Photo of librarians, courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

It’s sometimes insanely hard to get any new marketing ideas to pass approval in a library.

If there is a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that the crisis helped libraries to see that there are new ways to market and promote their library. It’s opened the door for experimentation.

Even so, presenting a new marketing or promotional idea is sometimes challenging and intimidating for library staff. I know this because every time I talk with librarians at conferences or in one-on-one consultations, they ask, “How do I get buy-in for this great promotional idea with my supervisors and co-workers?”

Here are the four things you can do to gather support and approval for your great new marketing and promotional ideas.

Tell me about a time you had to pitch a library promotional idea. What was the idea? Did you get a yes or no? What did you learn from the experience? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thoroughly research and prepare your pitch.  

Before you pitch a new idea, do your research. You’ll want to present a clear, concise, and strategic case for your idea. Include the following information in your pitch:

  • How the work benefits your community and cardholders.
  • How the work ties into your library’s overall strategy and goals.
  • How the work will get done by staff.
  • The timeline for implementation.
  • What the success measures will be.
  • What the long-term goals of your promotional idea will be.
  • How you will handle problems that may arise.
  • The data to back up your claims.

Here’s an example pitch that includes these points.

You’ve determined that Facebook is not giving you the results you want when you promote individual programs. Registration and attendance at programs have been unchanged or decreasing in the last six months, despite the many posts you create. Instead of using social media, you want to start a targeted e-newsletter sent to the people who frequent each branch in your system. You believe these targeted emails will be more effective because they will reach the audiences most likely to attend these programs.

Your pitch will begin by explaining the problem using data. Include registration, attendance figures, and Facebook engagement figures especially clicks on your registration or event information links. Show how the Facebook posts are getting very little engagement and lead to no increase in registration or attendance.

Next, explain how the move to branch-specific e-newsletters will be better for your community and cardholders because it will offer information about events happening in their neighborhood that are specific to their wants and needs. Look for wording in your library’s strategic plan that will make it clear to senior leaders that you are working to fulfill the strategic goals by offering community-based access to information.

Next, make the case that e-newsletters are a more efficient use of your time because they will be more effective and targeted. Again, be specific when you talk about how long it takes to create a Facebook post versus an e-newsletter.

Now, talk about the ways you’ll measure success for your new e-newsletters: increases in registration and attendance, plus open and click rates on the emails. Be specific and use numbers. This will show that you are confident that your new idea will work.

Spend a few moments talking about your long-term goals: how many new subscribers do you want to get in the first six months or year? How much would you like to see registration and attendance grow? What other library services can you imagine promoting using your e-newsletters?

Layout a timeline: when do you think you can launch your first e-newsletter? How long will it take to grow your subscription list? How often will you send these e-newsletters?

Finally, talk briefly about problems you may encounter and how you’ll handle them. What program will you use to send the e-newsletters? Who will create them if you’re sick or on vacation?

Review and rehearse.

Review your plan several times. It’s a good idea to leave a few days in between each review of the plan, to let your ideas marinate. You may think of new benefits or pitfalls during those breaks. You’ll want to be fully prepared to answer any questions and defend your idea with confidence.

Next, practice presenting your idea to a friend at your organization. Choose someone you trust to give you honest feedback about your idea and your presentation.

You might also consider recording your pitch on Zoom or another video recording program. Check to make sure you are speaking slowly and clearly. Evaluate your tone of voice, eye contact, and body language during your practice pitch.

Pitch strategically.  

Find a time when your supervisor won’t be rushed. They’re more likely to listen to you when they have time to truly consider your idea.

Pick the right day of the week for your pitch. For example, Mondays are often busy and stressful for bosses. Your supervisor may be more negative at the beginning of the week and it’s likely not the best day for your pitch.

When you pitch, be mindful of your body language. If you are sitting in a chair, don’t pivot back and forth nervously or jiggle your legs. Sit still, but upright, and with confidence.

If you are standing, try separating your legs about shoulder-width apart. This is a “power” pose that will help you maintain good posture and will subconsciously give the impression that you know what you are doing… even if you don’t feel that confident!

If the answer is no, don’t necessarily give up. 

A “no” doesn’t have to mean the end of an idea, especially if you think it’s beneficial to your library and customers. There are no bad ideas–just ideas whose time has not yet come.  

Write yourself a note in your work calendar to revisit the idea in six months. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities to present your ideas in a different format.

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