How One

Sometimes, I’m a curious girl.  And about six months ago, a Twitter post featuring this billboard piqued my curiosity.

It caught my attention because it’s different from any other library billboard marketing campaign I’ve ever seen. It’s a story-driven content marketing campaign, and I found it to be intriguing.

So I switched into journalism mode and went in search of the creator behind the campaign, hoping to pick his or her brain about how the concept was formed.

My search led to me to Jason Tutin, Digital and Learning Development Manager at Leeds Library and Information Service. The Leeds Library is located in the United Kingdom, roughly 200 miles north of London and has 35 locations.

Here’s what I asked Jason about the #whatsyourstory campaign, the strategy, and results.

What did you hope to accomplish–what was the strategy behind the campaign?

The campaign strategy was to change people’s perceptions of modern public libraries. We wanted a campaign that would be fresh, exciting, and high-profile. It was designed to be fun and appealing to adults living in Leeds to inspire them to engage with the library service. We also wanted to align our online and offline marketing so our offer was more ‘joined-up’ across promotional channels. In summary, we wanted to:

  • Engage new and existing customers
  • Raise awareness of libraries in Leeds
  • Develop brand recognition
  • Change perceptions of what libraries can offer
  • Improve online engagement with users through our existing social media accounts and the Leeds Reads blog.

How did you promote it? Was this a fixed-time campaign or is it ongoing?

We developed a human story PR strategy and detailed content strategy for both online and offline media. We wanted it to be about people’s stories and how the libraries played a part in their achievements. The #whatsyourstory campaign was launched in late June 2015. Lamppost banners, a billboard, press and TV coverage, a website, blog posts, and print flyers all accompanied a comprehensive social media campaign. Phase One of the campaign featured two real-life stories from users of Leeds Libraries. Phase Two of the campaign will be launched in early 2016 with two new case studies. We will continue to collect and promote new case studies as part of the campaign.


Traditional media channels were interested in #whatsyourstory because of the stories of Wayne Levitt and Ma Maposa. These two people provided the inspirational case studies that featured in the first phase of the campaign. #whatsyourstory generated 20 pieces of media coverage including two articles in the Yorkshire Evening Post, a broadcast feature on Made in Leeds TV and many more articles in local publications. The potential audience reach of these media outlets is over two million people.

Did you have a budget?

A maximum budget of £10k (about $14,000) was allocated to the initial stages of this campaign. This included concept, design and plan execution. With a relatively small budget and inspiring content featuring real-life case-studies, #whatsyourstory brought Leeds Libraries to the attention of new demographics. The careful strategic planning of the social media content also resulted in the campaign gaining exposure regionally, nationally and internationally. Online engagement rose dramatically on Facebook, Twitter and the Leeds Reads blog.

Additionally, as the campaign is all about local stories from real-life people it has a longer shelf life. We plan to continue with the campaign over the forthcoming months/year and share more positive experiences from people who have used and benefited from the library service.

What was the response from the community?

In addition to reaching new audiences, we wanted the social media element of the campaign to promote engagement and interaction. Throughout the four weeks of the campaign we had 213 Twitter interactions for #whatsyourstory content and 152 interactions on Facebook. One of the most popular tweets was a photo of Ma’s billboard, which was erected on a popular commuter route between Leeds and Bradford. To date, it has received 65 interactions on Twitter alone.  The campaign received great support on social media from Leeds residents, businesses and organisations as well as other Leeds City Council departments and staff.

The impact of #whatsyourstory reached far beyond Leeds, with positive interactions from Australia, Canada and the USA! Our social media engagements increased throughout the campaign and as a result we gained more followers and raised our social media profile. Wayne and Ma’s stories were posted on our Leeds Reads blog and were by far the most popular posts of 2015, gaining 120 shares on social media.

What did you do with all the answers once you had curated them?

We are using the responses that the campaign generates to find new case studies and engage with new audiences.

Was the campaign successful?

Yes, and this success has been recognized by others in the marketing industry. The #whatsyourstory campaign won the Best Creative Comms award at the ‘comms2point0 UnAwards 2015’. The judges said that the #whatsyourstory campaign was:

“A standout triumph across all criteria, from initial strategy and planning to evaluation and metrics and, of course, that crucial element of creativity. The smart use of storytelling was the highlight and we loved the application of real-life, personal journeys to draw on the emotions, capture the imagination and change the perceptions of the audience.”

Any words of advice for other libraries planning a similar campaign?

Marketing of public library services is notoriously difficult because we offer so much to so many people! We decided that the best way to promote our services would be to have real people advocating on our behalf. Their stories have generated a real buzz around the campaign and have really helped to raise the profile of Leeds Libraries within the city and beyond.

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