Working with Consultants and Vendors
Whether it’s designing a logo or setting up a content management system, you may need to seek help in turning your vision into reality. In addition, many companies provide marketing resources at little or no charge to support library services.
Watch my narrated slide show at Vimeo (on the right).
In this section, we'll explore ideas for working with consultants and vendors.
Each of the following questions will be addressed on this page. For quick access, click on the question of interest.
- What’s the process of working with an outside consultant?
- What's involved with using a graphic designer?
- What's the process of working with an internal consultant?
- What vendor marketing services are available?
From planning large scale campaigns to designing professional quality logos, there are times when it's worth the effort to hire an outside consultant.
Elisabeth Doucett (2008) suggests that there are a number of times during a marketing project where it's useful to bring in outside help. For instance, if funding is available, a marketing consultant and graphic designer may be hired.
Doucett (2008, 66-73) provides guidelines for evaluating the skills of potential consultants:
- Keep in mind whenever you work with outside help that you (the project manager) are the expert.
- Do not assume that your library is unimportant because you do not have a big budget.
- But then again, never assume that you are the most important client a firm will have.
- Do not under estimate the ability of your staff to help with branding work.
- Let the people you hire do their work.
- Put your ego aside.
Doucett (2008, 65-66) suggests that the following questions can be used before jumping to implementation and possible external help:
- Are there any funds available for hiring outside help? If not, are you willing to put the time and effort into writing a grant proposal to get funding?
- Do you have any experience at all with marketing or branding? If not, do you have the time to do a little self-training?
- Do you know of anyone that can help you with this project on a regular basis?
- Do you have senior support for the branding project within you library?
- Are you committed to the project?
Consultants can also be found close to home. Students can be useful consultants. They're inexpensive and willing to work hard for credit or experience.
Read How to Hire the Right PR Person by Marsha Iverson in Information Today.
Whether designing a logo or creating attractive signage for the library, it's wise to involve a graphic designer. Although a lot can be done with the templates that come with programs like Pages and Publisher, a graphic designer will provide professional experience and a different perspective on the project.
Before spending lots of money, determine whether free or inexpensive options are available. Doucett (2008) suggests five options:
- Art Departments. Contact local university art departments to see if a student might be available. College interns are also an option.
- High Schools. Put up a notice in the local high school or contact the high school art teacher. Many talented students would jump at the chance to participate in a logo competition or art contest.
- Community Nonprofits. Ask local nonprofits who designed their logos. Some artists do pro bono work for nonprofits.
- Local Graphic Artists. Try a local graphic artist and negotiate.
- Locals. Many talented people exist in every community. Ask around for friends of friends who might do graphics work.
Doucett (2008) suggests creating a brief that concisely explains the projects, the timeline, and lists the deliverables. In other words, what are the expectations? Do you want the graphic in a JPG and/or PDF form? Do you want color and/or black&white versions? What sizes do you need? Are you simply interested in a logo? Or, do you want art for posters, shirts, and other items? Do you want a matching template for brochures? You might also include examples that reflect those things you like and dislike to get the discussion rolling. Discuss your expectations and talk about the need to have choices, drafts, or other requirements.
Before hiring a consultant for any aspect of your marketing program, complete the following steps (Doucett, 2008, 69-70):
- Before you hire outside support, have several staff members meet the potential candidates.
- Always ask for a written proposal from a potential partner in the branding work.
- Check references.
After hiring a consultant, Doucett (2008, 70-71) suggests setting expectations:
- Make sure you clearly define what you expect to be delivered to you at the end of a project.
- Look for the not-so-obvious costs.
- Do not be afraid to achieve less-than-perfect results.
Many large library systems, universities, and corporations have public relations departments. In many cases, you can work with them to develop your marketing campaign.
"Hardin Library for the Health Sciences offers an education service called Hardin House Calls. In collaboration with the University of Iowa libraries' public relations coordinator, the education team developed a marketing campaign for Hardin House Calls. Marketing strategies included designing a new logo, meeting with external relations representatives and faculty, distributing a user survey, and producing and distributing posters and advertisements. These marketing strategies greatly increased the visibility and use of Hardin House Calls. The campaign also led to a series of faculty development sessions, education collaborations with smaller health sciences departments, and collection development opportunities. Promoting an instructional service through a public relations framework was found to be a highly successful strategy." – Bloedel, 2006
Read Not Just for Celebrities by Kimberly Bloedel and Kathryn Skhal in Medical Reference Services Quarterly.
Large vendors like Gale and ProQuest want your library programs to be successful. It's in their interest to keep your library customers using their products. In many cases, they provide services and resources that can be used in marketing campaigns.
"As university budgets tighten, academic libraries are becoming more aggressive and innovative in raising awareness of their services to protect needed funding. In the age of Google, that means marketing collections to both students and faculty as a key component of building a positive, essential profile. ProQuest is completing a study of academic library efforts to build awareness and market the breadth of collections. This article will summarize the results of that study, providing not only raw data on the state of marketing collections, but also: best practice techniques for raising awareness and protecting budgets; emerging models of success; role models for effective marketing; effective vendor support: where to turn for products that conquer barriers between libraries and users; and effective marketing support: where to turn for expert advice." – Lynda James-Gilboe (2010)
Read James-Gilboe, Lynda (2010). Raising the library profile to fight budget challenges. The Serials Librarian, 59(3-4), 360-369.
Law librarian Eugene Guidice (2012) stresses the importance of working with vendors. He states,
"Much has been written about the often-contentious nature of the relationship between vendors and librarian. It is important to acknowledge that this can sometimes be the case, but it also important for librarians to realize that their respective firms are paying good money for access to various products and it is a duty of all librarians to learn how to exploit these products to their maximum. Here is where developing a deeper relationship with attorneys and better understanding their clients and practice can pay off. As we deepen our knowledge in this area, we are better able to go to the vendors to find out what products will best suit the client of our respective firms as well as provide maximum value to the way attorneys practice.
The more you can demonstrate to a vendor that you want to use its products to their maximum effectiveness, the more they will be apt to help you in concrete ways with your outreach, such as sponsoring an attorney lunch or helping you with an event like National Library Week."
Example: ProQuest has an outstanding Library Marketing Toolkit. Guides, flyers, and press release templates are provided. They can be customized for the library type and specific library. They're all FREE!
The image on the right shows a ProQuest flyer that you can customize.
Example: Gale provides a service called Gale Promo to create free, custom promotional materials for your library.
ProQuest also provide excellent marketing brochures focused on particular library types:
Doucett, Elisabeth (2008). How to work with outside help. Creating Your Library Brand: Communicating Your Relevance and Value to Your Patrons. ALA Editions. 65-74.
Dowd, Nancy, Evangeliste, Mary, & Silberman, Jonathan (2010). Bite-Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Over-worked Librarian. ALA Editions.
Giudice, Eugene M. (2012). Library Outreach and the Italian Beef Sandwich. AALL Spectrum, 16(8).
Holt, Glen (2000). Communications partnerships: getting media pros to tell the library story. The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, 13, 100-106.
Mathews, Brian (2009). Marketing Today’s Academic Library. ALA Editions.