Courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Check out their digital library here:

I have never been one for spontaneous excursions. When I travel (boy, do I miss travel!), I like to have a plan.

I research restaurants. I research tourist attractions. I check to see if there’s a library in the area. I might even jump onto Google Street View and “walk” the area myself to make sure I’ll know where I’m going.

I do all of this because I want to get the most value out of the time I’m spending in a new place. I don’t want to miss anything fun, interesting, or historic.

But occasionally, I’ll stumble upon something amazing that I didn’t find in my research. Those discoveries always end up being completely amazing.

On my first few hours in Edinburgh, Scotland, I had lunch in a tavern. As I left a tour of Holyrood Palace, I realized I hadn’t eaten in 12 hours. I was starving. I didn’t feel like walking another mile to one of the restaurants I had chosen in my pre-trip planning.

I found Tolbooth Tavern tucked into a tiny corner of an ancient-looking wall near Holyrood Palace. It looked quiet and unassuming. And everything on the menu posted outside sounded delicious.

It was the best meal I had in Edinburgh. The haggis was spectacular and beautiful. The beer was perfect. The atmosphere was exactly what I imagined I’d find in that city. It’s one of my favorite memories of the trips.

What in the world does this have to do with library marketing?

On most occasions, I believe in planning. A well-executed marketing plan that’s strategic and focused is the best recipe for library marketing success.

But sometimes, you can stumble upon an amazing promotional opportunity that you didn’t plan for. And those unexpected opportunities can be surprisingly successful.

If inspiration strikes or you see a chance to grab a new marketing or promotional opportunity, you should absolutely do it. A quick pivot can lead to engaging and successful promotions.

Planning for the unpredictable

Anyone can include some flexibility in their marketing schedule. The key lies in planning… which sounds contradictory. But the trick is simple.  

When you’re laying out your regular marketing schedule, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop in promotions

In general, most of your editorial calendar, around 75 percent, will consist of promotions that have hard deadlines. The rest, 25 percent, can be open spaces for those opportunities that you cannot plan for.

How does this work, exactly?

Be on the lookout for opportunities to do some flexible marketing. Great promotional stories sometimes appear unexpectedly. They may include:

  • User-generated content on social media
  • A connection to an event happening in pop culture
  • A suggestion from a customer or staff member
  • An idea you got from another library
  • A last-minute opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. 
  • A great event that’s been planned by a branch at the last minute. 

If you purposefully leave 25 percent of your editorial calendar open, you can seize these opportunities for the space you’ve deliberately set aside.

Example: My library turned around a movie promotion sent to us by a vendor, who offered a free first-run movie streaming on their site on the same day that the movie was released into theaters.

We got word a week before the movie premiere. The movie had a great cast that we thought might be popular with our cardholders.

We swung into gear. We created graphics for our website, social media, and an email campaign to let users of our digital services know about the promotion. We managed to do all of this in two days.

And the promotion was a success! On a normal day, we stream about 25 movies to cardholders. After this promotion, we streamed 244 copies of this first-rate movie alone.  

This happened because we left holes in our calendar for opportunities just like this.

You won’t have to turn a last-minute campaign around every week or even every month. But when you do… it will be worth it.  Sometimes the gold nuggets of promotion are the ones you can’t plan of time! 

The benefits of flexibility in your library promotions

Flexible marketing can be fun. You may do some of your best work when you are formulating promotions in a few days or a few hours. A deadline or a great idea with a time limit can push you and your staff to be creative in ways you’ve never imagined. 

Flexibility allows you to adapt to unforeseen shifts in your community’s needs and wants.

And flexible marketing makes it easy to continuously improve the way you do library marketing. It gives you an excuse to experiment.

And when you do that, you will learn new things about your audience, what they like, and what they dislike. Your marketing overall will improve.

What happens if I don’t have anything to fill my calendar holes?


Give yourself a break. Take that day off from promoting your library.

I know this is a crazy concept coming from a blog that is all about library marketing. But we need to spend more time in reflection if we want our library marketing to be amazing.

True creativity, the kind that adds value to your workplace and your life, is something that needs to be treasured and cultivated. If you want your library to succeed, you need to take time to be creative.

An unfilled hole in your editorial calendar is the perfect opportunity for that.

You May Also Want to Read These Articles

Part One of the Library Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Creating an Editorial Calendar That Actually Works!

Fight for Your Ideas! Four Tips to Help You Get the Green Light for New Library Promotional Ideas

Latest Book Review

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, enter your email address and click on the “Follow” button in the lower left-hand corner of the page.