When you go on a trip, you likely have a plan. You decide ahead of time where you’ll stay, and how you’ll move around the place you are visiting. You make arrangements to rent a vehicle or research public transportation. You purchase airline or train tickets and book a hotel. You pick restaurants to sample and decide which tourist attractions you’ll visit. You could just land in a city and let fates carry you where they may, but you risk missing out on seeing or experiencing the best the area has to offer.

A plan, on vacation or in the library, helps you make the most of your time. So I was shocked to learn, in a recent conversation with another library marketing professional, that there are some libraries which run without an overall strategy!

An overall library strategy is important because your marketing strategy needs to support and directly align with your library’s strategy. Otherwise, what the heck are you doing anyway? How do you market anything when you don’t know what your library’s goals are? It’s like going on vacation without a plan.

I confess it’s taken me about two months to compose this post. I’m lucky that my library has a well-defined strategy. I have had to do some serious research and soul-searching to answer this question. I’ve landed on three things you should do if your library is lacking an overall strategy.

Directly ask what your library director or board of directors what they want to accomplish. If you library doesn’t have a defined strategy, it’s imperative that you ask about the goals of the director and the board. Even basic statements like “We want to increase program attendance by 25%” or “We want to make sure every child has a library card” will give you a concrete direction for your marketing strategy. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching senior leadership, or are not allowed to do so, ask your supervisor to step in. Stress the importance of a cohesive plan for moving forward in all areas of your library. This really is the cornerstone of your work, so I am asking you to make one last effort to force your senior leadership to name their goals. If that fails, ask yourself…

What do you want to accomplish? When your leadership won’t give you a concrete direction, I give you permission to create your own. Decide what kind of marketing goals you wish to accomplish in the next year. Some examples of self-made marketing goals are: increased audience engagement on a particular social media channel, increased circulation of digital materials, increased number of holds on new materials, or increased readership of your newsletter. Decide how you will define success and then work relentlessly to achieve them. Document your data. You can use that at the end of the year to approach senior leadership to make the case for an overall library strategy. Ask them to imagine how much more you could accomplish if you knew exactly what they wanted to achieve. Learn more about creating a marketing strategy for your library.

Use content marketing to your advantage. Without an overall library strategy, you can still make considerable marketing progress using content marketing. Turn your newsletter into a quarterly publication filled with customer stories, profiles of library staff members, and author interviews. If you have a blog, schedule similar stories on a consistent schedule. Think of your blog and newsletter as more of a news service and not a program listing or announcement platform. Using the newsroom mentality, you can create lots of content that may surprise and delight your audience, increasing attendance and circulation, without any direction from senior leadership. Learn about how to use content marketing to market your library.

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