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Not That Kind of Book Tour

Posted: October 15, 2014, 2:45 p.m.
by Katie Foster Howard.

It’s an event that thousands of millennials, particularly women, have been waiting for all summer. No, I’m not talking about pumpkin spice season — I’m talking about a book release.

With the release of her first collection of essays, “Not That Kind of Girl,” Lena Dunham kicked off her book tour on Sept. 30 in New York City. Already hitting hipster hotspots like Austin and Iowa City, Dunham still has stops planned for San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.

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“But . . . a book tour? That doesn’t seem very hip,” you may be saying to yourself. And you’re exactly right — book tours are bland, boring and conjure up images of authors sitting alone at a table in Barnes & Noble. But this is Lena Dunham we’re talking about here: the girl who created, directed, wrote and starred in her own series at the age of 25. This is not that kind of book tour.

In fact, Dunham’s book tour could be used as a case study for some perfect uses of public relations.

Event planning
Remember that sad book tour we were talking about earlier? Forget about it. Dunham’s book tour includes live music, local performers and food trucks, with special readings and performances by the likes of Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia” famenovelist Zadie Smith and the musical group Bleachers, led by Jack Antonoff of fun.

Crisis communication
While planning for the tour, Dunham released a casting call on her website for opening acts for each stop of the tour. These performers knew upfront that they would be performing without compensation. The day before the tour began, Gawker published an article breaking down Dunham’s annual earnings and the possible revenue for her book tour, while also criticizing Dunham for not paying her performers.

That same day, Dunham made the decision to pay her performers and tactfully addressed the situation on her Twitter account, wittily making a dig at Gawker in the process.

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Some may say that Dunham “gave in” to her critics, but really this is an example of swift crisis communication that was executed in such an endearing way.

Corporate social responsibility
Another special guest on Dunham’s tour is Planned Parenthood, of which Dunham has been a long-time supporter. Planned Parenthood organizations will be present at nine out of the 11 stops on the tour to share information on their health care services, educational programs and volunteer opportunities.

“Planned Parenthood is a group close to my heart because it protects the health and rights of women, and I’m so grateful to Planned Parenthood organizations for everything they do for women and young people every day,” Dunham said in a Planned Parenthood press release.

Social media marketing
Sure, Dunham is a Twitter and Instagram fiend who knows how to craft personable messages that also promote; however, she took her social media marketing to the next level while promoting her tour with a 12-video series on YouTube titled “Ask Lena.” With topics ranging from OCD, plus size and being a writer, Lena finds a way to creatively connect with her audience in a particularly Lena Dunham kind of way.

Know your audience
If a millennial novelist with a quirky Web presence talking about birth control, feminism and cupcakes doesn’t appeal to you, that’s OK; you’re just not a part of the audience that Dunham is targeting. While she may seem like an aloof millennial, at the end of the day Lena Dunham is a brand and a businesswoman. She knows who she is and to whom she is speaking, and that is one of the hardest lessons for most brands to learn.

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