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Super Library Marketing: All kinds of marketing ideas for all kinds of libraries.

Seven Ways to Do the Best Library Promotions

This is part two of a series from a presentation my boss and I gave at the 2018 OrangeBoy Idea Exchange. Read part one here.

Now comes the fun part: deciding what, how, and when to promote specific library events, services, and collection items. Here are seven rules to live by when figuring out the best channel for your library marketing.

Learn to say no

Let’s start with the big problem facing everyone who works in library marketing. We are treated like short order cooks. Promotional requests come in from various coworkers, and we are expected to fill them. That sucks. It’s not effective and I think it’s the reason why we suffer a lot of failure in library marketing. The first step in library marketing is to say “no”. It’s good for you and for your marketing strategy.

Busyness feels wonderful. We’re doing something! Stuff is happening! Progress is being made! But if your promotional schedule gets too busy, three things are going to happen. Your staff won’t have time for creative thought. You’ll make mistakes. And your cardholders will feel like the only thing coming from your library is noise. A constant stream of promotions starts to feel like static. So I urge you to practice saying “no.” That’s easier when you have a strategy which aligns with your library’s overall goals.

Determine your benchmarks

I measure every promotional request against four basic rules. These are my benchmarks. They give me a framework for saying “no” to projects. I suggest you create something similar. Use past data to predict future results with promotions.

My basic rules are:
If the promotion will not give us more than a ten percent bump in circulation, program attendance, or usage, we don’t do it.
If it’s a service that’s difficult for the cardholder to use, we don’t promote it.
If the program presenter is free, we don’t promote them.
If it’s not tied directly to the library’s overall strategy, it gets cut.

My version is simple. This past week, I visited with Chuck Duritsch, manager of External Relations for the Dayton Metro Library System. He has a whole color-coded chart that he uses to say “yes” and “no” to various promotions. Use whatever works for you!

Here’s an example of something we cut from our promotional schedule after an experiment failed to reach the benchmarks. In 2017, my marketing team conducted a year-long experiment to see if we could drive attendance at events. We hypothesized that emails sent to targeted cardholders would result in higher attendance. We were wrong. We did 118 branch promotional emails in 2017 and only half were effective in boosting attendance AT ALL. With that data, we decided to cut way back on branch promotions this year. As of June 2018, we’ve done 34 branch promotions and our effectiveness level is up to 68 percent. More than half of the programs saw a significant increase in attendance–at least ten percent–after their cardholders received an email. We cut the fat and were able to create messages that did a better job of resonating with people.

Weed your marketing content and cut out the stuff that doesn’t help your library reach its overall goals so you can be more creative with the promotions you have left. Evaluate your promotional schedule twice a year to keep your marketing lean. Your benchmarks might change over time. It’s important to always evaluate your results and re-think your strategy.

Don’t feast at the buffet of tactics

Once a promotion passes the test and gets into your schedule, it’s time to start figuring out how to promote it. You don’t have to use every tactic available to you. Choose which ones will work best for each promotion. It’s a smarter use of your time and energy.

In April of each year, our library holds a Teen Poetry Contest. Teens are typically considered to be a really hard audience to reach. This year, I decided to promote it on our teen website, in social media, on the digital signs in branches, with posters, and with email. Notice all the categories I didn’t use! I didn’t send a press release because teens don’t typically read the news. Their parents do, but I don’t have any data from past years to show that promoting this contest in the news will get us more entries. So, I weeded that tactic. In addition, I didn’t create a video, although teens respond to video. I just don’t have the resources to create a video they would like and I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  I also didn’t use some signage options available to me because teens don’t pay attention to signs. And I didn’t include the contest in our content marketing publication Library Links because the average reader of that publication is an older empty-nester. It’s just not the right audience for that promotion.

Timing is everything

The “when” part is just as critical as the “how” part of promotional planning. Use past data to make future decisions when you determine the timing of promotions. When I started at my library, we released a promotion in one day on all channels. We’d send out the email, the press release, put up the homepage graphic, and do social all in one day. But I’ve embraced a new timing concept with success over the last year and a half. It’s called the tiered distribution approach.

I was at a conference where I heard marketing expert named Andrew Davis talk about tiered distribution. The approach takes advantage of a consumer cycle of excitement. You release one or two promotional tactics at the beginning of your promotional cycle.  The promotion gets some play, and excitement builds in the consumer base. Maybe it gets shared and people talk about it… and then the excitement dies out. Then, you release the second tactic, like an email, and the people who see the email get excited and start talking about it and sharing it, and then their excitement dies out. Then you release a video, and that builds excitement and gets shared, and the excitement then dies out. Do you see the pattern? Keep releasing tactics over time and not all at once. When you use the tiered distribution approach, you get a longer promotional thread. Your promotions will be more successful because the excitement around them builds over time, not in one big burst.

My library used a tiered-distribution approach for this year’s Summer Reading program. Our summer reading, which we branded as Summer Adventure, runs from June 1-July 31. For years, we’ve done the same promotional schedule. We started the excitement building portion around May 1. And our registration numbers and check-in numbers have been flat for the past few years. I don’t have a survey to tell me this for sure, but my gut says that by the time we got to June 1, our audience was already tired of hearing about Summer Adventure. We used up all their excitement before we even got to the event.

This year, we took a tiered approach. By June 30, registrations were up 18 percent from 2017 and weekly check-ins increased by nearly 67 percent. And while there are a lot of factors for that, one is that we didn’t spend all our promotional energy at one time. We did a better job of building excitement.

Measure and share

You must make sure that you accurately document the results of every promotion you do. This will help you to adjust your promotions month to month, and year to year. Keep meticulous records of data as it comes in.

Failure is okay, by the way. Marketing is an experiment. Sometimes the stuff you do will work, sometimes it won’t. Don’t repeat the things that don’t work! Spend more energy on the things that do work. Don’t spend too much time obsessing over every little detail of your strategy. You can refine it as you gather data. It’s never going to be perfect, so once you’ve got a plan in place, just do it!

Talk about the results with your colleagues and share your results with other departments. Transparency in marketing is a good thing. It helps your co-workers and administrators have a clearer understanding of what you do in your marketing department! And they may look at the results and find some new insight that you missed.

Focus more on the content and less on the container

Focus MORE on the content of your message and LESS on how you deliver it. When you focus first on the content, you put your customer first, not your own promotional needs. Think more about the insides of your message, not the way it will be delivered. That’s how we differentiate ourselves from the competition.

Leave room to market on the fly

Your library promotional schedule should leave room for Drop-in Marketing Campaigns–those pushes that come at the last-minute and are sent to your audience in a few days–or less! Maybe you’re seizing on an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. Maybe you’ve got a connection to an event in pop culture. Maybe you find a piece of user-generated content that’s so fun and engaging that you don’t want to wait to promote it. If it makes sense and the timing is right, get it out there in front of your audience. The key lies in purposeful planning. When you’re laying out your regular marketing campaigns, including your email messages, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop-in promotions. Keep in mind which promotions have drop-dead dates and which ones could be shuffled and released to the public later. Then… go for it!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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How Do You Decide What and How to Promote?

Last week, my boss and I were honored to present at the OrangeBoy Ideas Exchange, a small conference and gathering of OrangeBoy users. Presenters talk about all kinds of issues related to library marketing including email, customer privacy, and analytics. It is valuable, particularly because the small group of attendees leads to big discussions and the sharing of ideas. It’s also a great networking opportunity. There’s nothing like being in a room with other library marketers to make you understand that you are not alone in your struggles. If you’re an OrangeBoy client, you should definitely go!

My boss is Chris Rice, Marketing Team Manager for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. We spoke about choosing the right channel for your marketing efforts. And let’s face it, that’s not always an easy choice. There are so many ways to market your library! But that also opens the potential for your team to work themselves to death trying to check off all the boxes. So Chris and I tried to explain the framework we use at our library. It guides us to make decisions about exactly how we promote events, services, and collection items. It gives us the freedom to say “no” and keep ourselves sane.

I have taken my portion of the presentation and turned it into two blog posts. This week, I’ll explain the process I use before I actually start programming my editorial calendar. I run through a series of three exercises to help me get ready to make those big decisions. These exercises give me a clear idea of who I’m marketing to. They also force me to define how I’ll use assets and tactics to achieve the library’s goals. I do this about once every six months. It sounds tedious but it is really valuable. I always feel more confident about the decisions I make afterward. I think you will too!

QUESTION ONE: What are your library’s three main overall goals? What are the three big things your library wants to accomplish in the next 12 months? Write those big goals on paper and stick them up everywhere in your marketing office. Repeat them. Eat, breathe, and sleep them. Those are your goalposts for the year. Those are your big concerns. Whatever your director or your board wants to accomplish is what you want to accomplish. Everything you do needs to be in service of reaching these goals. Every decision you make about promotion is going to be laser-focused on making sure those goals are reached. They are the reason you come to work every morning.

QUESTION TWO: What do you know about your current cardholders and the people who live in your community? This is a classic marketing situation analysis. It’s a tedious exercise. But it will help you to clearly imagine the person who will consume your marketing messages. That will help you to do a better job of marketing to them. Where do these cardholders live? How do they engage with your competitors like Amazon and other bookstores? Where do they get their news? Do they have access to Wi-Fi? Do they have children? What is their living situation like? Do they work? What is their transportation situation? Every piece of data you can get about your cardholders is a guidepost that will help you make the best decisions.

QUESTION THREE: What promotional assets do you have at your disposal? Write down all the stuff you use to promote your library. It should include every social media platform you use, every website your library owns, every print publication you send out, emails, in-person events, press releases, podcasts, and videos… every single thing you do to communicate with cardholders. Then, create a description of how you’ll use each asset to bring your library’s overall strategic vision to life.

For example, my library produces a quarterly content marketing publication called Library Links. One of our overall library goals this year is to help job seekers find a new, more lucrative, more fulfilling career. I think Links can help us achieve that goal. So, I wrote a description of how that would work. “We will use our quarterly print publication to emphasize the role of the library in helping job seekers find a new, more lucrative, more fulfilling career. We will do this by featuring a cardholder in each issue who used our library’s services to advance their own career, such as by taking our GED course or using our online job resume builder. Every quarter, we’ll highlight a service or program that will help our cardholders reach their career goals.” This keeps me accountable and reminds me, every time I go to put Links together, that I need to include these kinds of stories in each issue.

If you start this process and you realize there is an asset that just doesn’t seem to work for your overall marketing goals, drop it. I don’t care if you’ve done it for 20 years. Use only the things that can help you to achieve your goals and cut the rest.

For example, for a while, my library was all in on Slideshare. We had an editorial calendar and we were churning out Slideshares every six weeks to promote services. It took a considerable amount of time to create the graphics. But we weren’t getting the results we wanted. When I do any marketing, I am looking for action. I want consumers of our message to click on a link and use something at the library.  But our Slideshares were not producing action, or at least not in any number that I could be proud of. So, in mid-2017, we decided to drop Slideshare. It’s okay to drop something that’s not working for you. Don’t waste your energy!

Now that you’ve laid out all the stuff available to you, it’s time to decide what to promote, how to promote, and when to promote. That’s the fun part! Next week, I’ll share tips on how to manage that part of your job.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

The One Mistake Your Library Can Never Make On Social Media

I was riding furiously on my parent’s elliptical machine, trying to distract myself from the fact that I absolutely HATE exercise by scrolling through Facebook, when I came across a post that nearly made me fall off the machine.

It was on a politically charged page dedicated to libraries. And it advocated the use of clickbait for driving engagement. I won’t post the example this person used here. It was a provocative post but it wasn’t well-constructed. There was no image and no link for action. It was also posted by a librarian, not a library. I suspect he was just trying out the line on the fly to gauge the reaction. It doesn’t really matter what his motivation was or how it played with his audience. And to be fair, the post technically was not clickbait. Clickbait is the act of writing a headline or a post that over-promises, oversensationalizes or misrepresents whatever content you are linking to. The easiest clickbait headlines to spot are the ones that contain the words “You’ll never believe” or “What happened next will shock/embarrass/outrage you.”

What matters to me is the assertion that libraries need to resort to clickbait to get followers to like, comment, and share their posts. You absolutely do not. And in fact, you should avoid clickbait at all costs.

Listen, we’ve all fallen for clickbait headlines before. I am a sucker for those slideshow galleries of photographs that promise to show me something shocking or new about historical events.  But once you’ve scrolled through a gallery of 45 shots and realized you haven’t seen anything new or shocking, you leave mad and vow never to visit that particular website again. We do not want to cause anger, disappointment, and distrust in our users. Using clickbait in posts could do serious damage to your library’s reputation. As an arbiter and protector of truth in an era of attacks on facts, we need to hold ourselves and our social media accounts to a higher standard. Clickbait headlines might get you more initial clicks, but they won’t deepen the relationship your cardholders have with your library.

We’re all fighting to get noticed in each of social media platforms. Algorithm changes mean we have to craft every post to match the demands of that particular platform. It’s exhausting. The temptation to use a clickbait headline to get more engagement is real, and I understand why it might seem like a good option. But it is not. We are better than that.

Your cardholders are smart. Treat them as such. Speak conversationally and openly, but don’t be sensational. You’ll be rewarded by your fans in trust, loyalty, and respect. And those three things are way more valuable than any engagement numbers you might garner in the short-term thanks to clickbait.

Instead, follow these guidelines for creating headlines with examples from my library’s social media platforms. Kudos to my library’s social media team for their amazing work: Danielle, Lisa, Veronica, and Andrea!

  • Be inspirational

  • Use keywords

  • Answer questions

  • Promote facts and figures

Incorporate numbers when possible

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

 

Outstanding YouTube Channels Every Library Marketing Insider Must Watch


It’s important to make professional growth a part of your day as a library marketer. How else will you get better at your job? Keeping up-to-date with changes in the marketing industry is difficult. You can read blogs and Tweets and attend webinars. But I find that videos can engage and inspire in ways that the written word or a 60-minute online seminar cannot.

I subscribed to a couple of channels on YouTube where I go to watch videos once a week. These channels help me to stay up-to-date on new technology and give me new ideas to put into practice at my library. Here are the five channels every library marketing insider should subscribe to for marketing inspiration!

Andrew and Pete

Andrew and Pete run a marketing agency and they’re hilarious. Their videos are full of energy, funny moments, and engaging graphics. But it’s the content that really hooked me. Their ideas and tips can be put to work for your library right away. They don’t push expensive software or radical workflow changes. They’re all about real-world results. Their explanations are clear and make complete sense. They’re very customer and results focused. Sign up for their weekly email and get a link to their videos emailed directly to you!

Razorsocial with Ian Cleary

Ian runs a global digital and content marketing company from his home base of Ireland. He’s got a conversational style of speaking. Like Andrew and Pete, Ian has a lot of really good, easy-to-implement tips that you can use at your library. He’s incredibly smart and has the best insights on blog promotion. His video series also includes tips on video marketing to podcasting. He’s got an entire playlist of how-to videos for all kinds of marketing challenges.

Jessica Stansberry

I recently discovered Jessica while looking for a tutorial on how to use Trello. She’s got lots of how-to videos about blogging, Facebook, YouTube, and video marketing. Her videos are fun to watch, beautifully produced, and easy to follow.

HubSpot

I love HubSpot’s free online marketing courses and their YouTube channel is really just a visual extension of their commitment to educating marketers. Their videos are broken down into categories like creativity, brand awareness, and social media. They’re recently uploaded a bunch of material on artificial intelligence and chatbots. I know from some of the library marketing chat boards on LinkedIn and Facebook that many of you are curious about AI and chatbots. I recommend you start here!

Whiteboard Friday from Moz

The main Moz channel is packed with lots of videos about SEO and website links. And you should make time in your week for their Whiteboard Friday videos featuring Rand Fishkin and his team. Their short, concise, and visually appealing. The videos focus mainly on Google and web design, two topics that library marketing needs to take more time to consider. There are also videos in the series on social media.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

Four Daring Ways to Fight Library Haters

Update: These methods work!!  Forbes.com deleted the offending article on July 23. Read more about it here.

Original post begins here.

Forbes.com made me angry.

This weekend, the site posted an opinion piece by a contributor who tried to make the point that libraries are obsolete. This man claims we no longer need libraries because we have Amazon. I won’t post a link or analyze the piece here because it doesn’t need more views. It’s poorly written garbage and one of the worst anti-library arguments I’ve read in my life.

The piece is getting a lot of attention. Librarians and library supporters across the country took to Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to eviscerate this guy. This public shaming is well deserved and an acceptable outlet for those of us who work in the industry. But it’s not enough because the public outrage over this article will die down in a few days. Library marketers have the tools to fight anti-library sentiment in ways that will last longer than a news cycle. Here are some things you can do, right now, in your role as a library marketing professional.

Write a letter to the publication that posted the anti-library sentiment. I am a supporter of free speech. But I dislike opinion pieces. Media outlets publish them without context. They are just a mechanism to stir up emotions. Publications with editorial pages would rather get clicks than be balanced. We must politely but passionately call out any publication that allows library haters to have a voice without seeking commentary about why libraries are important. Library workers can refute anti-library sentiment by sharing personal stories about their work.

Email your donors. Take advantage of the emotional response to anti-library news articles by appealing to your donor base. You don’t even have to mention the offending news article. Just say something to this effect: “There are some who think libraries are obsolete. They don’t understand the value of the public library. But you do. Let’s prove the other guys are wrong by showing them how much good the library can do in the community.” Fight ignorance with inspirational messages to give your base a productive and concrete way to vent their anger and show their opposition to anti-library sentiment.

Double down on your efforts to educate the public about the good your library is doing. Most of us are so busy marketing services and events happening right now that we leave very little room in our promotional schedules to message our supporters about the good things we do in the community. Make it a priority to share messages about the hope and help your library gives to the community. Schedule regular promotions about the work your librarians do every day. Ask your cardholders to share stories about the ways in which the library has enriched and changed their lives. Whenever your staff works an event, make it a point to ask attendees to write or record a testimony about how the library has helped them. We must do a better job of showing that the library is more than a place to read books.

Contact your legislators and ask for more funding.  You might be wary of pointing out the arguments against public library funding to the very men and women who control the purse strings. I say this is the perfect time to appeal for more money. You can use anti-library articles as an argument for why your institution needs more funding. Don’t overestimate the amount of knowledge your legislators may have about the work you do or the amount of money you need.  Appeal to their sense of vanity as a community leader and ask them to use their platform and their public presence to help you spread the word about the importance of your work in the community.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

How to Pick Books and More for Collection Marketing

I am not a librarian but sometimes I play one at work sometimes.

One of my favorite parts of the marketing my public library is choosing books, eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and magazines to promote to our cardholders. Collection marketing is a successful part of the marketing strategy at our library. About three years ago, we started to do these targeted emails and social media posts to drive circulation numbers. And it worked! Collection marketing is something every library should do.

How do I actually choose the items we promote? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Most people who work in library marketing are not librarians. My degree is in communication, not library science. But I’ve been picking items to promote for four years and, after picking a few duds, I’ve got a system figured out. So let me share my tips with you.

Pick new stuff. Several years of promotional data tell me that cardholders want the new items entering your collection. We may want to promote older items for re-circulation, but that’s not what our users want to check out. And your biggest competitors are not other libraries. You are competing with Amazon and your local bookstore, where your cardholders can get their hands on the latest books. Most people don’t even think about the library when their favorite author releases a new book. A concentrated collection marketing effort will change that attitude over time. Your cardholders will learn that they can come to you for new books when they are released.

My library sends an email once a month to several cardholder clusters-lovers of print books, lover of eBooks, lovers of audiobooks, lovers of kids’ books, and lovers of downloadable magazines. I pick three new items to promote in each email. It takes me about 20 minutes total to create each message from start to finish. The emails drive a circulation increase for those titles on average anywhere from 125 percent to 375 percent.

The question I get from most libraries when we talk about our new items strategy is this: “Don’t you worry that you’ll create a long holds list. You’ll make people angry because they have to wait.” I was worried about this when I began collection marketing. But the data tells me it doesn’t matter how long the holds list is. Truly. People will wait for a new book for a couple of weeks, at least. Most public libraries have a system for putting a new book or item into the online catalog a few weeks before the item is actually available in the building. That’s the perfect moment to start promoting it, particularly if you include a line in your promotion telling your cardholders that they are getting a jump on the holds list. Your most avid cardholders will pounce at the chance to get in line for holds on a new item.

Pay attention to book pop culture and promote items getting media or critical buzz. I listen to podcasts to learn new books headed to shelves, including the New York Public Library’s podcast The Librarian is In and Overdrive’s Professional Book Nerds Podcast. There are YouTube channels where librarians review advanced reader copies. You can also find advance reviews on Goodreads. And publishing houses like Penguin will often do Facebook live streams with reviewers who talk about their latest releases. If an avid reader of any kind is super excited about an upcoming book release, it’s a title you should promote.

Pick books with interesting covers. This sounds super vain but I swear to you it works. Whenever I send an email to my cardholders, I try to pick good books that meet the previous two guidelines but that also have a bright, colorful, or interesting cover. The better the cover, the higher the circulation numbers will be. Publishers understand the psychological impact of a good book cover. They spend a ton of money and research to pick the most engaging cover and we can use that to our advantage when we choose items to promote.

Pick something for everyone. The decision to market three items in each email is very intentional. I don’t have a lot of data about the exact reading preferences of the cardholders in each cluster I target with my collection emails, due to library privacy concerns. I don’t know exactly what kinds of books each of those cardholders like (mysteries, literary fiction, memoirs, etc.), so I try to pick something for everyone. I usually choose one literary fiction title, one nonfiction, and one thriller/mystery title. I make sure that I don’t pick three female or three male authors. I try to make sure there is something to interest as many people as possible in each email.

Don’t actually pick the items. That’s right! The easiest thing to do is to delegate the selection of items to the people who know what they’re doing–your collection or materials selection department. Contact the department. Set some guidelines for the kind of books you think your cardholders will love. And let them do the work.

I also periodically ask the general staff of my library for recommendations. Librarians love it when you ask them for their recommendations! At this moment, I’m scrolling through a list of more than 50 eBook suggestions from librarians all over my system for National Read an eBook Day. If you ask for recommendations from staff, I guarantee your biggest problem will be whittling down the answers!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

How to Get Media Coverage Without a Press Release

I have a revelation to share with you.

You don’t always have to send out a press release to get media attention.

I KNOW, RIGHT!!

Now, don’t get me wrong. You should not stop sending press releases completely. In fact, often, they are the best way to get a story to the news media quickly. They can make sure that the facts of an important story are published correctly. Here’s a case in point: this week, my library system had to close one of our branch libraries due to significant damage to the ceiling. This branch happens to be in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. We have many ways to communicate with our cardholders, including our website, social media, and email. But the folks who use this branch don’t always have access to Wi-Fi. So it was imperative that we send out a press release so those users could learn about the closure through non-digital sources, like TV and newspaper. The story contained accurate information on things like where we are re-routing holds and returns. It gave us some control over the story. There’s one advantage to the staff shortage crisis in newsrooms: outlets will usually copy and paste your press release and publish it verbatim.

My library used to send out a press release for literally everything. We sent releases for every contest, new vendors, and initiatives large and small. We were sending up to two releases a week. In theory, it sounds like our library was “killing it” in the PR department. But it turns out that kind of constant press release barrage translated to noise to most newsrooms. This is something we learned at the Cincinnati Media Day last year. We got to spend a day mingling with local reporters and asking them all kinds of questions about what we could do to increase our chances of coverage. (Check your local PRSA chapter-they may put on a similar event in your city. I recommend you attend-it was incredibly helpful.)

After Media Day, I vowed to take a hard look at our press release strategy. Which releases were getting coverage and which were ignored? After a careful audit, we’ve decided to stop sending press releases for things like our summer reading program, some of our exhibits, and small service initiatives, like our Tiebrary. This is a new service rolled out in May of this year. We allow cardholders to check out ties and scarves for job interviews. It’s my library’s first foray into the Library of Things realm, and we were really excited.

So why not send a release? We decided to take a personal approach instead. My staff made phone calls to key members of the local media, explaining how the Tiebrary works and why we were doing it.  Yes, it took more time. But it worked. We got coverage in some form on three of the four local TV stations and requests for a written follow-up, which were printed in local papers. Those written versions of the story were personalized by my staff to the audience of the publication requesting the story, which the publications loved. We also received a mention on the local NPR news radio station.

You will want to send out press releases for about 90 percent of the stories your library pitches to the media. But that last ten percent can get media coverage with a more personal approach. I know many library administrators expect you to send a press release, so I urge you to make the case, when you feel passionate about it, that a personal phone call to a news reporter will be much more effective. The end goal is more media coverage for your library. Libraries should be flexible in our approach with the media. We should deliver facts to reporters in the form that is most compelling to them and their readers. And for many reporters, a personal conversation is that form. So if your library administrators insist on sending a release for everything, feel free to print out this post and show it to them. They can even contact me to talk about it further.

And, if you do decide to write a release, I have some suggestions for you on how to increase the chance they’ll be picked up for coverage. These posts are all written after speaking with media professionals.

Lessons from the Greatest Press Release Ever Written

Reporters Reveal How to Get More Press Coverage

Eight Secrets for Library Press and Media Coverage

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

Four Reasons Why Library Marketing Is the Most Patriotic Profession

Here in the United States, we’re celebrating the birth of our country this week. July 4th is a big deal in America. We hold parades. We eat a lot of food. We set off fireworks. We wave the flag, wear the flag, and sing about the flag. We generally make fools of ourselves as we declare our love of the U.S. and list all the things that make America the best country ever.

But you may have noticed, even if you don’t live in the United States, that there’s been a bit of a shift in the collective patriotic mindset over the past 18 months. We are in a bit of a rough patch politically, ideologically, and culturally, you might say. There are some days when I find myself wondering if it was even worth celebrating the 4th of July this year.

Whenever I feel like my country is not living up to its ideals, it helps to think about my work. I work in a public library, with some of the most giving and noble people in existence. They do patriotic work every day. Libraries are the home of civility, which receives so much discussion of late. They are important public institutions. And no matter what country you call home, your work in library marketing is a patriotic duty. Here are four reasons why that is true.

Good Library Marketing keeps the building open. Good library marketing compels people to come to programs, check out items, and give to your library. Without fulfilling those three objectives, your library would fail to thrive. Cuts would be made to hours and staff. Services would be eliminated. A cut in any of those areas would mean the people in your community who need the library the most would suffer. When you do your job well, you are helping to raise up the underprivileged. You put much-needed services into their hands.

Good Library Marketing creates jobs. When you do a good job of keeping the collection in circulation or getting people into your buildings, you are creating employment opportunities for your fellow staff members and beyond. Publishing houses stay open. Authors have monetary incentive to keep writing. Program presenters get a paycheck for sharing their knowledge with your community. You help sustain employment for hundreds of thousands of workers outside of your community, including custodians, security staff, computer and technology service workers, and so much more.

Good Library Marketing connects people to their communities. When you do a good job of marketing your library to your public, you make people feel connected to each other. You give people a vested interest in their fellow human. When you help young children to learn to read, you improve the lives of everyone. A good library marketer can make that case, even to people who don’t have young children. They can make people care about one another. A well-publicized book club brings together a group of people who may not have otherwise met each other. Those people can talk to one another about subjects that never would come up in unregulated conversation. They learn about each other. They learn to disagree respectfully! Sometimes, a discussion that begins in a library can lead to social change. You help to make that happen!

Good Library Marketing supports the arts. I’ll bet your library hosts art exhibitions, musical and theater performances, and other arts-related programming and services throughout the year. When you do a good job of marketing those programs, you are supporting the arts in your community. You are enriching the lives of the people you serve. Many of them may not have the money to attend ticketed events. You are bringing beauty, philosophy, and creativity into their lives.

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How to Get Over Fear and Other Big Challenges to Library Marketing

When I was in first grade, I wanted to be famous. My big break arrived in the form of a school contest. The winner got to read a public service announcement about education on the radio. “IT HAS TO BE ME!!!” I exclaimed to my bewildered mother when I learned of the contest. She gently explained that I couldn’t win. She knew I faced a huge obstacle. I did not know (yet) how to read! The time between the contest announcement and the audition was short. How would I ever learn to read well enough to do it on the air? My mother is a very practical person. This was an insurmountable obstacle in her eyes.

I proved my mother wrong through sheer determination, and with a little help from the “Dick and Jane” series. I learned to read and won the contest! That was likely the first time I realized this powerful fact: there really isn’t any problem out there that can’t be solved.

20 years later, I found myself in a similar situation at my job as TV producer. The station suffered a huge power failure. The generators died. We had no way to get on the air. But failure was not an option and with airtime fast approaching, we came up with a plan. We would broadcast live from the parking lot using our live truck. It worked. We felt like heroes. Once again, I realized there was no problem that could not be solved.

We all face obstacles every day. Library marketing is not an easy job. You deal with deadlines, staffing issues, tiny budgets, and bureaucracy. Despite these obstacles, you make it work, day after day.  Your attitude plays a huge role in determining whether you overcome obstacles. Many of our problems are unique to this industry. Do. Not. Fear. You can find ways around anything. Here are some ideas to help.

The obstacle: there is never enough time. The library year is like the “lazy river” at my local YMCA; a constant, swirling flow of events that keeps pushing us forward. It takes some force to break free. When you’re under pressure to promote each big event, you may feel like you never have enough time to do anything well. All the emphasis is on the result and most people don’t give too much thought to the process.

The solution: Create a marketing strategy and STICK TO IT. The strategy must be clear, with expectations and goals set in writing. Get it approved by your supervisor and administrators. Explain it to staff. A strategy will help you stay laser-focused. Your marketing can be consistent. Library users will start to recognize the strategy of your organization without reading the mission statement. You’ll be able to accurately measure results. And, most important, you’ll be able to say “no” to promotions that don’t serve to drive your library’s overall strategic mission.

The obstacle: there is never enough money.  Budgets are a pain. Nothing can make you feel like you can’t reach your goals like facing the cold, hard reality of zero cash flow.

The solution: start small and partner up. Ask your administration for money to fund social media advertising. It’s cheaper than traditional ad buys. Your administrators might not realize how effective targeted social media ads can be. You can easily prove that you can make a good return on their investment. Look for partnership opportunities to promote more than the big programs. Create a standard agreement for media sponsorships of major programs, listing the action items your potential sponsors will fulfill and what benefits you can offer them in return. For every big program or marketing push, brainstorm partnership opportunities. For instance, my library uses partnerships for author events and to promote our collection.

The obstacle: too much work, too few people. Trying to take on a concerted, strategic marketing initiative can be overwhelming when you work alone. It’s a struggle just to keep up with the day-to-day stresses of social media, press, and meetings.

The solution: Ask for more help. You’ll find librarians who have an interest and skill in social media, writing, video, and design. Ask around and recruit those staff members to help you create content, with their supervisor’s permission of course. Ask for permission to engage an intern or two. Every organization has people with hidden talents!

The obstacle: There is never enough data about customers. This one sounds like the most difficult of the problems to solve but it’s actually one of the easiest. If your library isn’t already collecting data about your current customers, it should. I know libraries have a long and proud tradition of protecting the data and privacy of users and I respect that. I think there is a balance that can be struck. We can’t serve our cardholders well and point them in the direction of the items and services they need and want unless we know something about them. Collecting data on their card use preferences isn’t intrusive and I bet if you ask your cardholders, they’d confirm my assertion as long as we don’t share the data or lose it.

The solution: Ask, ask, and ask again. When people come to programs, hand them a three-question survey: How did you find out about this program? Do you have a library card already? What other kinds of things would you like to see at this library?  Create a new cardholder survey to gauge the interests of people just entering your library system. A yearly satisfaction survey for all cardholders is also necessary, particularly when you can take the results and split them into your different persona groups.

There are a number of software companies that can help you sort through cardholder use while masking the names of the actual items checked out by your cardholders, like Savannah by Orangeboy. From there, you can map your customer’s journey: When they get a card, how long does it take them to use it? Are they checking out books or using your digital collection or computers? Do they simply let it languish? Do you have some customers who got a card years ago, used it a specific way, and then stopped altogether? Do you have some customers who are making the transition from print items to digital materials? Do you have some customers who are only interested in one particular kind of item–DVDs, audio books, or computers? Break your customers into groups based on what they do with the card. Start creating pieces of content that target those groups.

The obstacle: fear. After five years of sharing library marketing information, this is still the biggest problem we face. Libraries are afraid of change AND afraid of failure. How many times have you heard someone in your library say, “But that’s the way we’ve always done it!” It’s the phrase I dread. It takes an enormous amount of effort and energy to change the minds of our fellow library staff members and our administration. It seems like it would just be easier to stay the course.

The solution: no one will die if you try something and it doesn’t work. It’s just marketing. Try stuff. Just try!  We have to remember our main goal–to get customers to move through the cardholder journey and engage with the library. Without that engagement, the people who argue that libraries are obsolete will win! We can’t have that. Do not be afraid. Marketing works best when you start small. Think of it like a staircase. On the bottom step, you make a small argument and you try a new thing. You see results. You report the results and chances are you’ll get to climb to the next step. If you fail, it’s just failure. No one dies. You stay on that step and you try something else! You’ll never get to the top of the stairs unless you try.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

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