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Super Library Marketing: All kinds of marketing ideas for all kinds of libraries.

The Best Thing You Can Do is Leave the Safety of Your Desk

I had an amazingly and scary experience this week.

My library is in the very first stages of comprehensive facilities plan. With money from a levy passed by our county voters in May, we’re going to renovate or rebuild ALL 41 library locations.

I’m trying hard not to not have a panic attack reading that sentence back to myself.

When complete, these projects will likely change the course of our library forever. As a first step in that massive undertaking, our board of trustees hired an architectural consulting firm to gather ideas and insight from our cardholders. As part of this opinion-gathering process, our library is holding community forums and structured question-and-answer meetings at each branch over the course of the next year. If you’re counting, that’s 80 plus chances for us to interact with the public and ask them directly what they want their library to be. MY GOSH, what a gift. Am I right? It’s a huge task but it’s also a huge opportunity!

I volunteered to work the forum boards during the first of our community meetings, and to help with logistics at the second one. Both opportunities gave me the chance to get out of my basement office and actually talk face to face with the people who receive, consume, and respond to my marketing messages. And it was amazing.

I’m serious. I learned all kinds of interesting stuff just from talking to people. I found out what they think about the layout of libraries, the frequency of email messages, the reasons they got a library card, their favorite parts of the collection, their impression of our staff, and their dreams for the services they want us to provide. It was gold mine of information.

Honestly, I’ve never actually done drugs, but I felt high was I left my first shift. I ran into one of my good friends who works as front-line staff and I gushed to her about how amazing it was to actually talk to people. She said, “Hey, you should just come hang out at the desk with me. People will tell you exactly what they think of our marketing if you ask them, and you’ll learn so much about our cardholders.”

And I realized in that moment, for all the research and thinking and strategic planning and data analysis that I do, I might be missing one of the most important aspects of library marketing–my cardholders. I *think* I know what they want and need. I’ve got survey results and conversion data and social media engagement statistics that tell me about the people our library serves. But, before last week, I cannot remember the last time I actually talked to a customer about the library.

That changes now.

I don’t really have to worry about forcing myself outside my comfort zone over the next year. All I must do is sign up to be a part of each of those community forums as they are scheduled. But after that, I’m going to have to make sure that I get out and talk to people. I have learned that direct interaction with customers is exceedingly valuable.

I hope you are better at this than I have been. Maybe you’re reading this and saying, “Duh, Angela.” If so, my hat goes off to you. I’m learning this lesson late. But I thought it was important to share it with you.

Don’t be a dummy like me and stay locked in your basement office, separated from your cardholders. Get out of your comfort zone and talk to your cardholders. Set up a regular calendar reminder and spend an hour with your front-line staff. You could just observe. Or you could ask questions. You’ll learn so much. You’ll make the cardholders feel valued. And you’ll be demonstrating your commitment to customers to your fellow staff members. You can’t be any more engaged than that!

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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Five Insider Tricks To Improve Your Library’s Voice Search Ranking

One of my most vivid class memories from college happened during my freshman year. A woman visited our communications class to talk about this new thing sweeping the nation: the internet. She said that someday companies would be able to send us information on any product or service we could ever want or need, based on our previous purchases or on search.

Was she psychic? Nope. She was forward-thinking. The internet, and later the introduction of smartphones, caused a huge shift in the way libraries interact with cardholders. And now, we’re about to enter another era of technology change. We’ll need to re-evaluate how we interact with cardholders. Because voice search is going to change everything.

My library is now dabbling in this technology. We created an Alexa skill that allows cardholders to do some very basic things: find out what’s going on at a branch or ask about our hours of operation. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to voice search.

At Content Marketing World 2018, I attended a session led by Courtney Cox, who is manager of Digital Marketing at Children’s Health. She talked with us about the Google Search box. You’re probably familiar with it. It looks like this:

The answer box is text-based but it’s an important key to getting your library information in front of cardholders doing keyboard-based search inquires AND those using voice search options like Alexa or Suri. How is the answer box connected to voice search? Cox explains that voice search technology reads whatever answer appears first in the Google search. So, if you’re in the answer box, you are in first position and you get read by the voice search technology. That means if you live in the second or third results on Google, you won’t get read out. EVERYTHING ELSE underneath the answer box is ignored. There’s no glory in second place.

Wow. That’s depressing.

Comscore estimates that by 2020, half of all web browsing sessions will be done without a screen. So, what’s a library to do? Here are five steps to take now to move your library into the first position on Google search. These tips will increase the chances that your library will appear in the answer box and connect with more users.

Keyword research: Cox says you need to do real-world keyword research. That means you can use online tools like those I talked about in this post. But you must also talk to customers, face-to-face. Talk to front-line staff. Talk to the call center staff. Find out what customers are saying when they ask questions. What specific words or phrases do they use? Then start incorporating that language into your web content, social content, and all your marketing messages.

Competitor research: Cox suggests you do periodic searches for competing services offered by Amazon, your local bookstore, and online databases. What phrases and words do they use? How long, in words and characters, are their answers? Do they use bulleted lists, tables, or graphics to convey information to their customers?  What aren’t they doing well? All of these questions will inform you as you write searchable text for your website. You should feel free to copy what others are doing well. You can improve on what your competitors are doing poorly! You don’t need a big budget to write more searchable content.

Stop dictating your own content. Cox says we all need to stop brainstorming internally about what you want to write about. Start focusing on what your customers want. We must be answering the questions our customers have.

Create a FAQ page on your library website. Make the page easy to find and promote it throughout the web with blog posts, social media, emails… every marketing method at your disposal. The more people who go to the FAQ page, the higher the search ranking for that page will be, and the more quickly you’ll get into the answer box.

Re-purpose your content–with a purpose. Many libraries are creating videos for marketing purposes (HOORAY!). Now it’s time to take those videos and make them work to improve your search position. Take each of your videos and turn it into text. Post the text on your library blog and promote it in other ways. The more eyes that read the content in its written form, the more likely it is that the content will make its way into the answer box!

We’ve got our work laid out for us. After the conference, I started doing random searches to see where my library shows up in the answer box–and when it doesn’t. In some ways, we’re doing okay.

And in some ways, we have a lot of work to do.

So I’ll be looking for ways to make these five pieces of advice work in my content. And I’ll be paying more attention to the words we use on the website, making them local and specific. I’ll start thinking about what people will say when they use voice search to ask questions about my library. I’ll check these searches again in a few months to see how I’m doing. I urge you to do the same!

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!

Avoid Email Vanity! Here Are the Results You Should Measure

I love email marketing. It’s one of the most effective tools in the modern library marketer’s toolbox. Emails are a direct way to interact with your cardholders and your community. They are easy to create. You can share stories, collection items, explain new services, and promote events directly with your audience. And library cardholders love getting emails from us. We don’t have to worry about unsubscribe rates the way other industries do.

Many libraries are now emailing their cardholders. And they’re reporting success with those campaigns. I’m so happy! But I’m also worried about something I hear often in conversation with other library marketers. I’m worried that we’re focused on the wrong measure of success–open rates. I’ve attended two events with other library marketers this summer. At both, there were deep and interesting discussions about success in email marketing. But at both events, the conversation about success centered on how to raise open rates.

Now, I have a confession to make. When I started targeted email marketing back in January of 2015, I was obsessed with my email open rates. And so were thousands of marketers in industries across the world. During my first trip to Content Marketing World, I attended several sessions on email marketing and every speaker mentioned open rates as a measure of success.

Open rates do mean something. They are a sign of customer loyalty. A high open rate means that your cardholders are eager to see what you’ve sent them. And that’s good. But it’s kind of like buying a house because it’s got a beautiful exterior. You may sign all the paperwork, open the front door and find all the walls are unfinished! Open rate is a vanity metric. It makes you feel good. But it’s what happens AFTER your cardholders open your email that counts.

I’m not suggesting you ignore open rates. They do give you information you can use to improve your emails. If your open rates are high, and your click-thru rates are low, you can be certain that you are writing compelling email subject lines (Good job, you!). You have a loyal and eager audience. But the content you are sending to your cardholders isn’t what they want. Now you can fix that problem!

Keep tabs on your open rate. But you should focus on two other valuable ways to really measure the success of your emails.

Click-through rates: The higher this number is, the more excited I get. It means that my cardholders opened an email, saw something they liked, and took an action! Most of the time, my library emails direct cardholders to do one of two things: click a link for a specific item in our collection or go to the event calendar where they can register or put an upcoming event on their calendar. Convincing a cardholder to take one of those actions is a huge victory. It also gives me data about what that particular cardholder is interested in. And I can use that information to craft future emails that are also compelling for that cardholder.

Conversion rates: A conversion rate is the most accurate way to measure email effectiveness. It is the percentage of people who take an action after clicking through an email. For example, let’s say 100 people click-through to look at a book I’ve promoted by email. If 50 of those 100 people put the book on hold, my conversion rate is 50 percent. Once I know what my average conversion rate is for a certain type of email, I can set goals to raise that conversion rate. I can  accurately compare my emails to one another.  I might see a high conversion rate for a certain genre of book and look for similar books to market to that cardholder. I might notice a spike in registration rates for a particular kind of program coming from an email and look for similar kinds of programs to market to my cardholders. Conversion rate is the most accurate measurement for determining the likes and dislikes of your cardholders.

For more on tracking the success of your email marketing, you can also read this article. And if you want to learn more about targeted email marketing and get more secrets for library email success, don’t forget the free webinar 

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!

Be the Best Library Marketer! Take These Free Courses

I love to learn. I’m lucky that my library ties performance management goals to learning. So, I am professionally rewarded for doing something I love. But the real value is seen by my cardholders. When I learn new ways to do my job, I do a better job of connecting with my audience. There is also a value for my staff members. When I learn new marketing techniques, I can pass that knowledge on to my direct reports. Learning has a ripple effect–everyone benefits!

Most library marketers face two major obstacles to continuous learning. The first, of course, is time. We’re all so busy that we can’t setting aside the time to take an online or in-person course. Also, most libraries don’t have a budget for professional growth and development (unless you want to get your Library Science degree.) But continued professional learning opportunities are a priority. If your library is going to stay competitive and creative, you need to be a continuous learner.

Time and money are no problem with this seven websites I’ve discovered. Each contains free classes where you can learn new marketing skills. Almost all take about an hour a session. So now, you have no reason not to keep up to date with changes in the industry, become a better writer, improve your email skills, and practice content marketing strategies!

Lynda.com. My favorite website for professional development courses, because you can basically learn anything you need to do a better job at library marketing. There are courses on social media, GDPR, photography, graphic design, ideation, time management, generational marketing, using Excel… etc. Thousands of libraries across the country offer Lynda.com for free to their cardholders. Your library, or one near you, probably offers access. It’s under-utilized. USE IT!! Courses are well-constructed. Skill levels are marked so you can gauge whether the course is right for your needs. Most classes run about an hour and a half. If you only watch one a month, that’s more than 12 hours of training you’ll get over a year!

Hubspot Academy. I’ve completed two courses in the Hubspot Academy–Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing. They were free. Each class is about 45 minutes and comes with free downloads to supplement the online portion. At the end of each class, you take a practice quiz to test your skills. At the end of the course, you take a test and if you pass, you receive a certification that you can put on your resume, social media accounts, and LinkedIn profiles.

Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People. I just learned about this! It’s a free, 20-part course that covers four areas of digital marketing: relationships, content marketing, copywriting, and product marketing. I’m planning to take this course in a few months and I’m super excited. It comes with weekly newsletters. And I’m familiar with Copyblogger from their blog and social media presence, so I know their expertise will add value to my library marketing.

edX: I also love this site, which offers free online courses from top universities around the world. Their marketing course offerings are impressive! You can take classes in market segmentation, data analysis, and social media. There’s even a public library marketing course offered by the University of Michigan. Most classes are free, but you can pay about $50 and work toward a certification, which is great for your resume! Courses take about two to three hours a week for about a month to complete.

Udemy: Here’s another site I just stumbled across. Filter the search options to show you free marketing classes. There are pages and pages of options, from evaluating digital marketing statistics to how to write your own social media strategy.

Facebook Blueprint: That’s right. Facebook offers a whole host of free courses to help you figure out the best way to use their product. They’ll teach you pretty much anything you want to know about Facebook and Instagram, including how to use Messenger, build awareness, and promote your Library’s app. I know it’s easy to be cynical about anything Facebook offers for free. But this is legit, and it makes sense for them from a business perspective. The better you are at using their platform, the better the experience will be for your user. So take advantage!

Skillshare: I like the “trending marketing courses” section, which contains new and popular course. If you want to see what’s changing in the industry and be current on your skills, start with that section first.  Courses take about an hour and are easy to follow with beautiful graphics. Some courses are taught by well-known marketing professionals, like Gary Vaynerchuk and Rand Fishkin.

For more ideas about how to improve your marketing skills, read this post about How to Become a Better Library Marketer.

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!

The Best Advice for Library Marketing From CMWorld 2018

I wrote this post while sitting in my hotel room at the end of a week in Cleveland, Ohio at Content Marketing World. My brain is packed with ideas. My laptop battery is dead. Everywhere I look, I see orange. My iPhone says I’ve gotten about 13-15,000 steps a day and I didn’t even do my regular morning walk!

Content Marketing World was fantastic. I saw old friends and made new ones. And I’ve got plenty of new material to research and share with my fellow library marketers. But first, I want to share the quick takeaways from the presenters I saw. These are some pieces of advice that you can implement at your library right away.

Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute: 38 percent of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, according to the latest research from the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs. That’s up a bit from 2017 but still not very high. Write down a content marketing strategy for your library. A written strategy helps remind you every day of what you are working on. It makes you accountable for results.

Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute: It only takes three things to be successful in your career. Step one is to write what you want to do. Set specific dates for when you will achieve those goals. And make sure you are serving others in your life.

Andrew Davis, Author, Brandscaping & Town, INC.: We are always told to keep our content short because our audience has the attention of a goldfish. QUIT BLAMING THE FISH. Our audience is capable of paying attention for as long as we can grab and hold their attention.

Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group, and Chief Marketing Officer, CONCURED: Marketing has a marketing problem. We are the cause of that problem because we create stuff that as consumers we wouldn’t consume, stuff no one wants.

Brian Massey, Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences: We must be aware of the bias we have for marketing tactics that have worked in the past. Data will tell you when something isn’t working. Listen to the data!

Cassandra Jowett, Director of Content Marketing, Pathfactory: Services like Netflix, Amazon, and Uber are influencing the way our buyers interact with companies. Everyone expects to have an on-demand experience in all aspects of their lives. We need to accommodate those demands.

Courtney Cox, Manager, Digital Marketing, Children’s Health: By 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen. Voice search will dominate the way we gain information on the internet. That means if you live in the second or third result on Google Searches, you won’t get read out on any voice-activated device. We must place a priority on getting into that first position on Google.

Rachel Schickowski, Employee Engagement Manager, Rockwell Automation: Employee engagement should be a top priority at your library. When employees are engaged, they give a better experience to customers.

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs: The most important part of the newsletter isn’t the news. The most important part is the letter. Editorial content performs way better than straight-up promotional mailings alone.

Dewitt Jones, photographer for National Geographic and other top publications: When passion and creativity exist, discipline and commitment are not an issue. Celebrate what is right with the world.

Kathleen Diamantakis, Managing Director, Strategy, T Brand, The NY Times: Cardholders are looking for something deeper and more meaningful when we engage with brands. They are discontent with content. There is an epidemic of meaninglessness in content.

Andrew and Pete, Founders, Andrew and Pete: There are always going to be bigger marketing teams out there that have bigger audiences, and that dominate search. They have giant budgets. Statistically speaking it’s impossible for your library to be the best. But there is another way to stand out. That’s by being better or different!

Jenny Magic, Senior Digital Strategist, Springbox: When you pitch a new idea or service to your co-workers, you can agree on how to move forward if you involve everyone in the process.  Redefine resistance as a positive thing. Dissent is a source of breakthroughs.

Tim Schmoyer, Founder, Video Creators: YouTube wants you to serve the right video to the right person at the right time. If you craft video content that does that, YouTube will elevate your video and more people will see it.

Margaret Magnarelli, Vice President, Marketing, Monster: In order to really engage our cardholders and get them to be loyal to us, we need to practice empathetic listening. It’s not that we shouldn’t use data to make informed decisions. But if we don’t combine facts with feelings, we’ll sacrifice relationships.

Tina Fey, Actress, Producer, Writer: Trust your gut. It’s always better to put it out there!

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!

The Complete Guide to the Best Library Podcasts

There is an exciting movement in the library marketing world! More libraries are creating podcasts as a way to reach cardholders, tell stories, and share information. My own library is in season three of a podcast, Inside the Writer’s Head. Each month, our Library Foundation’s Writer-in-Residence sits down with authors, publishers, and editors to talk about the writing process. The real value lies in the intimate connection we create with a listener. We usually get about 20 minutes of their undivided attention for these conversations. How often do you get the chance to talk one-on-one with your cardholders for that long?

I recently asked library marketers from around the United States and Canada about their podcasts. They have some amazing insights and advice about how to make the recording, editing, and distribution process work.  One library marketer even responded to my questions by recording her answers in a podcast! Now you can fill your own podcast feed with library shows and be inspired.

Andrew Murphy, Library Director, Sitka Public Library in Sitka, AK
Podcast: Sitka Sounds
How long it’s been in production: Since early 2018

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Podcasts are a simple, but great medium to offer other library services. Many libraries have conducted oral history projects in the past and I view podcasts as a 21st-century extension of that service that is not limited to oral histories.

What is the goal of your podcast? To offer engaging content to our customers both in Sitka and off our island while including our local community members in the process.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? I initiated the service and created a few different series with different audiences in mind but the idea was always to allow all staff, and perhaps even the community members, access to develop their own series. I am in the process of moving to a different library and several staff members are trained and interested in developing different content for the service. Each episode only takes as long as the recording itself and about an equal amount of time to edit and upload.

How do you measure or quantify success? I don’t value success solely on stats and how many listens each episode receives. Our oral history project with Nancy Ricketts is being preserved by the State Library of Alaska. Obviously, they found value in the content itself – even if the series doesn’t attract a lot of immediate listeners. My hope for all the content is to preserve it for posterity. One of our series features local writers sharing their work. I believe the content has the potential to have a great value many years from now. Perhaps the grandchildren of the writers will find some meaning it or perhaps one of the writers will become world renown. It also functions like a time capsule for the culture of local writers in Sitka.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Invest in a good microphone.

Gregory McCormick, Manager, Cultural and Special Event Programming and Digital Media Team, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, ON, Canada
Podcast: Four series in production, none have finalized titles yet.
Launched: We are aiming to launch 2-3 series in the fall.

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? To support one of our strategic priorities to make as much content accessible to as many people as possible.

What is the goal of your podcast? To increase reach and to support books and literature. We also have specific goals for each podcast such as appealing to specific communities or to link library service.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? I am the executive producer of all of them but we have other producers involved in varying capacities. Episodes take anywhere from a few hours to a week to produce.

How do you measure or quantify success? Listeners/audience, social media buzz.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Don’t underestimate the time and staffing necessary. Very time-consuming.

Jenna Hassell, Community Relations and Marketing Coordinator, Jacksonville Public Library, Jacksonville, FL.
Podcast: 
Completely Booked
Launched: 
June 11, 2018

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Our library has recorded a weekly segment for our local NPR stations Radio Reading Service frequency for the blind and visually impaired for many years. Our marketing department recently took over the recording of this segment and was having a good time writing the script each week and using our Jax Makerspace recording equipment to record it. Because of this, we decided that a podcast would a great fit for our department and invested in the equipment to start one.

What is the goal of your podcast? To bring information and stories to our customers and community in the format they want to receive it. We also want to give local residents a platform to tell their stories and have them archived.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? The podcast is created by me and my co-host, who is a part-time social media specialist in our department. Our full-time graphic designer produces and edits the show. We truly would not have started this project if we did not have our graphic designer on staff who knew audio editing really well already. We spend about 45 minutes with the guests we interview, then we spend about 10 minutes recording the intro and outro with just the two hosts. Our producer spends about an hour and a half to two hours editing the episodes and adding the theme music he created himself. So we spend about three hours on each episode.

How do you measure or quantify success? We are currently only looking at total listens. However, in our first episode, we talked about a local artist who had work in our current gallery exhibit. Someone who listened to that episode came into the library to view the work and ended up buying one of his pieces. We think that is a pretty incredible success story.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Make sure you have hosts who mesh well and are comfortable together. It can be intimidating talking on a mic. But when the two people talking are comfortable and are just themselves, it is much more enjoyable to listen to. Don’t rely too heavily on promotion. People listen to podcasts to be entertained and to be informed, not to be preached at or persuaded to come to your library program. A subtle plug or an interesting story about someone who used your services goes a lot farther.

Christie Lassen, Director of Communications and Partnerships, Howard County Library System, Ellicott City, MD.
Podcast: HiJinx
Launched: October 2016

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Our previous CEO suggested the idea, and I asked two members of my team to brainstorm ideas. Dennis Wood and Victoria Goodman jumped at the opportunity to co-host.

What is the goal of your podcast? Our goal is to attract nationally known guests in connection with the podcast’s focus. We tie it back to the library with either someone from our system or from the larger community. For example, our very first podcast featured Forrest Pritchard, the well-known farmer and bestselling author, a local farmer who attends a weekly farmers market at one of our branches, and a local farm-to-table restaurant owner.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? Podcasts are created by two members of the Communications team: Dennis Wood and Victoria Goodman. Research, scripting, hosting and post-production takes between 25-30 hours per episode.

How do you measure or quantify success? In addition to tracking the number of listeners, we gauge our success on the caliber of guests we attract. In addition, the podcast won a MarCom Gold award and honorable mention by Hermes Creative Awards.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? When trying to find guests, don’t be afraid to ask for an interview. The worse they can say is “no”.

Kanya Lyons, Public Information Specialist Sr., Office of Programs and Partnerships, Austin Public Library, Austin, TX.  
Podcast: Volumes
Launched: September 2015

Just to be different, she responded to my questions with a podcast! Listen to her answers here.

Angela Hursh, Content Team Leader-Marketing, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, OH (that’s me!)  
Podcast: Inside the Writer’s Head
Launched: December 2016

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Every year, our Library Foundation chooses a Writer-in-Residence. Our Adult Programming Manager helps that person create a schedule of learning-oriented events for their tenure. During the second year of the Writer-in-Residence program, we launched our MakerSpace, which has a full-service recording studio. We thought it would be a great way to use that new equipment and reach a new audience.

What is the goal of your podcast? To inspire potential and current writers.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? The Writer-in-Residence is in control of the content and production. We use our MakerSpace audio booth to record their interviews. Our social media specialist takes the audio file and edits it out any errors or retakes, then adds the intro, tag, and theme music. The recording takes about an hour. The editing takes one to two hours.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Promotion is key. We send a link to the podcast out to our cardholders via email each month and listens go way up after that email goes out.

Here are some other library marketing podcasts I love. I hope you do too!

Library Matters, produced by the Montgomery County Library in Maryland.

Check It Out, produced by the Sno-Isle Libraries in Washington state.

The Librarian Is In, produced by the New York Public Library.

Dewey Decibel, produced by the American Library Association.

Professional Book Nerds, produced by Overdrive.

The Library Podcast, produced by Turbitt & Duck.

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!

Call It What It Is: Toledo Public Library Explains Their New Brand Strategy

A couple of weeks ago, a Tweet from the deputy director of the Toledo Public Library caught my eye.

Our marketing manager here at the library is leading a charge to “call things what they are” to reduce confusion for customers. We should be doing more of this in libraries and resist the urge for cutesy branding.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Jason went on to explain, “When I joined the library three plus years ago, we had just launched a kind of umbrella branding for all of our making activities at the library. We called it Make U. It was clever, had a nice logo, and generally served a purpose… for us. Three years later, it’s still a confusing ‘second brand’ for our library (one of many tertiary brands, actually). Terri Carroll (our marketing manager) is working really hard to make the library’s brand the key identifier for all things library. Every time we roll out a new program or service, we have the urge to give it cute or clever branding. It’s just more education we have to do with our customers. So rather than trying to constantly educate people about our new brands, services, and programs, we focus on the library’s brand: a welcoming and accessible space where anyone has access to resources they need to make their lives, their communities, and their futures better. Now we call Make U what it is…tech tools. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Terri in the short time she’s been with us about how we cut through a very noisy marketplace to reach people where they are when they need us.”

This is a major hurdle for my team and library marketer’s across the country! At my Library, I’ve counted no less than TEN branded services. And each one requires education for the staff and public. The names are cute but their meaning is obtuse.

Library marketers struggle with branding. We need to do a better job of defining who we are. We must create a consistent emotional connection with our cardholders if we’re going to compete with the likes of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Netflix, and Google.

Jason’s co-worker, Toledo Public Library Marketing Manager Terri Carroll, graciously agreed to share her insights on the process.

So many libraries have a set of tertiary brands for their various programs and services. Why is that a problem? Each day, our current and potential customers are bombarded with media messages from well-funded and sophisticated retail, fast food, snack food, entertainment, sports, news, and service companies. While these organizations aren’t competing with us to provide library services, they are competing with libraries for people’s time and attention. If libraries hope to have people notice our message in a noisy marketplace, it is imperative we have one clear brand that makes it easy for people to know who we are and what value we provide. Tertiary brands dilute our message and make it more challenging to connect with customers.

Before the redesign, the Toledo Public Library struggled to bring a host of tertiary brands together to create one cohesive brand.

What prompted you to decide to focus less on giving everything a cutesy name and instead develop and nurture an umbrella brand? I started working at the Library in November and was struck by the fact that each program had its own look and message. The emphasis was on program names and unique graphics, rather than the Library as a whole. For example, a great deal of energy was spent on “logos” for programs such as Kindergarten Kickstart, Ready to Read, and Make U instead of thinking about messaging that clearly connects a valuable service (early literacy or access to technology) with the Library. This approach puts the burden of connecting the dots about the Library’s value and relevance on our customers. It also keeps the Marketing team from thinking strategically as they instead spend energy making everything look different. This is an unfortunate use of resources. Having things look similar within a brand compliance strategy makes it easier for customers to identify Library materials and messaging.

Terri laid out brand elements to create a clear and consistent message that can be understood by staff and library cardholders.

Have you seen positive results from this type of strategy yet?  We’ve been working on implementing this strategy since December, so it is tough to extrapolate data yet. For now, positive anecdotal comments to Library staff and leadership such as, “The Library is doing so much,” (when in fact we are doing a similar amount of work) and increased earned media attention are indicators of success. Ultimately, we should realize increases in circulation, door count, and program attendance as well as community and regional stakeholder invitations to be at the table on important issues, speaking opportunities, organizational partnership creations, and election results.

How can other library marketers make the case to their stakeholders, like their board of trustees, the senior leaders, and their staff, that developing a strong brand sense is more productive than creating brands individually as services are unveiled? Stakeholders repeatedly express interest in making sure the community knows about everything the Library does. I have invested a lot of time meeting with all of our internal stakeholders to show them how strong brand management is necessary to meet that goal.

My staff and I also work to keep a focus on making sure all materials and messages are customer-focused. We ask ourselves and our colleagues if our materials and messaging are giving customers all the information they need to engage with the Library. Focusing on how customers understand our Marketing keeps everyone externally (brand) focused and not internally (tertiary brand) focused.

A clear, consistent look helps Toledo Public Library create a connection and makes it easier for their cardholders to recognize their messages.

Do you have any other advice for library marketers looking to strengthen their own brands? It is essential to have senior leadership support for strong brand management. If people are used to the tertiary brands and have enjoyed the creative process (either working with Marketing and/or doing their own design work at the department or branch level), moving to brand compliance can be painful. If those concerns/complaints are taken to senior leadership and exceptions are granted, then the entire brand strategy is compromised.

It is also important to expect some resistance and be willing to talk with people about their questions and concerns. In these conversations, something that seems to really resonate is when I say that we don’t want to re-educate people every time they see something from the Library. We want people to immediately identify a Library program or service. And while staff sees all the materials and, may in fact get a bit tired of the same colors and fonts, this easy identification and brand recognition is essential for customers who are wading through a marketplace of messages and materials.

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!

Seven Ways to Do the Best Library Promotions

This is part two of a series from a presentation my boss and I gave at the 2018 OrangeBoy Idea Exchange. Read part one here.

Now comes the fun part: deciding what, how, and when to promote specific library events, services, and collection items. Here are seven rules to live by when figuring out the best channel for your library marketing.

Learn to say no

Let’s start with the big problem facing everyone who works in library marketing. We are treated like short order cooks. Promotional requests come in from various coworkers, and we are expected to fill them. That sucks. It’s not effective and I think it’s the reason why we suffer a lot of failure in library marketing. The first step in library marketing is to say “no”. It’s good for you and for your marketing strategy.

Busyness feels wonderful. We’re doing something! Stuff is happening! Progress is being made! But if your promotional schedule gets too busy, three things are going to happen. Your staff won’t have time for creative thought. You’ll make mistakes. And your cardholders will feel like the only thing coming from your library is noise. A constant stream of promotions starts to feel like static. So I urge you to practice saying “no.” That’s easier when you have a strategy which aligns with your library’s overall goals.

Determine your benchmarks

I measure every promotional request against four basic rules. These are my benchmarks. They give me a framework for saying “no” to projects. I suggest you create something similar. Use past data to predict future results with promotions.

My basic rules are:
If the promotion will not give us more than a ten percent bump in circulation, program attendance, or usage, we don’t do it.
If it’s a service that’s difficult for the cardholder to use, we don’t promote it.
If the program presenter is free, we don’t promote them.
If it’s not tied directly to the library’s overall strategy, it gets cut.

My version is simple. This past week, I visited with Chuck Duritsch, manager of External Relations for the Dayton Metro Library System. He has a whole color-coded chart that he uses to say “yes” and “no” to various promotions. Use whatever works for you!

Here’s an example of something we cut from our promotional schedule after an experiment failed to reach the benchmarks. In 2017, my marketing team conducted a year-long experiment to see if we could drive attendance at events. We hypothesized that emails sent to targeted cardholders would result in higher attendance. We were wrong. We did 118 branch promotional emails in 2017 and only half were effective in boosting attendance AT ALL. With that data, we decided to cut way back on branch promotions this year. As of June 2018, we’ve done 34 branch promotions and our effectiveness level is up to 68 percent. More than half of the programs saw a significant increase in attendance–at least ten percent–after their cardholders received an email. We cut the fat and were able to create messages that did a better job of resonating with people.

Weed your marketing content and cut out the stuff that doesn’t help your library reach its overall goals so you can be more creative with the promotions you have left. Evaluate your promotional schedule twice a year to keep your marketing lean. Your benchmarks might change over time. It’s important to always evaluate your results and re-think your strategy.

Don’t feast at the buffet of tactics

Once a promotion passes the test and gets into your schedule, it’s time to start figuring out how to promote it. You don’t have to use every tactic available to you. Choose which ones will work best for each promotion. It’s a smarter use of your time and energy.

In April of each year, our library holds a Teen Poetry Contest. Teens are typically considered to be a really hard audience to reach. This year, I decided to promote it on our teen website, in social media, on the digital signs in branches, with posters, and with email. Notice all the categories I didn’t use! I didn’t send a press release because teens don’t typically read the news. Their parents do, but I don’t have any data from past years to show that promoting this contest in the news will get us more entries. So, I weeded that tactic. In addition, I didn’t create a video, although teens respond to video. I just don’t have the resources to create a video they would like and I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  I also didn’t use some signage options available to me because teens don’t pay attention to signs. And I didn’t include the contest in our content marketing publication Library Links because the average reader of that publication is an older empty-nester. It’s just not the right audience for that promotion.

Timing is everything

The “when” part is just as critical as the “how” part of promotional planning. Use past data to make future decisions when you determine the timing of promotions. When I started at my library, we released a promotion in one day on all channels. We’d send out the email, the press release, put up the homepage graphic, and do social all in one day. But I’ve embraced a new timing concept with success over the last year and a half. It’s called the tiered distribution approach.

I was at a conference where I heard marketing expert named Andrew Davis talk about tiered distribution. The approach takes advantage of a consumer cycle of excitement. You release one or two promotional tactics at the beginning of your promotional cycle.  The promotion gets some play, and excitement builds in the consumer base. Maybe it gets shared and people talk about it… and then the excitement dies out. Then, you release the second tactic, like an email, and the people who see the email get excited and start talking about it and sharing it, and then their excitement dies out. Then you release a video, and that builds excitement and gets shared, and the excitement then dies out. Do you see the pattern? Keep releasing tactics over time and not all at once. When you use the tiered distribution approach, you get a longer promotional thread. Your promotions will be more successful because the excitement around them builds over time, not in one big burst.

My library used a tiered-distribution approach for this year’s Summer Reading program. Our summer reading, which we branded as Summer Adventure, runs from June 1-July 31. For years, we’ve done the same promotional schedule. We started the excitement building portion around May 1. And our registration numbers and check-in numbers have been flat for the past few years. I don’t have a survey to tell me this for sure, but my gut says that by the time we got to June 1, our audience was already tired of hearing about Summer Adventure. We used up all their excitement before we even got to the event.

This year, we took a tiered approach. By June 30, registrations were up 18 percent from 2017 and weekly check-ins increased by nearly 67 percent. And while there are a lot of factors for that, one is that we didn’t spend all our promotional energy at one time. We did a better job of building excitement.

Measure and share

You must make sure that you accurately document the results of every promotion you do. This will help you to adjust your promotions month to month, and year to year. Keep meticulous records of data as it comes in.

Failure is okay, by the way. Marketing is an experiment. Sometimes the stuff you do will work, sometimes it won’t. Don’t repeat the things that don’t work! Spend more energy on the things that do work. Don’t spend too much time obsessing over every little detail of your strategy. You can refine it as you gather data. It’s never going to be perfect, so once you’ve got a plan in place, just do it!

Talk about the results with your colleagues and share your results with other departments. Transparency in marketing is a good thing. It helps your co-workers and administrators have a clearer understanding of what you do in your marketing department! And they may look at the results and find some new insight that you missed.

Focus more on the content and less on the container

Focus MORE on the content of your message and LESS on how you deliver it. When you focus first on the content, you put your customer first, not your own promotional needs. Think more about the insides of your message, not the way it will be delivered. That’s how we differentiate ourselves from the competition.

Leave room to market on the fly

Your library promotional schedule should leave room for Drop-in Marketing Campaigns–those pushes that come at the last-minute and are sent to your audience in a few days–or less! Maybe you’re seizing on an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. Maybe you’ve got a connection to an event in pop culture. Maybe you find a piece of user-generated content that’s so fun and engaging that you don’t want to wait to promote it. If it makes sense and the timing is right, get it out there in front of your audience. The key lies in purposeful planning. When you’re laying out your regular marketing campaigns, including your email messages, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop-in promotions. Keep in mind which promotions have drop-dead dates and which ones could be shuffled and released to the public later. Then… go for it!

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!

How Do You Decide What and How to Promote?

Last week, my boss and I were honored to present at the OrangeBoy Ideas Exchange, a small conference and gathering of OrangeBoy users. Presenters talk about all kinds of issues related to library marketing including email, customer privacy, and analytics. It is valuable, particularly because the small group of attendees leads to big discussions and the sharing of ideas. It’s also a great networking opportunity. There’s nothing like being in a room with other library marketers to make you understand that you are not alone in your struggles. If you’re an OrangeBoy client, you should definitely go!

My boss is Chris Rice, Marketing Team Manager for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. We spoke about choosing the right channel for your marketing efforts. And let’s face it, that’s not always an easy choice. There are so many ways to market your library! But that also opens the potential for your team to work themselves to death trying to check off all the boxes. So Chris and I tried to explain the framework we use at our library. It guides us to make decisions about exactly how we promote events, services, and collection items. It gives us the freedom to say “no” and keep ourselves sane.

I have taken my portion of the presentation and turned it into two blog posts. This week, I’ll explain the process I use before I actually start programming my editorial calendar. I run through a series of three exercises to help me get ready to make those big decisions. These exercises give me a clear idea of who I’m marketing to. They also force me to define how I’ll use assets and tactics to achieve the library’s goals. I do this about once every six months. It sounds tedious but it is really valuable. I always feel more confident about the decisions I make afterward. I think you will too!

QUESTION ONE: What are your library’s three main overall goals? What are the three big things your library wants to accomplish in the next 12 months? Write those big goals on paper and stick them up everywhere in your marketing office. Repeat them. Eat, breathe, and sleep them. Those are your goalposts for the year. Those are your big concerns. Whatever your director or your board wants to accomplish is what you want to accomplish. Everything you do needs to be in service of reaching these goals. Every decision you make about promotion is going to be laser-focused on making sure those goals are reached. They are the reason you come to work every morning.

QUESTION TWO: What do you know about your current cardholders and the people who live in your community? This is a classic marketing situation analysis. It’s a tedious exercise. But it will help you to clearly imagine the person who will consume your marketing messages. That will help you to do a better job of marketing to them. Where do these cardholders live? How do they engage with your competitors like Amazon and other bookstores? Where do they get their news? Do they have access to Wi-Fi? Do they have children? What is their living situation like? Do they work? What is their transportation situation? Every piece of data you can get about your cardholders is a guidepost that will help you make the best decisions.

QUESTION THREE: What promotional assets do you have at your disposal? Write down all the stuff you use to promote your library. It should include every social media platform you use, every website your library owns, every print publication you send out, emails, in-person events, press releases, podcasts, and videos… every single thing you do to communicate with cardholders. Then, create a description of how you’ll use each asset to bring your library’s overall strategic vision to life.

For example, my library produces a quarterly content marketing publication called Library Links. One of our overall library goals this year is to help job seekers find a new, more lucrative, more fulfilling career. I think Links can help us achieve that goal. So, I wrote a description of how that would work. “We will use our quarterly print publication to emphasize the role of the library in helping job seekers find a new, more lucrative, more fulfilling career. We will do this by featuring a cardholder in each issue who used our library’s services to advance their own career, such as by taking our GED course or using our online job resume builder. Every quarter, we’ll highlight a service or program that will help our cardholders reach their career goals.” This keeps me accountable and reminds me, every time I go to put Links together, that I need to include these kinds of stories in each issue.

If you start this process and you realize there is an asset that just doesn’t seem to work for your overall marketing goals, drop it. I don’t care if you’ve done it for 20 years. Use only the things that can help you to achieve your goals and cut the rest.

For example, for a while, my library was all in on Slideshare. We had an editorial calendar and we were churning out Slideshares every six weeks to promote services. It took a considerable amount of time to create the graphics. But we weren’t getting the results we wanted. When I do any marketing, I am looking for action. I want consumers of our message to click on a link and use something at the library.  But our Slideshares were not producing action, or at least not in any number that I could be proud of. So, in mid-2017, we decided to drop Slideshare. It’s okay to drop something that’s not working for you. Don’t waste your energy!

Now that you’ve laid out all the stuff available to you, it’s time to decide what to promote, how to promote, and when to promote. That’s the fun part! Next week, I’ll share tips on how to manage that part of your job.

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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