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Five Totally Doable Things That Make Your Library Content More Shareable

Every content creator fears no one will read their work. By contrast, the most exhilarating thing you can do in marketing is to write something that people read, share, and comment on. I speak from experience. There is no better compliment.

Last week, I told you about the upcoming keynote I’m giving on content marketing and shared some reasons why your library should be creating content. The more I write for this blog, the more I learn about the kinds of content my audience will read AND share. That second part is important. You want to reach new people and make them library fans. But what makes your content shareable?

I have five simple ideas for you. Each of these increase the likelihood that your content gets shared.

Write longer, compelling pieces. Seriously, the whole thing about how your audience only has the attention of a goldfish is bunk. They will read a 2,000-word post from you if it’s compelling.  People read whole books with 50,000 plus words! I don’t know why this myth of the “too-long content piece” exists when there is literally hundreds of years’ worth of proof that it’s not true.

If you tell a story in long form, with authentic quotes, an emotional arch with conflict and resolution, and a clear beginning, middle, and end, it will not feel like a long read. And a piece of content with all of those characteristics is also likely to be memorable. Great stories stick in our minds long after we read them. And memorable posts get shared!

Long form content is also better for your library’s search results. Back in 2012, serpIQ conducted a study involving more than 20,000 keywords. The results showed that the average content length of the top 10 search results was more than 2,000 words.

I have some evidence that this works personally. In 2018, I purposefully started writing longer blog posts here. Most of my posts land at around 1,000 words… not quite up to serpIQ’s standards but about 200-300 more words per post than I wrote in 2017. And guess what happened? My engagement stats increased by nearly 215 percent over 2017!

My library just started a blog two weeks ago. We will experiment with post length. And you can bet that I’ll push our writers to put out longer and more compelling stories, even if that means we have to publish fewer total posts. Write longer, more interesting posts and people will respond.

Be emotional. According to research from the journal Psychological Science, our emotional responses to content play a huge role in our decision to share that content. But all emotions are not created equal. The study shows people will share content that makes them feel fearful, angry, or amused. There is also a ton of evidence to suggest that people like to share content that inspires or contains a surprise.

Conversely, you should avoid creating content with negative emotions like sadness or even contentment, which tend to cause inaction. We don’t want that!

Insert images in your content. You may have noticed I’ve started inserting more images into my posts on this blog. That’s because adding images to your content is proven to increase the likelihood that it is seen and shared. My post popular post ever is this one, which contains three images. Those three images are strategically placed to emphasis the meaning of the words. They also break up the text for a visually pleasing read.

You must also use images on social media when promoting your content. This rule applies to all platforms. Your audience is visual and they want to see images in addition to your important words. The right image–one that evokes emotions or really serves to succinctly illustrate whatever you are saying in your content–will also make your content more shareable.

Write simply and conversationally. The more your audience understands what you’re trying to say, the most likely they are to share your posts. Define unfamiliar or difficult words, titles, or services. Go through the draft of your material and highlight words or terms that may confuse your audience. Then, find a better way to say or explain those words.

Never take it for granted that your reader has been a lifelong user or follower of the library. Words used by librarians to describe services, programs, catalogs, and databases may seem common to you and your staff. They are not common to your reader. Always explain. Then, ask a non-library employee to read your work. I often take my stuff home and ask my husband or my teenage daughter to read it. If they find anything to be confusing or convoluted, I know I need to change it.

Shorten your sentences and paragraphs. Shorter sentences will make it easier for your reader to understand and absorb what you are saying. The same is true with paragraphs. A piece of material with lots of long paragraphs looks thick and off-putting. Readers will skip lengthy paragraphs, according to British grammarian H. W. Fowler. In addition, the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack Study shows people are more likely to read an entire web page when the paragraphs are short. And if you can get the reader to look at the entire post, it’s more likely that they’ll share the content.

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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Eight Major Reasons To Add Content To Your Library Marketing {Infographic}

I’m so excited to be the keynote speaker for the Illinois Library Association Marketing Forum Mini-Conference in Chicago in a few weeks. My brain is entirely engulfed in content marketing as I formulate the talk. There are also some big content changes afoot at my library. I’ll talk more about those when we have our campaigns up and running. But, let’s just say that most of my marketing focus in my professional life is on content–why we should do it, how to make it work better, and how to be efficient in our content creation.

The most important part of the speech I’ll give next month is the “why.” Why is content marketing important to libraries? This was actually the focus of one of my early posts here on blog. The argument for content marketing hasn’t changed. You can make all the posters and fliers you want. People don’t pay attention to those push promotional tactics. That’s why marketing seems frustrating.

You want desperately to break through the noise of life and become a subconscious part of your cardholders’ thought process. You want them to think of you every time they face a problem. You want them to remember they can come to you for pretty much anything they need. This is the common struggle for libraries everywhere, no matter their size, staffing, or service area. Honest to goodness, the only way to achieve that is through content marketing. I know this from experience.

There is now a lot of data to back up the assertion that content works. I want to share some of that with you. I’m hoping that, if you are hesitant or nervous about working content marketing into your overall library marketing strategy, these stats will convince you. I truly believe this is an opportunity for libraries that cannot be missed. If we are to survive and thrive as an industry, we need to do more content marketing.

Here are the facts for why content is key to library marketing.

Why Content is Key to Library Marketing

80 percent of people prefer to get information about your library from a series of articles versus an advertisement.

71 percent of people are turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch. Which means, if you are doing mostly traditional promotional marketing, it’s not working.

75 percent of people who find local, helpful information in search results are more likely to visit a physical building. We want to get more bodies inside our libraries. Content is the key.

Only 45 percent of marketers are using storytelling to create a relationship with their audience. Most big brands are still running ads and push promotion. This is our open door. It’s a huge opportunity for libraries. This is how we sneak in and take away audience share… by telling stories. And who doesn’t love a good positive story about a library?

95 percent of people only look at the first page of search results. Optimized content (that’s content that uses keywords that are likely to be picked up by Google and other search engines) is incredibly helpful. If your library’s content appears on the second page or later, people won’t see it.

Blog posts are the content that get the most shares. And if your post is helpful to others, it’s more likely to be shared. 94 percent of readers share a blog post because they think it can be useful to someone they know. And the more often you publish blog content, the more often your content will show up in search, which increases the likelihood that people will find your library while doing a search. Amazing, right?

90 percent of the most successful marketers prioritize educating their audience over promotion their company’s promotional messages. Education is our main industry. Libraries are perfectly aligned to make this work for us.

But here’s a stat that really surprised me. 78 percent of effective content marketers use press releases as part of their strategy. Yep, press releases can be content marketing too. Use your releases to be informative but to really pitch amazing story ideas to the media. If you have a great story and you can make all the elements available to the media, you can let them tell it and take advantage of their built-in audience to spread the word about your library.

These stats come from a variety of great blogs including Impact, Marketing Profs, OptinMonster, Elite Copywriter, Cision, and Forbes. I hope they’ve convinced you to do content marketing at your library.

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!

Shrewd Marketers Challenge Conventions. So Should We!

I’ve thought a lot lately about how to approach library marketing in a new and fresh way. As my library creates and executes our strategy for summer reading, I am looking at each tactic and wondering if we can improve the marketing of this legendary initiative. According to the American Library Association, summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library, and develop the habit of reading. That’s a long time to be marketing a program and I think the industry might be a bit stuck in terms of how we do it.

For inspiration, I’ve looked over notes from a session I attended at Content Marketing World. It was led by Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners, a B2B marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and England. Doug’s session was inspiring. It was titled Exceptional Content–Challenging the Invisible Conventions of Marketing. I printed out my notes and have read them through each morning, then thinking about the points he made every time I need a brain break.

Kessler focused his session on a concept he calls invisible conventions. We have so many invisible conventions in libraries. These are the ideas and practices that library staffers hold as traditional and unchangeable. If you hear someone say, “But we’ve always done it that way”, you know you’re talking about their invisible conventions. Invisible conventions are powerful.  Kessler says they guide and constrain us without us even knowing it.

We do need conventions.  But we don’t need to be slaves to convention. Kessler says it’s our job as marketers to expose the hidden conventions in our institution and play with them. Libraries can’t be precious about their conventions because your cardholders aren’t.  Conventions are a signal to your cardholders that marketing is involved–even if you’re trying to be sneaky about it. Your customers are smart, and they’ll put up their defense barriers.

Think about how you respond to marketing messages for invisible conventions. We’ve all developed a sense of when the pitch is coming and we run the other way! You don’t want to turn off your cardholders–you want to inspire them. But if you hang on to your invisible conventions for safety, you’ll never move forward in the marketing of your library.

Challenging your invisible conventions isn’t going to make you very popular, Kessler warns. And that’s okay. Your administration, leaders of other departments, even fellow librarians may have a strong reaction when you decide to challenge conventions. They are more comfortable with traditional marketing practices and they want you to create pieces that make them feel comfortable. Be strong. Take the long view. Persuade your co-workers that change is necessary and that safe marketing isn’t going to cut it with your cardholders. Your job is not to make everyone else in the library happy. Your job isn’t to make friends with everyone in you work with. Your job is to serve your cardholders, and you can only do that when you put your cardholders first. If that means you need to throw convention out the window, then it’s the best move. Don’t second guess yourself. When your instincts as a marketer tell you that something needs to change, you are right. Change it.

I’m reminded of advice I heard from another Content Marketing World speaker, Amanda Todorovich of the Cleveland Clinic. She confessed she’s made some people at the hospital unhappy with her relentless focus on the customer. She has a strategy and she often says “no” to people who want her to do conventional marketing. That means there are some folks she works with who don’t like her. Amanda is okay with that because she realizes her job is to serve the patients, not her co-workers. I draw inspiration from her attitude when I’m faced with having a difficult conversation with a co-worker. You can too! (Read my post about Amanda here.)

So how do you turn conventional marketing on its head? By doing more content marketing. Kessler says, thanks to the companies who came before us, the public knows marketing messages are often filled with compulsive and shameless lies (thanks, cigarette companies). Traditional marketing is all about the brand: a one-sided sales message.  Content marketing, by contrast, is all about the audience. Content marketing rewards libraries for telling the truth. It’s focused on utility–how can we best help our cardholders. It delivers value, builds trust, and it gives our cardholders the power!

Kessler left me with a final thought: unconventional marketing can lead to great stories. Be straight, simple, conversational, and relevant. You will change hearts and minds.

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

Write Like the Dickens: How To Make Sensational Serialized Content

Library marketers don’t have time for long, elaborate content marketing pieces. Our staff is small (or one person, in many cases) and the demand on our time is huge. I believe this is one of the main reasons that many libraries don’t have a documented content marketing strategy and why many library marketers feel stuck, unable to fully commit to content marketing.

But I have an idea.

Let me introduce you to the idea of serialized content.  It is also sometimes called episodic content. Serial or episodic content lets you take one piece of content and turn it into many pieces, released on a consistent basis over a longer period of time. You’re probably most familiar with serialized content in fiction. Writers like Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James all released their most-lauded novels not as one long book, but in sections published in magazines and newspapers over a long time. In the past few years, marketers have started to pick up on this idea again as an effective way to release their content marketing pieces. What was old has become new.

Serialized content has nine major advantages for libraries. In the age of binge-watching, serialized content feels different and fresh. You can gather a bigger audience for your work because serialized content builds suspense. Your audience will come back for more information on a great subject that is well-written, thoughtful, and provides them with new content. It’s also perfect for viewing or reading on mobile devices–shorter pieces of content are easier to digest on a small screen than larger pieces.

Serialized content gives your readers more time to digest and grasp concepts. It helps you take a big idea and break it down into smaller segments in which you can do a deeper dive into the topic. Serialized content gives you more flexibility in your marketing schedule because you can break up the writing and distribution of the content in smaller pieces. It’s easier to set aside a short time in your schedule to write and distribute a blog post than it is to set aside three days for a longer piece (just speaking from experience here!)

Serialized content can also help you get an idea of the topics your audience is really interested in. If your audience spikes week after week on a topic, you know there’s a demand for more information on that subject. And, in terms of website optimization, creating several posts on one subject and linking them to each other is a great way to increase your search ranking–Google loves internal links! And finally, serialized content can help fill out your editorial calendar without taxing you or your staff. It quickens the approval process.

I’ve used serialized content several times in this blog, like the time I turned my conference presentation for the Indiana Federation of Libraries on marketing to teenagers into a series of blog posts. The major marketing firm Ceros ran a series of episodic content pieces on serialized content (now that’s Meta!). And Coca-Cola created a series of video marketing pieces titled “Crossroads” about LBGTQ bullying and acceptance. But to be honest, there aren’t many other examples of serialized or episodic content to be found. That makes this is a huge opportunity for libraries.

You’ll know whether a topic is a good candidate for serialized content by asking yourself a series of questions:

Is the topic something my audience needs to know but is difficult to understand?

Can I build suspense with a series of pieces on this topic?

Would this topic make a great book?

Can I commit to a regular schedule of content releases?

If you answered yes, you’ve got a topic that’s ripe for serialization.

There are many ways you can create serialized content. You can break a long blog post into several smaller segments and publish them in your newsletter or on your website. You can also take one piece of content–say the same blog post–and repurpose it into a different format, like a series of short videos, a series of infographics, a Slideshare, or daily tip-sharing Tweets! The possibilities are endless. Serialized content is a creative exercise. The point is to build suspense and to publish your short segments so your audience looks forward to the next piece of content you’ll share.

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

Now is the Time: How to Market Your Library During the Trump Presidency

now-is-the-time

We take it for granted that people know what libraries do on a daily basis, beyond lending books. I’m here to tell you that your cardholders likely don’t understand all the ways your library contributes to their community. They don’t know that you have meeting space. They don’t know you do outreach work. They don’t know about your literacy initiatives, your job and career readiness programs, and your library’s dedication to the free and open access of information to all people. Now is the time to make sure they understand.

For many of our cardholders, the world is changing drastically under President Trump. They feel less safe and secure. They may be the target of hateful rhetoric in public and private forums. With the proliferation of inaccurate news, they can’t figure out whether they can believe anything they read. In the midst of this chaos, I see an opportunity–and a duty–in this historic moment for libraries.

It’s time for your library to launch a content marketing initiative designed to educate the public about the importance of your institution. And I don’t mean that in the broad sense of the word. We’re going to have to be specific. There are four big points that all libraries need to emphasize to our communities. We can do this together, through stories published on our blogs, eNewsletters, and in our print publications. We must all work together toward re-educating the public about the library’s important role in American society. These are the four big points we need to make in our marketing during Trump’s Presidency.

Make sure your public understands libraries are open and inclusive places where anyone is welcome and all information is shared openly, without judgement. Librarians are proud of their industry’s commitment to free and fair access of information to all. Those of us working inside the library world have always known this was the case but it’s time to emphasize and reaffirm this commitment publicly to our cardholders. Don’t assume they know it. You need to tell your cardholders that your collection is diverse, that your librarian’s are non-judgmental, and that your building is a safe public space shared by everyone, no matter their beliefs.

Emphasize your library’s privacy policy. Many in your community are likely worried about the government’s wide-reaching ability to track and analyze data gathered by looking at social media accounts, emails, and the like.  But unlike many companies, libraries are fiercely protective of their cardholders’ privacy. Now is the time to let your cardholders know that your library is committed to making sure they can use the collection without worrying about whether anyone will be able see what they’re reading, watching, or listening to.

Market your library’s ability to provide factual information in an age of inaccuracy. A Pew Research Center study conducted in the spring of 2016 found that 37 percent of Americans feel that public libraries contribute “a lot” to their ability to discern which information they can trust, a 13-point increase from a survey conducted at a similar point in 2015. My library decided to dedicate the cover story of our upcoming issue of Library Links (releasing on Feb. 6) to explain how our librarians can help the public to fact-check. We listed several databases with remote access and made sure the readers know they can call, chat, or email us anytime or set up an appointment with a librarian who will help them do the research they need. This is a valuable service that isn’t offered anywhere else and we should be sure the public knows about it.

Make sure your public knows that your library’s primary goal has been, and always will be, to promote literacy in your community–and why that is important. This is the most important tenant of our profession. Increased literacy for everyone improves every aspect of community life. Find ways to make sure your cardholders know that this will continue to be a point of emphasis for your institution and why they should care.

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.

Three Pieces of Advice Library Marketers Can Use Right Now

spirited

This is the time of the year when I start to formulate strategies for the next 12 months for all aspects of my team’s work, including social media, content marketing, contacting the press, and targeted email messaging.

Three of the keynote speakers at Content Marketing World had a lot to say about the future of marketing and looking back over my notes from the conference is helping me a great deal as I formulate the path for next year. I think these thoughts will help you too! Are you creating a strategy? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or shoot me an email so we can have an in-depth conversation!

Ann Handley, Head of Content at MarketingProfs and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everybody Writes. Slow down. There is value in plotting and being more deliberate and thoughtful. The key is to slow down at the right moment. How do you know what those moments are? Ask yourself these questions:

So what? Why does that matter? When you figure out the point of empathy in your marketing, you’ll stop pushing messages out to your audience and start engaging with them instead. And that leads to better long-term results. We’re in it for the long game, people. Libraries are institutions that last for generations. We don’t have to worry about making our quarterly profits. We have to worry about gaining and keeping our cardholders active for a lifetime. In a way, that’s a scarier goal, but it’s vital to our success. And that leads me to Ann’s second piece of advice.

Wait, what? There is immense pressure to hustle. We feel like we need to be sprinting all the time. We don’t spend enough time on the preparation. Why are we doing this? What is our long-term plan? Ask yourself… will our library marketing sustain us? Opt for sustainability over speed. Are you proud of what you are creating? Does it feed your soul? If the answers to these questions are “no”, then stop doing that thing. I know saying “no” is scary and it feels wrong. But you were hired to market your library because you know what you’re doing. You’re an expert at this. Remind your organization of your ability by exercising your right to make decisions about what marketing will best serve your library.

Mitch Joel, President of Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete. The library world is in a major state of disruption. Our funding is cut. Our competition is innovating. Just this month, Amazon Prime started offering free eBooks to users as part of the Prime service. Audible and local bookstores are drawing more customers and we’re losing them.

But Joel says don’t confuse disruption for destruction. We can gain back our footing in this state of disruption by integrating content marketing into our marketing strategy. Joel says content marketers purpose is to transform. It’s about making sure our cardholders realize we’re a dynamic, nontraditional organization with resources that can help them in all areas of their life. It’s about educating cardholders. Our competitors aren’t doing that, and content marketing gives us the chance to differentiate ourselves.

I’m with Joel but the transformation doesn’t happen quickly. It takes patience and consistency and this is where most libraries and businesses fail. However, if you create a consistent and clear message, over time, you’ll transform the image of your library. That’s priceless and it’s a change that will bring you so many other benefits.

How do we do it? Joel suggests that you get really focused. Most marketers think they have to churn out lots and lots of content, but they just end up churning out a lot of crap. So do a small amount but do it really well. Create the best content you can imagine for your library. Become the place where people in your industry turn for great content examples. And, says Joel, depth wins. When you explore topics in-depth, you will gain ground because most libraries don’t do that! (For inspiration on in-depth content, listen to the Longform podcast.)

Lars Silberbauer, Global Senior Director of Social Media and Video at Lego. Silberbauer says the best thing a marketer can do is engage the consumer. Libraries need to get close to their cardholders, to observe and understand their behavior. That’s how we make a connection and build a relationship. Listen and understand their needs.

Silberbauer is also a big fan of responding to customers in real-time and understanding moments that happen between your organization and cardholder right now. Silberbauer says that if we don’t have a continuous give and take relationship with the people using our library, they’ll be charmed by our competitors and we’ll lose them forever. I agree.

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 People What They Really Want: Why You Should Market Services

GIVEHave you thought lately about why people sign up for a library card? I had the chance to work a booth at a public celebration where people could sign up for their first library card. I learned so much from interacting with patrons. And the story I heard, over and over again, was how excited these new cardholders were to get their hands on the books and resources that they knew they can check out, for free, from their library.

That’s what we should be promoting.

The most research study of library usage by the Pew Research Institute, published in September 2015, shows that 66 percent of library cardholders use their card to check out items… books, magazines, CDs, and more. Only 17 percent of library cardholders say they use their card to attend programs, classes, or lectures.

I’m not advocating that you stop promoting programs altogether. What I’m advocating is that you choose your program promotions carefully, based on your library’s overall strategic goals, and stop promoting all programs all the time. Intersperse your program marketing with collection based or service based marketing. I have talked before about collection marketing before on this blog and I know I will again! But our library has also had success with service-based marketing. It works because it’s what people really want from their library. Here’s a great example.

We have a great new reading recommendation service at our library called Book Hookup. It provides cardholders with three book recommendations, based on their literary tastes.  We decided this spring, once the service was running smoothly and all processes were in place, to begin to market to our customers. As we worked out the kinks of the service, we put signs in branches and had a few requests trickle in from cardholders who either saw the signs or ran across the service on our website.

For the major marketing play, we initiated a  plan for a multi-tiered approach. We sent targeted email messages to cardholders in specific clusters whom we thought would want to use the service: print book lovers, people who use the full breadth and depth of the library collection, and people who use both eBooks and print books. We sent these three emails over the course of three weeks, at a rate of one per week.

A few weeks after the emails, we started displaying a slide that advocated the use of the Book Hookup service on our digital screens at all branches year-round. We scheduled regular, rotating social media messages encouraging the use of the service. And on occasion, we put a graphic on our homepage reminding our cardholders that this service is available.

What happened? From the targeted email messages ALONE we gathered more than 900 requests for book recommendations. Throughout the following months, requests continue to  trickle in, but spike when we put the service in the forefront of social media or on the homepage.

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This fall, we are planning another set of email messages, aimed at all of our email personas, from eBook users to audiobook lovers to people who haven’t used the library for six months or more. My theory is that I’m more likely to convince one person who hasn’t checked anything out in six months to use a service than to attend a program. And my job is to get them back through the door of library usage so that I can market other things to them. If I can turn a non-user or inactive user into a user, that’s a huge win.

I challenge you to look at your services to find out what your cardholders use. Ask yourself what they might use if they knew their library card would give them access to it. A couple of great services for libraries to market are Consumer Reports, The New York Times, Mango Languages, and Lynda.com. If you have any of these resources, you should be marketing them to your cardholders. That’s the stuff people want!!

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.

Improve Your Writing With Seven Tools

Write Amazing Library (1)

You’ve banished your fear of writing to become a better library marketer. You’ve learned how to unearth amazing content marketing stories about your library. Now, it’s time to get good at the real writing part of the equation. I’ve picked out seven tools to help you. Some are blog posts, some are eBooks and books, some are podcasts. You’ll be able to get through all seven in less than two weeks time and you will emerge inspired and ready to write!

Begin with the Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling from Quicksprout. The whole eBook is full of insightful and inspiring tips for writers, but this chapter really applies to the series we’ve recently covered on the blog. It explains every aspect of brand storytelling and includes exercises to help you structure your story, find your library brand voice, and create a style guide.

Go deeper into technique with Writtent.com’s 15 Storytelling Techniques for an Amazing Brand Story. With more advice for mastering pace, story pattern, and adding visuals through descriptive language, this post is a must-read for anyone who writes content marketing for libraries. It includes great examples of each lesson, including a write-up on the most creative inter-office memo in the history of corporate America. What does that have to do with library content marketing? Just read it. You’ll understand.

Not a fan of writing? Then you’ll appreciate Content Marketing for People Who Hate Writing from Contently. This post is full of great examples of content marketing efforts that involved very little long-form writing. Think about how much information and brand awareness is packed into product packaging. Could your library duplicate that? I think it’s worth thinking about!

Read or listen to the book Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. It’s life-changing. I’m only putting the Amazon link in here to help you to find the book in your library. I guarantee you have it and if you have Overdrive, you’ll have the audiobook version. You MUST read this. It is inspiring. It eliminates fear. Writing is something you can do, and Handley will show you how it’s possible.

The Periodic Table of Storytelling: MY NEW FAVORITE DISCOVERY!  Each element is clickable and explained in detail. They’re based on TV tropes but it’s completely translatable into other storytelling genres, including content marketing. There are also suggestions for putting elements together to make unforgettable stories. Send this one to every member of your team and make a point to read one element each day until you’ve read them all, as an exercise for stretching your creative mind. It’s just plain fun to read and will spawn all kinds of great discussions about popular culture and stories among your staff.

Get help with your editing using Grammarly. It’s not a substitute for a human editor but it’s a great way to give your pieces a first look for spelling and grammar errors, sentence structure problems, run-on sentences, and punctuation issues. You can add words using the personal dictionary function, which is helpful for those quirky instances that may be part of your library style guide. For instance, my library always capitalizes Library so I’m constantly fighting other apps and trying to explain why I’ve got a randomly capitalized word in the middle of a sentence!

Finally, be inspired by smart people and listen to the Longform podcast. Each week, hosts Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky, and Evan Ratliff interview a non-fiction writer about their life, their process, and their fears about writing. It’s a fascinating conversation and I love it because Lammer, Linksky, and Ratliff unearth the truth about writing… it’s gritty, raw stages and the hopes and fears of other writers. It will make you feel like a kindred spirit to your brethren toiling to put words onto paper.

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.

 

Amazing Content Marketing Stories About Your Library Are Right Under Your Nose!

Amazing Stories

I love content marketing for libraries and I believe stories are the best way to build a life-long relationship with cardholders. Many of you share my belief. But the real chore of finding and telling those stories can seem a bit daunting. This post is here to help!

There are a couple of things I look for when I am in search of a good content marketing library story.

  1. Emotion. The joy of finding a book, the fear of not getting a job, the frustration of another night of homework without any help… these are all emotions felt by our library’s customers. Other customers can relate to these experiences and empathize. A good emotional story activates many portions of the brain, including sensory, memory, and empathy sectors. The more active the brain is while reading, the more likely it is that the listener/reader will remember the story. Emotion is the most important criteria of a good story. If it makes you feel something, it’s worth pursuing.
  2. Conflict and a resolution. A good story includes some conflict, whether minor or major, and a problem or situation that is resolved.  Without conflict, a story is flat and unmemorable. Look for stories with a beginning, middle, and end including a story arc that leads to a resolution.
  3. Simplicity. A story that’s direct, with less adjectives and more heartfelt and straightforward language is more likely to be remembered by the listener than a complex story with a long, winding narrative and lots of details and unnecessary description. Save the in-depth perceptions for your novel. When writing content for marketing purposes, draw a straight line from beginning, middle, and end and keep the story moving forward with clear language. Avoid industry speak.

Now, here’s how you can find stories that fit these criteria.

    1. Ask library workers to be on the lookout for great story ideas. I find a personal approach gets you better results with your fellow staff members. The next time you’re at an all-managers meeting, visiting another branch, or enjoying lunch with a fellow employee, ask them about life in their branch. Ask them to describe their customers. Inevitably, they’ll have one or two specific examples of people who have an unbridled enthusiasm for their location, or whom the branch staff has helped with a specific problem. Ask open-ended questions like, “How did that make you feel?” “Tell me how the situation was resolved.” Or make open-ended statements like, “That must have been a terribly difficult question for you to answer.” Then be silent as a cue for response. When you’ve identified a story with emotion, conflict, and resolution, ask if you can email the staffer later for more details.
    2. Crowd sourcing. This is a fancy way of suggesting that you periodically ask your cardholders specific questions like “Tell us about a time when your library helped you find some information you thought you’d never be able to uncover.” Or “Tell us your favorite library memory from your childhood.” Set up a form on your website and solicit cardholder stories on social media and in your email and printed newsletters.
    3. Social listening. This technique brought me a cover story for the next issue of Library Links published by my library. A Twitter comment flagged by our social media specialist led us to a man who planned to visit all 41 of our library branches in one day with his son. We immediately reached out to the man and interviewed him about his experience.  It’s an amazing story that other cardholders will enjoy reading when Links hits homes on Aug. 8.  And they’ll likely remember this crazy guy who drove all over the county in the space of a day, taking selfies and checking out a book at each location. It’s great library awareness for us! And we would have missed it had we not trained our social media specialist to flag tagged comments for potential stories.
    4. Library calendar events. Most library marketers have the regular calendar year events, like National Children’s Book Day, National eBooks Day, and National Summer Learning Day penciled in and marked for promotion. But instead of promoting mere calendar events, go one step further and tell stories by finding cardholders with an interesting angle. I do this through social listening. Here’s an example: we had a woman tweet us to thank us and share a photo of her child at a storytime. I tweeted her back and asked her if I could contact her offline. Then I sent her a couple of interview questions via email. I also asked for a photo of her family. I came away with a story about how our new evening storytimes meant that she and her family could enjoy a trip to the library together after work. This story appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Library Links (check page three). I also troll the program calendar periodically for unusual events but, instead of just writing about the event, I contact the speaker or presenter and interview them about in-depth questions about their program, their life, and their work. Our staff also does interviews with popular authors about their new books, their lives, and their writing process. Our cardholders love those profiles. They promote our library without promoting our library!

Content marketing gives you a chance to tell your library’s story without making a direct pitch. It increases brand awareness and improves your library’s image. And stories are fun to tell!

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.

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