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Expert Advice on How to Work Diversity Into Your Library Marketing

A few months ago, the Urban Library Council’s Marketing and Communications team organized a conference call with library marketers across the United States. Part of the conversation focused on diversity in library marketing. It’s an important topic and frankly, I had nothing to contribute to the conversation. In fact, I’m embarrassed by my ignorance. Libraries serve a diverse population. Why haven’t we done a better job of working that into our marketing?

This year, my staff began a concerted effort to include more diverse faces and stories in our marketing. But I had this nagging feeling that there was a lot more we could do. I just didn’t know where to begin or how to frame my thoughts. The ULC conference call made me realize I wasn’t alone. It also made me realize that there is an expert in this area; a library marketer who has pushed her team and her library to look for ways to be inclusive on all fronts of marketing.

Kim Crowder established a communications department as Director of Communications for the Indianapolis Public Library. She is the winner of multiple national awards for her work and has spoken on panels and given talks covering a variety of marketing and communications topics. Prior to her role at the library in Indy, she spent 15 years working in marketing and communications for several Fortune 500 companies and was a published journalist for one of the largest newspapers in the United States. Her experience includes working with national and international media on outlets such as Conde Nast, The Oprah Winfrey Show (Yes, she met Oprah!), MTV, BBC London, CBS News, The Learning Channel and more.

Kim believes diverse points of view, flexibility, and creativity are keys to producing the best marketing and communications strategies possible. Kim took a lead role in the conversation on that ULC conference call and afterwards, I asked her to share her thoughts on diversity in library marketing with us.

Libraries inherently serve a diverse population, yet we don’t always include diversity in our marketing. There’s a bit of a disparity there! Why is diversity in marketing important for libraries?  The populations we serve are diverse, and our marketing efforts should be inclusive and truly represent our audiences. This is basic marketing 101. And I’m not talking about only focusing on certain populations for certain services and events. That should happen too, but this is more a conversation about overall strategy. Typically, public funding pays for libraries, which means acknowledging citizens of ALL backgrounds, because it is their dollars that keep our lights on. And we are all (or should be) aware of campaigns such as #weneeddiversebooks. Also, the American Library Association cites equity, diversity and inclusion as key action areas. For us to be unified on this topic, we must embrace it fully.

As our country becomes more diverse in a plethora of ways (not only regarding race) and knowing that it is predicted that in 2040 we will be majority-minority nation, libraries must plan now to stay relevant in the future. To do that, we must demonstrate our necessity and make as many people as possible aware of our benefit to their lives; it makes good business sense to be inclusive. Diversity in marketing is a needed and necessary aspect that must be earnestly examined and executed. And frankly, it’s the right thing to do, period.

Diversity in marketing is more than just making sure we include people of different races, religions, and abilities in our marketing photos and campaigns. What other ways can we market to a more diverse audience? This is a great question! Here’s where nuances matter. For instance, knowing what is important to certain populations and targeting specific programs and services to those markets by using the language, messaging, and imaging that most speaks to them is imperative.

An example of this would be to create marketing campaigns that are translated into different languages and really working with a native speaker (if possible) as well as a translator, to be sure the interpretation is correct, including knowing which regional dialects are most common in your market. Also, being aware of the vernacular that is correct when addressing the LGBTQ+ community, such as using sexual orientation instead of sexual preference. Making sure that you are aware of holidays and times of celebration and using social media to point to those is paramount. These are only a few ways to reach audiences in ways that are respectful and inclusive. It really is about intentionality and research to respect different groups within your service area and to make sure you have a real sense of who those segments are.

Will diversity in library marketing help to change the mindset of communities and how people view their fellow citizens? What an interesting thought! My answer is that it could help, absolutely. Change takes time and a village, and libraries can certainly contribute to the greater conversation. And remembering that diversity includes more than race, disabilities, socioeconomic status, gender, etc., but also includes experiences as well, should be acknowledged and considered. The more commonalities within humanity that are highlighted, the better.

Think on themes such as wanting great educational tools and programs for kids; a place anyone can feel safe to learn freely; and the ability to find books, movies, music, and more that speak to people’s core values. All these are ways to make library services more connected on a human-interest level to the populations in which we serve. The more stories that are shown using real customers, the more engaging. Finding a way to create emotional connection, whether through video, a news story, social media, community partnerships, print materials, blogging, etc., is key, and can certainly create an environment of shared interests. At the end of the day, we are all people, and finding that common thread using diverse representation is the way to go.

How do we convince our library colleagues that diversity in all areas that the library touches, like programming, exhibits, and services is important to our mission and to our cardholders? Everyone receives information differently, so think about the myriad of ways in which this fact can be demonstrated. Whether it is through anecdotes about individuals we serve or looking at pure data to find out the population breakdown in your service area, this case is best won by combining these different forms of information so that people can get a full view of the importance of diversity and inclusion.

And having them think through target audiences as they are planning services, exhibits, programming, etc., allows real dialogue about who these different groups may be so that the conversation of diversity is immediately valuable to the person doing the planning. And convey the message again, and again, and again, throughout your department and the system overall, as well as finding staff who will be ambassadors who speak to this as well. The more managers who are on board and empowered to pass along this information to staff, the better. Particularly, we have an African American History Committee and a LGBTQ+ Committee, run by staff members, who plan events and speak on behalf and are allies of minority groups.

What role does diversity in staffing play in the way libraries market themselves? Let’s start by acknowledging the elephant in the library world. Most of the workforce in libraries only speak English, are women, white, and not considered disabled, so naturally, there are going to be blind spots. Blind spots would be so no matter who the majority were. There are, however, some real statistics about why a diverse workforce is so important. And diversity is at its most valuable when gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation are combined with acquired diversity that is gained from experiences like living and working abroad or regularly interacting with a marginalized group. There are also statistics that state a lack of diverse leadership means women are 20 percent less likely than straight men to receive support of their ideas; LGBTQs are 21 percent less likely; and people of color are the most vulnerable at 24 percent.

The impact is that staff who would notice missteps in the way a group is messaged to or represented in campaigns, including recognizing lack of representation, may go ignored because they do not have the support when they do speak up. Having several points of view in any situation is extremely helpful, and a more diverse staff who can contribute and truly be heard, naturally creates an environment for this.

Can you give us some examples of how you have worked diversity into your marketing at the Indianapolis Public Library? We are constantly working on this, and it isn’t always simple, comfortable, nor easy. In 2018, all my staff participated in a racial equity training given by a third-party community partner that was extremely eye-opening for all of us. I wanted us to have context as to why we were focusing more heavily on this topic and to be able to has some real data on the issues. The first step was to be willing to openly have conversations around this, and to invite others to do so, resulting in bettering our marketing and communications efforts.

Regarding marketing tools, social media is a big part of how we do this; particularly focusing on highlighting diverse materials and topics in posts and event listings. Using kid-focused materials is a great way to introduce diversity to wider audiences, as it tends to disarm people a bit more. Also, making sure that we use videos to tell stories about our patrons being touched by library services is major strategy. We highlight users from all walks of life, knowing that stories connect on a human level, even beyond initial differences.

We are extremely conscious of this when in situations such as building a new branch or closing one in a neighborhood that is largely minority or has high numbers of residents below the poverty line (this is happening currently, and it’s not easy nor pretty). The goal is to always respect and honor people and that community overall, no matter what. And equally as important, being sure to position the Library as a support to those communities, not a savior or a “fixer.” We must be sure we are always viewed as a partner coming alongside those who are already doing great work and living in these communities. We are supporters who are always actively listening. That means our messaging must uphold that secondary position in the most respectful way possible, and if we miss that mark, we are immediately transparent about it and ready to learn however we need to. We are here to serve.

Kim is a native of Houston, TX (and VERY proud of it), and a lover of music and social issues dialogues. When Kim is not enjoying her professional endeavors, you can find her singing at church or jazz at a bar (with the occasional musical and national anthem at a sporting event sprinkled in here and there), listening to podcasts and audiobooks, Latin dancing, brewing tea, attending an artsy event or live concert, shopping, enjoying the sunshine, or laughing hysterically with family and friends. Her Instagram is the bomb! You can also email Kim at Kimberly.Crowder@live.com and say hi!

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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Why Libraries Should Stop Worrying About Dark Social!

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Dark social sounds menacing, like a bad guy from a comic book or a low-budget science fiction action movie. But the reality isn’t a sexy or as dangerous as it sounds.

Dark social refers to the practice of sharing content privately. When your cardholders or fans cut and paste a link to one of your blog posts, or cut and paste a social media post, or write an entirely new post without tagging you or sharing your post, that’s dark social.

It’s happening to your library more often that you realize. A June 2016 report from RadiumOne shows 82 percent of the blog posts and web content shared on mobile devices falls under the category of dark social. People are sharing your stuff, but instead of retweeting or quoting your tweets, they writing their own unique messages in apps, email, or text.

Dark social came up in an American Library Association panel discussion I had with Dana Braccia of Library Systems & Services, LLC, and Kim Crowder of the Indianapolis Public Library. One of our fantastic audience members asked us about dark social and how we handle it.

My answer was… I don’t.

Sure, dark social is frustrating for marketers because we can’t see what’s being said about us on all platforms (admit it, you obsessively check for mentions of your library in Google Alerts and on the Twitter timeline). We aren’t in control of the narrative. We see that people are coming to our website or blog but we don’t know where the traffic originates. We might see an uptick in use of a service or in circulation of a particular item and we can’t figure out why it’s happening.

Is this really a bad thing? Do we need to create a process for dealing with it? I don’t think so. Any kind of sharing of any content is good for your library. If your cardholders are fans and are sharing news and information about you and your services privately, then so be it.  Although it’s lovely to be able to precisely track all web content, libraries are not under the same ROI obligations as our friends in the for-profit business world. We benefit from any kind of web traffic. I don’t think it’s as much of a problem for libraries as it is for consumer brands, nor do I think it’s happening as often as the data shows in the RadiumOne survey above. This is a subjective observation based on my analysis of web traffic to our site.

I did a lot of research to make sure my hunch about this was right. I looked for articles on dark social, all published within the last year, from well-established marketing expert websites (the best were this one and this one). And it’s clear that this is a big worry for companies, particularly those with a funnel model for sales. If you read those posts, you’ll notice the authors suggest that companies create partnerships with platforms like WhatsApp and Snapchat to help communicate their brand message and keep the conversation within their brand’s control. Those partnerships are tricky and expensive and I didn’t see any evidence that they’ve worked for anyone, and I’m certain it’s not worth the time or money for your library.

You can use Bit.ly short links and Google tracking URL’s to help track the source of your web traffic. And you can make sure that you embed social media sharing buttons on your website to make it easy for library cardholders to share your stuff on social and through email. And you should make sure your library’s unique branch voice is clearly a part of everything you create. You can create unique graphics to go with each piece of content and those graphics can be branded so that anytime they are shared, their original source–you–is clearly visible. That’s about all you can do, my friends. Beyond that… you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Don’t worry about dark social so much. Libraries are blessed that this is another instance in which the worries of the profit consumer market don’t apply to us.

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.

 

Constraints Are Your Strengths: The Hidden Secret to Life-Changing Library Marketing

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It’s no secret that I’m a super fan of Jay Acunzo. This guy is smart and ambitious, yet he’s truly dedicated to making the marketing world a more creative place. He’s got credentials. He’s a former employee of Google and Hubspot. His current job is as VP of Platform at Nextview Ventures, an investment firm for entrepreneurs.

But I really connect with Jay’s ideas about how to be creative. On Jay’s podcast Unthinkable, he shares inspiring stories of craft-driven creators who decide one day to do something for fun. These side projects end up growing into something big and “unthinkable.”  If you’re not a listener, you need to.

What the heck does all this have to do with library marketing? One of Jay’s core ideas is that constraints in your job or side project can be a source of strength for you. And my gosh, how many constraints do we face in our jobs as library marketers? About a gazillion. We face budget constraints, staffing constraints, creative constraints, legal constraints… the list goes on and on. It’s a wonder we get anything creative and engaging done. It frustrates the heck out of me. Doesn’t it frustrate you? Wouldn’t you like to break free and do something amazing? Aren’t you tired of doing the same old thing, year after year? Why do we do that anyway?

I’ve had a couple of speaking gigs this year and that gave me the chance to meet a lot of library marketers. Most of them have a hard time pushing the boundaries because they’re scared of breaking tradition and they’re worried the bureaucracy of the library won’t be welcoming to creative ideas.

But I have also talked with fellow library marketers who are ready to push open the door of creativity and try new things. I think the time is ripe for some truly inspiring stuff to happen in library marketing. Our industry depends on it, now more than ever.

Step one, according to Jay, is to stop being a slave to best practices. Everywhere you turn, there is someone telling you how to do your job. Most of the time, these constraints come to us in the form of a tidy document called “best practices.” How many best practices do you adhere to at your library? At mine, we have social media best practices, website content best practices, and a host of best practices for dealing with our “clients” in other departments.

Jay says best practices have one flaw: They create one truth we feel we need to embrace. Good marketers follow best practices, but great marketers craft their own. Best practices tell you what you’re supposed to do. But what if your intuition is urging you to try something else?

So how about we begin the year by examining our best practices and seeing if we can rework them to allow more creativity, or better yet just throw them out and use creativity, intuition, and data to drive our marketing efforts. Give your team (or yourself) room to be creative and do creative work. That’s when the magic is going to happen.

When you make the leap away from best practices and toward pushing boundaries, Jay says you stop playing in the market and start shaping it. Are we proactively marketing what we firmly believe, or constantly reacting to the trend? Jay says no one buys a better pillow… they buy a better night’s sleep.This is so applicable to libraries. No one checks out books. They are borrowing an experience, a fantasy, a chance to get away from daily life or to learn something new about themselves or the world.

This year, I’m starting a creativity initiative in my marketing team. I ask them to meet once a month and do whatever creative thing they want to do. I don’t attend the meeting and I don’t prescribe how they conduct the meeting or even where they meet. I only ask that they pass on one great idea from each creative session that we can use in practical marketing purposes. Sometimes the group plays games. Sometimes they walk around the library taking photos. Sometimes they just talk through ideas. The point is that they set aside time every month to be creative.

But there are constraints. They only have an hour or two to work on creativity. And they have to come up with one actionable idea for our library marketing that won’t cost us any budget to implement. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Here’s another idea from Jay. Find 30 minutes each week to study one piece of marketing done by another library or company. Ask yourself … what emotion does it evoke in you? Why does it make you feel that way? How can you replicate that feeling in your own library cardholders?

Library marketing isn’t brain surgery. If you screw up, no one dies. Stop letting fear hold you back. Start putting creative ideas into practice. Use data to figure out if they work or not. What have you got to lose? If something doesn’t work, you just stop doing it and move on to the next creative idea. We used to do this all the time when I worked in TV news. When an idea didn’t work, we just called it “an error of enthusiasm” and we learned from it. No one took failure as a life or death outcome. Try stuff. There will be duds. That’s okay. When you find a creative marketing gem, it’ll be awesome.

So let’s lead the charge into creative territory for libraries. Let’s look at our constraints and find ways to work within them. The challenge to create within the constraints of regular library life might lead us to do something really innovative and cool. What a great way to start a new year!

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.

 

Nine Writing Tools That Will Change the Way Your Market Your Library

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The great marketing and writing expert Ann Handley said in a recent session at the Content Marketing World conference, “Writing makes you vulnerable. There is no magic feather in writing. It’s more ephemeral than words but it seems elusive and difficult. Writing is a muscle that you need to exercise every day.”

Boy, isn’t that the truth. Not only do you have to come up with ideas to write about, there are a thousand things to think about when you write–your punctuation, your grammar, your spelling, staying conversational, writing in your brand voice, and really just trying to make any sense whatsoever. Getting past your nerves and cranking out that ugly first draft can seem like a monumental undertaking. There’s nothing more intimating than a blank screen.

I have something to give to you this week. Here are nine writing tools that you had no idea existed. Don’t worry, I didn’t either! I learned about these from Handley and they’ve really changed the way I write in the past few months. I hope they rock your world too.

Pocket: A place to store ideas.

Google Scholar: A special Google search engine with access to research studies on any subject.

Boardreader: Another search engine designed to comb through bulletin boards, press releases, and other obscure pieces of content to find facts and information.

Buzzsumo: Find out what your competitors are writing about and how it performs or find keywords that are performing high to uncover the topic you should write about next.

Ubersuggest.io: Find keywords not available in Google Keyword Planner. Another great place to search for trending topics and get ideas about what to write.

Blog About by Impact: Having a hard time coming up with a title for your blog post or article or coming up with an idea in general? This site has thousands of fill-in-the-blank prompts that can help you to brainstorm your next topic. It’s a great place to visit when you’re suffering from writer’s block.

Ilys.com: This tool is weirdly hypnotic. You tell it how many words you want to write and then it forces you to keep writing. It helps you to muzzle your inner critic and crank out that ugly first draft. It’s hard to explain. Just try it.

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor This is a fascinating tool. You copy and paste a bit of text, or type directly into the tool, and then hit enter. It will point out the words that are not commonly used. For fun, I pasted in the following paragraph from earlier in this post: Writing makes you vulnerable. There is no magic feather in writing. It’s more ephemeral than words but it seems elusive and difficult. Writing is a muscle that you need to exercise every day. Plus there are a thousand things to think about when you write–your punctuation, your grammar, your spelling, staying conversation, writing in your brand voice, and really just trying to make any sense whatsoever. Getting past your nerves and cranking out that ugly first draft can seem like a monumental undertaking. There’s nothing more intimating than a blank screen.  And Up-Goer told me the following words were not among the most commonly used: VULNERABLE, MAGIC, FEATHER, EPHEMERAL, ELUSIVE, DIFFICULT, MUSCLE, EXERCISE, PLUS, THOUSAND, PUNCTUATION, GRAMMAR, SPELLING, BRAND, WHATSOEVER, NERVES, CRANKING, UGLY, DRAFT, MONUMENTAL, UNDERTAKING, INTIMATING, BLANK, SCREEN.

Why does this matter? It helps you to write more conversationally. You don’t have to change your text based on every suggestion. But at least it will help you to review the language you are using so you can really make sure your writing is going to make sense to the average reader.

HemingwayAppA really fascinating text editor that gives you suggestions on words to change or cut to make your writing clearer and bolder. This is great if you don’t have a person serving as your editor. It’s not free but it is worth it.

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.

Five Super Easy Ways to Hook Teen Cardholders for Life!

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Before you read this post, read this one.

Okay, now you’re ready to tackle marketing to teens. It’s an important demographic and we need to focus our efforts on them to secure the future of our libraries.

And if you are wondering, I actually ran these ideas past a group of teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 18. So you know I’m not just making this up. I got approval from real teenagers.

So, the number one most important rule of marketing to teens is…

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Don’t market to them.

They HATE marketing messages and they are masters at dodging them. They pay for Spotify, Netflix, and YouTube Red to avoid ads. They can spot an ad or a pitch a million miles away and they run screaming when we try to reach them through traditional marketing messages.

A study by the McCarthy group showed 84 percent of teens don’t like advertising and are much more trusting of information sources that are not actively focused on selling messages.

Well, that’s not very encouraging Angela. What do we do?

We build personal relationships with our teen cardholders. If you’ve spent any time with marketers, this is one of those things you heard them say all the time, particularly if they’re a student of content marketing. It sounds new-agey and difficult. I mean, they’re teenagers… can you even connect with them?

Yes. You will have to be patient and build a relationship with them over time in many places, including social media and in-person. This kind of marketing is counter intuitive to the traditional marketing mind. The traditional marketing mind pushes out messages like a machine. Have a program, create a flier, poster, bookmark, give them out to everyone who looks like they might slightly be within the realm of possibility as a participant, and hope that they show up.

If we really want to succeed, we need to focus our efforts and be more personal in our programming and our marketing. It takes more time but they’ll remember how that connection makes them feel every time they think about the library and that’s what we want… that feeling will be a thread through their lives.

Example: School work is hard. A lot of teens are taking advanced college level classes and their parents can’t help them with the material. They need help. Your library probably has some kind of homework help service and you probably market it the traditional way, through print poster and fliers that give out at the library or at their school saying, “Come use our homework help program!” What normally happens? They read it and they throw it away.

What if we offered to come into classrooms and teach teens how to find resources online, both from the library and from other sources, which they can use to help them with their homework. What if we showed them how to find research sources online that are vetted… not Wikipedia and not Google.

Number one, you’re creating a valuable partnership with your local school district. You’re helping the school by helping their students to improve their grades. You’ve solved the problem of getting teens to come to your library for a program on homework help because you’re catching them at school, where they have to be anyway, as part of their normal day. And you’re showing teens that the library is a place where people care about them and want to help them succeed in life.

There are dozens of innovative ways to market to teens through content marketing and in-person events. This kind of more personal marketing helps them to figure out solutions the main problems in their life. This sounds counter intuitive because you’re not directly marketing your library. But here’s why it works: you’re building trust and trust is the basis of any long-term relationship. We want young adults to know that when they have a problem in life, they can turn to the library to help them solve it. This is how we hook teens for life.

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Don’t try to be cool. Teenagers know that other teenagers are not running the marketing department of the local library. They recognize that adults speak to them in a different tone and manner than their peers. So don’t try to work slang or cool phrases into your marketing–they’ll see right through that and it might come off as corny or insincere. Instead, be direct, be conversational, and don’t talk down to them.

Teens are diverse, so your marketing must be. Walk through any high school cafeteria and you’ll realize that teens have widely different tastes in just about everything-music, movies, clothes, etc. Also they are diverse in age… a 13 year old’s interests are vastly different from an 18-year-old. So we do we lump all teens into one marketing group?

If you can pinpoint exactly what kind of teen will be interested in the program or service you need to promote, you can do a better job of marketing. Before you print anything or create any graphics, create a persona. How old is the teen you’re targeting? What kind of student are they? What do they like to do after school? Are they a regular library visitor or do they barely ever walk through your doors? These questions can help you create a narrowly focused target audience so your marketing will be more effective.

And keep your messages age appropriate. You may also have to narrow the focus of your teen program or event. The more specific you can get, the more your event or message will relate to an audience and the more than audience will engage with your library.

Build relationships with people who can help you. For my library system, the best marketing tool I have to reach teens is the teen librarians. These men and women interact with our young people every day. They know their names, their interests, their transportation situation, their struggles in school… all the things I can never uncover even with the best marketing survey possible. Keep your teen librarians in the loop about programs and services you are promoting and ask them to make one-on-one contact with some of the more influential teens at their branches. Leverage the trust that the teen librarians have with the kids by asking them to make personal pitches for marketing initiatives for teens. Word of mouth and influencer marketing is a successful tactic for teens. If you have time, ask your teen librarians to run ideas by their customers to get some preliminary feedback. Listen to their ideas and opinions, then base your decisions on their original input blended with your marketing expertise. Teens want to be respected and treated like an adult. They want their opinion to matter.

Here’s an example of how this worked for us. Teen Read Week happens every year, and I’ve never really been able to get teens to engage on social or on our website with marketing messages for that week because I’ve always been very general with my marketing message. “Hey teens, it’s Teen Read Week. You should… read.”

This year, I decided to create a specific book list for teens. Really, it was a list of reading recommendations for them put together by other teens. I sent an email out to our teen librarians with a form, asking them to ask teens at their library to fill it out.

We compiled the responses into a book list which was our main promotional focus during Teen Read Week. We did social media posts and we created an email that we sent to our teenagers with a direct link to the list. The email gave us a 29 percent increase in circulation for the books in the list. This list did well because teens love to be asked for their opinions about books and they’re more likely to read something suggested to them by another teenager.

Use brand ambassadors because teens care about what other people are thinking. If you can convince influential teens to use the library, then their influence will spread and going to the library becomes cool.

Next Monday, I’ll send the second part of this list of marketing tips to target teen cardholders!

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

Five Easy Ways To Make Sure Your Library Website Doesn’t Suck

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I am woman enough to admit it: making sure our Library website works well, draws visitors, is easy to navigate, and makes life better for our cardholders is hard. I bet you can relate. Library websites are notoriously clunky and hard to use. Very few libraries do it well. This is a shame, considering how many of our cardholders use our websites to search the catalog, place holds, find programs, and do research.

But there are things we can do to improve the experience for cardholders. I learned some great tips this past September at Content  Marketing World, where I heard Andy Crestodina speak. Andy has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. He’s the co-founder and strategic director for Orbit Media in Chicago, and an evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing. I highly recommend you bookmark his company’s blog for lots of tips on how to make your website work better and stand out.

Andy says a lot of little design decisions made by libraries cause analytics problems. Many of those decisions can affect your future ability to measure. Marketers need to combine the analytical process and the creative process to create a great website. That means your website should be a combination of art and science.

To often, we fail to do that–mainly because we really don’t know how. We focus on the look and feel of the website, and not on the data. The best marketers use a lot of data to drive their decisions. So ask yourself–does your website work with or against your analytics? Here are Andy’s tips.

Have a domain strategy. When you create a page or a sub page for your website, do you have a strategy for the domain name? This simple step is very important. Many of us are tempted to create separate domains for our separate pieces of content, but Andy says you should never do that… never, not at all. A good URL structure is short, with one or two slashes, and includes a target phrase. For example, our library has created a page for our summer reading program, CincinnatiLibrary.org/SummerLearn. This URL makes analysis easy and ensures that our site is search engine friendly.

Don’t use dates on your blog. Andy says the analytics shows there is value in refraining from dating all your blog material. Unless you are a news organization, avoid dates. Don’t even put a date in title. It gives readers the impression that your content is old. Readers may say they prefer a date–but analytics show us otherwise.

Stop posting press releases on your website. Andy says press releases are a lazy, insensible way to post content. The content isn’t trusted by the consumer. By all means, send the release to the media but then rewrite your release as a customer-friendly blog post, without the industry jargon, and post the information on your blog. And not as a PDF. Andy calls PDF’s “the rust of the internet.”

Get rid of all your dead-end pages. Have a call to action on every page. Make sure there are no dead-ends… that every page leads to an action that takes a cardholder to another page. This increases conversions. Andy also suggests getting rid of email links. They aren’t trackable and they attract spam. Instead, create contact forms so your cardholders can be funneled to the right person.

Make a page for each of your services.  If you do it right, people will click in from Google. Andy says your homepage is an after thought. Many visitors will not see your home page. It’s not the most important and that shouldn’t worry you. Also remember, as you name each page for products and services, to use words that your cardholders would use. Avoid industry jargon like “solutions.”

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.

11 Interview Questions to Uncover the Best Library Marketing Talent

welcome-toI am a blessed library marketer. Every day, I get to work with a talented team of people to create meaningful content and graphics that connect with our cardholders. Some members of my team were here when I arrived. But most were hired by me. And one of the most serious jobs I have as a library marketer is to make great hires. It’s like building a house. You may have the most beautiful lawn and the perfect furnishings but without a proper foundation, the whole building is going to fall down and everything will be destroyed.

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But your library marketing staff really does have to be more than competent. You need talented, passionate, dedicated people to work magic under library conditions, with limited time and resources. Each new hire is a chance to bring a different perspective to the creative pool of your system.

The work that library marketers do is not a job for a librarian. Marketing is a specialized skill that requires training.  I could not be trusted to shelve, search complex databases, or help with someone’s homework. That is work that librarians go to school for and train for. It is a specialized skill. By the same token, if you’re hiring someone to do marketing for your library, they must have a background in marketing or journalism.

My team consists of two content specialists, a social media specialist, and two graphic artists. We create content and marketing collateral for 41 branches and for many system-wide initiatives. It’s a huge job. I have a pretty good track record of hiring great workers. No candidate is perfect but here’s what I look for and what I ask to uncover whether my candidates have these qualities.

Experience. I’m not necessarily looking for someone who has a certain amount of experience. Rather, I’m looking for candidates with a wide-range of job experiences. Have their past positions required them to do many different tasks? How did they handle that challenge?  In our library, our staff does everything from building a float for the annual Cincinnati Reds Opening Day parade to editing videos, writing scripts, and working on social media posts. I want my candidates to be comfortable stepping in to tackle new tasks. You can find out a candidate’s range of experience by asking them to:

Describe your current workday.

Talk about the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on–what was the project, what was your role, what challenges did you face, and how did the project turn out?

Describe a time when you were asked to complete a task that you weren’t exactly sure how to handle at first. What was the task, why did you have concerns about your ability to complete it, what did you do, and how did it turn out? 

Initiative. This might be the most valuable skill a potential library marketer can possess.  You want a candidate who doesn’t need to be led through every step of every project, someone who will use their creativity to figure out ways to solve problems for your customers. You can find out if your candidate has initiative by asking them to:

Describe a time when you came up with a solution to a problem at your current job. How did you pitch the solution to your boss? What was your boss’s reaction? Was the solution implemented? What was the result?

Describe a time when you were really struggling with your work. What did you do to improve your situation?

Tell me about your outside interests or side projects.  Do you ever see yourself turning a hobby or side project into a career path? How?

PassionLibrary workers have to be passionate about the industry. They have to be fully invested in the library’s mission and be able to help the library achieve those goals without the advantage of large financial rewards, glamorous travel, or corner offices. Libraries are wonderful places to work, but they’re not going to be a good fit for someone who is looking for all-expenses paid luncheons and global speaking engagements. To find out if your potential hire really has a passion for the life of a library, go beyond the typical “why do you want to work at the library?” Ask them:

Tell me the role of libraries in your life. 

Would our community suffer a significant loss if our library were to close? Why or why not?

I sat in on a fascinating panel discussion at Content Marketing World called: The Content Talent Crunch: How Marketing Leaders Approach Hiring a New Breed of Marketer. I learned a great deal from the panel members, who make hiring decision at some of the top brands. Here are the questions they ask their creative talent.

James Ellis, VP of Inbound Marketing at TMP Worldwide: Find out if your candidate can look at both sides of a story by asking them, “Think about a time when your previous employer made a business decision that you disagreed with. Can you describe why the business made that decision?”

Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief of Contently and The Content Strategist: Reveal the source of your candidate’s true passion by asking, If you had a giant bag of money and all you had to do was write, what would you write about?

Jeannine Rossignol, Vice President, Global Marketing for Xerox Corporation’s Large Enterprise Operations: Discover if your candidate can be a great conversationalist by asking, “What did you do to prepare for this interview?” 

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.

 

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