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How a Last Minute Idea Can Lead to Amazing Library Marketing Results

I have a theory about the kind of person who becomes a journalist. The general news reporter who gets sent to the drug busts and homicides and fires and tornadoes is a junkie of sorts. They like the high that can only be found when you’re racing at breakneck speed to get to a scene before your competitor. They do their best thinking when they’re working on a deadline…a really tight deadline. They love that adrenaline rush.

I was just such a junkie. In fact, my addiction to the breaking news high was one of the reasons it took me so long to leave the business. Even after I was worn to the bone, dog-tired, and miserable, I stayed in TV news because I thought I could not get that high in any other profession. I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a former news colleague. He was covering a major event at my library. He said to me, “I never thought you would leave news for a laid-back job at a library.” And I laughed, out loud. I may have even sounded maniacal. My library is definitely not laid back. And I’m certain, from my many conversations with my dear readers, your job isn’t either!

It’s true that, on most days, I have more time to plan and organize than I did in TV news. Overall, things move at a slower pace through the funnel at my organization–and that’s a good thing. There’s more time to think, be creative, and consider marketing from all angles. There is time to make sure all the pieces of a promotion are in place and crafted as perfectly as possible.

But being a little agile, a little willing to do some marketing on a rushed deadline, is also a good thing. I wish more organizations would open themselves to last-minute marketing. It can be fun and challenging to take ideas that come at the last-minute and bring them to life. You may do some of your best work when you are formulating promotions in a few days or a few hours! A good deadline can push you and your staff to be creative in ways you’ve never imagined.

It’s easy to recognize these quick promotional ideas if you are open to them. Seize an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. Recognize when your library has a connection to an event in pop culture. Look for pieces of user-generated content that are so fun and engaging you can’t want to wait to promote them. If it makes sense, if the promotion aligns with your library’s overall strategy, and if you have the time to do it, there’s value in turning a promotional opportunity around in a few days.

You don’t have to be a formal journalist to do this. Anyone can include some flexibility in their marketing schedule. The key lies in planning–which sounds contradictory. But the trick is pretty simple.  When you’re laying out your regular marketing schedule, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop in promotions.

For my library, this drop-in marketing usually happens when we have a great event that’s been planned by a branch at the last minute. This year, I was looking at the calendar and I realized there was a series of anti-bullying puppet shows for young children scheduled at several of our branches. I realized the event was in line with one of the core elements of our library’s overall strategy. I also did about ten minutes of online research and discovered programs of this nature were not available anywhere else in our community. I quickly put together a social media and email promotional plan and launched it in the span of a week. Our emails had a 30 percent open rate, a ten percent click-through rate, and attendance was high.

Most libraries will find it easiest to create a drop-in marketing campaign on social media. Sometimes the idea will become a creative outlet that can drive engagement on your platforms. This was the case when one of our marketing department co-workers noticed that the front covers of many old books compliment or match clothing! She grabbed some books and some staff and posed them together. Her Instagram posts drew new followers and engagement for the library’s account.

Of course, to execute drop-in marketing, you need the approval and trust of your supervisor. So, have the talk ahead of time with your superiors.  You won’t have to turn a last-minute campaign around every week or even every month. But when you do… it will be worth it. Sometimes the gold nuggets of promotion are the ones you can’t plan ahead of 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, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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How to Know When To Say No To More Library Marketing

I have a problem saying “no”.

It’s a common problem for anyone working in a library. Or in marketing. Or in life, if we’re being honest. We are all weirdly programmed to say yes, to take on more, to squeeze as much out of life as we possibly can. Yes, I can bake 100 cookies for my kid’s holiday party tomorrow! Yes, I can write a 1500 word blog in a day! Yes, I can promote that service or event or circulation item in every single channel in every single conceivable way RIGHT NOW.

Stop the madness, ya’ll.

The word “no”, while it may be very small, is liberating.  It’s good for you and for your marketing strategy.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m writing this particular blog post because I came to the realization this week that my marketing schedule is TOO DAMN FULL. We have two press releases and five-six eblasts scheduled per week for the next three months… not to mention graphics on the website, digital screen graphics, social media posts, videos, and so forth. It’s a rare day when my library doesn’t do a big promotion.

Wow, you may be saying to yourself. That’s awesome! You’re rockin’ it, Angela. Well, thank you. Sometimes I think so too. But it’s also tiring. And noisy. And a sure recipe for burnout for you and your staff.

Busyness feels wonderful. We’re doing something! Stuff is happening! Progress is being made! But without spaces for creative thought, it’s a recipe for disaster. Mistakes are going to happen. My writing isn’t what it could or should be. My head is so muddled with all the messages, it’s a wonder I’ll be able to say anything coherent or engaging to my cardholders.

And that’s where we are. We are all burned out… leading into the busiest time of the year: summer reading. And it has to stop. We are going to do a horrible job at promoting summer reading unless I weed out all the noise.

So that’s going to be my job over the next week. I’ve got four rules for weeding the promotions.

If it’s not giving us more than a ten percent bump in circulation, program attendance, or usage, it gets cut.

If we’re promoting a service that is difficult for the cardholder to use, it gets cut.

If the presenter isn’t paid, it gets cut.

If it’s not tied directly to the library’s overall strategy, it gets cut.

Weeding your marketing content periodically to cut anything that falls into these four categories will allow you to do a better job and be more creative with the promotions you have left.  Do this evaluation twice a year to make sure you keep your marketing lean and don’t tax your staff or yourself.

Cleaning out your marketing schedule is kind of like cleaning a closet. We tend to just keep stuffing things in there, in the hopes that it will work for us someday. But eventually, the closet is so packed you can’t fit anything else in there and every time you open the door, everything falls out. You need to cart some stuff off to the dumpster.

Set your own ground rules if you like but weed your promotions before you head into summer reading. It will make you a better marketer by giving you more time to devote the promotions that are left–the ones that really matter.

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

 

Be Flexible: The Benefits of Drop-In Marketing

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I have a theory about the kind of person who becomes a journalist–in particular, the local or national general news reporter without a beat… the one who gets sent to the drug busts and homicides and fires and tornadoes.  They’re a junkie of sorts.  They like the high that can only be found when you’re racing at breakneck speed to get to a scene before your competitor, to get the interview, to get a soundbite pulled and edited and sent back to the station five minutes before a live shot. They do their best thinking when they’re working on the fly and they do their best work on a deadline… a really, really tight deadline. They love that adrenaline rush.

I was just such a junkie. In fact, my addiction to the breaking news high was one of the reasons it took me so long to leave the business. Even after I was worn to the bone, dog-tired and miserable, I stayed in the business because I thought I could not get that high in any other profession for which I was qualified.

Fast forward two years and I’m now a full-fledged library marketer, no looking back. One of the hardest adjustments for me was forcing myself to SLOW. DOWN. I’ve built a reputation in my organization for being quick on my feet and in execution, if necessary but on the whole, things move at a slower pace through the funnel at my organizations–and that’s a good thing. There’s more time to think, be creative, consider a tactic from all angles, and to make sure all the pieces of the customer experience are in place and working properly.

But being a little agile, a little willing to do some marketing on the fly, is also a good thing. I wish more organizations would open themselves to what I call Drop-in Marketing Campaigns–those pushes that come at the last-minute and sent to your audience in a few days–or less! Maybe you’re seizing on an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization.  Maybe you’ve got a connection to an event in pop culture or maybe you find a piece of user-generated content that’s so fun and engaging that you don’t want to wait to promote it.  If it makes sense and the timing is right, there’s a worth to getting it out there in front of your audience without over thinking it.

You don’t have to be a formal journalist to do this. Anyone can include some flexibility in their marketing schedule. They key lies in purposeful planning. When you’re laying out your regular marketing campaigns, including your email messages, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop in promotions. Keep in mind which promotions have drop-dead dates and which ones could be shuffled and released to the public later, in favor of a more timely, drop-in message. Then… go for it!

At my library, we’ve done this kind of promotion probably a dozen times in the last year. Recently, my library turned around a movie promotion sent to us by a vendor, who offered a free first-run movie streaming on their site on the same day that the movie released into theaters. We got word a week before the movie premiere. The movie wasn’t a dud or a foreign film either… it was a movie with a great cast that I thought might actually be popular with our cardholders. We seized on it, turning out graphics for our website, social media, and an email campaign to let users of our digital services know about the promotion and got it approved. On a normal day, we stream about 25 movies to cardholders. After this promotion, we streamed 244 copies of this first-rate movie alone.  Success!

This kind of plan is easiest when you have administrative agreement ahead of time, so have the talk with your superiors. You won’t have to turn a last-minute campaign around every week but when you do… it will be worth it. I promise.

Have you executed a drop-in promotion? What has worked for you–and what hasn’t? Please share in the comments section!

Subscribe to this blog for updates every time I post. Click on the little “Follow” at the top left of this page.

Connect with me on Twitter. I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn,  Instagram and Pinterest.

Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

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