Tell me something…

I’m about to tell you something you already know.

Those big library events, like Summer Reading, are hard to promote. Every library has at least two of these high-stakes events each year. Libraries spend a significant portion of their budget on the pieces of those big programs. They come with high expectations and goals. They require months of planning. No pressure.

But there are three big things you can do to increase the likelihood your Big Library Event will be successful. To illustrate this, I’m going to focus on Summer Reading, since that’s the biggest program my library–and probably yours– does each year. As I write this, we’re gearing up to really start the full-court press of promotions. So it’s my most current example.

But this short list of life-changing, big-event promotional ideas can work for any large-scale campaign. They’re not hard to implement but they will help you reach a new audience of media and customers. And doing a better job at getting your promotional message to those two demographics could be the difference between success and failure.

  1. Ditch the traditional press release. Instead, write a profile for your blog. If you don’t have a library blog, and you’re forced to send out something to the media on official library letterhead, write a story and not a fact-driven announcement, like this one. I’m basically just asking you to shake up the way you pitch your events to the media. No kitschy headlines. No tables of facts. Turn the focus of your pitch onto your cardholder, not on how fantastic your library is for putting this program together. Interview a librarian. Interview a customer. Get a real quote from one of your sponsors or the event organizer, not one that you’ve made up. Work all of those together into a story instead of a traditional press release. If you want to catch the attention of the news media, you need to be a little different. Bonus: You’ll also be rewarded by Google, which will pick up you keywords in your blog post and start showing the post in search results for anyone looking for those keywords (Google doesn’t catch keywords on PDF or Word document press releases posted to a website.) For more on why a press release isn’t your best choice to communicate with the media–and what to do instead–read this very thorough post by journalist Mike Butcher.
  2. Send a link to your creative media piece or the full story in a document to your media contacts in a personalized email.  I know it takes longer to send an email to each media contact than to send one mass email, but it’s worth it. Think about the person to whom you are sending the email and write a personalized note to them with unique ideas specific to their outlet for how they might cover your event. Make them feel special, and they’re more likely to give you coverage in return. For tips on how to target the media through emails and what to say in your email, read this blog post from Criminally Prolific.
  3. Buy social media ads, particularly on Facebook. Facebook ads are easy to put together and purchase. And they work. Facebook has eased up on the rules about ads. All you really need is a few descriptive lines of text, a beautiful high-res photo, and a solid link back to your website. You can customize messages for different segments of your target audience and you’ll get data back from Facebook about exactly how your ad is doing. I’m a firm believer that social media ads are more effective than newspaper or billboard ads. It’s where your audience is hanging out–and it’s the best place to find non-library customers.  For a whole host of Facebook ad templates, check out this free download from Digital Marketer. For more ideas on how to improve your library’s summer reading program and the promotions of that program, read this post too!    Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.