A library marketer is really a project manager.
That phrase is the best description of our job. We are all planning and managing projects. We are scheduling and executing campaigns. We’re delegating. We manage multiple people who contribute to blog and social media posts. And unless you’re a super organized genius, all that coordination can cause you to lose your sanity.
I sometimes walk into my office in the morning feeling fantastic, and by the time I open my email and see a 30-message thread between departments about a piece of content I need for marketing, I can feel the steam rolling out of my ears.
Project management is like waiting tables. You have multiple customers who all want different things from you. They order at different times and their food comes out at unpredictable intervals. In the meantime, you must keep checking back and making sure they have everything they need for the moment. You must also keep them informed about how their meal is progressing.
It’s the same when for library marketing. We are working on multiple campaigns and we have lots of different customers, internally and externally. So how do you make sure you get all your work done without losing track of projects, content, and posts? It’s not easy.
Many of you have said that project management causes you grief and stress. Many of you don’t have a staff. You are doing this job solo. You’re doing branch work in addition to marketing. Your job is hard.
I have a system, developed over five years of trial and error. I thought I’d share it with you. I hope my tips relieve you of some stress.
Train other library staff to plan. I make it a point to stop by once every month or two to talk to all the departments that contribute to my marketing schedule. I ask them to tell me what is coming up in the next one to three months. At the end of each of those meetings, I make it a point to tell them to let me know if they start planning anything at any point. These “touch-base meetings” sometimes only last 15 minutes but they are incredibly valuable.
To be honest, it took me about a year of doing this to get my coworkers trained to let me in on their plans early. I realized later that most of them thought it best to wait to tell me about an event until they had all the details worked out. Now, they’ll give me a heads-up even if they only know the general subject of the event and the date. That way, I can work it into my schedule ahead of time and plan.
Share your schedule. I noticed that when I shared my promotional schedule with my coworkers, they got a good sense of the kind of work involved in creating a campaign. They started sharing more info with me because they could see the work involved. Don’t be precious with your schedule. Share it… and let everyone see how much work and planning goes into each piece.
Set deadlines and enforce them. I do this for lots of my content, but especially when it comes time for our summer reading program. It’s a massive marketing campaign, the biggest we do all year. I create a schedule by the first week of February. In it, I share the deadlines for each piece of the marketing with everyone involved. This sets clear expectations. I also do this for those who contribute to our quarterly content marketing magazine. I send reminders one month and one week before the submission deadline so it’s clear what I need and when I need it.
Use your calendar. I put appointment reminders in my Outlook calendar to check on the status of certain projects. I can look at my calendar each day and remember that I need to check up on certain things. I even put calendar reminders in for things like changing signs or updating content.
Don’t respond immediately to requests. This habit was hard to form but it’s the best discipline I’ve set for myself. When someone comes to be to tell me they need marketing for an event or service, I generally do not drop everything to plan out the marketing. I will put it on my to-do list for the next day, or even the next week. That gives me time to think about the best way to market each request.
Set aside time each week for planning. I have a designated planning day. I set aside a couple of hours on that day to purposefully think through my marketing. I make lists and set deadlines. It makes me more focused and helps me to know I have that time to think about what’s coming down the road.
Say no sometimes. Listen, I know it’s an uncomfortable conversation. I know you want to help everyone. You may feel pressured to do it all. I hate saying no. But sometimes, it is necessary. If the request doesn’t align with the library’s overall strategy, I say no.
Your time is limited. If you try to do everything for everyone, you won’t do anything well. Sometimes, you must say no. It may not make your friends, but it will make you better at your job. You were hired to do what’s best for the library.
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