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I am in New Orleans for the ALA conference and will share ideas that I come across. Meanwhile, I just got back from Massachusetts where I joined two colleagues, Pam Jaskot, Library Consultant for the State Library of North Carolina and Julie Wallace, Community Relations Manager, Kent County Library System to give presentations about our State Library marketing campaigns. It was all part of a daylong PR Summit sponsored by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners as they took their first steps to create their own statewide marketing campaign. It was fun to experience the process as inspiration and knowledge moved toward ideas.
Anyone who has participated in a statewide marketing campaign can attest that it is a huge undertaking. Defining goals and target audiences, crafting key messages and designing promotional materials that represent the state as a whole and while carrying a message that will resonate locally has some inherent challenges. Each of us represented a different state and type of campaign. North Carolina has done a fantastic job using the PLA “Smartest Card” campaign, Washington State and New Jersey both designed their own programs with Washington using a more traditional approach and NJ using a non traditional campaign through the comic book heroine, Super Librarian. The three campaigns presented were varied in budgets and ideas but they all kept to the basic design of a good marketing campaign: establishing desired outcomes, identifying target audiences, crafting key messages and determining a promotional mix that fit the budget and demographics. If you are looking to create a marketing plan there are many excellent sites on the web to guide you including ala.org and entrepreneur.com.
Here are some ideas that I heard that are worth considering for any statewide campaign.
Provide marketing training for libraries BEFORE you launch your statewide campaign. In order for any marketing campaign to be truly effective, you need buy-in from the staff. As Pat, Julie and I conversed it became evident that a recurring theme for many of our libraries and I dare say many libraries throughout the country, is that marketing is often misunderstood, under appreciated and sometimes outright disliked. Training will not eradicate all resistance but it will empower staff and give them the tools that will help to both understand how marketing can help their libraries achieve their goals and how to use those tools. If you have extra money you may want to consider offering incentives to libraries by offering grants to create a marketing plan.
Brand your promotional materials with a look, feel and message for the campaign but allow for libraries to individualize them with their name, address, web, etc… North Carolina used this feature through PLA’s templates. Washington State had a great set up where libraries could pay a minimal additional fee and order them directly from the State Library. Here in New Jersey we are looking into working with printers and templates as a possible solution.
A good idea is to pretest promotional materials before printing the full run.
Remember to include visuals of the diverse populations in your state and consider printing both English and Spanish materials.
If you identify and develop campaigns for multiple target audiences allow enough variety for libraries to adopt the campaigns that best fit their goals and communities.
We all start off wanting to create campaigns that are “everything to everyone.” See your campaign as the beginning step of many – expanding the message each year to include different audiences.
Communicating the field is essential. Email may not be the best method- North Carolina had created ambassadors or key contacts to represent each library that worked very well. Make sure it is a two way communication process. Newer communication tools may be most effective; you may want to consider using blogs, wikis and listservs.
Create measurable goals, measure, evaluate and make adjustments accordingly. Defining goals such as “increase usage of libraries” is difficult to attribute to a single factor.
Press conferences usually sound very good to everyone except the press. From the reporters point of view it doesn’t make sense to show up for a press conference when all they need is the press packet. Try to think of alternatives to generate excitement with the press.
If there are some members of the library field resistant to marketing efforts, and chances are there will be, train, educate, advocate for marketing and keep pushing through to success. The future of your libraries may depend on that.
If at first you don’t succeed, evaluate, adjust and try again!
In the words of Katie Baxter, Library Director of Noble & Greenough School, “What are you going after?”