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Confession: when I was working as a TV journalist, I thought public relations was soooooo easy. I imagined a typical PR person spent their day sitting at a desk, cranking out press releases, one after the other. I thought it would be the world’s most boring job. And then I took a job in library marketing and PR. And found out how very wrong I was.
Good public relations work for the library is critical. We must promote all the good our library services and circulation, as well as our contribution to the community. We must counteract stories that cast our institution in a negative public light. We need the public’s support to pass levies and other funding measures. And we’re fighting negative press on issues we can’t control, like crimes committed near our library and opioid use in our public spaces.
Most of the public relations and media work we do in the library is positive and fun. It’s not easy, though. We work without paid distribution software and adequate staff. But there are lots of free tools to amplify your message and get increased media awareness and public brand love for your library. Here is a list of my favorites! (A reminder, I only endorse tools I’ve worked with on this blog. If you are a company with a tool to suggest to readers not listed in my piece, you are welcome to do so in the comments.)
Hemingway App: I first learned about this tool from Ann Handley of Marketing Profs. Simply put, it improves your writing. It actually counts the number adverbs in your copy and forces you to keep them at five or fewer. It also catches passive voice, convoluted sentences, and complex wording. Your copy will be clear and bold. That increases the chances that a reporter or media outlet will pick up your press release or blog entry. It even gives you a grade on your finished product! And it’s free. I write EVERYTHING in Hemingway, including these blog posts. (Bonus: it also counts words, sentences, and gives you a “read” time, which can increase engagement. I’m adding the read time to my blog posts now. Did you catch it?)
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer: I run every headline I write through this free tool. It trains you to write clear, catchy headlines with powerful, uncommon, and emotional words. It also shows you how your headline will look in a Google search and in an email on a desktop or mobile device.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out): This amazing online tool connects journalists with sources (like your expert librarians!) Join the site for free as a source and then journalists will email you with requests for help with stories. There is no better way to get discovered by national media outlets. National requests don’t come often, but when they do they’re amazing. Last summer, a reporter from the New York Times featured our summer lunch program after finding us here.
PR Hunters: This very simple site will email you leads from journalists posted on Twitter. Sign up is free. You can customize keywords like the library, reading, poverty, eBooks, etc., to your profile. Then you’ll get emails when a journalist Tweets a request for information on those subjects. I don’t get a ton of emails from this site, so don’t worry about your inbox exploding with requests. I find it helpful because, honestly, who can be on Twitter all the time watching for PR opportunities. Bonus tip: when you are on Twitter, search the hashtag #journorequests for direct requests from the media. Use it when you want to pitch a specific story.
Google Alerts: Set up a free account and get email alerts when the keywords you’ve attached to your account are used in any online source like a TV or radio website, the online edition of a newspaper or magazine, or in a blog. I also set up alerts for my competitors too so I can keep track of what kind of press they’re getting.
Next week: I’ll share the secrets my staff learned during a one-day conference with local reporters and writers. Find out what the media really wants from you and what you can do to make sure your stories get coverage!
Bonus: Free press release templates!
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