The Library Marketing Manifesto

Hey LIANZA people! Thanks for being interested enough to have a look at this web page - a companion piece to my talk.

On here you'll find some extra information and a bit of further reading that I couldn't fit into my hour.

First of all, here are the slides. These aren't the exact ones I used in the keynote - I've added some text so they make a little more sense without me talking over the top of them.


1. We will be community orientated

So as you’ll recall, this is all about focusing our services around the needs of our users, rather than simply doing what we’ve always done. Libraries are increasingly successful at this.

In a marketing context, the phrase ‘market orientated’ often causes controversy and confusion. I’ve written about the terminology problem here for those interested – the key thing here is that this is the marketing definition of ‘market orientated’ rather than the economic one. I prefer ‘community orientated’ because it doesn’t have the overtones of commodification and commercialisation of information.

Although I’m keen that we do what our community needs, it’s important not to try and be all things to all people. I’d rather we focus on a handful of things which our communities can feel true PASSION about. The quote from the Retronaut at the end of this section of the manifesto in the slides is from a larger interview on the Europeana blog, which I’d recommend. There’s a 90% finished blog post in my drafts folder about this, which I’ll get round to finishing eventually! Should you wish to, keep an eye on the blog and you’ll see it soon. As well as the quote from the slides, he also talks about how it's important start not with what we have, but what people need. Which leads us neatly on to the second pledge of the manifesto.

2. We will do what people need, but market what they want

For me this is the key to marketing well without compromising what we do in libraries. We all have tales of asking the users what they want, giving it to them, and they turn out not to want it after all… People don’t always value what they need, or even know that they need.

(To try and tap into the true needs of your users, I’d recommend using ethnography and User Experience techniques. It’s fascinating, rewarding, and incredibly insightful. If you’re interested in UX in Libraries I put together a structured introduction for the UX Intern we had at my place of work – it’s publicly available for anyone to read, and makes use of the wisdom and ideas of lots of great library UX people.)

So I don’t want our offering to become superficial, or the product of a desperate pursuit of the public’s affections. We need to continue to do what we NEED to do. But can we focus the comms more on what our communities value? I think we probably can.

We all did the ‘3 most important things’ exercise during the talk, where you compared the three things you think your library does which are most important, with what you’d say your USERS viewed as most important. I’m writing this before I've spoken at the conference so I don’t know what your conclusions were, but most often people tend to find the overlap is either one service, or none at all. This is not a reason to panic! But it’s useful to think about.

As mentioned in the talk, an interesting follow-up to this exercise is a bench-marking exercise that I learned from Terry Kendrick (more from him here) – you take the three services you think your users value most, and you ask yourself if they can get them elsewhere. If they can’t, you’re golden. Market the HECK out this service. You have it, they want it, no one else can give it to them. All you have to do now is give them the right information at the right time. Focus on the benefits. Marketing nirvana!

But what if you acknowledge the value in marketing what people want, but don’t want to give up on promoting what you know they need? That’s where a third way might be useful.

3. We will cater for library novices and library experts

This section started with the debunking of the Digital Natives nonsense, for which I'm indebted to Donna Lanclos. Her Twitter rants really switched me on to this issue. Follow her! I did a keynote at a conference in the UK about using social media in libraries, which went into a bit more detail about Visitors and Residents - the theory on which my 'novices and experts' idea is partly modeled. You can read about it and see the slides here. If you'd prefer to go straight to the source, David White has a very useful section of his site to introduce V and R.

Visitors and Residents informs the Novices and Experts continuum I've outlined in the slides. (If you can think of a better name for this, can you let me know? Rookies and Veterans? Casuals and Intrepids?) Essentially it's about a two step approach to marketing - and the first step is to hook in the novices with simple, easy to digest messages. Most library marketing should be like this - too much detail gets in the way. Once we hook people in through the (virtual or physical) doors, then we put into action the second stage, a more comprehensive and detailed offering of our services. In this way you can focus the comms on what people want, AND then once they're in, hit them with what you know the truly NEED. We can't tell everyone everything at once - if we do, we make no impact. But we don't want to be superficial and all surface either. This is a way to attempt a marketing approach that is both heard above the clamour, AND later is more detailed too.

4. We will keep things simple

Simplicity is absolutely fundamental to successful library marketing, whatever level you're pitching it at. It's not about dumbing down, it's just about getting rid of anything extraneous to the key message: tuning out all that white noise from our communications.

So step 1 to keeping things simple is to look at the language. Formality gets in the way in most cases - the trick is to be as informal as the situation will allow without losing your credibility. I think New Zealanders are pretty great at this already, so you have nothing to worry about here! It comes down to being as friendly, approachable and colloquial as possible, whilst still (for now) using proper spelling, capitalisation, grammar etc.

Step 2 is to ensure there's no assumed knowledge required to understand the messages you're putting it out. We're so embedded in libraries, it can be hard to know what makes sense to someone outside the profession, and what doesn't. If possible, get a non-librarian partner or friend to check your key messages for jargon, unexplained acronyms, and assumptions about what our users know.

Then if you've done all that but you still have a fairly complicated set of messages, that's fine - just cascade them over several smaller messages so people have a chance to hook onto, and digest, what's relevant to them. There's more on marketing one thing at a time here.

5. We will coordinate our marketing into campaigns

The final step. This is absolutely crucial to being heard above the white noise. One of the most successful campaigns ever was Calgary's Public Library's Everything You're Into campaign. They used to have some great info about it on their website but sadly they've taken it down - you can still see a couple of examples here, however. Now Calgary went all out and paid for advertising, but you don't need to do that. For a campaign all you need is a clear message, which you deliver for a concerted period of time (perhaps a week, 2 weeks, maybe as long as a month if it's something big), with the same messages across multiple platforms.

Ideally, the messages should be tailored for the platforms (don't just cross post the same stuff to Facebook and Twitter - take the core message and adapt it to suit the medium) and should include a call to action. It's not just 'we have this great new collection!' - it's 'click here to find out more about using our great new collection'.

People need to hear messages more than once before they act on them. So campaigns help deliver the same message more than one time to each part of our community, meaning they're more likely to hear it and latch on to it and actually change their behaviour. Because that's what marketing is for - to change behaviour. We're trying to get a group of people to do something they weren't otherwise going to do (or we should be a - lot of library marketing, when it comes down to it, seems to be aimed more at getting people to do stuff they were probably going to do anyway). That's a tall order.

So. Aim high!

Thanks for reading this. If you want to read more, I wrote a book about library marketing but, quite honestly, I wouldn't recommend my bits of it. The case studies are fantastic - including your very own awesome Alison Wallbutton, as well as the British Library, New York Public Library, Cambridge University, JISC, and a certain Justin Hoenke who you may be familiar with... But my parts - I've learned so much in the five years since I wrote it, it's not that I'd disagree with what I wrote, I just wouldn't get around to saying most of it because there's so much other stuff which turns out to be so much more important. I say a lot of what I think is important now on the blog for this website, so do subscribe if you're so inclined.

I'd love to chat on twitter (@ned_potter) so tweet at me and can continue the discussion across the ocean.

Thanks for having me LIANZA!