Photo Courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

For three days this week, more than a thousand library employees took part in the Library Advocacy and Funding Conference, sponsored by EveryLibrary. The organization helps builds support for libraries across the United States. This is the first conference of its kind, designed exclusively to help libraries learn to advocate on the ballot, in the donor arena, and in the hearts of their community.

The conference featured presenters from outside the world of libraries, so attendees got a chance to hear from successful, experienced experts talking about what works in politics and fundraising.

By Wednesday evening, my head was full of new information. Once I finished organizing my notes, I realized that the experts at the conference shared five big ideas specific to library marketing and advocacy. Here is what I learned.

Libraries must target ALL messages

Ashlee Sang, content strategist and copywriter for Ashlee Sang Consulting, said marketing fails when we try to send the same message to all cardholders. You must create marketing that talks to one person, on a level that speaks to their truth, their needs, and their problems.

Sang encouraged libraries to create personas to help with targeting. You can use data like checkouts and holds, as well as in-person interactions at the checkout desk, in the comment section of your social media, and even email, to help you create those personas.

Then, when you create marketing messages, think about targeting those personas. This will help you avoid designing around your own personal biases. Instead, it puts the focus on the people you are trying to serve.

Key quote: “If you create a message for everyone, you are creating a message for no one.”

Your library brand is more than a logo or a color scheme

Anjelica Triola, marketing director for Wethos, wants libraries to understand that your brand is not the colors and fonts that you use. It is the feeling that people get when they think about your library but are not actually in your library or around a librarian. That feeling will lead a cardholder to be an evangelist for the library.

Kimberly Gordon, brand strategist and marketing consultant, added that people crave a library with clear values and a commitment to being good corporate citizens. If your library communicates those two points, you’ll stand out in a positive way and showcase your value.

Gordon pointed out that we are living in a heightened state of emotion (I’m writing this pieces a few hours after the death of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so that note really resonates with me!). She wanted libraries to remember that your brand represents a promise to your community.

Key quote:Marketing your brand improves likeability and sets you apart from your competitors. It makes you stand out in a positive way.”–Kimberly Gordon

Librarians connect with their community by finding common ground

Jasmine Worles, trainer for the National Democratic Training Committee, emphasized that the issues that mean the most to library staffers, both on the job and personally, are not unique to you. Other people care about the same issues!

Worles encouraged librarians to talk about why they love the library and why they are passionate about their work. Your “story of self” is the starting place of a connection. It builds genuine relationships and makes you trustworthy and credible.

As a library staffer, you may think that the library is bigger than you or that it’s not about you. But it IS about you.

Key quote: “Tell your story of self all throughout the campaign. It’s the most magical and effective piece of any campaign.” 

Diversity should be a part of your library strategy

Kim Crowder runs a consulting firm dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and in marketing. She’s been a guest on this blog before.

Crowder pointed out that diversity is looking at the ways people are different, then celebrating and acknowledging that. It’s not monolithic. And libraries must ask themselves, “How can inclusiveness be centralized in our message on a regular basis?”

She believes libraries must create a strategy about their commitment to inclusiveness and make it available to anyone to see. Crowder asked attendees to be open to feedback, to be willing to be uncomfortable, and to talk about diversity and inclusivity internally, as well as externally.

Key quote: “We all have bias, but we don’t always recognize it. If you fumble, admit your mistake, sincerely apologize, and be authentic in your efforts.”

Libraries should mix content formats for better engagement on Facebook and Instagram

Two representatives from Facebook and Instagram held a joint session with lots of tips for library social media engagement.

They encouraged libraries to share frequently and consistently, especially during important times like the pandemic. They also said the latest research shows a mix of format types (video, carousel images, static images, gifs, etc.) can help boost your page engagement. Avoid one kind of content all the time.

Finally, they encouraged libraries to livestream more often on both platforms, engage more frequently with other pages and profiles, and use Stories on both Facebook and Instagram to share content.

Key quote: “Highlight important announcements, share frequently and consistently, post more frequently during important times, and be informative and timely.”

Did you attend LAFCON? What did you learn? Share your takeaways in the comments.

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Why Libraries Lost HUGE Parts of Their Patron Base During the Pandemic and How to Fix It

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