We did a big, big thing at my library this year.
We launched a blog.
It’s been a long time coming. I first pitched the idea of a blog to senior leadership in 2015. I created a document that explained the reasons why our library needed a blog. It also laid out my bare bones ideas for how the content creation process would work.
Marketing Advantages to Having a Library Blog
- Easy, cheap, effective way to promote smaller, niche programs.
- We no longer have to rely on traditional media to get the word out about programs and services. We have our own publishing platform for reaching our audience. Traditional media outlets will follow the blog. The posts will be more engaging than a press release and will pitch themselves as bigger story ideas.
- The blog will give us something to link to for promotional posts on social media.
- A blog would be a place to show our thought leadership. We are the information experts! We can demonstrate why people should care about what we say in a long-form, insightful, and meaningful way.
- Easy way to keep our brand top of mind all the time.
- Easy way to show the Library’s human side and let our customers get to know one another.
- Partnership opportunity: We can invite partners to write posts for the library, creating great, shareable content for our users and in turn getting our posts shared by our partners.
So How Would This Work?
- Marketing would be the centralized location for publication-we would manage the editorial calendar, recruit writers, copy edit, publish, and promote posts.
- We would set a cadence for posts—one post per week to start—and re-evaluate at a later date.
- We would recruit post writers from all branches and departments at the Library. We would also recruit Library customers, evangelists, and fellow bloggers and influencers to write guest posts. We would provide them with a simple template for writing their posts, which we would copy-edit and publish. We would ask all guest writers to share the content, once published, on their platforms, giving us instant exposure to their audience.
- Editorial standards will be high: content must be written in a conversational tone, AP style usage of punctuation and grammar must be adhered to, and posts must be engaging, shareable, and interesting to our core audience.
- We would also re-purpose content to use as posts, providing new/updated/additional information not seen in print from sources such as Library newsletters, and email.
- We would evaluate top performing posts once per month and adjust our editorial calendar as necessarily based on data.
I also created a mock editorial calendar listing various post ideas and who might be tapped to write them. After presenting these to my boss, I waited.
For four long years.
Finally, in the summer of 2018, there was major leadership change at our library. Our previous director resigned and a new person took the director’s role. And a few months after that, marketing got the green light for a blog.
To say that there was much rejoicing and celebrating among my staff would be an understatement. After the confetti was cleaned up and the champagne was gone (I’m kidding–there was no confetti or champagne and I regret this immensely), we realized we had to launch this thing as we had promised. And so, we did! Here’s our beautiful finished product.
Our first blog was published on March 4, 2019. So far, we’ve published 65 posts on the blog.
It has already fulfilled all of the advantages I listed in the proposal document. Traffic to our website is up. Media are now going to our blog for story ideas about the library. Our search ranking increased. We have lots of partner organizations asking for permission to write posts for us. Our staff members are writing posts and using the blog as a way to let the public know about the important work they’re doing in their branches and departments. We haven’t spent any money creating beyond staff time. And it helps us to stay top-of-mind with our cardholders and the community at large.
We did learn some big lessons during the process and I want to share them with you now.
Lessons Learned While Launching a Library Blog
Lesson #1: The hardest part is getting started. It took forever to get buy-in on the idea. Keep advocating. Don’t give up.
Lesson #2: Building something from scratch is exciting and frustrating. It was liberating to have the freedom to do whatever we wanted. It was also terrifying. Lean into it! Be open and honest about your fears and expectations. Keep your supervisors in the loop about your observations as you work through the process.
Lesson #3: Communication with staff is vital. Get a vision and guidelines set down on paper and approved as soon as possible, then tell staff so they can begin to build excitement among cardholders. Their enthusiasm is your best marketing tool.
Lesson #4: The first year will be about experimentation. Set a posting schedule that you can keep to without having a stroke. Write all kinds of posts to see what interests your audience. Experiment with posting on different days of the week to see which is best for capturing your audience’s attention.
Lesson #5: Promotion of your blog is just as important as your blog itself. Make sure you work out a plan for how you’ll promote the blog once it’s up and running.
My big piece of advice is to actually refrain from promoting the fact that you have a blog until you have a cache of articles. Promote individual posts but wait a couple of weeks to start talking about the blog as a whole service. Once you have a variety of posts up on the blog, then you can do your big promotional push and reveal. You’ll have to do this full push campaign at least once a year to remind the public that the blog exists, and to let new cardholders and community members know that it’s there.
Lesson #6: Your blog doesn’t have to be perfect on launch day. Pick a launch day and stick to it. It can be a work in progress. You can fix things as you go along. But if you wait for it to be exactly perfect, it’ll never get off the ground.
Lesson #7: Measure and report. Data is your friend. Evaluate what works and what doesn’t. look at the data but also gather feedback from staff and customers about what they want to see.
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