Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Marketing and Public Relations -- 7 -- Staying Connected to Your Public
New Rules for Communications Chapter 5
Staying Connected to Your Public
In Joe Marconi’s book, Public Relations the complete guide (Thomson Learning, 2004) he talks about crisis management and the need to prepare for disaster in chapter 15. I would like to rewrite his ideas as they apply to libraries. Everyday and every minute of the day one should be prepared for the usual and the unusual. Procedures should be in place for dealing with the problem patron and the emergency. During the introductory tours of the library I even point out the emergency exit. Readers should understand that emergency exits exist. Marconi warns us that in litigious society, people are quick to sue. Some people demand instant results and have little concept of the careful searching and analysis needed for scholarship.
The library (or any organization) must stay connected to its public, readers, parents, community, regulators, professional organizations, employees, and any other stakeholders or potential stakeholders.
1. Listen to the market. Pay attention to what library users are telling you and what you read about the community.
2. Learn the best practices of other libraries. Imitate their success and avoid their mistakes. Use listservs for professional groups. (Examples are AUTOCAT for catalogers and LM_Net for school librarians.)
3. Constantly create good will with everything you do. That includes smiling and treating everyone with respect. Cultivate some special allies who can be called upon if there is a challenge or crisis.
4. Let readers, employees, etc. know someone is available to address their concerns. Dealing with employee concerns helps them deal with the public better. Though few will make a formal complaint. Just knowing a process exists, will help with morale.
5. Convey in words and actions that opinions matter. Establish a record of listening. Not every opinion will be acted upon, but the process of discussion will guide the final decision.
6. Maintain communications with newsletters, press releases and other methods mentioned in previous chapters.
7. Make sure the public knows your mission and how you work toward its accomplishment. Be prepared to justify everything as fulfilling something within your mission.
8. Invite comments and be responsive to queries, questions, complaints, and complements. Respond to both those who have positive and negative input. Pay attention to what people say as you may get clues to larger problems. Solve the small problems before they grow big and unmanageable.
9. Ask or survey the readers. Look for attitudes, awareness, trends, and opportunities.
10. Don’t wait for something to break. Make contingency plans. Fix problems before they occur. Replace or service equipment before it breaks.
11. Make emergency plans. One can never predict when a natural disaster or man-made emergency will happen. Make the situation less stressful by making sure the staff know what to do in an urgent or disaster type situation. One can even pre-write some statements to be read in cases of emergency. Turn the moment into a time of control and professional action so that the library is perceived as a better organization when the situation is resolved.
12. Plan for future growth. Don’t assume that populations, ideas, service requirments, and technologies will be static.
13. Assume nothing. Just because nothing negative has filtered to you, do not assume all is well. Ask the front-line employees if they observe problems, anomalies, or challenges. Ask them about changes or potential trouble spots.
14. Think positively and put on a happy face. View it as your job to look happy. Stuff happens that is beyond your control. In the face of a challenge remain clam and in control. Remember we are in the business of doing good things and serving the public.
15. Be honest, do not mislead people. Honor promises and thank people. Once lost, trust is hard to regain. This applies to the public and employees. If the employees trust their leadership, they will do a better job of building trust with the public.
16. Constantly tell the library’s story. Tell people what you do best and make them aware of the library’s products and services. Do not wait to be found. Make sure the library has everything from excellent signage to excellent brochures and web content.