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Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Overview of ALA Annual 11

[I started writing this post yesterday and finalized it today, after getting home to a better internet connection. ~Kathy]

I've checked out of my hotel as the American Library Association's 2011 Annual Conference is winding down, and soon I'll be flying out of this year's host city, New Orleans, Louisiana. I had hoped to write blog entries during the show, but my situation ended up being like that of Bill Ptacek, director of the King County Library System in the state of Washington. As he said during his acceptance speech for the Library of the Year award, sometimes you're too busy doing things to talk about what you've been doing.

Given the sheer size of the conference (there's at least 20,000 people and more than 2,000 sessions/events), even the "few" events that I went to are too much to write about in one post—or even 2 or 3 posts. But I want to share a few things that stood out in my mind.

Mini MBA in Marketing
As soon as I saw that Ernie DiMattia would be giving a 2-hour marketing session as part of ALA's MBA Series for Librarians, I put it at the top of my list. (For years he has taught both marketing and management classes for well-know library school programs of Pratt University and Simmons College.) The fact that he had his equally qualified wife Susan teach part of the session made it even more valuable. 

Kathy with Susan & Ernie DiMattia
I'm glad he'd created a handout with all his topics and major points, because they were numerous. He said that he starts all his classes with the word "need" because that's at the heart of real marketing. "We think we know what people need, but in many cases, we really don't." DiMattia explained that successful marketing is built around serving a need that exists, and no matter how grand your efforts are, "If you are not fulfilling a need, the rest is nothing."  

Ernie also said that the best marketers do "accountable" work (evaluate it to make sure it meets goals) and they embrace the challenges of new media connectivity.

I was thrilled that Ernie recommended the book I wrote and the newsletter I edit to those who attended. That means a lot, coming from someone of his stature.

Nancy begins her talk for RUSA
Free or Low-Cost Marketing
Saturday afternoon, both Nancy Dowd and I were on a panel (with 4 others) of the RUSA President's Program (Reference and User Services Assn.), Marketing Reference on a Dime. The diverse group shared their experiences with promoting reference services with little or no money. My favorite quotes from this lively session were:

* When designing collateral pieces for the business community, make them look professional. "Don't put teddy bears on them." ~Amy Mather

* The best & most affordable marketing is a good message." ~Jamie Hollier

The full set of everyone's slides is here.  (Thanks to Jamie for creating and posting it!)
There's also a Facebook page for the event, which includes a bibliography of useful resources that was a combined effort of all the panelists. Well worth exploring!!

Finally, see ALA's coverage of the program in the show daily, Cognotes. (Scroll down to pg 23.)

Fame: Friend or Foe?
One of the most insightful sessions I attended was 15 Minutes of Fame: Lessons Learned When Our Bookless Library Drew National Media Attention, where Anne Peters and Krisellen Maloney of the University of Texas–San Antonio dared to share their story of national media coverage that tuned into controversy. As inconvenient as it is to all of us, politics do a play in all of our lives, and there is no shortage of that at universities. Kudos to this duo for being brave enough to talk about their challenges and how they handled them—and look for an article about it in an upcoming issue of Marketing Library Services. The lessons are too important to be told to just a handful of conference-goers.

Unprogram Questions
I got up early Monday morning to go to the Library Marketing Unprogram (loosely organized group discussions) planned by LLAMA (Library Leadership and Management Assn.). Attendees chose the topics, and then could go to whichever table had the topic they liked. Each discussion lasted 20 minutes. Of course, we always wanted to talk longer, but it seemed that everyone learned from the lively exchange of ideas.

The question I posed was this: What can we say to people who ask, "Why do libraries still matter in the age of the internet?" That's what keeps me up at night. If you're reading this blog, then you know they still matter, and can probably name 50 reasons why, but I'll bet that most of your answers don't contain the kinds of facts that will actually enlighten people and cause them to suddenly understand why the internet doesn't replace libraries. I plan to write a separate post or article about that because it deserves a lot of attention. So then, here I'll share my favorite answers to two other questions that came up:

Q: How do you choose which programs are worth having?
A: People in one library system are required to fill in a "program audit" form that asks questions such as, What's the goal of this program? Who is it for? How much will it cost? What resources will it require? Just doing this, the woman said, made people more accountable for their ideas, helped avoid duplication, and enabled those in charge to decide which would be best to run on their limited budget. I thought it was awesome to have some kind of formal process instead of just accepting whatever ideas staffers tossed out.

Q: If your leadership won't let the library have its own Facebook page, how can you still use social media to promote your offerings?
A: Informally ask friends / advocates to mention your stuff on their personal social media sites. (Recommendations mean more coming from them anyway.) OR formally create a word-of-mouth campaign that includes them mentioning you on social sites. OR post big events on your own personal profile on Facebook, Twitter, etc. – even LinkedIn. ("We're doing something so cool at work tomorrow!")

Fighting Back
L-R: Jason Neely, Elissa Cadillic, Amy Fry
Finally, I was sad that my need to head to the airport prevented me from staying through the end of the last session I went to, enticingly titled Librarians Fight Back! The first speaker, Jason Neely from the Russell Library in Middletown, Ct., talked about its programs for job seekers.   What I liked was that it's more than just resume-writing workshops and computer training. Russell Library also offers 45-minute interview-practice sessions where individuals are videotaped during a mock interview so they can practice answering basic questions and also see how they come across. The library also offers practice phone interviews, because those have become so popular with companies as a way to weed people out of the first-stage interview process. In addition, every so often, Neely (who's also an accomplished photographer) does free sessions where he takes professional headshots for people to use on their LinkedIn profiles. Neely admitted, "Funding's hard to come by. I'm constantly writing grants." But how worthwhile... their initiatives just blew me away. Kudos to this library for helping improve lives!

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