Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

Barbara Swinn knows what she’s doing.

She’s worked with libraries for 40 years, most recently as manager of the flagship library for Explore York Libraries and Archives  She’s been awarded the British Empire Medal for her work with the library.

You may remember her from this interview last year. I spoke to Barbara about her work turning a stodgy, boring annual report into a storytelling masterpiece.

One thing I love about Barbara: she is always looking for ways to improve.

Hear about Barbara’s approach to the annual report this year

A few months ago, she sent me an email with a link to her current annual report. It is also amazing.

And this year, Barbara decided to take it a step further and promote her report, activating staff to help. So of course, I wanted to know how she did it.

Barbara told me she first spent time thinking about the emotional impact she wanted her annual report to have on the community.

“What do we want our audience to think, feel, and do,” said Barbara. “We wanted to make sure that people can see that we were relevant to their lives, and the lives of the communities. So that’s how we want them to feel this is for them. This is something they are excited about and want to be involved with.”

“We want them to actually reach out and be involved in what we’re doing, to become a volunteer, to become a community member, to bring their skills to work with us, or to actually just come in and enjoy what we do. and just participate and get the value of for them in their lives of what libraries can bring.”

Hear Barbara talk about the goal of this year’s annual report.

Barbara’s first step in this new mission was to focus on the many target audiences for her annual report.

“The audience could be people who are library users but they’re probably people who aren’t library users,” explained Barbara. “They may be potential funders or sponsors, local government officers, and the people who provide our funding. We needed to advocate the value that we have, and that we bring to the city.”

Barbara’s team tried something new this year: a social media campaign to expand the reach of the stories her library is telling. And if you think people aren’t interested in social media posts about an annual review, you would be wrong.

“We had a series of five posts over five days, which were highlighting those key details from the annual review,” explained Barbara. “On Twitter, we had a 4.9 percent engagement rate compared to 2.5 percent, which is the average for the month.”

“There was a particular post that had a 6.5 percent engagement rate on Facebook. That usually averaged 2.5 percent for the month. So, it did engage with people. People were commenting on it, people were sharing it, and the engagement rate was higher than the normal engagement rate. We’re really pleased with that.”

And this year, Barbara and her staff got the rest of the library staff involved. Staff linked to the annual report in their email signature.

“We really emphasize the fact that this was an opportunity for them to not necessarily have a conversation, but through their email, they’re connecting with people, and people can see that annual review,” said Barbara.

The library has one main organizational social media account and branch accounts. Barbara and her staff worked to get all the administrators of the branch accounts to help in the social media promotion of the annual report. Her team provided context and made the ask very simple.

 “We talked about what we’re trying to achieve,” said Barbara. “‘We really want you to share those posts through your social media.’ And that’s what they did.”

The plan to involve staff to help spread the message worked so well, Barbara’s team now uses it for every major campaign. She explains the impact her library hopes to have by marketing and shares examples of posts with high engagement garnered with staff support.

“We give examples of the posts that really made a difference because they got behind it,” revealed Barbara. “For example, our summer reading challenge that we do for children every summer, that absolutely by staff getting behind that campaign really made a difference. We’re starting to build that. It’s gaining momentum. And the staff are seeing the value of that engagement, they’re seeing the value of the fact that they can amplify the message and by amplifying influencers as well. “

Barbara hopes her annual report does more than inspire her community to act and support her library. She hopes it inspires you, her fellow library marketers.

“You’ve got your story,” said Barbara. “The people use your libraries, your volunteers, your staff, they know the story too. And there are so many nuggets to choose from. Think about the beginning, the middle, the end, what you’re trying to do, and what you want people to do. It really, really works. It’s the story of the people that’s really important.”

Hear Barbara’s advice for your library’s annual report

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