In July, I had the privilege to be part of a webinar by Recorded Books and the Library Journal on digital promotions of libraries. Many of you participated–thank you for attending!

There were a lot of questions after the webinar that went unanswered. I took screenshots. I’ll be trying to answer each one in this blog and in the Library Marketing Show over the next few months, so keep an eye out for that.

I was going through the questions this week and one caught my eye: What main marketing aspects do you suggest for smaller libraries? We have two people in the Marketing Department and we find that we are stretched very thin to try and touch all avenues of advertising.

That’s a struggle many libraries face, no matter if you’re a public, private, or academic library. Many systems assign a small staff for marketing. Then they set big expectations for what that tiny staff will be able to produce. It’s a recipe for panic.

I’ve done marketing with a small staff and I can tell you that from my experience, the best advice I have is two-fold: set priorities, then stay laser-focused. To help you with that, I created this guide with seven steps to get you through the process.

If your staff is tiny but your dreams are big, you can successfully market your library by following these tips.

Find out what the library’s overall goals are and set expectations for the rest of the staff. I sincerely hope you are working for a library with senior leaders who will welcome a chance to talk with you about your work. I suggest setting a meeting that focuses on one item: get them to tell you exactly what their priorities are. What is it they want to do over the course of the next year? Ask them for two to three goals. Ask them to imagine what it would look like to them to achieve those goals.

These are your marketing priorities. You should spend the majority of your energy meeting those goals through your marketing efforts.

With a small staff, you’ll need to stay focused and keep your marketing priorities in line with what senior leaders want to accomplish. Any other marketing efforts only happen if senior leaders ask for them, or if you have extra time. Set expectations with the rest of the library staff that you’ll be focused on these priorities.

Time out your tools. In whatever form works best for you, lay out all the marketing tools at your disposal: press releases, forms of signage, emails, social media platforms, and so on. Next to each tool, write an estimate of how long it will take you or your staff to create a well-rounded promotion for that tool. For instance, how long does it take to write a press release for your library? Factor in the time it takes to gather information from various sources, write and edit your release, get approval, and the time it will take you to send your release to the various media outlets.

Decide which tools are most effective for your library. As you consider each of the goals set out by your senior leaders, identify which of the tools in your list are likely to be most effective for your promotion. Add up the time you listed in the previous section for creating each promotion.

Now you know exactly how much time it will take you to put together a marketing campaign that will reach your library’s goals. If it will take more time than your tiny staff can handle, start eliminating tools, beginning with the least effective.

Map out a schedule. Small library marketing departments have to be super strategic with their time. Set a schedule with deadlines for yourself and your colleagues. I actually create “appointments” in my calendar to create promotional pieces. That prevents other library departments and outside partners from scheduling meetings during times when I know I need to focus on content creation. It also ensures that I know part of each day will be devoted to content creation. I can’t get out of it, or find other, more exciting things to do with my time!

Measure results. Don’t forget to measure and record the reaction to each piece of your marketing plan. Analyze what worked and what did not, so you can put that knowledge to use next time.

Ask for more help. If you are seeing success in a certain area and you know your library could do even better if you had additional help, ask for it. You may get a “no” but that’s okay. Asking for help shows your senior leaders that you are committed to your library and its success. I asked for a blog for five years straight before I got one. I asked for a videographer for two years before I was allowed to hire one. Be politely persistent.

Most importantly: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember: no one dies in our industry. Our work is important. But, in the grand scheme of the world, the consequences are minimal if a deadline is missed or a punctuation mark is out of place. We should try hard to do our best work. But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t churn out all the promotional pieces you want to. You are human.

More help for your small staff

Everything You Need to Know to Create an Effective Marketing Plan for Any Library Promotion

My Library Doesn’t Really Have a Strategy-Now What?

Don’t miss the LIBRARY MARKETING SHOW every Thursday on YouTube. I take email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form. If I pick your topic, I’ll send you a personal link to the video after it’s posted. 

And check out these upcoming events and webinars where we can connect and discuss library marketing. Registration links included.

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