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Everything You Need to Know to Create an Effective Marketing Plan for Any Library Promotion

I love planning. I am the queen of to-do lists. I am addicted to reminder notifications. I’m a fan of the Excel spreadsheet.

I rarely go into any situation without a plan. The same is true for my library marketing. I create a marketing plan for everything. And so should you.

A marketing plan has a lot of advantages. It ensures everyone knows the end of goal of your marketing efforts. It defines roles for all the stakeholders. It sets deadlines. It keeps people accountable. And it clarifies how you will measure your results.

Why a marketing plan is important

A marketing plan is NOT a strategy. A strategy is the path you decide to take to achieve your library’s long-term overall business goals: increased circulation, increased program attendance, brand awareness, etc. You can have an overall library marketing strategy that guides your actions for six months, a year, or longer.

A marketing plan lays out all the steps involved in one particular promotion. Everything in the plan should tie into the strategy. It must help to achieve your library’s overall goals. But the plan lasts for a shorter period, involves more specifics, and covers just one promotion.

You don’t need a plan for everything you market at your library. You do need a plan if you are creating a campaign that lasts for a month or more.

And here’s how to put one together.

Know the thing you are promoting inside and out. Be sure you can answer every single question known to man about the thing you are marketing. If it’s a new database, use it… a lot. Have non-librarians use it and then ask them to tell you what questions they have. Read and re-read the tutorials. Becoming an expert on the thing you promote means you can explain it to your target audience in a simple and clear way.

Clearly define your end goal. Use business terms. If you are looking to increase brand awareness, set an actual, measurable end goal like: “We want 50 percent of residents living within a 30-mile radius of our Main Library to know that we have renovated the building and to be able to name at least one new service available at the renovated Main Library.”

Don’t be vague. A defined goal keeps you accountable.

Determine your target audience. Many library marketers say their target audience is “our cardholders.” Be more specific. Which cardholders? How old are they? How often do they use the library? What exactly do they do? Do they have children? What’s their transportation situation?

Add in as many demographic characteristics as you can. This gives you and everyone working on the plan a picture of who you are trying to reach.

Analyze competitors. Research anyone providing a similar program, service, or product. What are they doing well? What are they doing poorly? What are the things that differentiate your library from their business? These are your marketing advantages.

Create the message. This might seem crazy, especially if the marketing campaign isn’t set to launch right away. You can adjust the wording later. But getting the message down in writing now, with everything fresh in your mind, an efficient and effective way to make sure all the main pieces of your marketing plan mesh right from the start. It also gives you time to make sure your main marketing message is clear, concise, and correct.

Choose your tactics. Go through all the available avenues at your disposable for marketing and decide which ones will work best to reach your end goals. You do not have to use everything that’s available to you. Not every promotion needs print materials or a press release or a digital sign. Sometimes, a video will work well and sometimes an email will do a better job. You know best how your core cardholder audience reacts to each tactic and which will bring you the best results. If you have budget, decide how you’ll spend it during this step.

Set the schedule. I am a huge fan of tiered distribution of marketing. The approach takes advantage of a consumer cycle of excitement. You release one or two promotional tactics at the beginning of your promotional cycle, like a social media post and a press release. The promotion gets some play, and excitement builds in the consumer base. It gets shared and people talk about it… and then the excitement dies out.

Then, you release the second tactic, like an email, and the people who see the email get excited and start talking about it and sharing it, and then their excitement dies out.

Then you release a video, and that builds excitement and gets shared, and the excitement then dies out. And so on!

When you use the tiered distribution approach, you get a longer promotional thread. Your promotions will be more successful because the excitement around them builds over time, not in one big burst. This method has led to increased success for my library marketing. It also easier on the person running the marketing! It gives you a small break in between each tactic and creates time for you to measure the success of each tactic individually.

But you need to schedule your promotions, especially if you are using a tiered approach, so you can make sure you have room for them in your regular schedule. It also helps to create a picture in your own mind of how this marketing campaign will play out. Again, you can adjust this later if you need to. Nothing is ever set in stone at my library!

Assign tasks. Delegate jobs and deadlines for appropriate staff. If you need help from another library department, assign their deadline now so they have plenty of time to get you the information you need.

Measure results. Don’t forget to measure and record the reaction to each piece of your marketing plan. Analyze what worked and what did not, so you can put that knowledge to use next time.

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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The Big Things You Must Do to Land a Job in Library Marketing

I never like to see a staff member resign. But when they do, it’s usually to take the next step in their marketing career, and that’s something to be proud of.

However, I suffer through several days of worry after I receive a resignation letter. Will I find a good person to fill this role? How long will it take? How hard will it be to orient them to the bureaucratic workings of my library?

In truth, despite the worry, I love to hire new people. A new employee can bring new ideas and energy to your library. Staff recruitment and nurturing is one of my favorite parts of the job. It’s also one of the hardest things to do. Hiring a manageable, long-term, qualified candidate who meshes well with your current team is crucial to the success of your library. The wrong hire can cause issues for you for a long time. So it’s important to get it right.

A job in library marketing is fun. It isn’t glamorous but it’s fulfilling. It’s also a popular field. For my last open position, I received more than 130 resumes in seven days. And many of those resumes were from candidates with the right degree and experience. But many of my candidates neglected to do some simple things that could have helped them land my open job.

I want to share some of the things I look for in a good library marketing candidate. These aren’t the things you’re told are important when you’re taking that college job placement class. Confession: I do want my candidates to have a degree but I don’t care where it’s from. These are the things that really, truly improve your chances of landing a job in library marketing.

And, if you hire library marketing candidates or hire for positions in your library in which marketing is part of the job description, look for candidates who have these qualifications.

A complete LinkedIn account. Your LinkedIn profile should include an updated photo of a professional nature. List your school and work experiences. Make sure you mention any professional organizations to which you belong. If you have writing or artistic samples, post them on your profile or include a link to your online portfolio or blog.

Most importantly, ask relevant professional peers to write recommendations of your work before you start applying for jobs. The candidates who got past my first round of resume culling where those who had at least one professional recommendation on their LinkedIn profile. And the more positive recommendations they had, the more likely I was to consider their resume.

A completed automatic application form. My library’s application asks questions that are usually answered in a candidates’ resume. Many of my candidates skipped the application step. I assume it’s because they felt it was redundant. However, it’s important to fill out the application for two reasons.

Many libraries use software to comb the online application for certain keywords to identify qualified candidates. They can’t do that search on a resume. If you don’t fill out the application, you’re automatically disqualified. Filling out the application form also shows you can follow directions.

A cover letter, particularly if the job you’re applying for involves writing. This is your chance to shine. Avoid using clichés such as “I’m a great fit for this position.” Write in your own voice. Be creative and personal.

The person I hired for my last open position began her cover letter by telling me the story of the library in her childhood–how her mother used to bring her to the library every night for activities and homework help because she was such an active and energetic child. That story stuck in my mind and demonstrated her writing skills. She wrote conversationally yet was professional in her tone. And it worked… she got the job!

Spelling and grammar are accurate on EVERYTHING, especially if your new job involves writing. This demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail. I eliminated some qualified candidates because they misspelled words or made grammar errors in their resume, application, or cover letter.

Writing samples. Generally, I would have two or three samples linked to your resume, and two or three more in your back pocket to send in if the recruiter needs them to help winnow down the pool of candidates. Prove you can write a variety of content including blog posts, press releases, emails, and long-form articles.

Social media accounts.  If you’ve worked on a social media account for another brand, nonprofit, or volunteer organization, include a link to those accounts in your resume. If you don’t have professional experience, you should have personal accounts and you need to be active on them. This demonstrates you have knowledge of how social media works. If you aren’t actively on social media, the recruiter will assume you don’t have a complete understanding of how the social landscape works.

Video examples. In TV news, we used to call this the “demo reel.” Make two or three videos to show your shooting style, and to show you know how to edit and upload videos. Put them on YouTube or your personal blog, and link to them in your resume.

Research the heck out of the library you want to work for. The more you know about the library, the better your chances will be of landing the job. Look at the library’s social media accounts, website, and mobile app, then visit a branch. Pick up some print marketing materials and pay attention to displays, signage, and customer service. This prepares you for the classic questions “What are we doing well and what would you like to improve on, if you were hired for this position?” The inability to answer that question is an automatic disqualifier for me.

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

How to Create a Social Media Strategy That Actually Works

The most effective, free marketing tactic in the library marketing professional’s toolbox is social media. Personally, I love it. I think it’s fun. And interesting. And despite the trolls, I’ve made some actual friends and professional connections in the social space.

For my library, it’s the easiest way to get our message to the masses. But with so many platforms intended for different audiences, it’s also overwhelming. Should you post on every channel?  What should you post? How often do you have to post? If you work alone, you need to be efficient. You don’t want to spend a lot of time experimenting with social media. You want to know what works, and how to be successful. You need goals.

A few months ago, Marcy Timblin, Public Relations Specialist at East Bonner County Library, sent me this email: You always have such timely, comprehensive advice for getting the most out of social media marketing for libraries. I dream of putting it all together to formulate an amazing social media plan that I can implement – even though I am the “numero uno” social media marketer at my library district.”

I appreciate the vote of confidence. Really, any success in the social media space centers on strategy. A strategy lets you take your library’s overall strategy and use social media to make those goals a reality. But telling you to have a strategy and putting one together are two totally different things.

I am blessed with a social media specialist on my staff. Part of her job is to create and maintain our specific social media strategy. And it’s a big job. We’re a large library system (41 locations, 600,000 cardholders) and we post on multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Tumblr). It takes time to sort out how to make each channel work for us. But we do have a process for creating a strategy. Here is how we do it.

Consider what you already know. Go through each of the social media platforms that your library already uses. Look at the analytics for those platforms. How are people using the platform? Which kinds of posts do they respond to?

Most platforms now offer analytics (Facebook is best by far) so you can evaluate success. And if your library is using a scheduling platform to manage your social media posts, you can use those analytics. For those libraries posting organically on platforms without the use of scheduling software, there are options for free analytics. Read this blog article to find one that works for you.

In this step, you are looking to replicate past success and trim past failures. You may find a platform you are using that is not working for you. Drop it. You may also discover a platform that is working really well for you. Concentrate your efforts there.

What are your library’s goals for the year? As with everything you do in library marketing, your social media work must be in service of advancing your library’s overall goals. So, get that list in front of you for the next two steps.

Create a mission statement for each social media platform. Look at your library’s goals for the year and what you know about each platform. Then write a one to two sentence mission statement for each of the social media platforms, lining up your library’s goals with the current audience for that platform. This mission statement should be something your staff and your cardholders will understand. Here’s an example:

LinkedIn: Discover career advice, business tips, and free resources that will help you succeed at work.

Twitter: Get regular updates on our collection, library events, and the literary and entertainment world.

Instagram: Photos tell the library’s story, one snapshot at a time.

And so on. Once you have created the mission statement for the platforms, you can create a persona for the people who will follow you on that platform. The mission statement and persona will help you visualize your audience every time you post. You’ll be able to connect with them because you’ll know who they are, and what they expect from you.

Experiment with scheduling. Look at your current analytics to see which time of day and day of the week work best for social media posts. Use that as a starting point for deciding when and how often you’ll post. Be consistent with your posts. And set a cadence that you know you can keep up with.

Track metrics and be flexible but not overly reactive. It takes time to achieve your library goals using any kind of marketing. The exception is social media. That’s because the platforms themselves are transforming and changing at a rapid and unpredictable rate. Algorithm adjustments and new features can throw off your strategy.

Here’s my general rule: keep an eye on changes in the social media landscape. When a big change occurs, like when Facebook changes its algorithm, sit tight for a while. Give it a month at least and see how the platform’s change affects your reach. Watch to see how your audience reacts. Watch to see how other brands adjust based on the change. Then, if you see your reach is changing negatively or positively, make the adjustment. Don’t wait until your strategy cycle (six-12 months maximum) is over to make your change. You’ll lose months of audience reach if you wait.

Never stop researching. I follow a couple of websites and podcasts religiously to keep up on social media trends. Of all the marketing tactics, that’s the one that takes the most personal learning upkeep! I rely on the Social Media Examiner Podcast, Social Media Today, Social Media Explorer, and Rebekah Radice.

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!

Hustle is Bullshit: How to Beat Stress and Get Happy Again!

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling a bit stressed out.

There are many reasons for that. It’s been an incredibly busy year for my library. We’ve gone through a ton of changes. We endured a public outcry over a potential building sale. We hired a new director–our first new director in 20 years. We passed a levy. And we started a facilities master plan to renovate or rebuild ALL our 41 locations.

I’m tired. I need a break. So why do I feel an incredible sense of guilt walking away from it all, even for just a few days?

It may be because marketing industry thought-leaders are constantly preaching the notion that extreme hustle is the only way to get results. You must post consistently, no matter what. Your audience expects a steady stream of content, no matter what. You have to keep talking or they’ll forget about you.

To some extent, that is true. Audiences do expect consistent content. But they’re also forgiving. And if you are turning out amazing work, a little break in the action can be beneficial to you and to your audience.

A break gives you space to recharge your brain and reinvigorate your creative juices. That’s really important for those of us who do this library marketing job without the help of support staff. For your audience, a small break can build anticipation for your work. It can make your audience realize how special your content is, and how much they rely on it.

I listen to the “Lovett or Leave It” podcast. Jon Lovett, the host, recently took a two-week break over the Thanksgiving holiday. His first show back was the funniest it had been in a while. And he talked about how many messages he received from listeners, especially toward the end of his break, about how they were really missing the show. Those message re-invigorated him and made him excited to get back to the microphone. He did some of his best work.

Hustle is bullshit. We’re not robots. We all need self-care. I recently asked some of my readers to share their favorite ways to keep their sanity. Here are some suggestions!

Cara Luddy from the Onondaga County Public Library says, “When you’re frustrated, you are not going to do your best at work. Get up and take a walk around the library, eat something, or make some coffee/tea. If you don’t want to take a break, switch to working on a project that you’re excited about for a little bit. Use the momentum of working on something you really enjoy to build your confidence and help yourself tackle the less desirable parts of your job.

Teresa Tidwell of the Carusthersville Public Library says, “Delegate! Delegate! Delegate!

Erika Hill works at the Provo City Library, shared a really helpful story and example. “I think sometimes as marketers, we try to turn anecdotes into generalizations. DON’T DO IT! For example, we just sent out a satisfaction survey to our patrons. About 2,000 people responded. Of those 2,000 people, 20 people had some negative comments about our website (which are totally valid! Our mobile website is terrible!). I showed those comments to some colleagues, and they started talking about how much “everyone” hated our website. Nope, not “everyone.” 20 people. We have a tendency to do this kind of thing a lot; we take a few negative patron experiences and allow them to be a referendum on our jobs, and it takes a toll! Certainly, we need to listen to feedback. Certainly we need to try to help every patron have a good experience. But just because one person didn’t hear about an event doesn’t mean that I did my job badly.

Amy Tollison works at the Weldon Public Library. She makes a great point, saying, “As I’m sure is true for many of us, marketing is not my only job at the library. If I get tired of working on this, or feel like I’m losing my creativity, I just switch hats and work on one of my other jobs such as programming or materials selection. Sometimes getting out of my chair and doing something physical like shelf reading is helpful. At home, I try to get enough sleep and to spend at least a little time each day doing my favorite thing–reading!

And Elle Mott, who works with me at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, has a great suggestion. “Attend an ongoing library event–just for the fun of it–your engagement will likely elicit genuine passion which will show when later promoting the library plus it will have gotten you out of the business zone for a few minutes.

The best thing sometimes for your mental health and the health of your organization is to take a short break. Reset your mind. Find your creative space. Reset your goals. Get inspired. Then, start again.

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!

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!

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.

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