“What is the Jaipur Literature Festival?”
Admittedly, it’s a question we had to ask when we were approached to develop and execute a communications strategy for the first-ever Jaipur Literature Festival at Boulder (JLF@Boulder). Then it was a question we had to answer countless times when talking with the public and reporters. It’s one thing to pitch something people are familiar with, but it’s a whole different story pitching an event from India that’s never before had a presence in the U.S.
After some research, we quickly learned that this would be big. In India, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival draws more than 250,000 attendees — that’s something like three Super Bowls. Since 2006, award-winning authors, poets and performers from around the world have come together every January in Jaipur to discuss timely themes of local and international importance, and it’s completely free and open to the public. In fact, it’s the largest free literary festival in the world.
JLF organizers wanted to create an experience similar to the Jaipur festival, but unique to the U.S. They looked at several cities across the country including New York, Chicago, Dallas and San Fransisco before finding the perfect balance of culture, education and scenery in Boulder. The City of Boulder worked quickly to offer the Boulder Public Library as a destination to host the event. The only thing left do to was spread the word — that’s where we came in.
With less than four months to prepare, our options were limited. It was too late in the game for sponsorship opportunities, so we concentrated our efforts on local press and advertising. Our biggest challenge was getting the press to understand the importance of JLF@Boulder. In India, any tidbit regarding the Jaipur festival gets picked up and broadcast on all major media channels. Because this was the inaugural year of JLF@Boulder, the U.S. media was less receptive.
Another issue was interview coordination. Although a few JLF organizers are based in Boulder, the rest of the team, including managing producer Sanjoy Roy, live in India and had availability limited to the week directly before the September festival. When we learned that Sanjoy would be making an impromptu visit to Boulder in July, we had to work quickly to secure local interviews.
Our initial outreach resulted in feature articles in the Boulder Weekly and the Boulder Source, as well as an interview on KGNU. Soon after, press interest gradually increased. JLF@Boulder was featured in 5280, Westword, Colorado Public Radio and the Boulder Daily Camera. Our team was also able to coordinate interviews that aired on 9NEWS and on their show Colorado & Company. (While C&C is typically a pay-to-play opportunity, we were able to leverage free coverage afforded to non-profits like JLF@Boulder through effective pitching and media relations.)
JLF@Boulder’s first-year attendance was impressive. JLF organizers have confirmed more than 5,000 recorded attendees over its two-day American debut. Compare that to the first JLF in India, where fewer than 1,000 people attended, and it’s clear the interest generated was outstanding. The festival featured more than 40 sessions, readings, musical performances and workshops with more than 100 notable writers from around the world. JLF@Boulder will return next year—stay tuned for confirmation dates and updates by visiting https://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/boulder/.