Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  Photo of West End Branch Staff, circa 1940.

I’m 100 percent certain that everyone who reads this blog has heard of the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Written in 1989, this self-help book has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide.

Covey’s approach to attaining goals is to follow what he calls “true north” principles. Those principles are based on seven character ethics that he says are universal and timeless.

It’s a great book. But, because I’m a weirdo, I read it and thought, “There needs to be a list like this specifically for people who work in library promotion.” No joke. My internal monologue is strange.

We need some true north principles for library marketing now more than ever. We face uncertainty in every corner. Algorithms and budget shortfalls and virus variants can make our job seem impossible.

It may feel like the whole world is working against you and your library. So here are my true north principles for doing your best and most effective work.

Be good to yourself.

This is first on my list because it’s the most important and frankly, most library staffers could use a little morale boost. This year, I want you to celebrate the work you do. Every. Single. Week.

By the way, my boss gets full credit for this idea.

It’s pretty simple: At the end of the week, write down all the things you did. Then, pick a “gold star moment“: one thing that you did that stands out for some extra recognition.

Send your list to your boss or keep it for yourself. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take the time to acknowledge all the work you’ve done in the last week.

And, rather than focusing on what you didn’t get done from your to-do list, recognize all the work you did do.

You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel at the end of a workweek. And you’ll be motivated or excited about the work coming in the following week.

Be constantly learning.

I know that most library staffers are incredibly overworked. You’re promoting your library in addition to 100 other tasks, including cleaning the restrooms and acting as security. The idea of spending any time learning more about marketing feels overwhelming.

How does someone fit personal professional development into their schedule?

Set a learning appointment for yourself every single day. All you need is five minutes. Spend that very short but important block of time reading a blog, a book on marketing, or an email newsletter on marketing. If you’re a visual learner, watch a YouTube tutorial on marketing or work on a self-paced marketing course online.

For the typical, full-time library staffer working five days a week with two weeks of vacation, that will add up to 1,150 minutes or 19 hours of learning in a year! That’s plenty of time to stay on top of marketing and social media trends and learn new ways to engage your audience more effectively on all channels.

Best of all, at the end of that year of learning, you’ll feel more confident in your work and of course, your library’s promotional efforts will improve.

Need help finding places to learn about marketing in a short amount of time? Here’s a great list.

Be hyper-focused on your library’s overall goals.

What is your library trying to accomplish right now? Are you hoping to increase your circulation to pre-pandemic numbers? Are you helping to bridge the pandemic educational gap for elementary school students? Are you implementing a step-by-step plan to ensure your library is truly accessible to everyone? Are you undergoing a facilities improvement project?

Your promotions should be centered on whatever your library is trying to accomplish this year.

When you focus your marketing with precision on your library’s strategy, your marketing will be more effective. You will avoid spreading your message thin. You’ll be using your precious time and energy more efficiently.

Every piece of marketing you do needs to be in service of reaching your library’s strategic goals. They are the reason you come to work every morning. Make certain there is a solid connection between your promotional efforts and your library’s overall strategy.

Be a fan of data.

Block off five minutes in every workday to gather or analyze the metrics of your marketing and promotions. Just like with the professional development appointment you’re making each day, schedule this into your calendar.

This simple step will give you a very clear sense of what is working and what isn’t. You’ll have the numbers to back yourself up when you make decisions about which promotions to do and which ones to drop.

Be constantly experimenting.

One of my favorite parts of working in marketing is experimentation. There are so many ways we can test promotions to find the most effective means of communicating with our audiences.

I want you to think of yourself as a kind of scientist. Your experiments don’t have to be complicated.

For example, when you send emails, try sending on different days of the week and different times of the day.

When you want to promote an item in your collection or a service provided by your library, post on all your library’s social media channels. Then look at the insights to see where you get the highest engagement.

When you write blog posts, try experimenting with the length of the post, the length of the title, or the number of images you insert in the piece. Then look at views to see if your metrics are impacted by changing any of those factors.

Experimenting is fun. And it can lead you to create more effective promotions. Need some ideas about where to experiment with your promotions? Here’s a list of things to try.

Be open to change.

How many times have you heard someone say, “But we’ve always done it that way” in your library? Reject this phrase.

I think many times we get stuck promoting our library the same way we always have. Don’t be afraid to look at the data and say to your boss or co-workers, “This isn’t working. Let’s try this instead.”

In library marketing, change isn’t a bad thing. It means you are being responsive to your community’s needs and meeting them where they are as their lives are changing.

Be patiently persistent.

Sometimes it takes a while for fellow co-workers, senior staff, and your community members to respond to your ideas.

Effective library marketers set a timeline for how long they think it will take to increase engagement or reach a certain target audience with a message across multiple channels. A good rule of thumb is to give any new promotion about three months to catch on. If it’s not working by then, experiment with something else.


You May Also Want to Read These Posts

Three Easy Ways for the Exhausted Librarian to Figure Out What Your Community Needs AND Find Promotional Inspiration!

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

Angela’s Latest Book Review

Going There by Katie Couric

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