I was in the same room as Luke Skywalker.
When I heard Mark Hamill was keynoting Content Marketing World, I may or may not have squealed out loud. Repeatedly.
When he walked onto the stage, the energy in the room went up by about 1000 megawatts. 4000 marketers got to their feet and cheered. I could not post anything on social media for 20 minutes, there was such a drag on the WiFi from everyone else!
What the heck was Luke Skywalker doing at a marketing conference? Show business is all about marketing and actors are more than men and women who stand up in front of a camera and read lines. They have to know how to appeal to audiences through unique storytelling and emotional engagement. That’s the oldest and purest form of marketing.
Hamill is every bit as gracious as you would imagine. And he had five great insights that apply to library marketing.
Love your job or don’t do it. Mark Hamill loves making and marketing films. He told us about how he enjoyed coming to the publicity department to watch the studio create marketing materials to promote the Star Wars series. During the latest movie, he thought of new ways to market the movie on Twitter, including a funny incident where he promised to unveil the trailer for Star Wars: Episode VIII on a certain day. When the day arrived, he shared a video of his trailer… his dressing room trailer. “How they thought we’d have a trailer ready for a movie we hadn’t even begun to shoot yet, I don’t know,” said Hamill. Hamill said he was fascinated by the creative process involved in marketing a movie series with super fans who salivate, analyze, memorize, and deconstruct every single line. He says that energy made the work he had to do on camera more exciting. When you love your job and you are passionate about it, your library will benefit. If you have the privilege of hiring staff, make sure they’re passionate and energetic too.
Don’t be afraid of change or learning new things. George Lucas told Hamill, “The thing is, in show business, nobody knows anything. The business is always changing and evolving.” That’s true for libraries too and Hamill says that’s a confidence booster for all of us. You need tenacity in any business, including library marketing. Said Hamill, “Sometimes I think tenacity is more important as talent, or at least as important. Can you survive all the failures?” In the end, Hamill says you must believe in yourself, work hard, never give up, and you can do anything.
If you hit a creative wall, take a break from it. You don’t have to have all the answers all the time. The answers will come to you when you aren’t thinking about it. Try to imagine what people want, keeping in mind that those wants may be very different from what your library is planning to promote. Your marketing should create an emotional response in your cardholders. If it isn’t doing that, go back to the drawing board and keep thinking! Hamill says he also always tries to find a way to re-purpose old ideas with his own lens. Everyone comes at things with a different perspective. Follow your instincts. Trust yourself.
Understand the different facets that go into your library’s operation and function. If you’ve never worked on the front line with staff, take a few hours to job shadow someone at a branch. When you have a chance to sit down with a senior leader, ask questions about their job, the concerns, their hopes, and the direction they want to see the library take. Hamill wants us to remember that what we do is composite art. Marketing isn’t a disconnected endeavor. It supports and is supported by countless other people within the library system. You’ll do your best work when you know how all the pieces fit together.
Know that you’ll never be satisfied. Just aim to be less dissatisfied. Your work will never be perfect. The best you can hope for is to improve with each promotion. You never know what great thing is waiting for you around the corner. Hamill left us with this parting thought: “I never expected to be in a galaxy far, far away as I rocket toward Social Security, that’s for sure.”
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