. At the end of the event, we had achieved a total of 643 pre and post event stories, and achieved mileage in online and offline mediums, including radio and international media.

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