My Path to PRH: Elaine McKnight on Reaching a Diverse Audience
Everyone has unique career stories to tell. In our My Path to Penguin Random House series, PRH colleagues share how they entered the world of book publishing, what led them to our company, insights into their jobs, and their future professional aspirations.
This week, we’re featuring Elaine Mcknight, Manager, Performance Marketing as she tells us her story in her own words.
How would you describe the course of your path to book publishing and PRH, including practical, professional, and educational?
One hundred percent unconventional. Non-linear. Unorthodox. But it all makes sense.
I’ve been in marketing for almost 10 years. I knew I wanted to be in marketing during a lecture on it in my high school Economics class. I remember thinking and getting the feeling “this is it!” In 2015, I dipped my toes with email and telemarketing campaigns at a car dealership. The feeling of watching cars being sold because of my campaigns ignited me to home deeper into digital marketing. Since, I’ve worked on marketing campaigns for the Miami Seaquarium, Pacific Lutheran University, Autotrader, Miami Children’s Museum, and more. In 2018 I transitioned to state government, working as the Digital Communications Lead for the Auditor of Washington State.
But on January 1, 2022, I made it one of my new year resolutions to read one book a month. I read three books in January. That’s when I realized that I didn’t just enjoy reading; I have always been a reader. The best week in elementary school was the week of the Scholastic Book Fair. I’d proudly hold my budget of $20 in my hand while browsing for the best books and knick-knacks I can buy. Once middle school came around, I was at my school’s library any chance I could get during the week, and at my local library during the weekend. When high school and college rolled around, sadly, I didn’t prioritize reading. I didn’t pick up a book for years!
And yet, reading has always been a part of who I am—it was just dormant for a long time. It was at that point that I began looking into book publishing as a career. I realized I needed to marry my expertise and passion for marketing with my love for books and reading. I applied to Penguin Random House in March, interviewed in April and began my career in book publishing at PRH in May.
It’s safe to say that this is the most full-circle moment in my life. I know that 8-year-old who wanted to buy everything at the Scholastic Book Fair, and the middle-schooler who was at the library any chance she could get (and had her library card number memorized), in me are rejoicing.
Fun fact: 2022 was a big year for me. Not only did I make a career transition into book publishing at PRH, but I also got married. Before even applying to PRH, I knew I wanted books to play a part in our big day. We used books to elevate our centerpieces and used the pages of my husband and I’s favorite books as the backdrop for our seating chart. Guests were able to take home the books used as centerpieces as our wedding favor! Each one of them had a “thank you” note from us.
What have been some of the highlights of your PRH job and work life so far? Has anything surprised you?
One of the biggest highlights of my PRH job is getting to work with books I grew up reading like DR. SEUSS, THE MAGIC TREE HOUSE, and others. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be working on these legendary books! Another highlight has been prioritizing reaching a more diverse audience with our advertising campaigns. It never fails to surprise me seeing one of our books in the wild. The passion that everyone at PRH has to fulfill our common goal—ignite a universal passion for reading by creating books for everyone—is palpable. At PRH, we truly have a book for everyone.
You read 30 books in 2022! What advice would you give to someone who’d like to read more?
Ask a friend, family and/or coworkers who share similar interests in movies, TV shows, hobbies as you what they’re reading. Maybe even join a book club with your friends or on sites like MeetUp. Not only do book clubs promote community, it also helps create a discipline for reading since you’ll likely discuss the book everyone is reading. Here’s another big advice: Make the time to read. In those years I didn’t pick up a book, I remember seeing people reading and thinking how nice it must be to have extra time to read. We all have the same 24-hours! They just made reading a priority. So, I recommend setting a limit on the time you spend on social media, or watching Netflix or Hulu or Apple TV, and allocating some of that time to reading—even if it means skipping an episode of The Office (roughly 30 minutes).