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Part Two of the Library Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Creating an Editorial Calendar That Actually Works!

This is the second part in a series on creating an editorial calendar for your library marketing. Read part one here.

You’ve chosen a tool for your editorial calendar, and everyone on your team is using it. Now the fun part begins! At least, I think it’s the fun part. Deciding what kind of content to promote and how you’ll execute those promotions is arguably the most crucial part of library marketing. Here’s a simple guide to get you through the process.

The Library Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Creating an Editorial Calendar, Part One: How to Decide What Goes in the Calendar

Step #1: Do everything you can to focus your marketing efforts.

In a perfect world, there are two basic rules for determining your promotions. The first would be: Does this promotion do anything to move our library’s overall strategic goals closer to reality? The second would be: Is this a service or item that cardholders want and need in their lives? Does it provide a tangible value to our cardholders? Anything that falls outside of those two benchmarks is cut. In this perfect scenario, you only promote the things that really matter to your cardholders and to your library’s mission.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. Everyone has to market services, collection items, and projects that have nothing to do with the library’s mission. Library marketers are treated like short order cooks. Promotional requests come in from various coworkers, and we fill them. It’s ineffective and it’s why so much of our marketing fails.

The only thing a library marketing professional can do is to battle back. It may be a slow process. It’ll take time and a lot of persuasion to get the rest of your library system to change its mindset about marketing. But you have to start somewhere!

Your first editorial calendar task is to set parameters for your marketing to the best of your ability. Figure out what you have the power to approve and what you can say “no” to. Then do it.

Change is slow in coming in the library world. This shift toward marketing with a purpose rather than marketing everything under the sun may be met with a lot of push back. I’ve been in my job six years and I’m still working on it. It’s a constant battle. But it’s one worth having because it’s better for my library and better for my cardholders.

Step #2: Choose the tactics that will work best for each promotion. Library marketers have a natural tendency to want to promote everything with every tool in the toolbox. You don’t have to use every tactic available to you. In fact, you don’t really want to! Thoughtfully selecting the method of promotion for each campaign is a smarter use of your time and energy.

For every promotion, I write down a short list of what I know about the promotion. Then I write down my best guess for the kind of library cardholder and non-cardholder who might be interested in the thing I want to promote. Finally, I look at all the tactics at my disposal and decide which ones would be the best for reaching my target audience.

Here’s an example: Earlier this year, my library put a collection of lantern slides on display as part of a specially curated exhibit. These slides were part of our collection. They’d been sitting in a dark storage area for ages.

We do a lot of exhibits at our library, and most feature interesting pieces of our collection. But this one felt special. The librarians who discovered and arranged the slides were psyched. Their managers were psyched. I ran the exhibit idea past some non-library friends to see how they’d react. They used words like “cool”, “unusual”, “interesting,” and “vintage” in describing why they’d want to see the collection.

I decided to promote the exhibit with just four tactics: a press release, posters, wayfaring signage, and social media posts shared with lovers of vintage stuff. I did not promote the exhibit with a slide on the library’s homepage. I did not send an eblast. I did not create digital signage. I did not create a video.

I made these decisions based on my imagined persona of an exhibit guest. They would be a reader of traditional news. They would be someone who like vintage collection items and photos online. They would be someone who might take the time to read printed sign as they walked into the front door of the library.

In the end, the four tactics we chose to use worked well because we spent our time and energy making them really, really good. They fit the target audience. We focused on the content, not the container. We got a ton of press coverage and our social media posts did better than I expected, particularly on Facebook.

Creating four really good pieces of promotion is more effective than creating ten crappy pieces. That’s why choosing the tactics to fit your promotion is important.

Step #3: Leave room in your calendar to remind your cardholders about the services and items they love but might not use daily.

Here’s a good example. My library has a reading recommendation service called Book Hookup. Our cardholders answer three simple questions and they get three reading recommendations back in whatever format they prefer–print, eBooks, or audiobooks. These recommendations are personally selected by a librarian.

I do two campaigns promoting this service every year. I must remind people that it exists because it’s not a service our cardholders use every day. But, those promotions are consistently so successful that, before the promotions begin, we have to assign extra staff to manage the recommendations. That’s because so many people will sign up for personalized reading recommendations through our promotions that we can’t keep up!

Your library has a lot of services that will help people in their everyday lives. Work those into your editorial calendar on a regular basis, even if no one is telling you directly to promote them, particularly if those services are tied to your library’s overall strategy. Your library will thank you.

Step #4: Be flexible. You will want to program blank spaces into your editorial calendar for last-minute promotions. Those holes give you space to make decisions that positively impact your library and your cardholders. And if you don’t end up having anything to fill those holes, they still have a benefit. Space in your calendar will give you and your team time to breathe!

Don’t forget to join us for the LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM every Tuesday at noon ET. We’ll talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form.

And check out these upcoming events and webinars where we can connect and discuss library marketing. Registration links included!

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.  

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Part One of the Library Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Creating an Editorial Calendar That Actually Works!

I don’t know about you, but I spend the majority of my day as a library marketer making decisions. I answer probably two dozen or more questions a day from co-workers, staff, and friends about everything from the title of our library’s next blog post to the photo used in an email campaign to the kind of swag we give out at library events. This may be why my poor husband often has to choose the restaurant when we go out to eat. By the end of the day, I’m tired of making decisions!

Library marketing often feels like air traffic control. So how can a library marketer work effectively without losing their ever-loving mind? Organization, my friends. And the best way to get organized is to live and die by a working editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar will define and control the process of creating content, from the creation of an idea through writing and publication. A good editorial calendar will help you decide which content ideas to publish, where to publish, and when to publish. After those decisions are made, the editorial calendar will help you assign tasks and keep up to date on deadlines.

The editorial calendar is literally the heart and soul of the library marketer. Mine is open all the time, as long as I’m at work at my desk. It’s a score card, to-do list, and road map all rolled into one. Without it, I’d be lost.

A number of readers have asked me how they can create an editorial calendar that will lead to effective marketing. I’ve broken it up into two parts. First, let’s go through the steps to setting yourself up for success by funneling your team and tasks into one tool. You need to pick the tool, define your process, and learn how to work your calendar in your role as the project manager.

The Library Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Creating an Editorial Calendar, Part One: How to Pick Your Tool and Use It

Step #1: You need a tool that will help you keep track of everything… and I mean everything! You should consolidate all of your team’s tasks into one place. That means anyone who has anything to do with creating content for your blog, social media, video, email, print, press release, digital signage, or newsletters is on the same tool.

The one tool approach will help everyone to know where each promotion is at any given time. It will also help to maintain a consistent voice and message throughout all of your marketing. Working off the same tool will also maximize the effective use of every piece of content. The one tool approach will also help you, as project manager, to minimize overlap and mistakes.

Set expectations with your team early. Tell them you’ll do your best to pick the right tool for your team. Then make it clear that there will come a point at which everyone will be expected to have transitioned to the new tool.

Step #2: Get your team involved in picking your tool. First, you’ll want to explore how the new system will make their jobs and their lives easier. You can do this by asking your team to list the problems they have right now with content creation. Then, ask them to prioritize them. Which problems cost your team the most time and energy?

How to create an editorial calendar in Google Calendar

Marketing Strategy Bundle from CoSchedule (includes editorial calendar)

Free Excel Spreadsheet-based templates from Smartsheet

Step #3: Enforce compliance. Once you pick the right tool for your team, you have to delete all your other calendars and tools. I’m not being harsh. Your team may need that extra push to use one tool. And it’s likely there may be someone on your team who doesn’t like whatever tool you end up choosing. You cannot allow them to go rogue. In order for this to work, everyone has to use the same base.

Step #4: Make checking your editorial calendar a part of your daily ritual. As the project manager, your job will be to keep everyone on track using your new tool. Some days, this task will take five minutes. Some days it will take longer.

I add promotions into my calendar as soon as I learn about them. I have some promotions planned six months in advance. Advance planning helps me to visualize the promotions I’m doing and make sure everything gets the proper attention it needs. I can still be flexible and change things around as needed. But if I know what my marketing will look like in October during the month of July, I’ll have a better chance of getting everything done in time. That also gives me time to think about what’s coming up and to work on creative and innovative ideas to make those promotions better.

Step #5: Leave plenty of room for data. Measure the results of your content so you can adjust the editorial calendar and improve the effectiveness of future promotions.

Analytics should drive most of the decisions in your editorial calendar. I say most because I believe analytics should be responsible for 75 percent of the decisions. The other 25 percent is experimentation, gut instinct, and a deep knowledge of your audience.

Measuring results has two benefits: It helps you to decide what to do and it helps you decide what to drop. If you find a particular content subject or format isn’t getting the results you want for your library, you have data to back up your decision to drop it. Likewise, when something is working well, you can use data to reinforce your decision to that thing more often!

Next week: We’ll talk about what kinds of content should be part of your editorial calendar and how to decide which of these tactics to use in every promotion you do!

Don’t forget to join us for the LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM every Tuesday at noon ET. We’ll talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form.

And check out these upcoming events and webinars where we can connect and discuss library marketing. Registration links included!

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.  

Here’s What You Missed During the Library Marketing Live Show: Episode 2

Thank you to everyone who tuned in for episode two of the Library Marketing Live Instagram Show!

Watch this recap to hear what we talked about!

Things we talked about

Summer Reading and how to make it successful

Books we are reading or listening to! I’m reading I Will Always Write You Back and I’m listening to Never Let Me GoWhat are you reading or listening to?

And I’m doing a webinar! It’s about digital promotions for libraries and it’s in conjunction with Recorded Books. And it’s free! Register here: http://bit.ly/recordedbookswebinar.

What Should We Talk About?

Have an idea for the next Library Marketing Live Show? Submit it now.

We’ll chat on Instagram on Tuesday at noon EST for about 20 minutes. My handle is @Webmastergirl so follow me to see the show live!

The Step-by-Step Method for Figuring Out the Best Time to Send Library Marketing Emails and Why You Should Never Stop Experimenting!

I spend a good portion of my day as a library marketer trying to figure out how my cardholders live their lives. What do they do? When to they do it? What parts of their life are difficult? What parts are enjoyable? When do they have free time?

We do know a lot about the people who use the library, thanks to our own library surveys and great organizations like Pew Research Center. But you can also figure out what your cardholders are doing by email marketing experimentation. And your findings can increase the effectiveness of your marketing.

On the Library Marketing Live Instagram show, Dari from Cook Memorial Public Library District wanted to know how to figure out the best time to schedule marketing email to different audiences. The answer, in general terms, is between 6 p.m. and midnight. But I want to dive a little deeper into how I came to this conclusion and why this might NOT be the case for the people using your library!

If you’re just starting out with email marketing, check with the experts. There are a lot of companies (mostly email marketing software companies) which publish research on the best time of day and the best day of the week to send marketing emails, plus a bunch of other data points. So, start by gathering the latest research from these companies. Some of my favorites are Hubspot, AWeber, and Convertful.

Think about the daily life of your cardholder. If you are sending an email to a group of people who use a particular branch, or who are in a particular age group, try to imagine what they do all day. This generalization method will help you identify points in the day in which your target audience might have time to check their email.

Here’s an example: When I’m sending emails to parents of school-age children, I avoid 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., when parents are usually racing to get their kids ready to go to school. I also avoid 2:30 p.m. to dinner time, because many parents are picking up their kids, running them to extra-curriculars, and tackling homework.  I send marketing emails very early in the morning, like 5 a.m., so they are sitting in their inbox when they wake up but before their kids are up. I also send them after 8 p.m. when most school-age kids are in bed.

When I send emails to teenagers, I never, ever, ever send them in the morning. I exclusively email teenagers at night, and the later the better. That’s because most teens don’t have time to relax until 9:30 p.m. or later, after homework and after-school activities. They will likely check their email right before they fall to sleep at night, and they’re more likely to act on email in the late evenings.

Experiment. Send emails for a 3-6 months period of time. If you’re just starting out, try all hours of the day and night. Keep meticulous records of the results including open, click through, and conversion rates on all your emails.

After your allotted experimentation time, comb through the data and figure out which times of day resulted in the most click-throughs and conversions. Those are your optimum times to send emails! Focus most of your email scheduling on your proven best time of day.

And never stop experimenting. Start another experimentation period of 3-6 months, and then re-analyze data. If you notice a decline in click-through and conversion rates, go back to the drawing board.

My latest six-month analysis shows the best time to send email is between 6 p.m. and midnight, for all age categories and for all card types. This was not always the case. Two years ago, I could send my emails any time of the day EXCEPT between 7 a.m. and noon. But, at the end of 2018, that changed and the only emails that did well were the ones I sent at night.

Why did the effective time change? Because people’s lives change. Your cardholder base changes. The way that email gets delivered by various email providers changes. All of these factors mean that you’ll need to be in a constant state of experimentation. Don’t get married to any one time of day. Have an open mind and be ready to change your email scheduling strategy when the data tells you it’s time to change.

The most important thing is to have good content. If your emails contain stuff that your email audience wants to know about, they will engage with them, no matter what time of day it is. Try and keep your emails short. Focus on a few lines of really compelling text and one or two clear calls to action.

Bonus controversial opinion: I am not a fan of email newsletters. They usually contain too much information and too many calls to action. Their subject matter is usually too broad for their audience. I know a lot of us have to send them because senior leaders love them. But they aren’t an efficient use of email marketing. It would be better to take each section of your newsletter and send it separately to a targeted audience.

Don’t forget to join us for the LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM every Tuesday at noon ET. We’ll talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form.

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.  

Four Sneaky Ideas to Insert Marketing Tactics Into Your Everyday Work as a Librarian

I need your help! In a few weeks, I’m giving a short online seminar to library directors about marketing! I have 15 minutes to convince them to throw their full support behind library marketing. I really want this talk to impact the way library directors think about your work. So… please let me know what you want library directors to know about library marketing. Fill out the form before you even read this post. It’s anonymous! Thank you!

Librarians are busy folks. You’re on the front lines, trying to work with cardholders and community members. You’re looking up information. You’re connecting people with social service resources. You’re filling out paperwork, creating curriculum for story time, and putting up displays. And you’re doing about 100 other things that I don’t know about because I’m not a librarian.

I worry about how much libraries lean on librarians to do their own marketing. Senior staff might believe spending money to hire staff for marketing is not a good use of their limited funds. But it’s not good for the librarians and it’s not good for the library.

I also can’t change the world in one blog post. What I can do is help the librarians in my readership to strategize to make marketing part of their regular duties. Here are four things that you can do that are already part of your job. These are marketing tactics, though you may not have thought of them that way before!

Merchandising. Merchandising is a form of marketing that focuses on presenting the items in your branch in the way that will compel people to interact with them. Every display, every sign, every decision on the arrangement space in your branch is a chance to market your library.

I know that the decision many libraries made to switch from using the Dewey Decimal system to a more categorized approach for arranging items pains library purists. But it pays off.  Library visitors are accustomed to browsing in stores by categories. By mimicking that display effect, libraries make it easier for people to find the items they want and need. We want to be as easy to use (or easier) than our for-profit competitors.

It’s a time-consuming process but I’ve put merchandising first on this list because it is the most important and impactful way that librarians can market their branch. If you haven’t thought about re-arranging the materials in your branch, now is a great time to start. And to get some help, I recommend the slides from a presentation from Allison Fiscus of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. She recently did an online seminar. Her presentation includes data that shows how merchandising positively effects the customer experience. She included a lot of visuals to help you understand her concepts. You can find them here.

Exceptional customer service. A lot of big brands have focused on improving customer service as a marketing tactic. If you are working on the front-line of your library, you have a unique opportunity to interact with cardholders.

The marketing buzz phrase for doing this is “surprise and delight.” We want to surprise our cardholders with service that exceeds their expectations. When we do that, they feel delighted with us! (Isn’t that just a sunny thought?) Delighted cardholders are more likely to spread the word to their friends and family about our system and the services we provide. They may be compelled to talk about us positively on social media, give us great reviews on Google Business, and support our work through donations or volunteerism. These are all marketing wins!

Good customer service is a competitive edge for libraries. If we can create an environment of inclusive and open access where people truly feel supported and cared for, we’ll have the clear advantage over for-profit competitors. One-on-one help is time-consuming, but it will pay off. We’ll build a reputation as a warm and inviting space. When’s the last time you heard Amazon or Best Buy described in those terms?

Library staff must make the commitment to provide good customer service. It’s not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. To help you, I love this free guide from Hubspot. It’s got templates and a ton of great information that you can use to improve your own customer service skills.

I also recommend you read this interview with Dan Gingiss, an expert at customer service. He’s written a great book with tips about customer service in social media and his interview has lots of ideas for improving library customer service to make our industry more competitive.

Word of mouth promotion. I get a lot of requests from librarians in my system who want our marketing department to promote their event or service. Posters and emails and fliers work, but the most effective method of marketing, in my experience, is word of mouth. You need to be telling your cardholders about your branch, events, and services. Talk to them!

Librarians are in a better position to sell people on their services and events than a for-profit business. That’s because you are a trusted member of the community. Librarians are admired and your opinions are valued more than the average person. Use that advantage to help “sell” the things that your branch offers!

I know word of mouth promotion seems time-consuming.  But consider this. Data tells us that you have to get your message in front of your cardholder an average of SEVEN TIMES before they’ll be compelled to act on it. But when you have a direct conversation with a cardholder about your library, you are making a compelling and personal case. 75 percent of people don’t believe the advertisements they read but 92 percent believe brand recommendations they receive from trusted sources. Librarians are trusted! So just talk to people.

Sharing on your personal social media. Yes, you should be sharing posts from your library’s social media channels on your own personal channel. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Just pick the promotions you feel most personally passionate about. Hit the “share” button and add a line about why this particular event or service is meaningful to you.

Your recommendations are trusted because of your position. It’s not unethical to share your employer’s promotional social posts. I know you feel passionate about the work your library is doing. Don’t be shy. Share your enthusiasm!

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.  

How Can You Tell If People Want To Read Your Library’s Print Newsletter or Magazine? Some Not Exactly Scientific Ideas!

I love my library’s print publication, Library Links. It’s full of stories about the library, its staff, and its cardholders. It’s fun to write. It fun to watch it transform from a bunch of Word documents into a legitimate magazine. It’s satisfying to put it into the world every three months.

But for all the personal satisfaction I derive from creating it, I sometimes wonder if it’s a good use of my time. How do I know that it’s actually something people want to read? How do I know if it’s effective? It’s impossible to track the return on investment of print promotions. Or is it?

I know many library marketers face this same dilemma. Most libraries have a newsletter or magazine of some form. The strategies for each of these print pieces vary. The audience varies. The budget varies.

But we must measure the return on investment of all of our marketing, including print pieces. So how do you do that? Here are some of the ways I use to measure the effectiveness of my print magazine.

Track who actually wants to read your publication. Many libraries print thousands of copies of their publication. Then they send them out automatically to all the people living in their service area. They might also send copies home with each child in their school district. I totally understand that tactic. But my bet is that more than half of those publications end up in the trash. It’s like sending un-targeted email messages. If someone isn’t already engaged with the library, the sad truth is they aren’t going to read your newsletter. That’s a shame, because it’s a waste of money for the library and a waste of time for you and your staff.

A better approach is to ask readers to opt-in to the publication. There are a couple of ways to do this. Ask people to sign up for it, either when they sign up for a library card or through an email campaign. You could send your print publication to anyone who donates your library’s fundraising groups. You can put copies out in your branches. You can also distribute copies to partner organizations with locations that have a lot of foot traffic, like museums and theaters.

Then, quite simply, count how many copies you have to print to meet the demand of your mailing and distribution lists. If people are seeking out your publication–if they are making any kind of effort to get a copy– that’s a good sign that it’s effective.

I’ve noticed that if my library releases a great issue of Links with a compelling cover story and lots of great content, people clamor for copies. We might have to visit our partner organizations again to give them more copies for distribution. We sometimes have cardholders who approach branch staff to ask when the next issue is coming out. My goal is always to run out of copies!

It’s not entirely scientific but an opt-in approach to your print publication can give you an idea of whether the publication is effective. And why spend money and time printing something that isn’t read?

Hashtags and emails: Ask readers to post a social media comment on a story or an event in your print publication. Give them a unique hashtag to use when they post their comment. Then count how many comments you receive. You can also ask readers to send an email with their comments to a special inbox. Then you can count the number of emails you receive.

Custom URLs and sub-domains on your website: I like to create Bit.ly URLs for sub-pages on my website that allow me to track traffic to those pages that are specific to readers of my print publication. For instance, my library has a web page that explains our passport service. For our upcoming issue of Library Links, I created the URL cinlib.org/passport. I’m not using that URL in any other promotions. So once the issue is out, I can see exactly how much of the traffic driven to that page came from my Links readers.

If your marketing department is also in charge of your website, create vanity sub-domains and use those URLs only in your print publications to help you track readers. If you decide to go that route, you can use Google Analytics to watch traffic to those sites. Create a custom tracking URL (How to Track Library Marketing with Google Analytics URL Builder). This will let you sort out the traffic coming to that particular webpage and determine what percentage is directly driven there by your print publication.

Secret: This same idea can be used on all your library’s print pieces, including posters, bookmarks, and other handouts. If you feel like your library is doing too much print marketing, you can get some hard data to back up your claim by tracking it through digital means.

Re-purpose your content and track engagement. Many of the stories we publish in Links are re-purposed a month or so later for social media posts, blog posts, and other content purposes. This helps us to get more out of the stories and gives us another way to measure whether the story is interesting to our audience. Plus it gives us a way to reach new audiences and make people aware of Library Links so they’ll want a real print copy.

Ideas for More Engaging Print Content

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

How My Library Pivoted Its Event Newsletter Into a Content Marketing Magazine

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.  

Be Quietly Relentless! A Guide for How to Win Senior Leadership Support for Your Library Marketing Ideas

At a recent conference I attended, one of the big topics of discussion centered on senior library leadership. My new friends were wondering about how to get support for their marketing ideas and initiatives from the folks that run their libraries.

That’s one of the main areas of angst for library marketers at nearly every event I attend. How do you convince the people with all the power to give the okay for your marketing ideas?

It happens at every library. For five years, I lobbied our library’s senior leadership for a customer-facing blog. Five years is a long time.  And the thing I learned is that you must have patience. I also learned how to live with frustration. That doesn’t sound ideal. But its reality.

And I learned that you can ask for something, but to make a good case, you must craft a clear message that demonstrates how your idea will work. Basically, you have to market your idea to your senior leaders! Here are some tips on that process.

Understand your leadership’s priorities. What top-line problems are your director and senior leadership trying to solve at your library?  What is your library’s strategy? If you can clearly identify the pain points of your library leaders, you can show how your marketing ideas can help solve those problems.

Pick one marketing idea to pitch. What is the one marketing tactic you believe will give your library the best result? Do you want to start email marketing? Do you want more budget for advertising? Do you want to start a print content marketing magazine? Pick the tactic that you believe will have the most benefit for your library. Focus is key when pitching ideas to library leadership.

Create a complete plan. Plan your pitch in as much detail as possible. You’ll want to educate your senior leaders about what the tactic is and how it works in marketing.

I started my pitch by creating a document outlining the reasons why a blog is an effective marketing tool. To beef up my pitch document, I addressed these areas.

  • Supporting data and research. Include testimonies from other library marketers already using the tactic. Outline their positive experiences and the benefits. These first-hand experiences go a long way in strengthening your case. I asked other library marketers about the benefits of a blog. I also asked about the problems they encountered and how they solved those problems so I would have clear answers if senior leaders brought up these potential pitfalls.
  • Go over how you’ll use already existing resources to make this tactic work. If there will be a cost, be clear about that. But also show why spending money on the tactic will bring your library a clear return on investment or even save your library money in the long run. For my example, I talked about how the blog would increase SEO and allow us to reach new audiences. I argued that it would save us money in advertising, build brand support and recognition, and increase cardholder awareness of everything the library has to offer. I also created an editorial calendar to help the senior leaders envision the kinds of stories we would tell and the cadence at which we would write and release those stories. I did a time study with my staff and identified staff members who would be able to devote time to writing posts or soliciting content from other staff members and outside organizations. Finally, I created examples of promotions so the senior leaders could see how we would promote the blog.
  • Be sure to include clear information about how you will measure the success of the tactic. I included data about views and time spent on the website from successful blogs in similar industries.
  • Include a few lines about what may happen to your library if you don’t adopt the marketing tactic you propose. Talk about what your competitors are doing and how your tactic will help you compete in an increasingly crowded market.

Consider just doing it and asking for forgiveness later. When I started at the Library, I wanted to change our quarterly newsletter into a content marketing magazine. At the time, it was just a list of programs and events happening at the Library. I knew that if I asked outright, my leaders would say “no”. A change in the content of the newsletter would be too scary to consider.

So… I took the initiative. I took out some events and added in a few content marketing articles. You better believe that I was nervous when I sent the proof up the chain for approval. But it worked. In fact, the senior leaders commented on how much they liked the pivot. It was a gamble, but it paid off.

If you have confidence that your idea is worth merit, you might consider just moving forward without asking permission, particularly if there is no outright cost to the tactic. Sometimes, it just takes seeing your idea in action for a senior leader to realize its value and potential.

I don’t want to be the cause of a library marketing rebellion. But I also want us to assert ourselves more. We were hired because we are capable. Use your confidence and stand firm in your convictions in the workplace.

Remember the senior leaders have a boss too. Even the director has someone who he or she answers to… the board, the community, the city manager, etc. This may be why your most senior leaders seem to be afraid to take risks or try new things. The fear of failure may be holding your leaders back. That’s normal. But it’s also an opportunity for you, particularly if it seems like your library is stuck in a pattern of failure or if you’re facing major opposition from community groups. If you can show that the fear of change is holding your library back, you may be able to convince your leaders that it’s worth the risk of trying.

Don’t give up. Look, it took me five years to get a blog. It was frustrating. There were many moments when I thought I should just give up. But I kept asking. A change in senior leadership, or in priorities or a random conversation between your senior leaders and someone at another library is all it takes to do the trick. Don’t be annoying. But be quietly relentless!!

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!

 

Want More Media Coverage for Your Library? Here’s How to Fix Your Press Release!

It’s ironic that a former broadcast journalist can find herself without a good plan for getting more positive news coverage for her library.

And yet, that was the situation I found myself in last year. I run the content marketing team for a thriving library with high circulation numbers. We win awards. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience. And yet, the only times we found ourselves in the news, the coverage was for negative developments–an increase in drug overdoses, a fight over the sale of a library building, or the arrest of patrons.

I had worked a news desk. I remember getting off the phone with organizations asking for coverage of positive news. I would respond politely. But I knew the score. After I hung up, I would often shake my head and say, “Unless someone dies in your building, we won’t ever cover that.”

And now I found myself on the other side of that unspoken rule. I found it frustrating and humiliating. So, I decided that my team was going to do something about it.

The process of creating more positive news coverage for our library was a long one. It’s taken about a year. It involved changing our methods in some areas. But one of the big changes we made was also one of the most basic: we fixed our press release. We changed both the look and the content.

It worked. At my recent performance review, senior leadership acknowledged an increase in positive news coverage for the library. I want to share what we did so you can get the same results.

Simplify the look. We changed our press release template. Our past template was pretty and branded. But it was hard for my content specialists to use. The header and footer design made it difficult to type more than one page. It looked messy. It also took too much time to load on newsroom computers or smartphones.

Our preview releases looked messy and were difficult to format.

So, while it may seem counter-intuitive to transition to a template with less branding, it’s turned out to be a good move. Our new template has a cleaner design. It loads faster. We can fit more on the page. And it’s easier for the media to copy and paste the text to use in their stories.

Our new format has a cleaner look. It’s still branded but it’s easier to read.

Stop embedding photos. I don’t know why this was a thing but the library marketing team embedded their accompanying photos into press releases long before I got there. The photos made it difficult to format text correctly and required captioning in teeny tiny text, which is difficult to read. The photos were also incredibly small and were never used by the media. Reporters had to email us to ask for the high-resolution version. That adds to the workload of my team and it’s a barrier to news coverage. So, we’ve changed our policy. Now we just attach the high-resolution photos to the email we send with the press release. The media can easily download and use the photos.

Write better headlines. I noticed our headlines were long. We tried to convey the entirety of the information in the headline. And we used a lot of puns. I asked my team to write shorter, engaging headlines. We use action verbs if possible. We eliminated subheads. And NO MORE PUNS.

Write clean, conversational sentences and shorten paragraphs. The media is an audience, just like the audience for our other customer-facing content. They are pressed for time. They need a clear lead and information. And, like customers, they are not well-versed in library-industry terminology.

Now we write shorter paragraphs. We explain any library term in clear, concise language.

Less manufactured quotes. I never, ever used the provided quotes from news releases when I worked in news. I’m sorry, guys. That’s the truth. If it doesn’t sound like something a real human would say, it’s not a real quote. They know you’re making it up.

However, I know that this small portion of the news release is not always something you have control over. Fight for quotes that sound more like a real human. And if you lose that fight, it’s okay. A manufactured quote won’t disqualify your library from getting coverage if you’ve done the rest of these steps.

Include contact information for the people who can actually answer the media’s questions in a timely fashion. This was a pet peeve of mind when I worked in journalism. A press release without contact information forced me to do extra work, and that makes it less likely I’d cover the story.

Many marketing and public relations professionals fail to add contact info. It’s amazing how many times I’d contact the person listed on the release, only to learn that I needed to make more calls to other people within the same organization to find the answers I need.

The contact info you provide must be the most direct line to the information the press needs. We include contact info for my content specialist who is in charge of public relations. She takes the media’s information and question and finds the answers. The media only has to make one phone call. They’re more likely to cover your story if your organization has a reputation for finding their answers in a timely manner with few hassles.

Don’t mass send your release. We used to send one mass email with the press release to all available media. That wasn’t working. It sounds silly, but it makes your news feel less exclusive. Newsrooms will make decisions about whether to cover something based on what their competitors are doing. And by mass sending the news release, we were also sending information to media outlets that had no interest in our content.

Now, my content specialist matches the promotion to the media she feels would have the most interest in the event. Then she sends separate emails to those media members. It’s more time-consuming, but it’s more effective. She can personalize the email with the media contacts name. She can tell them exactly why our new information is relevant or interesting to their audience. She can also offer up interviews or video and audio opportunities to radio and TV stations that are specific to their show schedule. It makes our work with the media feel more like a partnership and less like we’re constantly trying to “sell” them on our stories. And it works.

More ideas for improving your library press relations:

How to Get Media Coverage Without a Press Release

Lessons From The Greatest Press Release Ever Written!

It’s Not Personal: What to Do When Your Library Gets Bad Press

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 Totally Doable Things That Make Your Library Content More Shareable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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