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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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Five New Fantastic, Easy Holiday Library Marketing Ideas

Nearly a year ago, I shared my top five holiday marketing ideas for libraries. These ideas work for any size library, in any part of the world. It was one of the most popular posts on this blog.

We all need to be inspired near the end of the year. So I’ve spent some time gathering new ideas for library holiday marketing. The busy holiday season is a great time to try new things. And its important to be on top of your game during this time of year. Our for-profit competition is getting a lot of attention. Libraries are also competing with general customer busyness. Everyone is rushing around so much that it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day for a trip to the library.

So this year’s list includes some easy ideas that don’t take much time to plan and execute. But these tactics are just a bit out of the ordinary from the usual library marketing strategy. And each can be planned ahead of time to help ease the stress of your own job and that of your staff, because I know you’re just as busy as our cardholders!

Create and release a series of tips for your cardholders on how they can use your library to make their lives a little easier during the holiday. Brainstorm a list of ways your library helps ease the rush and craziness of the holiday season. Then decide on a sequence and schedule for releasing those ideas.

This one can really be planned way ahead of time. You can do everything-create graphics, write social media posts, and shoot and edit your videos ahead long before the holidays. Then, about a week before you start your promotion, tell your cardholders you’re going to be helping them out this holiday. Reveal your plans and tell them exactly when you’ll be releasing each tip, and on what platform. Create excitement and anticipation, then pay it off with your content. Link each tip with the others in your series and get more play through cross-promotion on various social media platforms and your website. Be sure to include an email message or two as part of this campaign.

Try a contest. To drive visits to your buildings during a time of peak busyness, a contest can do the trick. Keep it simple. Solicit some local businesses to donate the prizes… a gift card or a gift basket of goodies. It doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy. Then, encourage people to come into the library to enter. Make it incentive-based. I like to require that people check out an item. When they do, they get an entry from our front-line staff. Then, draw winners! It sounds too good to be true but I’ve done this for three years to drive visits during National Library Card Signup Month and I am here to tell you that it works.

Try Facebook or Instagram live. People are using their devices during the holiday season. And they’re looking for good content. If your library has never tried doing a Facebook live chat or a live Instagram video, you can surprise and delight your cardholders by doing so during the holidays! Have a librarian on hand to answer questions coming in live through the comments about any topic–books, gift-giving, recipes, job hunting… whatever the staff member feels comfortable discussing. It’s free, it drives engagement to your social media platform, it takes very little time to set up and execute, and it is exciting! Be sure to send an email message to your cardholders to let them know when you’ll be going live.

Show what goes on behind the scenes at your library. I’ve talked to a lot of library marketers who have had great success with behind-the-scenes (BTS) content. And if you’ve never done it, the holidays are a great time to start. It can be as simple as showing how you book drop works from the back side. You’d be surprised how fascinating that is for your cardholders.

Showcase your staff. Here’s another simple idea that fascinates cardholders. Interview a diverse group of front-line staff about how they celebrate during the holidays. Or ask staff to name their favorite book of the year, and release that as a special end-of-the year book list. You can cross promote these staff picks on your social platforms and include an email message to cardholders.

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

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

I had an amazingly and scary experience this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That changes now.

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

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

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

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

Inspiring Advice from Library Marketers Who Love Their Work

Every two years, my library holds staff development days. It’s a conference of sorts that lasts all day. The training focuses on one issue that generally affects our public library customers, like addiction, poverty, homelessness, and mental illness. I always learn something, even though I’m not a member of frontline staff. But this year, I was actually inspired while listening to the speakers. Their talks made me think about how the work of my marketing team affects the lives of our cardholders. During the closing session, I found myself writing part of this blog post on the back of a worksheet. It was a bit of advice and inspiration for myself… but then I got to thinking that I should share it here.

If you work in a public library, I bet you are as exhausted as I am after the long season of promotion leading up to summer reading. If you work in academia, the month or two before exams can feel like a marathon. Some elementary and secondary librarians are struggling just to make it to summer vacation. Six months into the year, we all feel a little worn down, don’t we? We need a reminder that our work is important. Here’s what I want you to know about the work you do.

Library marketing professionals are committed to cardholders. Every single marketer I’ve ever met in this space is thinking about the good of the cardholder over the good of anything else. I’m so proud of this profession!

The work you do feels small… but it’s a movement. We tend to think our work is not important. But we are part of a large social movement to make a real difference in the world. It feels normal and insignificant because we’ve done it for so long. It’s not normal or insignificant. You are heroes. You are amazing. Keep it up!

To recharge your batteries further, I asked for some advice from some fellow library marketing professionals. Here’s what they want you to think about as you head into the next six months

Amanda L. Goodman, Publicity Manager at Darien Library in Darien, Connecticut:  “Stay organized. Teach project management skills to colleagues that you work closely with. When you’re working on a big project with tight deadlines, it’s helpful when you’re all pulling together to get tasks accomplished on time. Schedule more time than you think you will need. Something else will always come up.”

Athens Miguel Moreno, Technology Manager at Glencoe Public Library in Glencoe, Illinois: “Organize your photos, whether on your phone or computer, make it easier on yourself to never have to hunt around for a good picture.”

Tanya Milligan, Project Librarian at Falkirk Library in the United Kingdom: “Always think of the needs, interests and wants of your users in everything you do. If you aren’t sure about their needs, interests and wants, then ask!”

Lori Juhlin, Library Director at Hawarden Public Library in Hawarden, Iowa: “Your frontline staff are your best marketers, because if someone receives great service, they may tell others, but even more so if they have a bad experience.”

Kristin Lauri Readel, Director, Frost Free Library in Marlborough, New Hampshire: “Double check dates & times with the correct calendar. Use Canva!”

Carol Eyman, Outreach Coordinator of the Nashua Public Library in Nashua, New Hampshire: “Find out what publicity is working and what’s not by adding a question in your online registration forms, how did you hear about this program?”

And a few more from yours truly: Make an effort to talk to staff. Ask the librarians about their jobs. Learn about the problems they deal with. Talk to customers! Strive to be a little uncomfortable in your work.  Push yourself a little. Make time to rest and be creative.

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.

Five More Amazing Websites With Free Stock Photos For Your Library

More than I year ago I made a list of the top seven websites I use to find free marketing photos for my library. At the time, finding free photos with open copyright use was tricky. But in the span of a year, I’ve found a bunch of new websites with free stock photos! It’s now so easy to get stocks photo that I’ve actually considered canceling our library’s paid subscription stock photos service. Many libraries do not have the budget for a stock photo subscription. They rely on sites like these to help create promotional material that looks professional and modern.

It’s very important to point out that you can’t use any old photo you find on the internet. Just because a picture is on the web does not mean it’s public. That’s where Public Domain and Creative Commons licensing comes into play.

Public Domain: The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. You can copy, change, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

Creative Commons: Gives those who want to give up those [copyright laws] a way to do so, to the fullest extent allowed by law. Anyone can then use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to other laws and the rights others may have in the work or how the work is used.

You must use images in the Public Domain or covered by Creative Commons to avoid legal implications. All the sites in this post fall into one or both of those categories. And I’ve personally used every site I recommend so you can be assured that I’m familiar with their licensing regulations and their selection.

Here is my original list of the seven best sites for free stock photos. And here are my new additions!

Gratisography: My new favorite site! It’s diverse, interesting, and contains a lot of creative shots that are bright and eye-catching, even whimsical. It’s divided into easy to understand search categories. Their regular search engine is precise… no scrolling through a hundred photos that don’t pertain to your search term. The selection is a bit smaller than some other sites but the photos are amazing.

Burst: After my first post, the creator of this site emailed me with a link. I am impressed with their selection. Their photos are particularly appealing to the millennials on my staff! The photos are all covered under the Creative Commons license and can be used for all kinds of promotional purposes.

Negative Space: Another site under creative commons with full use of photos for commercial purposes. Their photos are artsy and fun. I particularly love their Flatlay collection!

Creative Commons: This site is dedicated to sharing photos under the Creative Commons license and contains the most diverse selection of shots I’ve seen on a free photo site to date. I go here when I’m looking for something original and authentic. Their shots of office workers never look staged!

Vecteezy: While not exactly a photo site, this website contains a lot of vector and graphic art, which can be helpful if you’re responsible for creating graphics for your library marketing. There are premium pieces for purchase, but their selection of free art is great. Use this site to complement the free layouts and art you’ll find on Canva. I like the modern feel of the work on this site.

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.

Introducing the Nine Blogs That Will Make You a Better Library Marketer

(Read time: 2 minutes, 28 seconds)

I am a fan of blogs. God bless the internet, it’s the best way to keep up to date on everything–food, fashion, the news, and the changes in library marketing. And, as much as I am also a fan of books of all kinds, I am not a fan of marketing books! The landscape of this profession changes fast. Unless it’s a philosophical take on marketing, most marketing books feel out of date within a year or two of publication.

Instead, I get my advice from blogs. So I’ve listed the nine blogs I recommend you read to stay on abreast of all the news in marketing. For the best use of your time, sign up for the email newsletters offered by these sites. Most will let you choose which topics you like to hear about and will send you content at the frequency that’s best for you. Set aside time on your calendar every day to read the content shared by these blogs. It’ll be time well spent. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.

The Content Strategist

This blog features interesting articles broken into categories like storytelling, strategy, and ROI. They also post inspirational articles, which I love to save and read on days when I feel like my work is not having the impact it could or should.

Content Marketing Institute

At first glance, you might be intimidated. This blog is aimed at C-Suite or executive level marketers. But it’s good to read this advice even when you’re a little guy! There are always pieces of their strategy and bits of advice you can pick up and mold to work for your library. And the writers of this blog always seem to see the trends in consumer and business marketing before any other experts. Also, when you sign up for this newsletter you’ll get notifications about CMI’s free webinars. They have the most helpful webinars of any company in the marketing space.

Coschedule

I found this blog after using their online tool for writing better headlines. It’s among my favorites. Coschedule creates a lot of useful templates and writes easy-to-read, concise instructions on how to use them and how to improve your marketing.

The Daily Carnage

I read this one for laughs, good advice, and a lesson on how to write with humor and still be taken seriously.

Hubspot

Hubspot also gives away a lot of free templates and online courses that have tremendous value. Their blog posts cover a range of topics and are fun and insightful.

Mashable Marketing

One of my favorites by far. Their content is easy to read and interesting. They cover topics from social media to graphic elements to equipment to how pop culture affects marketing. It’s also written very, very well. This website is daily appointment reading for me!

PR Daily

If you sign up or bookmark just one blog from this post, this should be it. It’s essential for library marketing. This blog contains everything you need to know about public relations and the media. You have my permission to stop reading and subscribe to this one now. Then come back. Please.

Social Media Examiner

When I interview candidates for a social media position, I asked them where they get their news about social media. If they name this blog, they get a big A+ from me. Read it AND listen to Michael Stelzner’s podcast to get the best advice on social media from the industry’s best minds.

Spin Sucks

This blog offers a lot of helpful PR advice with a mix of fun posts designed to stretch your creative brain and general marketing advice. I really look forward to their daily email newsletter. I always learn something!

What is your favorite marketing blog? Please share the name in the comments so I can read it too!

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.

 

Reporters Reveal How To Get More Press Coverage

(Read time: 3 minutes, 6 seconds)

I have a confession to make. I don’t know everything.

I thought that I did! I spent 20 years in a TV newsroom. I thought I knew about how the media covers everything, including libraries. And I did when I started my library job five years ago. But things have changed. Now, I need advice as much as the next guy.

That’s what I learned after sending two of my staffers to a media day held in Cincinnati last October. The event was sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America. It included panels on topics including how to think like a journalist, and how to manage crisis communication. My staff members came back with a host of tips. And making those changes worked! Since October, coverage of our events and services by the media rose by more than 50 percent. No kidding. We’re getting more responses and more inquiries.

Put these tips into practice in your own library, along with last week’s free tools to help you do PR better. I bet you’ll see better results too!

 

Send out news releases WAY early. The reporters and producers told us they like a lot of advance notice, even for small library events. We had been sending releases two to three weeks before an event. I moved that back to four to six weeks before an event. We send a reminder to the media again about a week before the event. This turned out to be the most valuable tip of all. We’ve seen a sizeable increase in the number of responses we get, both when the release goes out and coming up on the day of the event.

Be ready for a response. The reporters told us that we should always assume they’ll respond to our press releases and media alerts! That means having our potential interview sources ready when we send out the release. This was a struggle for me because a different library department books our big author appearances. And I’ve always had to go through that department to arrange media interviews with the authors. But, armed with this request from the media, I went to that department head and made a case. I told them we’d get more coverage if they would be willing to give me direct contact information for the publicist so I could book interviews. They agreed and now I’m able to help the media when they call for an interview.

Write your release as if it were a news story. In fact, write a news story INSTEAD of a release. Include information about whether you’ll be able to take photos of the event and send them out to the media when it’s over. Newsrooms are short-staffed. They want us to do the work for them. And while that might not sound fair, if we send them a publishable piece of content with photos, we win on two levels. First, we get coverage of our event. Second, the narrative is exactly as we want it! We can do the fact-checking and make the important points. We have control!

Find good interview subjects. Arrange interviews ahead of time with people affected by the news item, not with the administration. Reporters don’t like official sounding, jargon-filled soundbites. That’s not compelling. Compelling is a child who finally catches up in reading because of extra tutoring from a children’s librarian. Compelling is an immigrant who got help at his library filling out a naturalization form. Compelling is not your library manager explaining how great the library is because they’re now offering a service. Ditch the official. Find the people, and put them in front of the camera.

Think like a reporter. Reporters asked us to arrange diverse interviews, including people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. They told us their target audience is women, ages 25-54, and that our interview subjects should be compelling to that age group. Pick interview subjects who are comfortable on camera or at least can talk in soundbites. Arrange interviews to meet the time demands of the newsroom. Newsrooms often have crews available are erratic times. If you’re sending a news release and hoping for an interview, make sure you have someone with a flexible schedule who can meet a reporter on short notice.

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.

Free Tools To Help You Do PR Better

(Read time: 3 minutes, 7 seconds)

Confession: when I was working as a TV journalist, I thought public relations was soooooo easy. I imagined a typical PR person spent their day sitting at a desk, cranking out press releases, one after the other. I thought it would be the world’s most boring job. And then I took a job in library marketing and PR. And found out how very wrong I was.

Good public relations work for the library is critical. We must promote all the good our library services and circulation, as well as our contribution to the community. We must counteract stories that cast our institution in a negative public light. We need the public’s support to pass levies and other funding measures. And we’re fighting negative press on issues we can’t control, like crimes committed near our library and opioid use in our public spaces.

Most of the public relations and media work we do in the library is positive and fun. It’s not easy, though. We work without paid distribution software and adequate staff. But there are lots of free tools to amplify your message and get increased media awareness and public brand love for your library. Here is a list of my favorites! (A reminder, I only endorse tools I’ve worked with on this blog. If you are a company with a tool to suggest to readers not listed in my piece, you are welcome to do so in the comments.)

Hemingway App: I first learned about this tool from Ann Handley of Marketing Profs. Simply put, it improves your writing. It actually counts the number adverbs in your copy and forces you to keep them at five or fewer. It also catches passive voice, convoluted sentences, and complex wording. Your copy will be clear and bold. That increases the chances that a reporter or media outlet will pick up your press release or blog entry. It even gives you a grade on your finished product! And it’s free. I write EVERYTHING in Hemingway, including these blog posts. (Bonus: it also counts words, sentences, and gives you a “read” time, which can increase engagement. I’m adding the read time to my blog posts now. Did you catch it?)

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer: I run every headline I write through this free tool. It trains you to write clear, catchy headlines with powerful, uncommon, and emotional words. It also shows you how your headline will look in a Google search and in an email on a desktop or mobile device.

HARO (Help a Reporter Out)This amazing online tool connects journalists with sources (like your expert librarians!) Join the site for free as a source and then journalists will email you with requests for help with stories. There is no better way to get discovered by national media outlets. National requests don’t come often, but when they do they’re amazing. Last summer, a reporter from the New York Times featured our summer lunch program after finding us here.

PR Hunters: This very simple site will email you leads from journalists posted on Twitter. Sign up is free. You can customize keywords like the library, reading, poverty, eBooks, etc., to your profile. Then you’ll get emails when a journalist Tweets a request for information on those subjects. I don’t get a ton of emails from this site, so don’t worry about your inbox exploding with requests. I find it helpful because, honestly, who can be on Twitter all the time watching for PR opportunities. Bonus tip: when you are on Twitter, search the hashtag #journorequests for direct requests from the media. Use it when you want to pitch a specific story.

Google Alerts:  Set up a free account and get email alerts when the keywords you’ve attached to your account are used in any online source like a TV or radio website, the online edition of a newspaper or magazine, or in a blog. I also set up alerts for my competitors too so I can keep track of what kind of press they’re getting.

Next week: I’ll share the secrets my staff learned during a one-day conference with local reporters and writers. Find out what the media really wants from you and what you can do to make sure your stories get coverage!

Bonus: Free press release templates!

Hubspot template and tips

Pressreleasetemplates.net

Presstemplate.com

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.

 

Shrewd Marketers Challenge Conventions. So Should We!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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