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All About Me and My Mission

I’m Thankful for You

We’re getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States. I’m taking a break from posting tips for a week so I can catch up on post writing! While I do that, you can bet that I’ll be thinking about you, and giving thanks for you. I’m thankful for your support, encouragement, and insight. I’m thankful to be an email away from a group of professionals who know exactly what I’m going through! And I’m thankful for your commitment to keep libraries strong.

I’ve been thinking about 2019, both professionally and in the context of this blog. I need your help figuring out what to write about next year. While you enjoy this week-long break from regular posts, would you be so kind as to email me using this form with the answers to a few questions? I want to get your thoughts on a few things. It should only take a couple of minutes. And I would be so grateful.

Thank you so much!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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Did You Notice? This Website Has a Super New Name!

Ladies and gentleman, this week I made an important decision. I took a leap and decided to rebrand this website.

I have been thinking about you for months (were your ears burning?) I’ve been thinking about your jobs, your passion, your drive, your constraints, your strengths, your weaknesses, your fears, and your hopes. I have gone out of my way to talk to librarians, marketing directors, library directors, and cardholders. I have thought about what I hope to accomplish with these weekly posts and where I want the future of libraries and library marketing to go.

I decided that library marketers are superheroes. And you deserve an appropriate place to go online for advice, tips, fellowship, and encouragement.

And so, the new name of this website is:

SuperLibraryMarketing.com

superlibrarymarketing-com

When you type in this URL, I want you to think about yourself and your work the way I do.

You are super. You are awesome. You are heroes in a cynical, hustle-driven, no-holds-barred world.

This thing you do–library marketing–this is valuable work. And I hope you’ll find inspiration in each visit to this website.

I think you are super.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

Four Things Libraries Need To Do–Now!

Four

I love the New Year. The turn of a calendar can be the push you need to get you into the spirit of trying something new. And I’m celebrating the one year anniversary of this blog so I’m doubly in the mood for new beginnings!

This is a great time to be a library marketer, don’t you agree? There is so much going on and so many libraries are finding new and interesting ways to connect with their cardholders. But we still have lots of room to grow and improve. I fervently wish to see some changes in the industry as we head into 2016.

  1. Libraries need to do less programming–but more quality programming.  We have a lot of little programs centered on crafts, music, and lectures. And attendance at those programs keeps dropping. What if we stopped doing tons of small programs and created deeper, richer experiences for our guests by doing a few top-quality programs a year? For marketers, fewer programs would mean more thought could go into the marketing of those programs. We’ll have time to create compelling and innovative promotions, attendance will rise, and the brand and customers will benefit.
  2. Libraries must get comfortable with email marketing.  Face it guys–we are really behind in this area. Email is an easy way to reach your customers in a one-on-one environment–their inbox. A monthly email to print lovers with a list of three compelling new books takes such a small amount of time to create and has such a positive impact on circulation numbers. Plus, cardholders love it! An email to cardholders who frequent a specific branch to let them know about a program that aligns with their interests feels personal and drives attendance. It’s not hard, it’s not intrusive, and it is cost effective. We need to do more emailing.
  3. Libraries must realize the impact of advertising on Facebook. We’re working with tiny budgets and we’ve got to make sure our efforts count by reaching targeted niche audiences. There’s no easier way to do that then with social media advertising. For pennies on the dollar, you can create an advertisement or boost a post on Facebook and make sure it is seen by a specific target audience who will act on that ad, rather than scroll past it. Facebook’s insights make it easy to track the effectiveness of your ads and if something isn’t working, it’s easy to change course halfway through the campaign to make your ad more effective. I’m not sure why libraries are still buying ads in newspapers and spending enormous amounts on billboard advertising… neither of which are trackable or effective. I’m not being paid by Facebook to say this, by the way. It’s worked for my library and for my church. I just spent $20 advertising our Christmas Eve services on Facebook and we had more than 800 people in attendance, which is a significant gain over the previous two years. What are you waiting for?
  4. Libraries must become practitioners of content marketing. This could be a real point of differentiation for libraries. We should publish blog posts and create magazines and newsletters that actually add value to our cardholders lives with information that answers  the questions and pain points of our cardholders. We don’t have to publish a ton of content–just publish really good content that can be distributed over a number of marketing channels.

I’ve learned so much from you, my reader. You’re down in the trenches with me and your feedback makes this job feel less daunting. I hope you feel the same way about this blog. Library marketing is tough–but sharing trials and triumphs makes it so much easier.

In the spirit of the season of new beginnings, I’ve set some goals for this blog in the coming year.  I want to do a better job of including you in the conversation. That means I’m looking for contributing writers! I invite you to contact me at ahursh@yahoo.com if you have an idea for a post or if you would like to write a guest post. There is more value in advice from many people working in many different settings. So please, if there is something you’ve wanted to talk about, let me know.

I also hope to recruit more expert guest bloggers. I’ve already reached out to several people in the industry and you’ll see articles from them in the coming year. If you know of anyone whose advice or insight will be helpful to fellow library marketers, let me know.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

The Biggest Threat to Your Library’s Content Marketing

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I learned something of real value during the keynote address from John Cleese at Content Marketing World which I want to share with you. It’s a concept which profoundly changed me,  the way I view my work, and the way I live my life.

The man who co-founded the comedy troupe that produced the Monty Python films stood in front of 3500 content marketers–people who live for deadlines, who churn out content, who dream about metrics and measurement–and told us we need to spend more time in quiet reflection.

The idea of setting aside time to think–to consider what is to be done, how it will done, how it can be done more creatively–is an entirely foreign concept to me. I’m a former journalist. Journalists are trained to move fast. We type fast. We talk fast. We eat fast. When I worked in a newsroom, we never got a day to just be creative, to sit and think about story ideas and topics. There is no rest. So when I jumped into the library world, it was like I’d been in a race car for 20 years and then suddenly, someone slammed on the brakes.

But many librarians feels like they’ve been caught in the rat race too. The demand for quick service from customers means a job at the library reference desk is a demanding loop of answering calls, texts, and emails, manning the drive-thru and the holds desk. It’s non-stop. And at many libraries, the marketing department is made up of librarians who also have other duties. It can feel like there’s never any time to breathe.

John Cleese addresses Content Marketing World
John Cleese addresses Content Marketing World

But John Cleese says true creativity–the kind that adds value to your workplace and your life– is something that needs to be treasured and cultivated. Creative people play more and take longer to make up their minds about things–which is a good thing! If you want your library to succeed, you need to schedule time to be creative. The biggest threats to your library’s content marketing are…

Doing too much.

Not thinking enough.

Forgetting to be creative.

Cleese has two specific pieces of advice for those of us who have a hard time slowing down and being creative.

  1. Schedule time to get away from your work and create a physical space where you can go to think without being bothered.
  2. Write down every idea you get, no matter where you are or how weird the idea. You never know when an idea is going to come to fruition. Keep your mind open.  20 years down the road, the creative idea you come up with today might suddenly become practical and applicable. There are no bad ideas… only ideas whose time hasn’t come yet.

If you need to convince your boss of the value of creativity in the library, show him or her this blog post. I’ll be happy to make the argument for you.

 

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

STOP: Before You Do Any Content Marketing, Get a Strategy


null (1)Content Marketing for Libraries is the focus of this blog. Every week, I urge you to use relevant and valuable content to reach your cardholders, build their trust, earn their loyalty and respect, and inspire them to action. You agree, right? So what is the next step in this journey?

Strategy.

There. You don’t have to read any further. You now have the key to make  your library content marketing work. Create a strategy. Done.

Why aren’t more library marketers formulating, writing down, and sticking to a content strategy? Is it fear? Is it time?  Is it indecision?

It doesn’t matter. These are excuses, to be frank. I want the industry to thrive. And so I’m pleading with you—please, please, please—get a strategy for your library content marketing.

Why am I so passionate about this? Let me share some insight from the 2015 Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland. Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the event and an insanely smart and sweet guy, began by sharing some research recently completed by his company, Content Marketing Institute.

First, if you don’t have a strategy, you are not alone.  Only 32% of marketers in all industries have a documented content strategy.  It’s scary and elusive and frustrating to all marketers everywhere. But it’s still worth the effort. Because 79% of marketers who have a documented strategy with clear success metrics said their content marketing was effective. WOW.

Kristina Halvorson, author and CEO of Brain Traffic, took the stage for a keynote address and asked a wonderfully relevant question: “ If you weren’t spending money on content, where would you spend it? What do your customers want?” That’s all you need to think about when creating your documented content marketing strategy. What do your cardholders want? What problems do they need to solve? How can you help them? It’s not rocket science. Your librarians do that every day! That’s our strategy.

Here’s something else to consider. Halvorson says, “Strategy is a decision to take a path. It’s a decision to say no to certain things. It’s a decision to choose tactics and to have a shared outcome. If your marketing strategy is, “We will deliver content our customers can’t get enough of,” you’re doing it wrong. That’s not a strategy. That is a vision. Instead, Halvorson says you need to make business outcomes and customer satisfaction your goal. Ask yourself:  Where is your library now? Where do you want to be? The path to get from the first point to the second point is your strategy.

Creating a strategy may seem like an insurmountable task. The word “strategy” conjures up images of a daunting, intense, complicated process. We’ll blame the marketing consultants for making it seem more difficult than it is. If I can do it, so can you.

When approaching my own strategy, I find it helps to have a series of questions to ask myself. I write out the answers and those help me see the whole picture and form a strategy. So here’s what you can ask yourself.

What are our key opportunities?

What are our core challenges?

What are the assumptions we make based on info we don’t have and can’t get?

What are our risks?

What are our success metrics?

Who is our audience and why do they listen to us?

Which is the audience that doesn’t listen to us now… but should?

What is the purpose of the ways we are currently communicating with our cardholders?

 

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

What the Hell is Content Marketing and Why Should We Do It?

What the Hell is

I returned from Content Marketing World with a head full of ideas and a heart full of questions.

The questions began on the first day, during the first hour of the conference. In his opening keynote, Content Marketing World founder Joe Pulizzi stood before a crowd of 3500 marketers from across the globe, and shared a quote.  I wasn’t able to write down the original source fast enough! But it went like this: “The only way we can differentiate ourselves is in how we communicate.”

So right off the bat, I was doing some deep soul-searching. Am I doing enough to differentiate my library from the crowd of competitors? Are you? Are we, as an industry, on the path forward  or are we stuck in the concepts and tactics of the past, feeling comfortable and content with ourselves?

Content marketing is the future of the marketing. So what the hell is it? Content marketing, according to Pulizzi, who coined the phrase, is “a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience–ultimately, to drive profitable consumer action.” But what does that actually mean?

It means we can’t rely on disruptive marketing (ads, newsletters, 100 signs posted all over your branch) to capture the attention of our cardholders. They’re trained at ignoring those tactics. Think about how you go about interacting with signs, ads, and social media. Do you give every message your full attention-or half of your attention-or even a glance? Unless something is seriously compelling, you filter it out. We all do. So do our cardholders.

How does content marketing work, in basic terms? It’s sharing stories. You can share stories about how other cardholders are using the library. You can share stories about the librarians–who are they, what they like to do in their spare time, what they love about interacting with cardholders. We can talk about everyday problems faced by people in our cardholder areas and we can help them solve those problems… sometimes using our services, sometimes using someone else’s services. In the end, what you want is for every person in the area to say to themselves, “The library can help me solve my problems.”

Content marketing breaks through the noise and the clutter by providing compelling, useful information for your cardholder–any type of information. It addresses whatever pain points your cardholders have. It positions your library as the go-to place for information. It builds trust. And through content marketing, your library gets a better and deeper understanding of your cardholders. You can use that understanding to do an even better job of addressing your cardholders needs. It’s a constant circle of giving and it’s carries more weight for a longer period than a flier or a poster.

Stories stick. A good story will stay in your brain longer than a good ad. And once you’ve told a great story, your cardholders will remember your brand. Stories build a connection which leads to customer loyalty, which leads to customer action.

You don’t have to be a trained marketer to understand how content marketing works. In fact, my contention is this: since more library marketing departments are run by trained librarians, you’ll do better at implementing a content marketing strategy at your library than most people with a four or six year marketing degree. You tell stories. You read stories. You review stories. You love stories. You’re two-thirds of the way to the content marketing first base.

Companies have used content marketing for more than 100 years.  For some great examples, visit the This Old Marketing podcast, produced by Pulizzi and his partner Robert Rose. Click on the show notes for the episodes and scroll to the end. They outline a vintage content marketing example in every episode. Check them out! After awhile, you’ll begin to get a picture of how companies have used content marketing and how you can do it too.

We cannot rely on this old disruptive marketing policy to be the driving force behind our library marketing efforts anymore. We’re better than that. We work with stories every day. Let’s start telling them. Besides, most of us don’t have the budget we really need to have to put together a kick-butt paid media campaign. Content marketing isn’t a campaign… it’s ongoing and it’s free, for the most part. Most importantly,  it does something that disruptive ads cannot do, no matter how well crafted and executed. Content marketing deepens the level of trust between you and your cardholders.

That’s what content marketing can do.

And that’s what we are going to focus on for a while because I think it’s extremely important. I think it’s the key to successful marketing at libraries. And I want you to be successful.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

The State of Library Marketing: Survey Results 2015

The State of

First, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who filled out the library marketing survey I sent back in May. The survey is my way of understanding the challenges my blog readers face when trying to market their library! I’ll use these results as a jumping-off point for posts over the next few months… answering some of your questions and encouraging you in areas where I think might be able to help you see bigger success in your marketing efforts. We’re all in this together!

And now, here are the results…

47 people responded from libraries across the country. It’s not a huge sample size but for a first survey on a small blog with a specifically targeted audience of library marketers, I’ll take it! 15 of the respondents were librarians, three were library directors, and 16 were marketing professionals with titles like Community Relations Manager, External Relations Managers, Marketing Coordinator, and Marketing and Communications Manager. About 32% of the respondents work for a library serving between 10 and 50,000 cardholders. Most of the others serve between 50,000 and 500,000 cardholders .

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50% of respondents say there are between two and five employees in their library marketing department, 43% run the department by themselves! Many of the respondents are responsible for both marketing content and the website maintenance. In some libraries, respondents say marketing efforts, the library website, and social media are covered by committee, with several members contributing to keep all three tactics running smoothly. 58% of libraries have web team set up separately from their library marketing department.

Approximately 42% of respondents had no idea how much money their library budgets each year for marketing. 22% spend more than $20,000 and about 19% spend between $1000 and $5000. Some respondents said the money they spend on marketing comes from the overall library budget. Many told me they have less than $1000 to spend every year (OUCH).

Libraries overwhelming rely on printed material like posters, fliers and bookmarks, as well as social media and their website to market to their cardholders. 58% have a printed newsletter, 60% have an email newsletter. Only about 35% have a blog and only 32% use targeted email messaging. Some told me they print calendars of programs and classes. Others utilize outreach for marketing.

howcommunicate

Only one respondent said their library is utilizing customer personas for targeted email messaging!!!! Another respondent says their library is in the beginning stages of creating an email marketing strategy. This pains me greatly. I totally understand why it’s not happening (budget) but I think we’re putting the industry at risk by staying at the sidelines in an increasingly competitive marketing space.  We need to do more convincing of our library administration to give us the money to market effectively. Targeted email messaging is one of the most effective ways to market to cardholders.

Of the library marketers who send non-targeted email messages to cardholders 20% send 1-2 messages a month and 10% send one a week.

Facebook is the overwhelming social media platform of choice for libraries. All respondents post there. That’s followed by Twitter (83%), Instagram (55%), and Pinterest ( 43%). About 17% of respondents say their library is posting on YouTube. There was one responded who said they used Snapchat-I need to pick your brain!

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64% of respondents say their marketing is focused primarily on programs. 33% said they promote collections and programs. One respondent said they didn’t have a documented strategy. Others said they consider themselves to be marketers of library services.

The not-so-surprising takeaways

Library marketers are working with a small staff and a limited budget. We need to do a better job of convincing our administrators and our library board to give us a budget. It doesn’t take tens of thousands of dollars but I can’t even begin to imagine how you are expected to do your job properly with less than $1000 to spend a year on marketing. That’s absurd. There, I said it.

Libraries need to be doing targeted email messaging! It works!! I cannot say this enough. It has worked for our library and it can work for you, too.

Libraries need to spend more time promoting their collection and their librarians. When I worked in news, we all knew the truth:  People watch the news for the weather. This isn’t very encouraging for reporters, but survey after survey showed us it was the reality. In the same way, people come to the library for books. We need to do a better job marketing our collection. There are endless ways to do this: promote new selections, publish reading recommendations, gather reviews by librarians, and highlight great classics. An increase in circulation numbers is just as vital to a library’s success as an increase in visits… and the more books they want, the more visits you’ll get!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

 

Give Me Five Minutes: Help Me, Help You!

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Dear library friends,

I want to know more about you. I want this blog to be as helpful to you as possible. I want to make sure that when you’re struggling with a marketing issue, we can figure it out together. I want to work with you for the good of all library systems everywhere, big and small. Because libraries are important and I want us to succeed!

I need 5 minutes of your time.

Please take this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NWM9CMP

Then share it with your library marketing friends.

Help me to help you.

Many thanks,

Angela

Calling all libraries!

Do you have a suggestion for a future survey question? Let me know in the comment section.

Subscribe to this blog for updates every time I post. Click on the little “Follow” at the top left of this page.

Connect with me on Twitter. I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn,  Instagram and Pinterest.

Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Why Library Marketing Stinks and What to Do About It


Girl Reading by Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens
Girl Reading by Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens

I’ve been in the library marketing business for about 18 months now. Here is what I’ve learned:

1. Never call anyone without a Library Sciences degree a “librarian.” Librarians take their degree and their expertise very seriously and some might be offended.

2. Librarians are passionate, enthusiastic people who have a deep, driving desire to help others and a curiosity for information that is unparalleled in most other businesses.

3. Most library marketing departments are struggling to showcase their wonderful organizations because of out-of-date tactics.

So there it is. In my first post on this new blog, I’m issuing a call to arms for my fellow Library marketers. There are some great examples of forward-thinking marketing happening in libraries all across the U.S. (I’m looking at you, David Lee King. Also see New York Public Library, and Troy Public Library in Michigan.) But most library marketing departments are still doing things the same way they’ve been done for the past 10-15 years. They push programs. They issue press releases. They send out monthly brochures chock full of text, listing every single branch program and story time (do you know how many story times the average library holds?? A lot!).

Libraries are failing to drive more circulation and increase program visits because they lack a marketing strategy. Without a clear-cut plan, you might as well throw spaghetti at the wall. It’s frustrating and unsatisfying and it won’t increase your circulation numbers or drive more traffic to your buildings or digital services.

Okay, so let’s address the elephant in the room. Change is hard, especially for a library system. We’re not talking about Google here. We’re talking about an organization with a long-standing tradition and a history in the community it serves. The bureaucracy in a library rivals some giant companies I know. Politics can be brutal. New ideas are hard to pitch, slow to catch on, and don’t always have the full backing of the administration or board.

Listen, I’m right there with you.  I know how hard it is.  I took this job so I could sing the praises of my favorite public Library system. I’m inspired by the work that is done here and I want everyone else to be too! It’s a dream job. But it sure is harder than I thought.

I’m lucky though-I stepped in during a monumental shift in the greater marketing world. It’s what Content Marketing Strategist Robert Rose calls “The 7th Era of Marketing: Content-Driven Customer Experiences.”  Customers are looking for value from brands (yes, your library is a brand!). They don’t want to just check out items. They want an experience and a connection to the library. They want to feel like their library has their back. We can provide that!

So here’s what I propose. Let’s change the library marketing landscape together. We’ll start small and basic. Here are our first three steps.

1. We should create a strategy-now-and stick to it! The new year is coming. It’s the perfect time to try something new. Stop creating a promotional schedule based on events. Start creating content that promotes your biggest assets-your collection and your librarians. I’m not saying we should never promote a program again. But create a strategy and promote programs that fit into the strategy. We’ll talk more about this in a future post.

2. We should become content marketing enthusiasts. We work in buildings which are piled from floor to ceiling with the tales of people, animals, and events, both real and imaginary. We are  literally surrounded by stories. Of all the industries which have tried to embrace the content marketing model, it should be easiest for us. It’s a natural fit. Our loyal customers are often super enthusiastic fans. Most brands would kill for fans like that. We should be curating their stories and turning them into customer success pieces and marketing them. Again, we’ll talk about this more in a future post.

3. We should learn from our for-profit counterparts. Do not isolate yourself in the library world. I would go so far as to tell you, library marketers, that you do not need to go to PLA or ALA. You should be attending marketing conferences like Content Marketing World and the Social Media Marketing World. You should be attending webinars and following marketing influencers. You should be reading books, white papers, listening to podcasts, and surrounding yourself with all things marketing. We should take the successes and failures that our for-profit friends have made and use them to our advantage. We won’t be able to do everything that Coca-Cola or GM or Kraft can do with their massive budgets and extensive staff. But we can scale those models and use pieces that will work for us.

We work in the best business in the U.S. Seriously, I believe that. Let’s make sure the rest of the world shares our enthusiasm. It’ll be a journey we’ll take together.


Subscribe to this blog for updates every time I post. Click on the little “Follow” at the top left of this page.

Connect with me on Twitter. I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest.

Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

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