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


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The Latest Data on the Biggest Video Library Marketing Questions

Regular readers of this blog know that I love video marketing. So do most marketers. And so do our cardholders.

A study released by Hubspot on video marketing found that video marketing has not yet reached its saturation point. More brands and libraries are creating videos. 87 percent of organizations use video as a marketing tool. That’s because it’s getting easier to convince our senior leaders that video is an effective and vital part of any marketing strategy. 87 percent of consumers say they like seeing videos from brands. It’s interesting, because that number matches the percentage of  brands using videos for marketing! You can read the full report here.

Videos are getting easier and cheaper to shoot, thanks to smartphones. So, you may find that your biggest video marketing problem right now is figuring out what kind of video to create, how long your video should be, and how to make sure your finished video is seen by your cardholders. Those are my biggest issues! I researched the answers to those questions. Here’s what I found.

What kind of video should we create? 

Consumers want to see short, educational videos. That’s a big opportunity for libraries.

To narrow down the most relevant topics for your library marketing educational videos, find out what questions your cardholders are asking of staff. To do that, check the inquiries you get on social media accounts. Talk to front-line staff. And, if your library website users an after-hours chat service or has a help line, ask those employees to give you the top five questions they are asked. Then create a video to answer each of those questions.

Here’s a great example from the Denver Public Library. It’s a short video explaining how to use their self-check-out machines.

If you have the time and equipment, invest in serialized video content designed to educate your community in a new skill, like languages. I love how the Boone County Public Library did this with their “Word of the Week” video series. The series is tied to use of the Mango Languages service.

And I also love this video from the J. Willard Marriott Library which offers a seven minute tour of their building!

Here are some more ideas for library marketing videos.

How long should our videos be?

This answer is a bit more complicated because it really depends on where you are going to post the video. Each of the social media platforms has an optimum video length, according to the latest data.  Here are the bottom line stats:

Instagram: A study by Hubspot revealed that the Instagram videos with the most engagement were those that were less than 30 seconds long.

Facebook: That same Hubspot study says engagement on this platform is highest for videos that run around 60 seconds.

YouTube: Hubspot says engagement is highest for videos that are about two minutes. However, there is a ton of other research that suggests YouTube audiences will watch longer videos if the content of the video is excellent.

LinkedIn: Many thought leaders in the social media space suggest this platform has the most potential for video growth. LinkedIn suggests marketers keep videos between 30 seconds and five minutes for optimum performance on their site. Essentially, that means they’re not sure which length is best because most brands aren’t posting videos on LinkedIn. And that leaves the door wide open for libraries to experiment and take the lead in getting brand awareness and action from LinkedIn users.

Given these varied recommendations, you may consider making several versions of a video to get the most performance out of your videos. My library recently did this for a video we created called Library Love, where we had librarians read notes of thanks and gratitude written by cardholders. The main video runs four minutes and is housed on our YouTube channel.

Now, you’ll notice that’s a bit longer than the recommended two minutes. But the content is good and we have gotten a lot of engagement. We created shorter versions for the different social media platforms.

How should we promote our videos?

It isn’t enough to post your video on YouTube or your website and forget about it. No matter how short your video is, it still took time and effort to create. You’ll want to make sure people see it. The most effective way to promote your videos, in my opinion, is through emails. Send an email to your cardholders with a link to your video. You might also consider playing your videos at an event. We did this with this same Library Love video. We played it our most recent board meeting, at staff meetings, and for legislators at a recent event. And of course, we’ve already talked about how to optimize video for social media. But if you have the budget and ability, putting a little money behind promotion of your video on social media can help tremendously.

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!



More Amazing Tips For Guaranteed Success on YouTube

Video is an important tactic for library marketing. I really believe that. To help you make the leap to video, I’ve created a tutorial to help you set up and run your library’s YouTube channel. This post, and the one published last week, feature tips from Jonathan Stanley, who is the creative manager of online video content and production for Lowe’s. I attended a session led by Jonathan at Content Marketing World. Read part one here. It talks about cleaning up your current YouTube channel and creating a schedule and strategy for your library’s video marketing.

The next step is to decide which of the three basic types of videos you’ll want to create. They are:

Help Content: Also known as the “how-to” video, you can create this kind of video by searching your website analytics to see what your cardholders are looking for when they visit your site. What questions do they have? What services are they using? What web pages do they go to most often and what do they do once they get to those pages? You should also do a check of keywords used in searches in connection with your library, so you can see what people who might be potential customers are searching for. This keyword research will uncover the questions your customers and potential customers have. Then, use video to answer those questions! Help content builds traffic to your YouTube channel and library website. Here’s a great example that could be easily replicated by any library.

Hub Content: These videos are part of an ongoing series. They’re episodic or formulaic and recur consistently. They’re the “must watch” variety of videos we talked about in part one of this tutorial, like the “How to Cake It” series. These videos get people to keep coming back to your YouTube channel to consume more content. You can use hub content to start to build your brand’s voice and to really define what your library stands for. Once you decide on your publication schedule and the formula, these videos are pretty easy to churn out.

My library has an ongoing hub content series, called Virtual Storytime. We publish these once a month. They are have a basic formula and take about an hour to shoot and an hour to edit. They are easily replicated by any library.

Hero Content: These are the big productions that you probably think of when you think of YouTube videos. They should be used for a major launch of a product or service, the opening of a new building, or some other major event. Done really well, these may be the best performing videos on your channel. But they also take the most time (and money) to produce, so save them for major announcements.

Jonathan has a fourth type of video he thinks works well. He calls it Herd Content. To create herd content, ask your library cardholders what kind of videos they want to see from your library and then produce them! Herd content will increase engagement and make your cardholders feel like you’re giving them the help they need. Herd content is video your cardholders will actually use!

And now, after you’ve created your video, Jonathan has the following tips:

Choose the thumbnail picture for your video carefully. The thumbnail picture is the billboard advertisement for your video. Research shows that faces are more likely to be clicked on by YouTube users so choose a face over an object. If you are creating a series of videos, be consistent with the look of your thumbnail pictures (like you’ll notice my library does for our Virtual Storytime series). Settle on a look for the thumbnail and then replicate it for all the videos in the series. For another example of a channel that does a good job choosing thumbnails, check out Adam Ruins Everything.

Be sure to support your video as soon as you post it with promotion to drive traffic to your channel. The first 48 hours are critical to overall success. YouTube will reward you for something called “positive velocity”, which is total number of views your video gets AND the total amount of time your viewers actually spend watching the video in the first 48 hours. A negative number will actually hurt the next video you post, so you have to start supporting your video with promotion as soon as you post.

Stick with it! Most YouTube channels grow slowly at first. Don’t be frustrated by slow growth, as long as you are growing subscribers. Be sure to directly ask viewers to subscribe. Ask for comments too… they’ll drive more traffic to your YouTube channel.

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.

YouTube Fundamentals to Guarantee Library Marketing Results

Now that you understand the importance of video marketing for your library and you know how to create a video that will be interesting, suspenseful, and drive cardholders back to your channel for more content, let’s spend some time talking about the pros and cons of putting everything on YouTube–and what you can do to make your YouTube channel the best it can be for you and your cardholders.

This post is full of tips I learned from Jonathan Stanley, who is the creative manager of online video content and production for Lowe’s. I attended a session led by Jonathan at Content Marketing World and I left with pages of notes!

YouTube is a great option for posting and sharing library marketing videos. Jonathan says it’s the #2 search engine in the world (wow!) and it has billions of users. You can put your library marketing videos on your website but, according to Jonathan, the reality is that you also need to post your videos on YouTube. That’s because YouTube is the home of next generation of influencers, including that elusive and coveted demographic–teenagers! It’s where people go to watch videos these days (myself included). So your library must have a strong presence there.

To make your YouTube channel the best it can possibly be, your first task is to clean it up. Do not let your YouTube channel become a video dumping ground. Check all the videos on the channel right now and get rid of the videos that contain out-of-date information or that promote programs and services your library no longer provides. For the remaining videos, go in and do some editing to optimize the ability of users to find and watch those videos. You can do that by renaming the videos, rewriting the video descriptions, and updating the keywords.

Once you’ve cleaned up your channel, it’s time to start adding new videos. Jonathan says the production value of your library marketing videos doesn’t matter all that much. Consumer distrust of companies is at an all-time high. Most YouTube viewers equate slick video production with an advertisement, and they really hate ads. So Jonathan encourages you not to worry so much about every aspect of video production and instead focus on the quality of the storytelling because that will strike viewers as authentic and valuable, and they’ll be more likely to watch.

As an example, Jonathan shared a video Lowe’s created about the correct way to use a tape measure. It’s slick and well-produced.

To date, this video has gotten more than 50,000 views and 152 likes. However, Lowe’s noticed their video is out-performed by this homemade video, shot in a workshop.

It has bad lighting and varying audio levels. But it has been viewed more than 17 million times and has more than 29,000 likes! Why? It’s more authentic. So don’t worry too much about the look of your video. Instead, make sure the content is so good that people can’t help but watch it.

Next, Jonathan says you should create a schedule so that you post consistently and map out a plan to publicize your videos. His example comes from a series called “How to Cake It.” The creator, Yolanda Gampp, posts a new video every Tuesday.

The thing Jonathan wants you to focus on here is the way Yolanda sets a cadence. She’s built her audience by creating a sense of anticipation for her videos and by delivering on that anticipation. You could set your cadence at any level you can support on a consistent basis but you should tell your audience when to expect a new video and then deliver on it. You should also create a publicity schedule so that audiences on other channels will head to your YouTube channel to check it out.

Finally, Jonathan says you should always be testing! Experiment with different content types, formulas, and talent. You might fail right away, and that’s okay. The things that are not working for your audience will become clear pretty fast and you can pivot away from those failing ideas just as quickly. You also don’t need to spend years scripting your video. Write it, shoot it, put it out there, and see how it works. Then adjust your strategy for the next video.

Jonathan suggests you start using the YouTube Creator Academy. It’s a series of free courses designed to help you make better videos and use the YouTube platform to your advantage.

Read part two of this series here.

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.

What a Firecracker and a Watermelon Have to Do with Library Video Marketing

I am so excited that the focus of marketing in the current era is video. I’m positively giddy at the prospect of how this medium will help us transform the popular view of libraries. The power of video is mind-blowing. It’s easier than ever to create a video. The hard part is compelling your viewers to watch it and to keep coming back for more.

I want to encourage you by sharing tips I learned from an extraordinary marketing expert.  Andrew Davis is CEO of Monumental Shift and author of the book Brandscaping. He is a former journalist and producer for The Muppets and Charles Kuralt. He’s a brilliant storyteller and a gifted speaker. He spoke at Content Marketing World this year about the power of video marketing and how to make sure your videos are working at their fullest potential–engaging viewers, building compelling stories, and getting your whole message through to your target audience. His talk was energizing and I want to spread some of his enthusiasm around!

Davis says we need to change the way we think about engagement. Most libraries declare engagement victory when we get a certain amount of views, impressions, shares, or likes. But the social media landscape is so saturated that those numbers really have no meaning anymore. We need to shift our definition of engagement to audience retention.

Audience retention is, simply put, the amount of time our cardholders spend viewing our content. This translates to watch time on YouTube and Facebook and page time on Google Analytics. A compelling video will persuade people returning to those platforms to view your content over and over. Davis says we must stop blaming our viewers for having the attention span of a goldfish. It isn’t that our viewers can’t pay attention to what we are saying. The problem is that what we are saying is boring.

Create videos that your cardholders really want to watch. To do this, you’ll need to get inside the mind of your viewer. Start by creating a series of “how to” videos, which have high audience retention. How-to videos are low-hanging fruit for a library. Your librarians can be your guide–ask them to name the questions they are asked most often by cardholders and then help you create a simple video to explain the answers. To prove the power of the how-to video, Davis played this video, which is one of the most watched how-to videos on YouTube.

Davis says your next video marketing challenge is to create suspense by raising the stakes. The best way to explain this concept is with this video from the Slo-Mo guys.They inserted a firecracker into a watermelon. It takes 18 seconds from start to finish for it to blow up. I admit it’s kind of exciting.  But it’s over in less than half a minute–not the greatest way to create audience retention!

Davis says there is a better way to do that video–and the example comes from Buzzfeed. They did a Facebook live where they burst a watermelon with rubber bands. It took forever to make the watermelon explode but tons of people were watching when it finally blew up. At the 20 minute mark, they had 375,000 viewers. By 40 minutes, they had 800,000 viewers. In all, more than 11 million watched it on demand after the fact. So the lesson is… DON’T INSERT A FIRECRACKER INTO A WATERMELON.

Next, Davis says, teach your audience to chase answers. The pursuit of the answers builds momentum. Your videos need to occupy your audience’s desire to know more over time. Davis says you need to stop worrying about how long a video is. Rather, ask yourself if your entire video worth watching. When someone says your video is too long, what they’re really saying is “I have no more questions.” Make sure there are questions that need answering and keep the audience constantly asking what’s next.

Remember that building suspense isn’t just part of the story line of your video. The title and the thumbnail you choose is part of the equation–don’t give it all away in those two elements. To demonstrate, Davis shared this video from the ancestry research company 23 and Me. Honestly, if you just read the title and look at the thumbnail, you will already know what’s going to happen. There’s no suspense and that translates into no real reason to watch.

A more compelling example of building suspense through the title and use of video is this Dove Choose Beautiful spot.

Finally, Davis says when you are creating drama with your videos, it is important to remember to pay it off. Make sure you deliver a catharsis or an emotional release our audience craves. If you don’t, you risk alienating your viewers. For example, Billy Gene The Wolf of Advertising made the following video. Watch it and see if you can guess why it was widely criticized.

There is no resolution! You must resolve every question you raise by the end of the video. Be sure to provide answers to all the questions in your video, so you avoid frustrating your audience. A frustrated audience will not come back to watch more of your content.

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.

Secrets For Library Videos People Will Actually Watch


Amy Schmittauer Landino is an expert on video and video blogging. Not surprisingly, she is all in on video marketing. She’s the Founder of, Vlog Boss Studios, and author of Vlog Like a Boss. I’ve watched her channel for more than a year and so I was super excited to be in the same room with her for 45 minutes at Content Marketing World, where I attended her session on how to create and repurpose video content to get more attention for my library.

And by the way, Amy led this session mere days after her wedding in Vegas. She’s a true pro and is committed to helping others.

Video marketing will be a large focus for my library in the next year, and honestly, I hope it is for you too. It’s not as intimidating as it seems. You don’t need fancy equipment to market with video successfully. In fact, what Amy says you need to focus on the parts of video marketing that don’t even involve the camera. She told us that anyone can become a talented video marketer–all you have to do is start making videos and then keep practicing. All of the technical stuff–lighting, shots, background, audio–can be perfected through practice. But there are non-technical things you can do to improve the chances your video will be watched and shared and they are just as important as having a beautiful finished product. Here are her tips.

Plan and be consistent. Plan your programming ahead of time. Think of the videos you produce as you would if you were running a station. What are you going to do for the next several months? How much time do you need to shoot, edit, and get approvals? Planning will ease stress for you and will help you to secure the interviews and shots you need. Post your videos on a consistent basis, on the same day and time if you can. Your audience will begin to expect your videos!

Make videos about things your customer wants to know–not what YOU THINK they want to know. Amy says this is mandatory for creating videos that are watched and shared. Stop focusing on what your library thinks it needs to communicate and start thinking about what your cardholders need to know.  What do they think about? What are they Googling? What questions are they asking at the reference desk or at the front door or in programs? I went to our chat service and asked them for a list of the top ten questions asked by our cardholders. That’s my video plan for next year!

Keywords are so very important. When you post your video, make sure you do your keyword research ahead of time so your audience will be able to find your video! Posting your video with whatever keywords come to mind is not consistent or helpful. You have to plan and use the relevant keywords in captions, the title, and the description. Amy recommends doing your keyword research on Tubebuddy.

Post, then wait. Amy posts her videos first on YouTube and then waits 48 hours so YouTube can categorize and rank her video. Once that happens she does a Facebook post and points people where she wants them to watch it–whether it’s on her YouTube channel or on her website. It’s an interesting concept if your library decides you want your cardholders to mostly watch your videos on YouTube. Right now, my library is posting our videos on our website, on Facebook, and on YouTube. I want to be convenient to my cardholders. Amy says that might not be the best strategy, as you run the risk of oversaturating your viewers with the same piece of video. If she’s right, we’ll adjust our process. Don’t be afraid to experiment and react according to the results.

Make sure your video passes the share test. Amy says you must ask yourself if your video passes the share test. Will your audience say to themselves, “I have to share this because it is that good!” If your stuff doesn’t pass that test, don’t even shoot it. Focus your energy on videos that people will share.

Does your library produce videos? Please comment or send me an email at I’ll be featuring great library marketing videos in an upcoming post and I’d love to include your library!

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.

Powerful Library Video Marketing Ideas To Delight Your Cardholders

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m all in on video marketing. I recently hired a new social media strategist who has a background in documentary filmmaking… you can probably guess where the future of my library marketing strategy is headed.

Why am I so gung-ho on video? As a former broadcast journalist, I have seen the evidence first-hand of the impact a string of moving pictures has on people. It’s more powerful than any other medium, even print. You can read the story of how the library changed the life of a cardholder. But when you see them on the screen and hear their voice, you suddenly feel emotions–empathy, excitement, joy–on a level that you just can’t get with words in print.

And I know video marketing is a scary proposition to libraries. It seems difficult and expensive. I tried to allay your fears in a post I wrote a few months ago. I hope you’ve thought about it and are ready to commit resources to video marketing.

So get your iPhone or your DSLR camera ready, because I’ve got some ideas for videos you can create to get your video marketing strategy moving!

Facebook Cover Video: Facebook recently launched a feature that lets libraries use a video as their cover image slot. This is the perfect starting point for your library. If you have a beautiful atrium in your library, shoot a slow pan of the atrium during a busy point in the day. Or train a camera on the door when you open and record video of customers streaming into the building, then speed up the video for a time-lapse effect. Take your camera into the hidden stacks and roll as you walk among the thousands upon thousands of books. Shoot video of your processing area. Shoot video of workers loading your trucks for daily deliveries to your branches. Shoot video of your drive-up window. There are about a thousand possibilities! You can pick something that requires little or no editing, create an eye-catching visual for your Facebook page, and give yourself some confidence in video marketing.

A few notes about Facebook cover videos: They must be 20-90 seconds long, the resolution has to be 1080p (check your iPhone settings or use a DLSR camera), and be aware that the top and bottom of your video might be slightly cropped by Facebook, so shoot with a little extra room around the margins of your screen.

Video Book Reviews: Create a series of book reviews by librarians, volunteers, and customers. If you’re worried about someone going on and on about how great or awful a book is (readers are passionate!), set a time limit and use that as you shtick. “The 60-second book review” is catchy and gives value to the person watching without risking a diatribe that lasts ten minutes. Try to select reviewers ahead of time and give them a clear set of rules about how the segment is set up–they’ll want to say the title and author of the book at the beginning and end of the video. You can use a number of apps to add text to the video. Upload the video separately to Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and your website. Do this because most social media platforms now penalize you for sharing video from another social media platform. For a great example of video marketing reviews, check out this series from the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Librarian Stories: My library did a series of customer impact stories earlier this year that was extremely popular. Each was only a few minutes long and was loosely scripted. We asked librarians to tell us about memorable interactions they had with a customer. We did edit in b-roll (that’s the video that covers part of an interview and usually relates to what the interviewee is saying). We did five of these videos and, all told, it took us about two weeks to shoot, edit, and upload in addition to our other duties. Again, you can use these on multiple platforms. It’s a great piece of content marketing for your library and it also is a great way to boost morale for the front-line staff… they really loved talking about their work. We also took transcripts of their stories and used them in our print publications, so you can repurpose this content for other mediums too!

First Look at New Construction: Is your library building a new branch or doing a renovation? Shoot a video (when it’s safe) inside the building before all the paint is up and the furniture is in place, to give your cardholders a sneak peek at what’s coming! They’ll love it. Here’s a great example from the Woodberry Forest School in Virginia!

I’d love it if you share examples of great library marketing videos you’ve seen in the comments… I need some new ideas to steal, er, copy for my library! 

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.

Q&A: How a Tongue-in-Cheek Message Sparked Success for Chicago Public Library


A few weeks ago, a video by the Chicago Public Library caught my attention. It was part of a series of videos designed to promote a fine amnesty program.

If you haven’t seen them, you need to.

There are a whole series of these videos and personally, I think they’re brilliant–and more importantly, memorable.

And so I contacted Mary Beth Mulholland, Director of Marketing for CPL, who graciously agreed to a Q&A. Mulholland’s educational background is in nonprofits, fundraising and philanthropy. She received her Master’s degree from Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy (Now Lilly School of Philanthropy) and began her career as a Director of Development and Public Relations for a nonprofit. She began at CPL as a Press Rep and moved into the Director of Marketing role last year.

Mulholland has been a library user her entire life. Now, in her role at Chicago Public Library, she promotes services which reach nearly every neighborhood in Chicago through 80 locations. More than nine million patrons visit each year to check out materials, attend an author or children’s program, use the Maker Lab, view an exhibit or use a computer. CPL has more than one million active cardholders.

Tell me a little about how the idea for the fine amnesty campaign was born. Why did the library decide to do such a sweeping plan?

We decided to do a “Welcome Home” Fine Amnesty to kick off a larger marketing campaign called “Home of the Curious,” created in partnership with FCB Chicago. The last time we did a fine amnesty was for three weeks in 2012, and the results were very successful. During that amnesty, we had 101,301 overdue items, valued at approximately $2 million, returned. More importantly, we had over 40,000 Chicagoans renew their Library card.

During this two-week amnesty, we welcomed home 13,197 patrons to the Library through replaced or updated library cards. We had 33,886 items returned with an estimated value of $819,243. We knew the numbers wouldn’t be as high as in 2012 since we had so recently held an amnesty, and we are happy with the results.

One of the reasons I love libraries is because we are all about access. Our Commissioner, Brian Bannon, and our Mayor Rahm Emanuel are very passionate about CPL providing opportunity and resources to all Chicagoans. Oftentimes fines serve as a barrier to access. As we were planning the Home of the Curious campaign, we decided that another opportunity to wipe fines and welcome patrons home would be a great kick-off to our visibility campaign.

The Home of the Curious campaign, created in partnership with our pro bono partner FCB Chicago, is based on the idea that everyone who walks into the library has something in common – curiosity. There are so many things to explore at the Library, and through this campaign we highlight different programs and resources in which people use the Library, or call the library home. In addition to the ad campaign running throughout the city, we’re featuring the individuals and their ‘titles’ on our website weekly to highlight Library resources and collections. The ad campaign was made possible through the support of the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

In addition, we used this opportunity to do a brand refresh. We updated our CPL logo to better cohesively represent all of our sub-brands.

Tell me about the creation of the videos: What was the objective, who wrote them, how long did it take you to create them, and how much did they cost?

The videos, for me, were the most fun part of the process! We wanted to promote the amnesty and incorporate Library staff so they felt like ambassadors for the campaign. I think the staff enjoyed filming, and I think patrons loved seeing their library staff on camera! I loved that we were able to include sign language, Spanish and Chinese into the videos as well to appeal to our diverse patron base.

Our partners at FCB Chicago helped us create the videos — they were written by a brilliant and fun team over there. The video scripts were out of the box and humorous, while still being authentic to CPL and our purpose.

We did about seven hours of filming and hammered out all the videos in one day. FCB did more work in post-production to incorporate our logo and captions. Because the videos were done on the back-end of some filming work FCB was doing for Chicago Public Library Foundation, they did not cost us a dime! I am so grateful because they helped garner visibility for the fine amnesty, but also built a lot of good will with staff and patrons.

Did your library do any other marketing to spread the message about the fine amnesty program?

We had in-branch info flyers and “Wanted Posters” to promote the amnesty, a website banner and home page post up for the full two weeks, and utilized social media with about 3–4 posts a day spread over Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In addition, we tried to leverage local press to get the word out about waived fines. Over 50 different outlets covered the fine amnesty program with combined circulation of over 20 million. Coverage included our local TV and radio stations, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, and local Chicago papers like DNA info, Chicagoist, and Red Eye.

Was the campaign successful? How did you measure the success?

I think it was hugely successful. The full Home of the Curious campaign runs through the end of April with ads around the city and website promotion, so we can’t quite yet measure the success of that campaign. However, with the launch of that campaign with the “Welcome Home” amnesty kick off, our circulation increased by 13% in the month of February compared to last year. We also issued over 4,000 new library cards in the month of February in addition to the over 13,000 renewed cards.

During the two-week “Welcome Home” amnesty, we saw a 1000% increase in our social media engagement. In fact, the day we announced the amnesty, Chicago Public Library was trending on Facebook. That felt like such a win to me — if we can get the public talking feverishly about the Library then I think it’s been a huge success.

In general, the positive feedback we received from patrons and the good will towards the library that the amnesty inspired made it a success. We had a feature on our website where patrons could submit their amnesty stories, and we had a few explain how their fines had prohibited them from using the library. Our staff described how it made them love their jobs because they got to make so many patrons happy by waiving their fines. We got a lot of missing materials returned and put back into circulation, and most importantly, welcomed home thousands of library users.

What’s one piece of marketing advice you’d give to other library marketers about putting together a campaign of this scale?

I think that we need to remember as we promote library services to our cities and our patrons that it’s okay to be a little tongue in cheek or out of the box. It’s okay to break library stereotypes. Our services are no longer just those of library past, so why shouldn’t our marketing efforts evolve too? The videos we created with library staff, the “Wanted” posters in branches and our social media efforts were all a bit untraditional.

I’d also suggest leveraging the resources you have at your disposal. This campaign would not have come together as a success without the pro-bono work of FCB Chicago or the financial support of Chicago Public Library Foundation. Through the strategic partnership with FCB, we were able to build our marketing capacity and work with their very creative team. If working with a large agency isn’t an option, and even if it is, make sure to use the free or inexpensive tools at your disposal like social media. Using our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts with a calendar of scheduled posts and spending a nominal amount for social media ads and promoted posts increased our engagement and visibility. Make sure your front line staff is on board. In promoting the fine amnesty and making sure that went smoothly, they were a hugely important resource to the campaign’s success.

Finally, be adaptable. There were some bumps along the way, delays in execution and a few logistical challenges. The final iteration of the campaign and amnesty elements looked different in execution than they did during initial planning. Keep an open mind, keep pushing forward, and rally your team around you.

What are you reading?

I just finished A Different Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab (from our March recommendations list created by our librarians. I trust them more than anyone to steer me in the right direction every month!) and am starting The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to write a guest post for this blog, let me know in the comment section below.

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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