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Hunger Games Isn’t Hungry for PR

Posted At: April 8, 2012 9:30 AM
by Katie Brazeal

Last year, I decided to make a more conscious effort not to watch as much television and to read for pleasure instead. I began the hunt for a novel to dive into. I am fairly cheap, so purchasing a new book was not on my radar. I don’t have a Nook or Kindle, so electronic books were not the way to go.

I was left with the old fashioned “borrow a book” option. I raided my sister’s room and discovered a book that I thought might be interesting. It had a black cover with white and gold accents. The book was a bit bent and torn, proving that it had been well loved while being read. I vaguely remembered when my sister had read the story and was pretty sure she had liked it. So, what the heck? I decided to give it a shot.

With that decision, my Hunger Games journey began. And it did not end there.

Upon finishing the first book, I immediately sought out the second book in the series and then the third. I was telling all of my friends about the trilogy and loaning the books out as soon as I was finished with them (Yes, I broke down and actually purchased book two and three).

When I found out that a movie was being made, my heart skipped a beat. The day the trailer was released, I probably watched it 10 times in a row. I was talking about Hunger Games, tweeting about Hunger Games and following all Hunger Games media coverage. I purchased a ticket to the film’s midnight premiere a month in advance and patiently counted down the days as they passed slowly.

But when that fateful day arrived, I wanted to be more than an audience member munching on popcorn. I wanted to feel as though I were part of the phenomenon, so I went on a tour of all the local thrift stores to secure the perfect Effie Trinket garb to wear to the premiere. Yes, I was that girl in full costume, at midnight, walking into the movie theater.

So when should I expect my paycheck to come from the good people at the Lionsgate publicity department? Sadly, never. However, this idea that I was, in some ways, “working” for Suzanne Collins got me thinking: How does a simple novel gain so much recognition and drum up such a cult following? Is there really PR for this?

While Collins initially did not hire some little public relations agency in Smalltown, USA, to create a strategic plan for the publicity of her book and subsequently movie, soundtrack and paraphernalia, there is much more strategy involved than you might think at first.


First of all, originality is key. Coming up with something that has not been done before or has been redesigned in such a way that it is unrecognizable helps to set you apart from the beginning. Collins achieved uniqueness with the creation of Panem, a post-apocalyptic America. In many ways, it is a picture of issues our culture is dealing with, but she exaggerated and depicted them in a way that feels unfamiliar and grabs your attention.

Allow the cult following to work for you

Now that your audience is captured and you have fans making fake, digital ID cards for Panem, use that fanbase. Push their excitement to create a stir. This is accomplished through bringing Panem, its districts and the Hunger Games to your audience through merchandise, apparel, websites, games, etc. Through this bombardment, you will have people like me working for you, and they don’t even realize it.

Framing: “Happy Hunger Games!”

Finally, framing is key. Without reading Hunger Games or knowing much about it, a simple description of the plot could send you running in the opposite direction. There is little that is particularly “happy” or even normal about the story’s plot, which was intentional on Collins’ part, but it still creates an obstacle when promotion rolls around.

Specifically when it came to publicity for the movie, Lionsgate was extremely careful in what it did. An article from Slate, notes a few of the strategies used for the promotion of the film. Never were the words “23 kids get killed” used, but instead promotions framed it by saying, “only one wins.” Lionsgate also refrained from including any depiction of the actual violence of the games from the movie trailer. These small things go completely unnoticed by the general public but can make a world of difference.

So even when it feels like a book or a movie is selling itself, you can be sure there are far greater communication powers working hard to orchestrate everything seamlessly. And in all your PR endeavors, as they were for Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games, may the odds be ever in your favor .


  1. Post comment

    I believe that what Katie said is true. She breaks down the careful tactics that Lionsgate used when promoting the movie. Tactics such as “may the odds be in your favor,” and refraining from using violence in the movie’s promotions. Also, the way that Katie told her own story about the Hunger Games added a personal feel that other readers can relate to. Katie’s story also reminds people that the Hunger Games is a book and not just a movie. The part that most people forget, or don’t even know, like myself.

  2. Post comment

    As I have reached my upper level PR classes, I find myself thinking about everything I do at a PR standpoint. It is quite annoying to my non PR friends. I thought too about how The Hunger Games came to be so big. The story is sad, far from possible and as mentioned the plot will send you running the other direction. How do millions of Americans go pick up the same book? The promotional tactics involved in publishing books is interesting to me. How often have you seen a commercial advertising a book? What about a magazine? Radio station? So how do people really hear about books—word of mouth. So does that mean choosing a publicist is more important than advertising?

    The whole “read a book, watch a movie” has become huge in recent years with Twilight and the various Nicholas Sparks books. Which leaves me thinking, would a book like The Hunger Games have been as successful 10 years ago?

    After reading this article, I am far more interested in the PR process of publishing books. I must give you props on dressing up for the premiere. I am sure you agree, the book was way better than the movie. However, for the first time ever, I felt as if The Hunger Games book was necessary to be read prior to watching the movie to truly appreciate it. I enjoyed this post and look forward to learning more.

  3. Post comment

    I am majoring in public relations. Katie said, “Last year, I decided to make a more conscious effort not to watch as much television and to read for pleasure instead.” This year is my sixth year in the United States. I do not have speaking problems , but I do have some reading problems. I spent almost five to seven minutes to read just one article. To solve my problem, I try to read USA Today and New York Times.


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