Okay everyone, let’s have some real talk. Is it just me, or is it sometimes insanely hard to get any new marketing ideas to pass approval in a library?
Libraries are bureaucratic organizations. If you’ve worked in one for your entire professional career without losing your ever-loving’ mind, I applaud you. The transition was hard for me. Really, really hard.
In my previous life as a television news producer, my entire day was self-contained. I came in, I decided what stories would go into my show, wrote them, juggled them, and sometimes threw them all out and started over an hour before air time. But when air time hit, we did it. You can’t hesitate when you’re doing live TV news.
Sometimes we had to make it up as we went along. I might find myself in the middle of a story with no honest idea what I would be doing next. Once, we did an entire show in the parking lot of our station using the live truck to broadcast our signal because the power went out and the backup generators were dead.
I was queen of flying by the seat of my pants. There was no situation that I couldn’t handle, even if it meant I had to BS my way out of it.
But when I left TV news, I realized there’s a real difference between the decision-making process in a newsroom and the decision-making process in the rest of the professional world, including libraries. Here’s the big point: When I was a journalist, I never really had to ask permission to do much of anything. Or, if I did ask, my boss made a decision quickly and we put the plan into action immediately.
This requires a certain level of trust between managers and workers, which is a blessing and a curse. It meant we had enormous creative freedom and it meant that sometimes made mistakes… occasionally of epic proportion. We had a name for those: errors of enthusiasm. We tried to avoid them but we also realized that: 1.) we’re human, so errors will happen eventually. 2.) In a job like TV news or in a library, when you screw up, no one dies. 3.) Mistakes are a learning opportunity.
So imagine the monster shift required for my professional psyche as I moved into my new career marketing for a library. In the library marketing world, we plan promotions months in advance, schedule, and sit through rounds of approvals by various departments. How does anything ever get done around here, I found myself wondering?
But after a while, the benefit of this workflow became clear to me. With more time to think, fewer mistakes are made. And while mistakes aren’t terrible, it’s nicer for the customer when you work out the kinks before you show them the product!
Still, presenting a new idea is sometimes challenging and intimidating for library marketers. Here are the three things I do to try to prepare myself to give each new idea the best shot for passing approval by administration, while minimizing the bumps in the process.
- Research, rehearse, review. Before you pitch a new idea, do your research. Include information about how your idea will benefit the customer and your library. Work out the pitfalls. Have an answer for how you will handle the problems that may arise from your plan. Present your idea to trusted friends at your organization–someone who won’t immediately go to their boss or co-worker and reveal your ideas before they’ve had time to flower. After you’ve come up with your final plan, step back for a few days and look it over. Review it at home. Review it before bed. Review it during lunch. Know it backwards, forwards, and standing on your head.
- Pitch with confidence. You’ve worked hard on this idea and have anticipated all the possible pitfalls. When it’s time to pitch the plan to higher-ups, do it with confidence. You know your stuff. You’ve taken the time to do your research. You’ve got this! A confident attitude will make your plan seem more plausible to skeptical ears. Sell it, baby!
- If the answer is no, don’t give up. This is the most important point. A “no” doesn’t have to mean the end of an idea, especially if you think it’s really beneficial to your library and customers. As John Cleese says, there are no bad ideas–just ideas whose time has not yet come. Write your idea on a post-it note, stick it on your desk, and keep it top of mind. Down the road, you may find the creative equivalent of a backdoor or a side window–a way to work your idea into reality without going the way you had originally intended.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to do a podcast. You did your research, you presented with confidence, and your library administrators say “no.” That doesn’t mean you’ll never get a podcast. At some point, your institution will partner with another organization or start a program that lends itself to the podcasting format. You’ll have a chance to pitch again! Keep your eyes open for new opportunities to present your ideas in a different format. It’s okay if it doesn’t look like you originally envisioned. Works of art go through a metamorphosis… your idea might too, and it might be better than the original!
Are you interested in writing a guest article for this blog or do you know someone whose insight would be helpful to my readers? Leave a message in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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