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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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I Want To Go To There: How To Be a Better Marketer

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Many libraries hire librarians with very little marketing experience to do the marketing. If you’ve found yourself in this position, don’t panic. Anyone can learn to be a marketer. It’s not an easy profession, but if you are new to the job, you can get really good at the work if you commit to seeking and following the best advice and immerse yourself in the world of marketing professional development.

If you’re a trained marketer working for a library, you should always be looking for ways to grow your skills. We can really only hope to compete with our for-profit counterparts if we know what they know. Don’t ever stop learning.

Here are my seven favorite ways to learn new stuff about marketing.

Lynda.com: Your library may have a subscription, as mine does. What a fantastic resource! There are dozens of video tutorials on all topics related to marketing. They range in length from 45 minutes to three hours or more.  They’re all created by experts, easy to understand, and paced in a way that’s easy to digest. And Lynda.com is always adding new courses so you can learn new skills no matter how long you’ve been a marketer.

Hubspot: Hubspot has a whole range of marketing classes available for free online. There are even tests you can take at the end of each course to become certified a Hubspot marketer. When you’re certified, you have access to a nice widget for your email signature and LinkedIn page. It’s a great way to show your supervisor that you’re seriously committed to growing your knowledge base. And it’s a great way to let anyone you’re working with to know, subtly, that you know what you’re talking about!

Content Marketing Institute: CMI is one of my favorite places to learn new marketing skills. They have a ton of free webinars that can teach you everything you need to know about content marketing.  Their Chief Content Officer magazine is a must-read for marketers. And their blog is chock full of new insights, research, techniques, and tips that will expand your knowledge of the inner workings of marketing and make you a more-rounded marketer.

Read Everybody Writes by Ann Handley.  I think this should be required reading for all marketers. It is simply the best book on the subject of writing… easy to understand with lots of practical advice. It will make you want to write even if you dread the thought!

Watch Amy Schmittauer on YouTube. So at first glance, it seems that Amy is “just” an expert on video and video blogging. She’s so much more. If you subscribe to her YouTube channel, you’ll also be treated to regular posts about strategy, creativity, and finding your inner marketing voice. As marketers, we get so focused on churning out content that we forget the other essential pieces that require more thinking and less doing. Amy will remind you to pay attention to those pieces. Her posts mix practical video advice with inspiration, and that’s an important combination for anyone who works in the marketing space.

Follow Andrew and Pete on YouTube. For a dose of practical advice mixed with plain old fun, these two English marketers are just you need to grow your knowledge base and to remind you of why marketing is one of the most rewarding parts of library work. I also recommend you follow them on Twitter. They do a remarkable job of responding to Twitter mentions and comments and that personal interaction makes for the best kind of marketing!

Listen to the Social Media Marketing Podcast from Social Media Examiner.  Social media is a mostly free and effective way to reach library audiences and Michael Stelzner and crew do the best job of explaining big ideas and introducing new techniques for maximizing the time you put into social. I’ve met Michael in person and he honestly cares about his audience, which shows in the way he interviews his guests each week. And when Michael and his team try something that DOESN’T work, they share that too.  You will get a ton of value out of this show.

And… if you have never watched “30 Rock” and don’t understand the title of this blog, please watch this.

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.

Want to be the World’s Greatest Marketer? Read More Fiction!

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I’m here to evangelize for the cause of reading fiction.

First, let me be clear. I believe your professional life will be enhanced by reading a great business or career-oriented book. I can think of a few inspiring examples, like Ann Handley’s Content Rules, which literally changed my life, or Unmarketing by Scott Stratten.  I can’t wait to get my hands on Robert Rose’s Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing.

There is a lot of value in reading advice on marketing from the top marketing minds. Most of these authors are influencers in the industry. They tour the professional speaker circuit and consult big business on how to run their marketing strategy. They know what they’re talking about.

But there is a joy and a solace found in fiction that cannot be replicated by advice books. Novels involve a stretch of the imagination and a glimpse into the great minds of storytelling that you can’t find unless you are actually reading made-up stories. So I’m going to say it.

Read. More. Fiction!!


It’s good for your working brain. A study by researchers at Emory University, published in 2013 in the journal Brain, found that reading a novel can increase connectivity in the brain and improve brain function. That’s because storytelling is a multi-faceted form of communication that requires the work of different areas of your brain in order to help you understand the dialogue, plot, and characters. A good fiction read can have the same effect on your brain as conditioning your leg muscles will have for a sport like running or biking… the more you use those muscles, the stronger and more efficient they become.

It helps you to empathize with your customers. That same study found that reading fiction improved the readers’ ability to view the world from another person’s perspective. Researchers theorize the act of reading forces the brain to actually process the emotions and physical actions of the protagonist and that processing leads to a greater compassion.

It enhances your imagination. That study at Emory University showed that reading fiction improved the imagination of the study subjects. I don’t really think we needed a study to make that connection! Reading exposes you to the imagination of others. It’s the equivalent of surrounding yourself with smart people. The more you read, the more you begin to see the places your imagination can take you and your customers.

Fiction expands your vocabulary. This is another one that seems obvious to me, but reading fiction exposes you to a greater variety of words than you might run across in normal conversation or emails. The more your brain is exposed to this increased mass of vocabulary, the more you absorb it and incorporate it into your own work. That doesn’t mean you have to write in a verbose manner in order to prove to your customers how your vocabulary has expanded. Rather, it means you’ll have a greater bank of words in your native vocabulary to choose from when you are trying to convey the perfect sentiment to your customers.

Fiction teaches you the difference between a great story and a terrible story. When’s the last time you started reading a novel and couldn’t stop? (For me, it was last month.) When’s the last time you started reading a book and had to quit three chapters in because you couldn’t stand it anymore? (For me, it was January.) Those visceral emotions will stick with the read long after the book has been shelved. The more you read, the more you understand what a great story looks like… and the more likely you’ll recognize it good stories surrounding your own brand.

What are you reading right now? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction books? Why or why not? Share your thoughts about reading and books with this community in the comments section. And you can connect with me on Goodreads to talk more about books!

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 LinkedInInstagram and Pinterest.

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

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