Shelver in the 16mm film area of the stacks, May 26th, 1974. Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

I am a new-ish fan of K-pop.

During quarantine, my 20-year-old daughter asked me to watch a reality series with her. It features her favorite Korean boy band, Stray Kids.

I was touched that she wanted to spend time together. I couldn’t say no, especially when I know she’ll be moving out of our house soon.

So during those dreary days of lockdown, I had something to look forward to: the point in the evening when she and I would make tea and snacks, and crawl into her bed to watch the members of Stray Kids compete to see who could sled down a hill holding a pitcher of water without spilling it or who could catch the most fish.

I became a fan of their music. And because I work in marketing, I started taking note of the way the promotion for Stray Kids, and other Korean musical groups, is coordinated.

Right now, six big K-pop groups are competing in a music variety reality show called Kingdom. It’s a master class in promotion. The marketing team builds excitement in the fan base by staggering promotional content over a specific period of time before each episode airs. Fans are seeing content at different times and days as they move across various platforms.

Libraries can learn something from K-pop.

Creating a compelling message, picking images, and deciding which tactics you will use to promote your library is important. But, deciding when you’ll release those promotions is just as critical.

When I started work in library marketing, I would create a marketing campaign and intentionally release all the promotions on all channels in the same day.

On the appointed day, my team sent an email and a press release. We added a homepage graphic and posted on all our social media platforms. We changed out the digital signage in our branches and put up posters.

And it was never very effective.

Then I heard marketing expert named Andrew Davis talk about staggered distribution. The approach takes advantage of the consumer cycle of excitement to expand your reach.

When you use staggered distribution, you release one or two promotional tactics at the beginning of your promotional cycle. Maybe you put up posters and send an email to your community.

Your promotion gets some play, and excitement builds in your community. People start talking about it. They might even share your promotion with their family and friends.

When the excitement dies out, you release your promotion on a second channel. The cycle of excitement and sharing begins again.

When that ends, you release your promotion on a third channel. You cycle through your promotion like this until you’ve used all the tactics planned.

When you use the staggered approach, you get a longer promotional thread. Your promotions will be more successful because the excitement around them builds over time, not in one big burst. Everyone in your audience sees the promotions. And more people take the action you want them to take!

For decades, my library used a traditional, all-at-once promotional approach to our Summer Reading program, which ran from June 1 through July 31. We released promotions using all our available tactics on May 1. And our registration numbers and check-in numbers were never as high as we wanted.

By the time we got to June 1, our audience was already tired of hearing about Summer Adventure. We used up all their excitement before we even got to the event!

So, we switched to a staggered approach.

We released promotions on our website on May 1 and installed yard signs. On May 15, we sent an email. On May 20, we put up all the signs around the inside of the library and started promotions on social media. From May 21 until June 1, we’d post once a day on one of our social media platforms. We started our ads on May 25. We sent a second email on June 1.

Throughout the course of our summer reading program, we would stagger promotions around all channels, so the message reached everyone in our audience, wherever they were consuming our content. We kept our audience excited, engaged, and interested.

And most importantly, it was effective. The first year we tried this staggered approach to distribution, we saw an 18 percent increase in registrations and a 67 percent increase in weekly check-ins.

This approach will work for your audience for any large-scale promotion. Stagger the elements of your promotion across various channels over time. More people will see your marketing and your efforts will be more effective.

I talked more about this idea in this episode of the Library Marketing Show. Try it and let me know if you see an increase in the effectiveness of your marketing work.

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