Last night I attended a free webinar hosted by SirsiDynix on marketing libraries. The speaker was Nancy Dowd, who writes The ‘M’ Word blog and recently authored Bite-sized marketing: realistic solutions for the over-worked librarian.
I was particularly interested in the webinar due to my interest in marketing and my (proposed) dissertation topic, and I also hoped to see if there were any ideas I could use either at my place of work, or for my new role as CILIP West Midlands Marketing Officer.
The webinar didn’t disappoint – Nancy gave an excellent presentation and concluded the event by answering some of the questions that had been submitted. The software seemed to work well – it was browser based which is particularly beneficial for people who cannot download software to their PCs (having said that, for those of us in the UK it was evening here so anyone watching was probably at home!). This was the third online webinar I’ve attended, all of whom have used different software – yesterday the software enabled us to vote, and submit questions although I have to say I did miss the ability to chat to others attending the webinar (a feature of Wimba classroom which was used for last year’s 23 Things Summit).
So – the content:
Nancy talked about funding cuts which are prevalent across many libraries at the moment or likely to occur in the future. She stressed the importance of bearing this in mind when considering marketing, and also dealing with current general perceptions of the library. Many people still think of libraries as the traditional, musty smelling, silent libraries whose primary purpose is for academic research. There is obviously still a need for this (well the research part anyway!), but we need to have a consistent message of what the library is about (is it about lifelong learning? books and information? a community centre? empowering personal success?), and use that message to market the library. It needs to be a simple message, and should be conveyed in everything the library does to reinforce the brand. If we don’t brand ourselves, our perception will be based on other’s (possibly outdated) perceptions and that of the media. This seems particularly relevant at the moment with Seth Godin’s post about the future of the library and numerous subsequent posts responding to his comments (I’d definitely recommending reading these and other posts if you haven’t yet).
Nancy also touched on the evolution of marketing which is something I think libraries really need to start considering if they haven’t already. The way marketing works is changing and the most successful marketing campaigns nowadays (particularly for B2C markets) are those which utilise consumer advocates to spread the message. Tim Fishburne’s cartoon demostrates this well (reproduced with thanks to Tom Fishburne: this one time at Brand Camp, an excellent marketing/branding blog):
Nancy thinks many libraries may still be at the TV admen stage, and sadly I have to agree. All too often we try to sell our “stuff” (also mentioned at the CoFHE event by Terry Kendrick), rather than just letting our brand show and enabling users to act as advocates. Word of mouth marketing is a big buzz term in library marketing at the moment, but I can definitely see why; I know as a consumer myself that this method is far more likely to change my habits than any number of emails, leaflets, fliers etc.
Nancy then introduced what she called the Lone Ranger Marketing Mix:
- Need to have a defined goal
- Determine your target audience
- Listen to what they are saying – use Twitter, blogs, social networks etc. (If negative feedback, don’t defend library, use it as an avenue to find out more about audience)
- Create communication channel (select appropriate tool for target audience)
- Begin the conversation
She discussed the positive and negatives of many possible marketing communication channels such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Listservs, Email, LinkedIn, SMS and MySpace (you can see more on this in her presentation), but the main points to take on board are to choose the appropriate tool depending on your target audience, and to update content regularly. She warned against setting up numerous avenues of conversation channels if there is no time to commit to keeping them up-to-date (however, many can be linked togethe to help in this – e.g. blog posts being fed into Twitter accounts). She also emphasised the importance of focusing on the content rather than the marketing element – it’s no good just cramming a blog with keywords to try to improve SEO if the content is not relevant or interesting – this is not going to be of any interest to your target audience.
Other points covered included using volunteers to support the work (particularly where people have skills that library staff may not already possess, and could benefit from expanding their portfolio), enabling online sharing if using Web 2.0 (e.g. using ShareThis tools like at the bottom of my blog posts), and having a good online PR presence with information for journalists to use (e.g. key quotes, relevant contacts, photos and videos for press to use).
I’ve embedded Nancy’s powerpoint below for anyone interested, and you can listen to the audio if you wish at SirsiDynix Institute.
I really enjoyed the webinar and would definitely recommend the software – there are a number of other free webinars you may be interested in, and Nancy is hoping to do another later this year.