Monday, August 30, 2010

Marketing and Public Relations -- 6

New Rules for Communications Chapter 4

Tell a Compelling Story

Story time in the library for pre-preschoolers is a way of introducing children to the library. Story time has both educational and marketing goals. Examine what the children are doing there and what at the goals.


1. Introduce children to books, reading, and the library --> education
2. Encourage parents to come to the library --> education
3. Encourage parents and children to check out books and other library materials. --> marketing
4. Audience development -- i.e. Give a freebie in hopes to win a library user and stakeholder for life. --> marketing.

Actions in the library

1. Children sit down and listen to stories
2. Children learn to listen
3. Parents are interacting with their children
4. Library staff are meeting children and their parents
5. Children or parents check out books

Librarians excel in presenting stories and talking about books. While the head librarian or marketing department may be thinking about marketing goals on a strategic level, the other librarians have educational and marketing goals in mind when running a program. This kind of personal contact is the way people have been interacting from the beginning of language. Let’s interpret this from a marketing point of view. The library is offering a free program to get what they want – more users and the spread of literacy. How can the library use electronic options to accomplish some of these goals?

Story times can produce content that can be posted as MP3 files or as podcasts, allowing those who couldn’t be in the library at the scheduled time and opportunity to listen to a librarian telling a story. This would accomplish the goal of introducing children to books and reading, but fail to accomplish the other three goals unless you modify the approach. If you use recorded stories as an enticement for attending programs, you will accomplish the other goals when people come to the library in person or electronically. If “education” in the broadest sense is a goal of all library programs, then any in-person or electronic content sharing can accomplish that goal. If reaching customers is a goal of business marketing, then reaching readers with useful information is a goal of library marketing. The library web site could have content in addition to information about library hours and contacts, increasing the library’s role within the community.

Let’s step away from the pre-school age and go to college students or adults. What do they need or want from the library? The library’s web site may have finding tools, bibliographies, digital content, and instructions for students and faculty. The library could mount an online exhibit to show off the library resources and educate the visitors. The library tries to reach a specific audience and the unserved public within the community rather than a mass audience such as found via TV or metropolitan newspapers. With content online the library tries to hit the potential readers with a message just when they need it.


The library should report on activities, services, and plans in a newsletter or some kind of publication. They format should be both imprint and electronic. This is another venue for telling a compelling story. The articles should be aimed at both heavy and the casual library users. The library could also have a section on their web site for news releases. This is information about an event, timely announcement, or a special milestone. The new releases are both for the general public and the news media who may want background information. If the library wants to show it can be a leader in the community, it must prove it with a constant stream of news. Something that may be routine to some, may be news to others. For example practices change – in 2008 the library had no text books for students. The routine answer was, “Sorry we don’t collect current text books.” In 2009 the practice changed because the college made an agreement to have two copies of every required text book placed on reserve.

If this would have been an action with a clear goal, the college and the library would have exploited the story to show how they were filling a need for the students and the library would use this as a way of showing increased usage of the library. This however, was an example of unclear messages. Since the library was not a party to negotiating the agreement, there was no clear message they could write. The books showed up without any clear plans on how to catalog and circulate them.

In the business world, companies want to create original content to educate the marketplace and eventually use the company’s products. An educated consumer will be a better customer because he will be better at choosing the right products and will come back for more. In the library and education world we also want to educate the user so that we can be more efficient in helping them and the reader can learn to do more of their own searching. Newsletters, blogs, and other online content help in the educational process. They communicate directly with the audience without the outside media filter.

Libraries need to create content that is accurate and authentic and not fluff or time wasting. Readers want to feel they are part of the information flow process. They communication lines must go both directions. Great content is the way of distinguishing your library from other information sources. Great content drives the kind of readers you want to your doors or electronic portals. The goals of any library program include – introduce, encourage, educate and develop content and new audiences. Everything and every program within the library has a marketing and educational component.

Tell compelling stories about what you did, are doing and will do tomorrow.

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