I returned from Content Marketing World, an amazing two-day marketing conference in Cleveland, full of energy and drive to do this marketing thing and to do it better. I spent 48 hours absorbing information and furiously taking notes in sessions with some of the smartest and most creative people in the industry. You can look forward to posts over the next several weeks sharing what I learned about how to make space in your day for creativity, Snapchat engagement, tools for better writing, how to improve your website, and tips for internal communications. I can’t wait to share with you!

But the key takeaway from this year’s conference is commitment. Content marketing is the focus of the conference. I’ve written about it often. It’s a marketing tactic that every library needs to incorporate into their overall marketing strategy. Joe Pulizzi, who is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and who started this conference six years ago, recommends your library actually create a separate content marketing strategy. It helps to center your efforts and makes it easier for you to make decisions about where to spend your time and money. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can learn how to create a content marketing strategy here.

In his opening keynote this year, Joe told us that only 20 percent of for-profit companies are fully committed to using content marketing. 80 percent are somewhat committed.This is why many of our brand friends are failing at content… they’re not all in.  This is where libraries can beat brands to the punch and get ahead of competitors like Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

In your personal life, how would it work if you were only somewhat committed to your relationships? It would be a disaster! The same is true with content marketing. For the tactic to work, you have to be completely committed. That means we say no, all the time, to mediocre content, which will hurt your library more than doing nothing at all. This is difficult for some library marketers, I know. Libraries are highly bureaucratic. There’s a belief in libraries across the country and around the world that we have to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. There is a fear of change in the library world that I don’t see in many other businesses.

Library marketers are insanely smart with varied backgrounds and experiences. Some of you have degrees in library science. Some have a marketing background. Still others, like myself, come from other professions including journalism. But we’re all driven by one core value… we want the library industry to thrive. We worry about the state of the library world. We worry about funding and time and attendance numbers and circulation. We are, honestly, a little scared of the future.

When an industry is in the midst of a shift, as I believe the library world is right now, there are two paths you can take. You can give in to fear and fight tooth and nail to stay on the traditional path. Or you can choose to change course and look for new ways to strengthen your library.

What have you got to lose? Be all in or get out. There is no halfway. Start by picking one audience and target them consistently with one message or mission. Telling a story over time will build value outside the products and services you offer. Then, your library will become the community center and the trusted source for information for everyone who lives in your service area.

There is a reason that 3500 marketers from 60 countries gather in Cleveland each year. This guy knows what he’s talking about and he has a plan that can work for your library. We’ve been working content marketing into my library’s marketing efforts for more than two years now and our circulation and program attendance numbers continue to rise. Our brand image is strong.This stuff works. All you have to do is decide to be a little different, a little nontraditional. I’m here to help. Let’s make libraries strong again!

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