Once you've selected your target audience, identified needed services, and established the framework of your marketing plan, it's time for promotion.
Promotion is one of the four Ps (product, price, place, and promotion) that lay the foundation for marketing.
Watch my narrated slide show at Vimeo (on the right).
Promotion represents all of the methods used to build and share communications that will gain participation. We'll be exploring four major areas of promotion:
- Message Design and Branding. The central message or story behind the product makes it meaningful and attractive to customers. Symbols, tag lines, slogans, icons, and other features are used to feature your product and distinguish it from the competition.
- Public Relations. Personal interactions, word-of-mouth marketing, and satisfied customer communications are important promotional methods that establish positive buzz for a product.
- Publicity. From posters to blog entries, a wide range of communications can be used to share the core message with others.
- Advertising. Paid television spots, billboards, and other sponsored messages and events are all part of advertising.
In this section, we'll define promotion and explore ways to create an effective campaign.
Each of the following questions will be addressed on this page. For quick access, click on the question of interest.
- What does promotion involve?
- How can campaigns be used to form an integrated marketing communication?
- How can national promotion connections and tie-ins be used?
- What promotions could be tied with partnerships?
- What companies and organizations offer promotional materials?
- How can incentives (i.e., give aways, take aways, rewards programs) be used in promotion?
- How can special events (i.e., open house, classes, workshops, parties, clubs, parades) be used in promotion?
- How can contests, participation, and games be used in promotion?
- How can special library gatherings, parties, events, and programs be used in promotion?
Promotion is used to gain participation by encouraging people to take advantage of library offerings. It lets users know what the library has available and motivates them to take action. According to Dinesh Gupta (2006, 16), promotion "aims to stimulate demand for the product or service".
Marketing research must be used to determine the best way to promote services for the specific audience. Market segmentation is critical.
Example: In an academic library setting, it's important to consider the differences between regular faculty and adjunct faculty. Barber and Wallace (2010, 60) state that
"we focused on adjunct facuty because they are not on campus as much and are not as aware of what campus services are available. Also, adjunct faculty is the fastest-growing portion of the faculty, and we have new adjuncts all the time. The library needed an outreach program to address this reality so as to stay relevant to future instrutors."
While young people might read a text message or respond to a Facebook posting, they might not read a paper newsletter or watch a television ad during the evening news.
To attract new customers, it's essential to reach out beyond the walls of the library. Partner with the local movie theatre to publicize the Hunger Games series, work with the local nursey on a "healthy gardening, healthy eating" initiative, or post announcements at the grocery store and post office.
Example. The photos below show children at the San Mateo Library System on a literacy walk and doing a puppet show. What's the best way to attract parents and their children to events?
Example: If the goal is to attract new users, displays in the library would be ineffective. However a posting in the cafeteria might be effective.
"Electronic resources are one of the last collections in a public library to receive attention for usage and for promotions. Oftentimes their statistics go unnoticed as well. An effort is needed to consciously study, track, and evaluate the usage of these resources. Then, a library can focus on educating the staff and patrons regarding the existence and use of these resources... the steps involve initiating, conducting, and financing a marketing campaign for education and promotion of electronic resources for a public library." – Brannon, 2007
Read A Successful Promotional Campaign by Sian Brannon in The Serials Librarian.
The Ohio Library Council stresses that market research provides insights into what drives user needs, preferences, and decision-making practices. They recommend asking some of the following questions when designing promotions:
- What did you find out (or already know) about your users?
- Who needs a particular service and how can you communicate the value of the service to those users who will benefit and for whom the service was developed?
- How will you reach those who will benefit? For example, who reads news stories and newsletters? Who doesn't?
- Who comes into the library and sees displays?
- Who only works online from home?
- Who can never be sold, who has already been sold, and who still needs selling?
Example: The King County Library System targeted patrons 50 and over. Their campaign includes a logo, programs and special events, targeted resources, and an accessibility focus. The logo below is from the King County Library System and will take you directly to their resources.
Carol Ottolenghi (2012) suggests using "defensive promotion" as a no-cost way to promote the library and defend budgets. Ottolenghi identified twenty ideas for law librarians. While some of these are general public relations ideas, others could be associated with a particular promotional activity.
Read Ottolenghi, Carol (July 2012). Defensive Promotion. AALL Spectrum, 16-17.
An effective marketing plan calls for focused promotional activities that address specific goals and objectives. All of the ideas above are great ways to promote your program. However when designing strategies for your marketing plan it's important to be specific and think about how the activity will address the goals and objectives.
"With a growing population of part-time and distance education students, changing technologies, and evolving user expectations, it is becoming increasingly challenging to reach users through traditional marketing approaches... (it's time to) explore new initiatives, including partnering with marketing courses, roving reference, and highlighting staff expertise to raise awareness among users." – Brent Nunn and Elizabeth Ruane, 2011
Read Marketing gets personal: promoting reference staff to reach users by Brent Nunn and Elizabeth Ruane.
A campaign involves a series of messages that form an integrated marketing communication (IMC). A campaign theme is the central message that will be used throughout promotional activities. The idea is to use a unified message and single brand to create a seamless experience related to a particular product.
Integrated marketing communications (IMC) ensure consistency and effective use of all communication channels. In other words, all communications would use the same brand elements (i.e., name, tag line, logo, headline, graphics, fonts, colors) and a central message (i.e., key words, talking points, examples).
The only difference in the message would be to use the distinct features of each media. For instance, video allows the use of music, movement, and different voices to convey ideas, while a poster would allow the use of photographs and a list of key points.
Each media element could be geared to a particular segment of the target market segment. For instance, a Facebook posting, website banner, bulletin board flier, and e-mail message may each attract different audience members with the hope that each person would connect with the message a few times.
Example: Geek the Library is a social marketing campaign focused on making people aware of libraries. Notice all the different elements of the campaign.
"In 2008, Pollak Library at California State University in Fullerton planned an extensive marketing campaign for the launch of its Meebo chat service by using bookmarks, table tent advertisements, a banner on the library homepage, as well as a slide show projected on a screen behind the reference desk. Librarians were asked to mention the service during their library instruction sessions. In addition, advertisements were placed in the Campus Bulletin and the Campus Portal homepage where faculty, staff, and students long in to access their campus email and Blackboard accounts. Finally, a press release was sent to the school newspaper, which led to an article being written, and the service was presented to a variety of faculty on the University Library Committee." (Almquist, 2011, 162-163)
Example: Summer reading programs are a classic way to kick off summer reading for young people. The key is to draw in new readers and keep older readers coming. The Integrated Marketing Communication place might include:
- Logo sticker in various places around the building with a QR code to program website (i.e., paw print for animal theme)
- Banner at library website
- Facebook and blog postings
- Newspaper editorial about importance of summer reading
- Free announcement in location newspaper
- PSA on public radio
- Announcement at elementary school assembly
- Posters around town and at the library
- Bookmark give-aways at library and local bookstore
- Cross promotion with local pet store for "animal theme"
- Pet show with winners on local news
- Photo from pet show in the newspaper
Need more ideas for your campaign? Do a Google search for your theme and see what others have done with a similar campaign. For instance, you might discover the PAWS for Reading, Paws to Read, or Paws to Read program.
Explore some examples:
If you work in a small library, it can be difficult to hold a large campaign all on our own. Consider tie-ins to national campaigns.
Example. Go to Our Authors, Our Advocates. Use the resources on this page to get your project started. Interview local authors. Then, create a web page on your website that mixes these national authors with your local authors.
Popular National Campaigns
Banned Book Week is a popular annual celebration of freedom to read. Founded in 1982, it's held the last week of September each year. Use the following links to get started with ideas:
- Banned Books Week Website
- Banned Books Week from ALA
- Book Bans and Challenges (2007-2011) - Shown on Google Map
Banned Websites Awareness Day is growing in popularity. It can be celebrated in-conjunction with Banned Book week.
Choose Privacy Week invites conversations about privacy rights in the digital age. Founded in 2010, it's sponsored by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom each May.
D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything And Read) is a reading celebration that encourages families to make reading a priority.
Digital Learning Day is a national celebration of educators and librarians that focuses on successful instructional technology practice in classrooms across the country.
El dia de los ninos / El dia de los libros is a celebration each April of literacy for all languages and cultural background.
Library Card Sign-up Month is September of each year. Sponsored by the American Library Association, it reminds parents that a library card is the most important school supply.
- Library Card Sign-up Month - posters, letter to the editor, PSA, card logos, bookmarks
Library Snapshot Day is a way for libraries of all types to show what happens in a single day.
- Library Snapshot Day
- Library Snapshot Day - Primer
- State Examples
- National Bookmobile Day - publicity information, materials, posters, Facebook page
- National Bookmobile Day - YouTube Channel
- National Bookmobile Day - Facebook
National Friends of Libraries Week is celebrated in October.
National Gaming Day is held in November. An ALA poster is shown on the right.
National Library Week is held in mid April.
National Medical Librarians Month is held in October.
Preservation Week is celebrated in April.
- Preservation Week - toolkit, news, events, resources
School Library Month is held in April.
- School Library Month - resources, podcasts, video contest
Teen Literature Day is held during National Library Week in April.
Teen Read Week is held in mid October and is sponsored by YALSA.
- Teen Read Week - Ning
Teen Tech Week is held in March and is sponsored by YALSA.
- Teen Tech Week - Ning
In addition to national and international promotions directly tied with libraries, also look for ways to connect with partners who have logical tied with libraries.
Example: Consider partnerships between the library and non profits. Could you connect information about animal care with a local animal shelter?
Book and reading promotions are sponsored by many organizations:
- Get Caught Reading
- Library Lover's Month
- National Poetry Month is celebrated each April.
- NEA's Read Across America
Also look for community partners for theme you can connect to your library:
Looking for other ideas?
- timeanddate - a calendar of special days, weeks, and months.
The Programming Librarian website from ALA also has an events and celebrations calendar. In addition, they have lots of promotional ideas.
Looking for teen programming ideas? Check the ALA Teen Wiki.
If funds are available, consider purchasing pre-packaged materials. This can save you lots of time. This is particularly helpful if you don't have a staff member with a creative flair.
Try national organization websites:
Try national supply companies. The advantage of these companies is that you can often customize items for your library. Use them for book bags, bookmarks, buttons, pencils, posters, prizes, and other items.
Read Worldwide Library eBook Reading Club Kicksoff.
This project from OverDrive promotes reading.
It can be difficult to make people aware of new services. Look for ways to tie incentives to these services. Remember to consider both your physical and virtual library when thinking about give-aways. Think of ways people might sign-up online by using a service.
Example: To increase mobile access to library resources, your library might offer a service app. To promote this new service, you might partner with a local computer store and give away an iPad to kick off the new service. In addition, you might offer iPad workshops mentioning the service app in the workshop.
Tie give-aways to specific services or activities. The key is to get people rolling through the incentive. Hopefully, they will continue the practice after the incentives are gone.
Example: Library users at Cleveland State University Library received a Library Rewards card. Cards were given to freshmen who received stamps for library use. Completed cards could be turned in for "goody bags."
Example: The Broken Bow Public Library has give-aways each week. Scan through their Facebook page and you can see the types of give-aways available.
Look for creative incentives that might involve active participation. For instance, involve people in contests, make-it-take-it, or other types of unique approaches to give aways. Think about ways that you could get patrons collecting bookmarks or building life-lists.
Example: The University of Waterloo Library created buttons inspired by Library places and spaces. Students were encouraged to collect them. The buttons caught on as contests were held to create buttons. Students began collecting their favorite buttons and special buttons were issued to keep the program rolling.
Give-aways don't need to cost you money. Most of the library's services are free. How can you convince customers that free library service is free!
Example: The Somerset County Library System created a "FREEBOOKS at the Library" campaign. Their slogan was "Don't Buy, Borrow" and features an image of a Kindle along with the library URL and logo. An enclosed "coupon" was good for "unlimited free downloads of eBooks!
How can special events (i.e., open house, faires, classes, workshops, parties, clubs, parades) be used in promotion?
When people are in your library, they are a captive audience for promotion. From signage on bookcases to posters at the entrance, your building is a giant promotional tool. In addition, your website is also part of your in-house promotion. When people are at your website looking for new e-books, you can be promoting other services such as after-school programs or reference services.
Example: The Kent State University Libraries Mini Maker Faire brought together people interested in creating with technology such as the 3D printer, leap motion controller, and 3D pen tools.
Events are only effective if people attend. Offering food is a great incentive. Chocolate, pizza, and cookies are particularly good choices.
Example: The Brown Bag, Green Book program series at the Knox County Public Library focused on books about environmental sustainability. The lunch programs featured local experts discussing popular books with environmental sustainability themes. Podcasts of the programs are available and participants are encouraged to explore the Environmental Subject Guide for more reading ideas. The logo on the right is an excellent example of how branding can be used in support of a program event.
Get library users activity involved in contests, participatory projects, and games. Think about how to tie them directly to a marketing goal such as summer reading or poetry writing.
Contests are a fun way to get library users to become active library participants.
"Some libraries have contests for participants in their services. In 2007, ASERL (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries) held a drawing for a free nano iPod for participants in a user satisfaction survey… Members found several ways to market the contest including advertising on Facebook and their individual library pages." (Almquist, 2011, 162)
Consider some of the following contest ideas:
- American Idol
- Art show
- Athletic contests
- Bookcart Drill Teams
- Costume contests
- Fantasy football, baseball, basketball
- Lego contests
- Pet show
- Photo contest
- Recycling contest
- Quilting contest
- Video contests
- World record events
- Writing Contests
Example. At Lansing Public Library, patrons were asked to use a book as inspiration for creating a food items. Everyone received a certificate, gift certificate, or trophy for participating. Examples include The Lorax and Pride & Prejudice.
Example: A video contest is even more fun when it involves libraries across the US.
From adding ideas to a bulletin board to contributing ornaments to a Christmas tree, people enjoy participating in displays, artwork, and programs.
Gaming is increasingly popular in libraries. These activities aren't just for children. Each market segment has games that would be appealing.
Read Seniors and Students All Love Playing the Library's Wii Games by Tim Gritten (May/June 2008).
Think about how games can be incorporated with different target market segments.
Special programs can be thought of as a library service or as part of a marketing strategy. In some cases, they're both. The key is the purpose of the program. Does the program address an identified audience need? Or, is the program intended to encourage the targeted group to use a particular resource or service?
Example: A Teddy Bear Picnic is a fun activity for young children. The event has two goals. One goal relates to nurturing early literacy program through picture books featuring teddy bears. The other goal involves a promotional campaign with a series of events aimed at at-risk children and their parents.
The photo below shows a stuff-animal sleepover at the Allen County Public Library.
The library is filled with fun events. Think about how the event ties to the library's mission, services, and marketing goals and strategies.
Special Library Parties
- Book Parties - celebrate Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, or the latest book trend
- Retro Parties - celebrate a decade like the Fabulous Fifties or Tied-died Seventies
- Accessories Focus - focus on hats, mustaches, colored socks, or other silly clothing or accessories
- Tea Parties - hold a princess tea, Alice in Wonderland tea, or other tea party
- Lock in Parties- teen lock-ins, slumber parties, stuff-animal slumber parties
- Picnic Parties - hold teddy bear picnics, stuff animal picnics, ant picnics
- Pool Parties - wear swim suits, feature outdoor water activities
- Costume Parties - dress as book characters, movie characters
- Game Parties - dungeons and dragons, Super Mario
- Dance Parties - hip hop, salsa, country line dancing, wii dance
- NASA events
- Olympics events
- World cup soccer viewing
- Super bowl viewing
- Indy 500 viewing
Based on Books, TV and Movies
- Popular Series: Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter
- Antique Roadshow
- Extreme Makeover
- Project Runway
- Star Wars Jedi Training Camp
- Barbecue for Books
- Cupcake Decorating
- Candybar Contest
- Chili Cookoff
- Christmas Cookie Swap
- Edible Jewelry
- Healthy snacks
- Salsa Tasting
Example: Participants created edible jewelry out of materials like Life Savors at Lansing Public Library. Check on the photo below.
- Murder Mysteries
- Anime, Manga
- Business expo
- Health expo
- Time Capsule
Shows and Displays
- Classic Car Show
- Model Train Show
- Motorcycle Show
- Bike Show
- Doll Show
- Duct Tape
- Felt Fortune Cookies
- Sidewalk chalk art
- Things that Roll - make cars, race Lego cars
- Things that Fly - paper rockets, paper airplanes, kites, gliders
- Things that Float - boats in baby pool
- Tiles - painting
Example: Teens at Lansing Public Library made felt fortune cookies. See a photo on the right.
Example: Children at Allen County Public Library completed paper quilling projects. See a photo below left.
Example: Teens created critter crafts at the Georgetown Branch of the Allen County Public Library. See a photo below center.
- Arts Festival (with local arts council)
- Heritage Day (work with local ethnics groups)
- History Fair (with local historical society)
- Librarypalooza (with local musicians)
- Storytelling Festival (with local literary society)
Anniversaries are a great way to draw interest to the library.
Read Library Lovers Day in Australia by Victoria Anderson.
Think about promotional ideas for a library of your choosing.
Almquist, Sharon (2011). Distributed Learning and Virtual Librarianship. ABC-CLIO.
Brannon, Sian (2007). A successful promotional campaign. Serials Librarian, 53(3), 41-55.
Dempsey, Kathy (2009). The Accidental Library Marketer. Information Today: Medford, New Jersey.
Dowd, Nancy, Evangeliste, Mary, & Silberman, Jonathan (2010). Bite-Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Over-worked Librarian. ALA Editions.
Fisher, Patricia & Pride, Marseille M. (2006). Blueprint for Your Library Marketing Plan: A Guide to Help You Survive and Thrive, ALA Editions.
Gupta, Dinesh, Koontz, Christie, Massisimo, Angels & Savard, Rejean (eds.) (2006). Marketing Library and Information Services: International Perspectives. Die Deutsche Bibliothek. Available: http://site.ebrary.com.proxy2.ulib.iupui.edu/lib/iupui/docDetail.action?docID=10256411
Lovelock, Christopher & Wirtz, Jochen (2010). Service Marketing. 7th edition. Prentice Hall.
MacAlpine, Barbara (Winter 2006). Why not market yourself? Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship. Available: http://www.istl.org/06-winter/viewpoints.html
McCracken, Linda D. & Zeiher, Lynne (2001). The Library Book Cart Precision Drill Team Manual. McFarland & Company.
Mathews, Brian (2009). Marketing Today’s Academic Library. ALA Editions.
Ottolenghi, Carol (July 2012). Defensive Promotion. AALL Spectrum, 16-17.
Scott, David Meerman (2011). The New Rules of Marketing & PR (third edition). Wiley.
Siess, Judith (2003). The Visible Librarian. ALA Editions.
Trigg, Jene O’Keefe (2009). Savvy outreach tactics, special events focus the media’s attention on your message. In Mark Gould ed), The Library PR Handbook, ALA Editions, 59-62.
Walters, Suzanne (2004). Library Marketing that Works! Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Weingand, Darlene (1999). Promotion – last, but not least. Marketing/Planning Library and Information Services. Libraries Unlimited, 133-144.
Woodward, Jeannette (2009). Creating the Customer-Driven Academic Library. ALA Editions.