Publicity is a way of communicating messages to the public and hopefully the target market segment. Designed to attract public attention and draw interest, publicity disseminates information concerning to product being marketed.
The key to success is identifying ways to distribute meaningful content hoping that it will be shared with others. This means convincing a local reporter to print your press release and thinking of strategic locations to post fliers and set up displays.
Watch my narrated slide show at Vimeo (on the right).
In this section, we'll explore the many ways that publicity can be used in a marketing campaign.
Each of the following questions will be addressed on this page. For quick access, click on the question of interest.
- How does publicity work?
- How are images used in publicity?
- What are issues in the use of people and products in publicity materials?
- How are generators used in publicity?
- How can print materials be used in publicity?
- How can news and media materials be used in publicity?
- How can reports be used in publicity?
- How can presentations, workshops, and classes be used in publicity?
- How can displays be used in publicity?
- How can video materials be used in publicity?
- How can audio materials be used in publicity?
- How is the library website be used in publicity?
- How are social networking sites used in publicity?
- How are blogs and microblogs (i.e., Twitter) be used in publicity?
- How is mobile technology be used in publicity?
- How can quick access technologies be used?
- How are flash mobs and other emerging technologies used in publicity?
- How is Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) used in publicity?
- How can RSS feeds be used in publicity?
- How can direct marketing be used in publicity?
- How can you optimize your ranking on search engines?
- How can a press kit be used in publicity?
It can take three to five experiences before an message comes through to a customer. As such, it's important to design a marketing campaign that includes a number of different publicity tools.
"University libraries have used a variety of promotional materials to market virtual reference services, including flyers (California State University at Fresno), posters (Texas A&M), bookmarks (Col Poly Pomona), table Tents (Syracuse), sticky notes (University of Arizona), postcards (Kansas State Collaborative), brochures (Illinois State Collaborative), and giveaways (ASERL). The State of Washington collaborative reference services also provided magnets, pencils and pens, bags, buttons, and static-cling stickers... information literacy classes, (Case Western Reserve), press release/news stories (LSU), newspaper ads (South Carolina), radio ads/PSAs (Washington State collaborative), electronic message boards (Cal Poly Pomona), endorsements (Kansas State collaborative), sandwich boards (Washington State collaborative), and chalk messages on campus sidewalks (Saddleback College)." (Almquist, 2011, 162)
Example: The APLEN Marketing Campaign was a library awareness campaign. A website was created to house a range of materials used in the campaign. Librarians can then choose those that fit best with their needs. A bookmark is shown on the left.
Brian Mathews (2009) describes these building blocks of a campaign as the marketing mix. All the elements work together to deliver the message.
Example: Mathews (2009, 100) uses the bibliographic software EndNote as an example of how the marketing mix works.
"Your promotional efforts might include information on your library's website, a poster near a computer cluster, a mention of the citation software during library instruction sessions. The use of the website, print, and the classroom interaction compose your marketing mix.
A student might first encounter the EndNote poster, but since he doesn't understand what it is, he ignores it. A few weeks later a librarian mentions EndNote during a class. The next time that the student walks by the poster, he recognizes the name of the software, but still doesn't associate it with a direct need. As the semester progresses, the student visits the library's website, seeking information on how to cite his articles. He comes across the EndNote page, but discovers that he needs to install the software and opts out. The next day he talks with a classmate who mentions that EndNote is available on the library computers. Later than evening, he gets help from a librarian and formats his paper appropriately."
Read Collaborative Marketing for Virtual Reference: The My InfoQuest Experience by Beth Fuseler Avery, Karen J. Docherty, and Mary-Carol Lindbloom (2010).
Create a list of the steps they used in developing their plan and the publicity materials used.
Rather than a hodge podge of fliers and bookmarks, create a cohesive marketing mix that works for you. Design a campaign that includes elements that address specific needs.
Example. Electronic resources need to be made visible. Design a mix of approaches (Dowd, Evangeliste, Silberman, 2010).
- Images. Create images to represent the electronic resources and attract attention.
- Trading Cards. Make trading cards for different databases.
- Bookmarks. Create bookmarks featuring a database. Create a brief description.
- Newsletter Column. Use a column in the newsletter to feature a database.
- Content Focus. Feature databases in presentations and subject-area documents. Stress audio streaming and music, history lectures and famous speeches.
- Projects. Feature databases in creative projects such as public domain images and music.
- TinyURLs. Create tiny URLs for the databases so they are easier to access. Put these on business cards.
Scott Tracey incorporated his Dig•Me logo into each set of materials.
Example: The Purcell Public Library of the Pioneer Library System hosted the Key Ingredients: America by Food Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit. The exhibit focused on the evolution of the American kitchen and diet. The images below show library users enjoying the experience. The program included making apple dolls, playing pancake activities, outdoor cowboy cooking, and wild game cooking. At quilt and apron show was also held. The first image shows the Manly Pie Table as part of a baking contest. The second image shows the traveling exhibit set up in the library.
Before jumping into the development of new publicity materials, it's important to examine existing signs, fliers, and other library marketing materials.
Skim Polger, Mark Aaron & Stempler, Amy F. (2014). Out with the old, in with the new: best practices in replacing library signage. Public Services Quarterly, 10, 67-95.
Think about how this applies to publicity signage.
Images are one of the most important elements of effective publicity. Visuals are powerful because they can inform, instruct, and persuade quickly and efficiently.
Have your camera handy every day. You never know when you might catch the perfect photo. Consider some of the following ideas:
- Portraits. From LibGuide profiles to press releases, it's important to have an up-to-date photograph of each library staff member and volunteer. Consider two shots: a head-and-shoulders and candid medium shot. The candid shot might take place where the staff member works.
- Building Shots. Occasionally, you need a photo of the library building. When possible, include people in the photos. There's nothing more sad than an empty library! You don't need faces in these shots, instead look for people walking into the building, browsing shelves, or other shoulder at a computer. Remember to record the action in the back room.
- Action Shots. Your library is a living, breathing place. Show this through action shots. From library events and meetings to reference assistance and casual reading shots, look for ways to catch the action. Use a variety of closeup, medium, and long shots. Although some of your shots may be staged with happy faces staring into the camera, look for informal shots of people reading, concentrating on their work, or creating something. Be sure to catch special events such as author visits, storytelling, workshops, and other activities.
- Resources Shots. Supplement other photos with up-close shots of resources including closeups of shelved books, computers in use, artwork, and displays.
Example: The Denver Public Library has a Press Kit page containing photos.
Skim the following articles for ways to take the best library photographs:
Taking Pictures and Telling Stories at Our Libraries: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
Design a plan for creating a photo collection for your library.
Whenever possible, use action photos from your live events. However if that's not possible, then consider stock or public domain options that look as "real-world" as possible.
Below you'll see a "stock photo" on the left and a "real photo" on the right. Notice the differences. The one on the left from Photos.com is a stock photo. The one on the right from the Pesky Library at Flickr looks more authentic. One isn't better than the other. They're simply different and could serve different purposes.
Subscription Sites. Although subscriptions can be expensive, it's worth the money for access to quality images for information, instructional, and persuasive materials.
Copyleft and Public Domain. Public domain photo sites are a great source of images because no special permissions or process is needed. However another great alternative is known as "copyleft". These sites apply Creative Commons licenses which allow some level of use of the images.
Consider using works of art such as those from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over 400,000 images are available. Many simply require a credit line. The image on the right needs the credit line: Gift of Louise Senff Cameron, in memory of her uncle, Charles H. Senff, 1928.
Check Flickr the Commons for large-scale imaging projects from museums and libraries.
Looking for some great digital libraries? Go to the Digital Library of Week Archive.
- General Photos
- Compfight. General search tool.
- Creative Commons. Searches popular sites for open materials.
- Edupic. Great photos categorized by subject area for teachers.
- Europeana. Searches Europe's cultural collections
- Fotopedia. Search the open area.
- Free Images
- Free Stock Photos
- Getty Open Images. Be sure to search for "open content images".
- Images of the World
- NeoK12. Great images by subject area.
- Life. Magazine photos.
- PD Photo
- Pics4Learning - designed for students and teachers
Whether you need to resize an image, change the contrast, or do some cropping, you need some basic tools.
- Adobe Products. From Fireworks to PhotoShop, Adobe offers a great line of software packages. Students attending IUPUI are able to download and use these products for free! Go to IUware.
- GIMP. This is a free, public domain graphics program similar to PhotoShop.
- Photo Flex. Easy to use online photo editor.
If you'd like to create an image with lot links or an online collage, try one of the following websites:
Whether you're creating artwork for the web, a poster, or a T-shirt, some basic design and publishing skills are useful.
Vector Graphics. When working with line art such as logos, printers will request vector graphics in EPS files. When creating these types of images, use Adobe Illustrator rather than Adobe Photoshop. You can export these as EPS, PDF, or JPG files depending on the need.
Resolution and DPI (Dots Per Inch). A professional printshop may have specifications for creating particular types of documents or materials. The resolution or DPI will determine the quality of the output. DPI is how many pixels fit into an inch of an image. For professional printing, at least 150-200 DPI are requested. When possible, use 300 DPI, particularly with photograph. If items are being resized for the web, you want them to be small, but quality. The screen can only handle 72 DPI, so that's all you need.
Your library needs a photo policy. These documents should be reviewed by a lawyer to ensure that they reflect current laws.
Sharing photos from library events is a great way to show the success of programs. However it's important to consider permissions before sharing them beyond the walls of the library. Helene Blowers and Robin Bryan (2004, 100-101) state that
"Like a giant scrapbook, the Internet offers many opportunities to share activities that take place within the physical library. It is appropriate for library websites to display images of children's artwork, poetry, and stories, and even photographs of children involved in library activities. However, including such elements requires additional considerations. It is strongly recommended that a signed parental release form be obtained for each photograph of a child (and child-created work) before it is displayed online. in addition, you will want to be particularly careful not to provide information that when combined with a photograph could enable contact with a child. To avoid potential problems, use first names only and add the first letter of a last name only when necessary. Under no circumstances should a photo of a child's face appear on your site unless a signed parental release form has been obtained."
Because of the popularity of photography, some libraries are developing more flexible policies. Rather than a form, some libraries simply make the following announcement.
“Programs, events and classes are photographed or videotaped for library promotional purposes. Notify library staff if you prefer not to be photographed.”
Some new policies allow photographs without permission, but ask that individuals not be identified without written consent.
Read more about this approach to Photo Permissions at the Library.
Permission Forms. As a rule, libraries require permission forms to be signed for photos to be taken in the library. Parents and guardians need to sign permission forms for children younger than eighteen.
The following elements may be included in a permission form.
- All photos, audio, and video is the property of the library.
- All photos, audio, and video may be published in print or online form.
Photo Policy Tips. Make it standard practice to keep photo permissions on file for library users. When new programs begin, ask participants to sign the form or incorporate it into a standard registration form for activities and events. Provide a place to "opt out" of photos. Keep a database of names so the list can easily be checked to ensure participants have signed off. It may also be possible to include this information on the individual's library card (such as a camera sticker) or in the library automation system.
For a large group, consider passing around a clipboard with the permission information at the top and a place for signatures.
An alternative is to take "over-the-shoulder" or "long shots" where individuals can't be identified. In large groups, take a shot from the back of the room showing the backs of heads.
Use the following resources to learn more:
- How to Get Permission to Photograph
- Photo Attorney
- Photographer's Guide to Privacy
- Photo Permissions
Use the following sample guidelines and form for ideas:
- Chappaqua Library
- Harris County Public Library Photo Permissions
- Hays Public Library
- State of Iowa Form
- Westchester Public Library
Example. The Medical Library Association provides samples of useful documents to get you started:
Read Laws for Using Photos You Take at Your Library by Bryan Carson.
Create a photo plan that includes your policy and permission forms.
Using text and photographs in publicity materials is fine, but you can spice it up with some other options like graphs, avatars, and comics. The key is using the tool to focus attention on your message. This comic below was designed for use in a marketing campaign introducing e-books. This comic was created in Pixton.
You don't need art skills to create fun caricatures or quality graphs, use one of the hundreds of generator websites to get you started.
Charts & Graphs
Sometimes you need to create a chart or graphic quickly. These can be used in reports or as part of an infographic.
Although the Microsoft tools may work for your needs, there are also online tools:
- Create a Graph
Create an avatar that can be used to represent the marketing campaign. Or, create a character to talk about books in a display. The options are endless. When creating a materials that will be used outside your library, consider the copyright law.
Example: Disney does not allow use of their characters in promotional materials. If you want to use popular characters, purchase packaged promotions such as the ALA READ posters.
Read Using a Character for Library Publicity by Larry E. Eckholt to learn how you can create a character and use it in a marketing campaign.
What character could you create?
You don't need a big graphic arts budget to get started. Consider an online generator to create your character. For instance, use the Build Your Wild Self to create a goofy animal for use in a children's program.
Try the following websites:
- Become an M&M
- Build Your Wild Self
- Clay Yourself
- Face Your Manga
- GoAnimate Character
- Grabba Beast
- Hero Factory
- Hero Machine
- Make a Dangerous Animal
- Make Your Monster
- Marvel Superhero
- Online Mii Creator (another version)
- Pimp the Face
- Portrait Illustration Maker
- SouthPark Avatar Creator (another version)
- Style a Hero
- Colonial Dress Me Up
- 18th Century Paper Doll
- Voki - animation and sound
Sign and Picture Generators
Sometimes you need a fake sign, trading cards, or other images to use in a newsletter or display. Use one of the following tools to get you started. Or, do a search using the term generator.
Notice how the fake receipt was incorporated into Autumn Batman's Cornucopia theme.
- Redkid. This favorite lets you create visuals of iPhone text messages (shown on the right), street signs, alphabet soup, menu signs, and much more.
- Chopper Builder. Build a motorcycle.
- Fake Newspaper. Create a fake newspaper for your story.
- Fake iText. Make it look like a text message.
- Fake receipt generator. Create a fake receipt for a story.
- Packland. Create cool looking comic backpacks to include in storytelling.
- Trading Cards. Build trading cards.
- Warning Label Generator. Post warning notices.
- HugeBigLabs. Create lots of fun visual images with photos like magazine covers and movie posters.
- Movie Clapper Board Generator. Create a movie clapper image.
- Newspaper Generator. Create a newspaper front page.
- Randomly Generated Identity. Create a secret name.
- ReciteThis. Turns any quote into a work of art.
- Shelter-Ecards. Create a video newspaper e-card.
- Typo-Generators. Create text from photos
- Use FotoFlexer to post your game points.
- Image Generators
The example above created was made by Ashley Wadsworth.
Want to have some fun? Post a series of comics in the newspaper to advertise your event.
Example: In 2011, I created a series of newspaper comics to advertise our local film festival. Check them out at BIFF.
Create a comic. The image on the right was creating using a Scholastic creator by Autumn Batman.
- Pixton. Use the free version or consider the school version. Check out the Digital Citizen example above.
- Bitstrips. Need to sign-in to save.
- Cartoonist from Creaza
- Comic Creator
- Comic Master
- Comic Strip Maker. Easy for younger students.
- Lego City. Great for younger students.
- KABAM. Restricted to the story and theme provided.
- MakeBeliefs Comix. You can print or email your comic. No storage.
- Myths and Legends
- Professor Garfield. Provides characters for stories.
- Strip Generator. Sign-in required to save and publish. Print without sign-in.
- Superhero Squad Show
- Witty Comics
Example. Think of ways to incorporate comic elements into newsletters. Check out the examples below:
Animation and Slide Shows
Many online tools are available for creating online animation, slides shows, banners, and posters.
Print materials are an important way to communication information. Keep in mind the size of the printed materials can determine whether it's kept or tossed. A business card fits easily into a pocket and a bookmark is viewed each time a book is opened.
The quality of your materials reflect your program. Whether it's a bookmark or a brochure, be sure it's professional. Also be sure it connects with a unified theme that includes a color scheme, fonts, and other design elements. Check out the fall theme bookmarks below by Becca Bloodworth.
A bookmark is one of these easiest publicity tools to create and distribute. The following links are examples from the OhioLink Idea Gallery.
- Bowling Green University Library - renewal information
- Case Western - Informational bookmark
- Cleveland State University Law Library - Half Million Volumes
- Lourdes College Library - informational
- Ohio Dominican University Library - Black History Month
- Ohio State University Library - Read Aloud program
- Ohio State University Library - Leisure Reading Collection
- Ohio University Libraries - READ bookmarks
- Roesch Library - RoeschFest
- Sinclair Community College - LRC resources
- University of Toledo - Access information
Example: Rather than making the bookmarks yourself, consider holding a contest. The Allen County Public Library holds an Annual Bookmark Contest. View some of the winning bookmarks. The 2012 winning bookmark in the 13-17 year old category (shown below) was created by Kelia Li.
Consider revamping all of the library's brochures using the same template, logo, and format. You might use a different color side-bar for each or change the entry graphic. Otherwise, create a consistent format for the series. It will make your brochures look more professional.
Example: The example on the right shows three brochures from a series developed for Southern Cross University Library. Notice the consistent use of the logo, images, and color.
Tips for Brochures
- Focus on the benefits of the service
- Keep it simple and to the point
- The front panel should grab your attention with a clear title, interesting visual, and brief description.
- The back panel should contain contact information and places to go for more information.
- Use eye catching colors, but be consistent in their use
- When possible, use local photos rather than stock photos
- When using clipart, use a consistent set of images rather than "whatever you can find"
- Look for catchy new ways to present information in the form of a theme or slogan
- Ask multiple people to proofread for you
- Put brochures EVERYWHERE. If you're going to spend the time to make it, share it!
Example: Examine the University of Minnesota Law Library Commitment to Excellence brochure. What makes it effective?
A brochure is an effective tool for informing, instructing and persuading users. The following links are examples from the OhioLink Idea Gallery.
- Capitol University Blackmore Library - Borrower's Guide
- Cleveland State University - Assignment Support Service
- Hocking College Library - One Card Two Libraries
- Ohio State University - Archives Holdings
- Ohio State University - Business Information Sources
- Ohio State University - Special Collections
- Washington State Community College - APA Style Guide
You may think of business cards are your formal, professional calling card. This is true, however the business card format can be used for many other purposes. They are great to advertise programs or to serve as reminders of events.
Today's business cards may even include a QR (quick response) code to access your library website. Notice how the QR code is used in the example on the right (image courtesy benchilada)
Example: The image below is from Calvin T. Ryan Library at the University of Nebraska Kearney.
Flyers and Handouts
Flyers are used for a wide range of purposes from welcoming new students and providing information to announcing special events.
The image on the right is one of the many available free through ProQuest.
The following links are examples from the OhioLink Idea Gallery.
- Cleveland State University - Author Series
- Cleveland State University - Constitution Day
- Lakeland Community College - Course Flier
- Miami University - Welcome Flier
- Roesch Library - Chair Massage
Example: Your backroom is filled with book club sets ready to be used. Post a flier in the fiction section encouraging friends to form their own clubs. The Henderson County Library provided a listing of the options to get the groups started. Check out a PDF example.
News and events coverage is an essential component of publicity.
According to Walters (2004, 139-140), librarians need to seek ways to attract news coverage. She suggests the following ideas:
- Tie in with the news events of the day.
- Tie in with the media on a mutual project.
- Conduct a poll or survey and release a summary of the results.
- Arrange an interview with a celebrity.
- Arrange a testimonial.
- Celebrate an anniversary.
- Tie in with a holiday.
- Stage a debate.
- Appear on radio or television talk shows.
- Write a monthly book review in the local paper.
- Slide shows.
- Host a local contest or tournament.
- Host a contest for senior citizens.
- Create seminars and workshops.
- Special events.
- Special features.
Read Media Map: Charting a Media Relations Strategy for Libraries and Library Organizations from ARL.
Design a media strategy for a library.
Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010, 57) suggest the following topics for these types of news materials:
- Awards for both organization and staff members
- Promotions or acceptance in organizations of both organization and staff members
- Speeches or presentations at national or international events
- Appointments to boards
- New relationships with organizations
- New services or products that solve problems or are important for the community
Example: Once a couple news organizations catch on, your story can sometimes be picked up world wide. Read Dutch Partners Create Unique Library and Score Worldwide Media Coverage by Kathy Dempsey.
Op-Eds and letters to the editor can be effective ways to influence public opinion. Chris Ketesz (2009) suggests that these pieces are an opportunity to respond to attacks or specific situations, turn on your soapbox, and organize your thoughts about important issues facing libraries.
While op-eds are usually longer pieces, letters to the editor are brief, timely works focusing on a specific issue.
Chris Ketesz (2009, 44-45) suggests the following rules for writing opinion pieces:
- Identify your audience
- Move quickly
- Write tight
- Speak with authority
- Get the reader's attention
- Stick to your subject
- Be positive
- Listen to yourself
- Just the facts
Example: Look for letters that can be adapted for your purposes. The American Library Association creates these for many of their marketing campaigns. View a couple samples: Letter Template, Sample Letter
A Press Conference is an event where members of the library staff and their partners share a campaign with the press.
The photo on the right shows a videographer at the grand opening of a library in Christchurch New Zealand.
It's worthwhile to call a press conference if an event is newsworthy and has local, regional and/or national interest and impact. Before calling a meeting, consider whether other approaches such as an informational video or press kit might be as effective.
- Location. If possible, hold the event at your library. All the necessary facilities and equipment should be available.
- Date. Be sure that your event doesn't conflict with other media events.
- Speakers. Invite special guests and dignitaries to say a few words. Also invite a couple representative users impacted by the program.
- Media Advisory. Send a Media Advisory detailing the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the event. Use a follow-up email or phone call to confirm attendance.
- Program. Plan a professional program that highlights the campaign. Consider using a PowerPoint presentation to keep you on track. Use professional signage containing your branding elements such as logo and slogan. Press kits should be available for attendees including a press release with links to media such as audio, video, and print materials. Be sure to provide time for Q&A.
- Follow-Up. Make contact by e-mail or phone with those who attended and those who did not attend. Thanks people for attending. Post a review online.
Example. Read "Serving Non-English Speakers: 2007 Analysis of Library Demographics, Services and Programs". This is a Press Conference Rundown detailing activities and materials for the press conference.
A press release is used to communicate what's happening at the library. An effective press release should connect the activities of the library with newsworthy topics of interest to the local community. If the press release looks too much like an advertisement, it's not likely to be printed. Instead, it should relate information that is valuable to news readers.
When possible, find an individual at the newspaper, radio station, or television station that would be responsible for reporting on community topics, events, or other local topic related to the library. Use their name in your cover letter or email message.
If you live in a small or medium sized community, it's important to get to know a local reporter by name. You're much more likely to get coverage if you make a personal contact. They may not use all your press releases, but they'll work with you if they feel a personal connection.
Think about others that might be interested in this information. A cooking theme might be of interest to the local culinary group. A walk/run to support reading might be of interest to the local fitness center or running club.
If you're reporting on an upcoming event, be sure to send your information to the print-based and online calendars. For instance, the local business association may post upcoming events on their websites.
Get to know the deadlines of newspapers. If you can get to the right person at the right time, your press release is more likely to be used.
Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010, 50-51) suggest that your press release is more likely to get printed if it's newsworthy. Consider the following five factors:
- Timing. Is the story new or is there new information that readers will want to know about?
- Importance. How many people will the story affect?
- Proximity. Is the story locally connected?
- VIPs. Is there a connection with a celebrity, local politician, or community leader?
- Human Interest. Is there personal interest or an engaging story that will attract attention?
Think of a press release as a story. It should be informative, but also engaging. Be sure to avoid long sentences and library jargon. Spell out an acronym the first time you use it. The general public may not know that ALA is the American Library Association.
A press release has a standard format. Check out labelled sample.
Your press release should have the following components:
- ID Block. Write the words PRESS RELEASE across the top of the page.
- Contacts. Include your name, the library name, phone number, address and e-mail.
- Headline. Begin with a catchy headline to attract attention.
- Byline. Include the city, state, date, and words "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE".
- Lead Sentence. Grab attention in the first couple sentences.
- Lead Paragraph. This paragraph should include the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the news item. Keep it under 100 words.
- Additional Paragraphs. Provide background information that would be useful and interesting in an article. Don't use words like "we" or "us". Instead talk about "the event" and "the library". Any lists should be bulleted rather than in paragraph form. When possible, include quotes and keep an active voice.
- Media Elements. If photos or video is available, provide the URL where this information can be accessed. Provide captions for any photos. Consider using a social media tool like Flickr for photos or YouTube for videos.
- Electronic Version. Provide a link to an online version of the story as a text or Word document that can be downloaded.
- Press Kit Information. If additional information is available online, provide the website address.
- Contact Information. Be sure to include your name and contact information. If there are people who might be interviewed for an article such as an author or committee chairperson, also include their information and their willingness to provide additional information.
- Boilerplate. Include a short paragraph describing the organization.
- End. Conclude with the word "END" or "###"
Press releases can be sent by email. However be sure to include the text in the body or the document as well as a text attachment. Use a subject line that informs readers that this is a press release, but also attracts attention.
Get to know the interests and needs of the local press. Are they more likely to publish something that is submitted regularly or an item that focuses on a special event?
Example: According to the Ohio Library Council,
"When Euclid Public Library received minimal response for press releases sent regularly, they switched to sending them only for the most "newsworthy" events -- and improved press response. On the other hand, Washington-Centerville Public Library submits everything from simple releases about programs to full length feature articles. "On average we get 3 hits per week in local papers." Massillon Public Library archives press releases on their web site."
Press releases can be sent to many locations beyond traditional newspapers, consider some of the following outlets:
- Alternative news. Distribute through alternative newspapers, free newspapers, any other free services.
- Blog. Send the press release to all your friends that have blogs. Be sure to put it on our own blog.
- Website. Post your press release in the news section of your website.
- Radio. Be sure to remember you radio stations. Many provide free ads for nonprofits.
Example. The Medical Library Association provides samples of useful documents to get you started. Go to Sample News Release.
Explore examples of press releases:
- National Library Week
- Sample Press Release
- Sample Press Release
- Sample ilovelibraries Press Release
- Share the Thrill Press Release
- The Anatomy of a Press Release
- The Ins and Outs of E-Mail Press Releases
- Press Release Tips from Experts
A media advisory is used when a full press release isn't necessary. Or, to simply inform the media that an event is taking place. This provides the media with a "heads-up" and invites them to come to the event.
Keep in mind that if you invite them, they may come. You need to be ready to inform the participants that the media is there and may want to take photos or interview people.
The format for a media advisory is shorter than a full press release. Consider the following elements:
- ID Block. Enter the words MEDIA ADVISORY across the top of the page.
- Contact. Include the library name, your name, address, phone, and email.
- Advisory. Include who, what, when, where
- Details. Include a short paragraph explaining the purpose of the event and why it's newsworthy. Include the URL of the website if additional information is available online.
- End. Conclude with the word "END" or "###".
Example. The Medical Library Association provides samples of useful documents to get you started. Go to Sample Photo Alert/Media Advisory.
Explore examples of media advisories:
Example: The photo below is from the East San Jose Carnegie Library ribbon cutting.
Fact Sheets are useful in a variety of situations. Provide information about the library including library statistics, staffing, history, departments, services. These one-page sheets should also have a consistent, professional format. These sheets are also handy at the circulation desk.
Example. The Medical Library Association provides a Sample Fact Sheet.
Talking Points are lists of key ideas that can be used when talking with the press, talking with stakeholders, or interacting with potential users.
Example. The American Library Association has a set of talking points to use with the press. Go to Talking Points: Why We Need Libraries.
- eBooks in Public Libraries
- School Library Program Talking Points
- Public Library Talking Points
- Talking Points from ALA
Read Talking Points for Today's Libraries.
Work up a set of talking points for a specific meeting.
Infographics are a great way to present information in a concise way.
Example: The Menomonie Public Library Infographic presents information from their Annual Report in an attractive visual form.
Example: The Robert E. Lee High School Library National Library Week Infographic shares statistics.
- Colorado School Librarians Improving Student Achievement
- How a Book Is Born
- Public Library E-Book Proliferation
- Ray Bradbury Predictions Fulfilled
- Trends of E-Reading
- University of York Library
- US Public Libraries Weather the Storm
- Where Are the Libraries?
For lots of ideas, do a Google Images search for school library infographics, public library infographics, academic library infographics or your area of interest.
A few tools are emerging for creating infographics:
Read an infographic on creating infographics.
Is this a good example of an infographic? What else would you include?
What did you learn from this infographic?
Read Telling Your Story With Visual Power by Alison Circle.
Learn how to use infographics to tell the story of your library.
Try building your own infographic.
Read A Few Rules Making Homemade Infographics from The Atlantic.
Create your own set of rules to follow.
Don't over commit yourself. You don't need to start with a weekly or monthly newsletter. Consider 4-6 issues a year at first. However, try to be consistent. People will begin looking for your newsletter. This is particularly important if you include a calendar.
Example: The Harvard Law School Library produces a regular newsletter. Click the image on the right to read recent issues.
If funding isn't available for a print version, simply convert your newsletter to a PDF format and post it on the library website. Also, send a version through your e-mail list. In addition to the newsletter, write a brief email introduction highlighting the key elements in the issue. Include the URL of the newsletter for people who don't want to view the PDF in their e-mail.
Tips for Newsletters
- Use a consistent format or template
- Invent a memorable title
- Create a consistent masthead with issue number and date
- Provide variety including short and long articles, puzzles, trivia, and memorable quotes.
- Use interesting headlines
- Provide white space
- Use columns, but don't make the font too small to read.
- Publish a PDF version at the library website.
Consider some of the following types of articles:
- Connect to partners. Share information about your great relationships.
- Share new acquisitions.
- Stress underused services.
- Spotlight staff members.
- Build a positive image. Share customer experiences, feedback, and testimonials.
- Show happy people using services.
- Focus on services you provide.
- Remind people you're here to help.
- Stress resources for market segments: things for kids, things for newbies, things for audio lovers
- Feature local authors, artists, and others.
- Connect programs with resources such as books and websites.
- Highlight new services.
- Feature what's underused.
- Provide reviews and suggestions.
- Review successful initiatives.
- Feature staff professional experiences and news
- Excerpt articles about libraries
- Preview upcoming events
- Review the fun of recent events
- Provide a calendar of upcoming events
Example: Academic librarian Rebecca Metzger conducted interviews with faculty regarding information literacy. Her purpose was
"to encourage more faculty to build information literacy into their courses and to collaborate with librarians on information literacy instruction. It’s a lot more powerful for faculty to hear from each other than it is for them to hear from librarians." (Metzger, 2012)
- Bytes & Books from Lafayette College Library
- Friends of the Roxbury Township Public Library
- Pratt Free Library Publications
- Wisconsin State Law Library Newsletter
Reports may sounds like a boring approach to publicity, but they can be a valuable tool for informing stakeholders and library users about the library's work.
Creating an annual report is a wonderful way to reflect on the year. It also provides a way to communicate the value of the library and progress made toward goals.
Think of ways to bring the year alive through charts, graphs, photos, and other visual elements. Make it interesting by providing testimonials, quotes from program participants, and other personal elements. Use a positive, professional writing style.
Your annual report should reflect your best professional work.
Example: The University of Virginia's Annual Reports have won national awards. Download the State of the Library 2013: Alliance, Library 2012: Intrepid, Library 2011: Recombination. Also check out earlier annual reports. They're all beautiful: 2010: Great Expectations, 2009: Ingenuity, 2008: Infinite Possibilities.
Rather than a traditional written report, consider other ways to convey the year's activities. From a video to an infographic, there are lots of options.
Example. DeWitt Wallace Library at Macalester College created visual annual report as a different way to convey information.
Examine examples of annual reports:
- Grand Rapids Public Library, Annual Report
- Miami University Libraries, Annual Report
- Scott Township Public Library 1
- Scott Township Public Library 2
- Springfield Township School Library, Annual Report
State of the Library
Turn your annual report into a "State of the Library" report highlighting on the key issues facing the library. This is a more interesting document to share with the public than your annual report. It also makes a nice companion to the ALA's State of American Libraries Report.
Chris Ketesz (2009) suggests connecting local data and statistics with the information found in the national report. The document can be shared on your website, with the Friends of Library group, and distributed to media outlets.
In addition to a writing document, you can also think of this like the "State of the Union" speech. Consider creating a presentation for the Friends of the Library featuring the key elements of your State of the Library report.
Example. The University of Illinois Librarian provided a State of the Library presentation. You can read the transcript of this presentation.
Many libraries offer workshops, classes, and presentations. However the key is quality. It's not the program that matters, but the enthusiasm and encouragement of the speaker, quality of the materials, and positive atmosphere of the library environment.
Valerie Aggerbeck knows first-hand the importance of positive buzz about programs (2012, 12),
"I have overheard students say they come to our presentations not because of the ads we place in the law school newsletter or on our wide-screen video monitor outside the library but because they know the librarian who is presenting and happened to find out about the program via an informal conversation with that librarian.
When you take the time to build a relationship with a particular patron, you get asked to come to classes, teach, and work on projects again and again. People get to know your work, they know they can count on you, and they feel comfortable approaching you with a variety of requests."
You don't need to do all the work yourself. Involve students and volunteers. Make connections with vendors for packaged presentation materials.
"Account development manager, Brie Betz (Elsevier), librarian Stephanie Willen Brown (University of Connecticut, Storrs), and Deb Barberi, one of two Student Ambassador graduate students at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, worked together to promote the use of Scopus and Web of Science, large abstract and citation databases, to graduate students on campus. The publisher paid stipends for the Student Ambassadors (SAms) and provided training and instructional and marketing materials. The librarian assisted with training and orientation and provided oversight of the program. The SAms marketed the instruction sessions and presented the use of Scopus and Web of Science to their graduate student peers." – Betz, 2009
The Riverside County law Library created a Legal Research course to better serve its clients. Librarians noted the
"lack of legal research skills among practicing lawyers and noted lack of legal research skills among practicing lawyers and requests by other agencies including the County Counsel. The three part course provides mandatory continuing legal education credits, which is another benefit to the legal community. The course has been positively received, and there are plans to offer it every quarter to reach a larger audience, including paralegals."
The photo below shows participants in a workshop at the Mississippi State Univerisity Library.
From bulletin boards to computer kiosks, there are endless ways to attract attention.
Bulletin Boards and Wall Displays
Build interactive wall displays that involve all library users or those involved in a particular program
Example: The Ice Cream Scoop Count at Lansing Public Library (shown on right) involves young people in reporting how many books they read or were read to them. The number was placed on a scoop and added to the wall.
For ideas, go to Kathy Schrock's Bulletin Board Links.
You can find lots of images of bulletin boards you can use for inspiration such as Barbra Hesson's Blog.
Or search Flickr for library bulletin boards.
Also check out examples from Pinterest.
Increasingly, digital still and video screens are being used in libraries. From stand-along kiosks to photoframes, there are many types of digital presentations that can be used to display information. Set up self-running kiosks in high traffic areas such as the entrance to the library or the circulation desk area.
Read Digital Picture Frames as Informational Signs.
Brainstorm content that could be placed on a digital screen.
In addition to signs, display panels are an increasingly popular tool.
Example. Go to Bowling Green State University to see special collection signage.
From the tops of bookcases to glass cases and decorated tables, use displays to draw attention to exciting things that are happening in the library. Make hidden resources like electronic databases and valuable historical documents visual through highlighting what's available. Spotlight staff, feature special events, or hold contests using a bulletin board to share information. You don't need to do all the work yourself.
If wall space is a problem, use an easel or movable whiteboard to separate off an area of the room.
Consider placing displays outside the library near the cafeteria, teacher's lounge, or break room.
In Back to the Future: Revisiting Library Display Cases, Tawnya Plumb (2010) notes that the the library display case is a great way to advertise resources, educate users, and promote the library community. She suggests that librarians need to re-spark their interest in library displays.
First, she suggests using craft themes such as "legal patchwork" with quilt visuals or a fish tank cutout for a "water and law" theme. Second, embracing traditions is recommended. Use existing events such as National Library Week, institutional traditions, or historical theme as an opportunity for a display. Third, share photos in displays with themes like "family law" or "pet law". Fourth, delve into the literature with movie or book themes. Fifth, create a connection between the display and online activities. Finally, keep a file of ideas for the future.
If you don't have the time or energy to commit to creating displays, consider simple tools to make your life easier:
- Use calendars. Buy calendars half-price after the new year and use the interesting images. Develop the display around the calendar topics you purchased.
- Focus on events. Use an events calendar that lists special months and create displays around these topics. From fire prevention to banned books, there's always a special event to highlight.
- Involve the community. Use the bulletin board as a connection to the community. Let members of different organizations feature their projects. This is a great way to build partnerships.
- Get kids involved. Young people love to decorate. Provide the theme and ask kids to create the artwork for the display.
- Use colored cloth to cover bulletin boards, tables, and cases. The color will draw attention to the display. When appropriate, use patterned fabric related to a particular theme such as oceans, St. Patricks Day, or animals.
- Rather than traditional signs, consider characters with speech bubbles, folded tent signs, words in shapes or hanging descriptions.
- Make your display interactive with folded signs (question inside, answer outside).
- Use a collection of books such as a series.
Involve staff in the development of displays.
Example. Staff Picks an easy display involves sharing staff selections. When the most popular approach focuses on selecting books in a particular category such as science fiction, horror, or romances. Another approach is to select less visible works such as favorite audio books, databases, or illustrators. The photo on the right shows a "best book" display from the Dayton Metro Library. The display also included booklist fliers: one and two.
Connect books with movies, characters, or other outside resources.
Example. A high school created a display called Reading Hollywood to connect films with written works of literature. Book/movies included A Beautiful Mind, The Notebook, Spiderman, and Lord of the Rings. They found that teens prefer to learn about new releases. Find ideas at Based on the Book.
Example. At Lansing Public Library the dressed a mannequin in "Dummies" book covers (see an image on the right)
Example. You don't need a fancy display case to create a display. At Ohio State University at Marion Technical College, a full-sized mannequin is used as part of a movable display to catch the attention of users.. Check out photos from Monique mannequin's history section and career area focus.
Displays don't need to be physical. Online displays are another way to reach users.
Example. The Houston Public Library provides a virtual book display featuring books for their programs.
Do a Google search for pinterest.com along with words like library displays or library spaces and you can collect lots of great ideas.
From exhibits of local work to large traveling exhibits, use exhibitions as a way to promote areas of your collection, feature topics of interest, and draw people into your library.
Traveling exhibits are a great way to feature resources of your library. A traveling exhibit is a temporary exhibition that brings objects related to a topic together as one collection to tell a scientific, historical, or cultural story. These traveling exhibits are often sponsored by governments, societies, or museums.
Many services provide traveling exhibits that can be woven into related marketing campaigns. They can sometimes draw in local and regional residents who might not normally come to the library. In addition to national services, many state and local societies and museums sponsor traveling exhibits.
- American Museum of Natural History
- NASA Traveling Exhibits - Glenn Research Center, Marshall, Langley, Johnson
- National Archives Traveling Exhibits
- Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service
- U.S. National Library of Medicine Traveling Exhibits
Example: At the Cal Poly Library, they welcomed back students with a "Welcome Mustangs" poster at their website. Nice the promotional techniques including "voted best study spot" and the slogan "let your journey begin." The image on the right is part of their Summer Orientation Program.
In 1979, the American Library Association's READ poster series began. The series is based on a simple idea and an appealing message. It uses celebrities to promote reading.
Go to the ALA READ Posters Flickr page to see lots of READ poster examples.
The images below from the American Library Association show recent official READ posters.
Steve Zalusky (2009, 56) suggest the following ideas for using the READ program:
- Put librarians and teachers on READ posters to promote the new school year
- Create bookmarks, buttons, pins, or name tags
- Get local politicians to pose for READ posters
- Use local celebrities
- Feature members of your community
- Feature super readers
In Harness a Celebrity Brand and Create Effective Print Public Service Announcements, Mark Gould (2009) provides guidelines for creating public service announcement posters:
- Identify a celebrity - mayor, community leader, former celebrity resident
- Organize a photo shoot.
- Be creative
- Ask the local media to publish the PSA poster
Example: Your celebrities don't need to be movie starts. Examine Celebrity Posters featuring university alumni.
Example: Read the news item featuring the University of California Santa Cruz University Library READ Campaign. Notice the people featured in the campaign.
When possible, develop a series. This provides multiple opportunities for involvement. Use a consistent font, style, and graphics for your services.
Example: Examine a poster from an author series featuring Gennifer Choldenko.
Example: The University of Michigan Law School Library developed posters highlighting services. Click the image on the right for more information about this campaign.
Signage is a publicity tool you can use every day. Quality signs are an essential way of letting users know about resources and services. Whether it's labeling shelves by both number and topic or reminding people that help is available, signs are vital.
Go to Library Signs and explore some interesting signs.
In her article The Signs They Are A-Changin', Melissa Serfass (2012), asks the question "when is the last time you took a serious look at your library signage"? Serfass stresses the importance of using signage as a marketing tool. Rather than focusing on prohibited behavior, she suggests taking a positive approach such as "welcome to the quiet zone... talk out there, think in here." She stresses the flexibility of digital signage for providing multiple information items, showing current schedules, and highlighting special events.
Serfass also provides some guidelines for effective sign design:
- Aim for consistency
- Use large type
- Use san serif or simply serif fonts
- Use consistent terms
- Don't overuse signs
- Place signs at decision points
Video has become an increasingly popular tool in publicity. From instructional videos to library tours, think about ways that the power of sounds, visuals, and movement can be combined.
Video can be an effective way to communicate news. While you could upload your news feature to YouTube, also consider other news agencies.
Example: The CNN iReporter website provides space and also the chance to be featured on national television. Their assignment section provides specific guidelines if you want to be on national televisions. If you need help, use the CNN iReport Toolkit for ideas. Explore a couple examples: Grand Opening, Online Library, To see examples, search Google site:ireport.cnn.com library
Public Service Announcements are an effective way to address the public. Check with your local television station to see if your announcement can be aired on television. If not, it can be shared other ways such as at your website. Also see if other local websites will share your PSA.
Explore some examples. Do a YouTube search for Library PSA and you'll find lots of them to explore.
- Baby Come Back
- Calgary Public Library
- Discover Your Library
- Julie Andrews
- Library Funding: PSA 1, PSA 2
- Literary Device
- Seattle Public Library
Informational Videos are a great way to excite users. YouTube is filled with examples. The ilovelibraries website has listed some of their favorite videos. Use these to inspire your own work.
Creating a YouTube channel is a great way to store and organize your videos.
- Impressions from HarperCollegeLibrary
- Library Welcome Video from Williams College Library
- Thrall & Zorga in.. Let's Ask a Librarian from YCPlibrary
- Tour The Library from HarperCollegeLibrary
- What are Databases? from YCPlibrary
Instructional Videos are an effective ways to teach skills associated with resources and services.
Example: The NC State University Library has animated tutorials for people to learn various skills in library uses.
Read Martin, Coleen Meyers (2012). One-minute video: marketing your library to faculty. Reference Service Review, 40(4), 589-600.
Williams, Heather & Peters, Ann (2012). And that's how I connect to MY library: How a 42-second promotion video helped to launch the UTSA libraries' new summon mobile application. The Reference Librarian, 53, 322-325.
When you think of publicity, it's easy to overlook audio. However, sound can be a powerful tool.
Public Service Announcements are a great, free way to share information about the library on radio. Check with your local or state public radio station about the process of getting your PSA aired. They may also read press releases if they are worded in a public service way.
Explore some examples:
Podcasts are audio programs that can be streamed online or downloaded to many types of devices.
Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010) suggest the following topics for podcasts:
- Series. Focus on a topic and create a series of podcasts.
- Commentary, documentary, infomercial
- Distilling information
- Case studies
- Holistic programming
- Metadata - top ten lists
- Magazine style
- Offer help
- Grow - connect to other fields
- Find people with great ideas and promote them
- Produce audio books
- Think beyond your own show and be a guest
Example: Go to the Pratt Library Podcasts. Notice how audio is used.
Example: The ABC Book Reviews by Beth and Cari are part of a reading promotion from the Twinsburg Public Library. The podcasts are produced to encourage reading and interests in books.
For lots of examples, go to the LibSuccess Podcasting page.
The library's website is one of the most effective ways to publicize events.
Create a web page for your promotion. This may be a product, resource, service, or other type of page. Feature the promotion on this page and include links to the press kit and other promotional materials. Encourage others to share the promotional materials on their website and blogs. Encourage readers to print out flyers and share them with their friends. Use this page as your marketing campaign home. In this way you don't need to duplicate your materials in multiple location. Link from your blog, Facebook, Twitter, and other places to this "home base" page.
Consider some of the following ideas:
- Banners. Rotate banners across the top or middle of your website featuring current promotions.
- Digital Documents. Digitize your print materials including flyers, handouts, bookmarks, and other materials. Provide these promotional materials on your promotion page.
- Web Posters. Create a small version of your poster for the web. Something around 300 high pixels works well. Use this on pages related to your promotion. The poster would link back to the web page for the campaign.
- News Page. Be sure the news page is updated with a press kit related to the campaign including press releases, digital documents, photographs, and other items to encourage participation.
- Instructional Pages. In addition to informational and persuasive aspects of the promotion, consider educational and instructional materials that might help patrons use the service.
Example: Your marketing campaign might include a banner on the entry page that rotates with other current events. Clicking on this banner takes you to the campaign home page. Web posters featuring the campaign can also be found on related pages. For a campaign focusing on family history, the poster may be found on the genealogy resources page, events page, subject guide for family history, and other areas.
When the campaign is done, simply take down the banners and web posters. However leave the campaign page. Change the page to include a "thanks for participating" note and add photographs highlighting the success of the event. Invite people to participate in the next library promotion.
For social media to be effective, users need to know that you have a Facebook page, Flickr Group, or YouTube channel. You may need to market these services as well as use the social media site to market other services.
Read Lester PL Uses Flickr and Other Social Networks to Build Community by Jeff Dawson.
Create a list of social networks you might use in the library. How would each be used?
General Social Networks
Facebook won the social network wars a few years ago. For the largest impact, begin with a Facebook page for your library.
Example: The Roesch Library uses facebook tabletents to remind users to LIKE their Facebook page. The page is folded in half to form a triangle on the table.
Example: The Chicago Public Library hosted a "Once in a Blue Moon" amnesty program. The news was shared on Facebook. Check out the entry. Notice all the comments.
It's useful to provide a place on your website where users can easily see the social media options available.
Example: Social Media at Houston Public Library provides an overview of the services available.
To learn more about using Facebook, check out the Public Relations section of this course.
While Facebook is the most popular, there are many other social networks that have applications in libraries. For instance, Pinterest is growing in popularity. This tool can be used to promote collections, share new books, and post photos from events.
Example: Go to Darien Public Library's Pinterest page. Notice how it's organized.
Example: Many libraries are using Pinterest to share historical images. Go to New York Public Library Mid-Manhattan Cart and Picture Collections, Millikin University History and the Library of Congress.
Check out some other examples
- California State Library
- Library of Congress
- New York Public Library
- Sacramento Public Library
- Saint Mary's College Library
- San Francisco Public Library
- Somer Library
- Topeka Library
- Westerville Library
Flickr is the most popular of social photo sharing sites. One advantage of Flickr is that they use a Creative Commons licensing approach for photos. If you post photos for the press, they can be labeled for use by news agencies and others.
Do a search in Flickr for libraries and you'll find lots to explore like the Brighton District Library.
Create a group for your library. Then, establish sets for collections related to particular events or topics. Some ideas include:
- Press photos
- History of the Library
- Tour of the Library
- Public domain
- Local History
- Conferences and workshops
- Special Events and Festivals
- Author Visits
- New Products and Services
- Ceremonies or Awards
Establish a standard set of tag and use them when you identify individual photos. Also, encourage community members to tag their photos with the library's group name.
Before using Flickr be sure to have a photo policy in place for your library.
Create an account and a channel for your library. Videos are easy to upload. Descriptions and tags can be added for access by search engines.
Example: Go to the Allen County Public Library YouTube channel. Notice the wide range of videos available and how they are categorized. Also notice the links to their various blogs.
In addition to uploading your own videos, you can also create a playlist of favorites from other websites.
Example: During tax season you might link to videos from the IRS government channel.
Explore some of the following YouTube Channels:
- Allen County Public Library
- Arizona State University Library Channel
- Duke University Libraries
- Edmonton Public Library
- New Canaan High School Library
- New York Public Library
- Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
- Toronto Public Library
- Wheaton High School Library
- Wright State University Libraries
- University of Florida Libraries
Read Tip: Create an Effective Social Media Plan.
Create a plan for using social media in your library for marketing purposes.
Blogs and microblogs are a great way to keep in touch with current and potential users. They are a wonderful forum for Word of Mouth Marketing.
Blogs are web logs that arrange postings (i.e., text, graphics, audio, video entries) in reverse chronological order. Generally a single author or team of authors post messages and encourage people to add comments. Blogs are a one-to-many type of communication space. They're a great place to journal, log ideas, and gather reactions.
Blogs are a way to provide connect to books with readers, provide current information to customers, and promote opportunities for interaction, comments, and conversation. Many libraries have a general blog along with special interest blogs.
General Blog. Covering activities of the entire library, a general blog is a great way to keep in touch will all online patrons.
Example: When books are being made into movies, suggest that people watch the trailer and read the book before the movie comes out. Watch the Life of Pi trailer.
Special Interest Blog. Geared to a particular market segment, the special interest blog are focused on particular topics, themes, interests, or services.
Example: Manga club members might post reviews on a manga blog.
Simply having a blog available doesn't ensure that people will use it. Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010) suggest seven ways to promote a blog:
- Add the link to your e-mail signature.
- Add the link to your business card.
- Create links on different pages throughout the website.
- Put the blog on the front page of the library's website.
- Begin a conversation at someone else's blog and leave a comment with a link to your blog.
- Leave comments about news article that relate to the blog.
- Cross-market with your social media sites.
While some libraries open their blogs to comments, others leave them closed. Spam is the biggest problem with blog comment systems. It's important to moderate comments to be sure that "junk ads don't clog up the postings. However if someone is willing to moderate, the interaction that comments allow can greatly enhance the blog experience. Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010) suggest the following guidelines for commenting:
- Set clear guidelines for what will and will not be tolerated.
- Do not allow anonymous posts.
- Approve comments before posting.
- When a complaint is posted, respond immediately.
- Reserve the right to refuse or remove any comments that do not comply with your guidelines.
- ALA Blogs - locate blogs from various organizations within ALA
- Library of Congress Blogs
- Public Librarians
- School Technology and Libraries
- AASL Blog
- Apps in Education
- Blue Skunk Blog
- Free Technology for Teachers
- Larry Ferlazzo's Blog
- NeverEndingSearch Blog
- School Library Monthly
- The Unquiet Librarian
- Go to School Library Journal and look under the pull down menu called BLOGS
- Special Libraries and others
Learn more about Blogs in Libraries at High Tech Learning.
Twitter is the most popular and well-known of microblogging services. The services allows users to update their status with short messages up to 140 characters. TinyURLs are often provided to extend the conversation or provide additional information. They're an instant way to communicate with current library users.
Dowd, Engeliste, and Silberman (2010, 91) suggestion the following Tweet ideas:
- new materials
- legislative issues affecting libraries
- top links for popular topics
- best reference questions
- local news
- backchannel to live programs
- quotes of the day
- interesting facts
- backchannel during conferences
- comments from customers
Read Why and How to Use Blogs to Promote Your Library's Services by Darlene Fichter and Tip: Tweeting at a Live Event.
Many libraries use Twitter as a marketing tool. Check out some of the libraries with the most followers:
- Austin Public Library
- Cincinnati Library
- Columbus Metropolitan Library
- Grand Rapids Public Library
- Hennepin City Library
- Houston Public Library
- New York Public Library
- Riverside Law Library
Example: Twitter was used to announce a fun lunchtime program for seniors. When readers click the link, they are taken to a registration form for this event.
Read Making Twitter Word: A Guide for Uninitiated, the Skeptical, and the Pragmatic by Valerie Forrestal.
Use the following resources to learn more about using Twitter for Marketing:
- 5 Steps to Build a Twitter Marketing Strategy
- 10 Ways Twitter will Make You a Better Employee, Better at Your Job and Benefit Your Library
- How to use Twitter for Marketing & PR
Learn more about microblogs at High Tech Learning.
Most library users have a mobile phone and many have text service and web access.
Read Is Mobile Marketing Right for Your Organization by Nancy Dowd in The Reference Librarian (2010).
Read Will They Come? Get Out the Word about Going Mobile by Maura Keating in The Reference Librarian (2010).
Mobile apps are a popular way to engage mobile technology users with library resources and services.
Instructional materials can be useful when downloading or installing mobile apps.
Example: Pratt Library provides a page with features and directions for using the library mobile app.
Location services such as Foursquare and Yelp are popular. They allow users to record their location, find nearby venues, and locate friends. They can also add photos and comments about locations. Think of these services as giant suggestion boxes. Be sure to track and react to comments as needed.
The idea is to share places you're visiting and share these with friends. Think about ways to involve patrons in sharing library related activities and locations.
It's easy to get started:
- Sign Up. Get an account and add your library as a place. First be sure that someone hasn't already created an entry.
- Tag It. Establish tags related to your library.
- Add Content. Add photos, tips, to do lists and other stuff to spice up your entry.
- Hold Events. Plan events and provide prizes for people who check in.
- Connect. Connect foursquare with your other social networks and tools.
Foursquare is popular as a social networking, gaming tool, and location checker.
Example: Go to the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library foursquare page.
Check out library foursquare pages:
Yelp is gaining in popularity and is particularly popular with reviewers:
Example: Go to the UCSD Biomedical Library. Notice the photos and reviews.
Check out libraries on Yelp:
- Chicago Libraries
- Denver Libraries
- Indianapolis Libraries
- Los Angeles Libraries
- San Francisco Libraries
Texting is a quick way to convey a message. However it can also be annoying if too many "junk" texts are received.
Use texting for focused services and activities such as contests, voting, and on-demand updates such as reserves notifications.
Read Luo, Lili (2014). Text a librarian: a look from the user perspective. Reference Services Review, 42(1), 34-51.
Think about the role of texting in library services and marketing.
Many devices now allow quick access to information. QR codes and URL shorteners are two useful tools in providing quick access to online information from an device with access to the Internet.
A QR Code (Quick Response Code) is a matrix barcode that can be read by a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or any other device with a camera and QR software.
Scanning the code may take the user to a website, show an image, display a document, call a phone number, send an email, vote in a survey or almost any other online activity you can imagine.
The image of the QR code on the right takes the user to this course website.
Read one of the following articles:
Tag, You're It! Using QR Codes to Promote Library Services by Beatrice Pulliam and Chris Landry (2010) in The Reference Librarian.
Hampton, Dantrea, Peach, Amanda & Rawlins, Benjamin (2012). Extending library services with QR codes. The Reference Librarian, 53, 403-414.
Kane, Danielle & Schneidewind (2011). QR Codes as finding aides: linking electronic and print library resource. Public Services Quarterly, 7, 111-124.
Brainstorm ways to use QR codes in your library.
Example: Boise State University Library is using QR codes throughout their library program including cards, brochures, posters, and on their website.
Example: Tape QR codes all over the place in your library from the bathroom stalls to the area above the water fountain. They're like a mystery to be solved. Everyone wants to scan them! Or, place them in locations around campus or town.
Example: Use a QR code to "give away" free book that are already in the public domain like Project Gutenberg. Remember to include audio books from Librivox.
Read the Darling Librarian QR Code Poster for lots of ideas.
Brainstorm ways you could use QR codes in a promotional activity.
To create a QR code, go to QR Stuff. Select the data type, enter the URL or content, and choose a color. Then, download the QR code or copy the image.
Explore how QR Codes are being used in libraries:
Not everyone has access to a QR code reader. When creating any materials with QR codes, it's a good idea to also include a short URL if the code is designed to go to a website. In this way, people can participate even if they don't have a device with a QR code reader. They simply need to type in the URL into any web browser.
A URL shortener works by providing a shortcut to a URL. Rather than typing a long URL, the person types the shortened version to go to a site. These are particularly useful for long URLs such as permanent links in databases.
The image on the right shows the QR code with a shortened URL after it.
Learn more about Apps, QR Codes, and URL Shorteners at High Tech Learning.
New technologies and approaches are constantly being introduced. Many of these have applications to libraries and marketing.
A flash mob involves a group of people assembling for a brief time in a specific location to perform a specific task (i.e., skit, song, dance). The group then immediately disperses as if nothing unusual occurred. Participants are generally notified of the event through a mass e-mail or text message.
As part of a teen program titled "Zombie Takeover Day", a zombie flash mob was held in the Atrium of the Indianapolis Central Library. In addition to the flash mob, participants learned about zombie dress and makeup as well as movie, books, and other materials. The focus was also on surviving a zombie apocalypse. Check it out on YouTube.
Flash mobs are a fun library activity to raise awareness, share an artistic performance, or entertain a crowd. They range from poetry readings and Christmas caroling to re-enactments and read-ins.
Watch the College Library Flash Mob at UW Madison.
How could you develop a flash mob project that would focus on a particular marketing strategy?
YouTube has lots of examples. For more, just search for library flash mob.
- College Library Flash Mob
- Dance This Flash Mob & Seattle Library
- Flash Mob does Marian the Librarian
- Innisfil Public Library Flash Mob
- JMC East Campus Library Flash Mob
- UNC Chapel Hill UL Flash Mob
- UV Flashmob Library Rave
Ideas for flash mobs:
- Everyone dresses as a book character
- Everyone wears a library-oriented T-shirt
- Everyone comes together for short poetry readings
- Everyone sings a library song
- Everyone listens to a song on their headphones and dances silently in the middle of the library
Beyond your general content, you'll also want to think about ways to target your market segment. In other word, how do you match website content, news, and promotional materials to specific audiences? Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) helps focus on your target audience.
First described by Hans Peter Luhn in the 1950s, the practice of Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) involves conducting regular searches of library resources to find materials that meet the needs of particular market segments. Then, organizing and disseminating that information in a meaningful way and making the information easily accessible.
Today, SDI includes many ways to alert patrons of new content including RSS feeds, email, voice mail, and text messaging.
Example: Many libraries use online tools such as LibGuides to organize subject guides that meet the needs of specific groups. These subject guides can then be accessed through RSS feeds.
Go to LibGuides and do a search for the library type of your choice. Notice how information is organized and RSS feeds are provided.
An RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed is the most popular format for web feeds. A web feed is an information format used to distribute frequently updated content to subscribers such as news, articles, blog entries, podcast entries, and other web-based content.
"RSS technology is growing in popularity among libraries as a way to distribute, or syndicate, information about new electronic resources and Web content to users. "Really Simple Syndication" is an effective communication tool for libraries because it supplies the user with to up- to-date links and announcements on the library Web site after only one initial setup function. RSS does not require the user to make frequent visits to the library Web site for updated information; rather, it gathers content from any Web sites designated by the user, and delivers news to the users in an aggregated format. The benefits of RSS are that the software to setup the service is often free for downloading and many users are already familiar with the application. The "orange button" now present on so many commercial Web sites ranging from news sites to blogs is gaining a presence on library Websites." – Armstrong, 2007
From press releases to digital versions of promotional posters, be sure these items end up on an RSS feed so your users will see them.
Many catalogs generator RSS feeds including Alexandrie, Endeavor, EOSi, Ex Libris, Follett, GEAC, Innovative, Insights Informatics, Koha, Polaris, SirsiDynix, and the Library Corporation. Many calendars generate events RSS feeds.
Use the following steps to ensure that content is accessible through an RSS feed.
- Create an RSS feed for any section your website that is updated regularly. Most content management systems and blog software have this option available.
- Be sure an orange RSS feed button is clearly shown on the page with a link to the RSS feed.
- Create a page at your website that provides a master list of RSS feeds so people can see what's available and quickly subscribe.
Example: The Hennepin County Library has a master list of all their RSS feeds.
- Create a page with the newest website content using your own feeds.
Example: Duke University Libraries aggregates their news on a page called News.
- Encourage customers to use a news aggregator like Feedly to organize and view their RSS feeds.
Example: The Cincinnati Library provides a nice introduction to RSS feeds for library users.
Example: Go to the Indianapolis Public Library News & Announcements page. Scroll down the page and notice the RSS feeds.
Explore examples of RSS feeds at libraries:
- Baylor Library
- Cambridge Libraries
- Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
- Kansas City Public Library
- Library of Congress
For lots of ideas, go to the RSS4Lib blog.
Learn more about RSS feeds at High Tech Learning.
Rather than sending materials to everyone, direct marketing focuses materials to specific audiences. Since it's wise to focus on a market segment, this approach makes sense.
Some people think of direct mailings as "junk mail". However they can actually be a valuable form of communication. It's only junk if the customer doesn't see the value in the mailing. The page should quickly provide information about the library, the service, and why it's important to take action. If possible, provide an incentive in the form of a coupon or raffle ticket. If you expect a reply, be sure to provide a tear-off sheet so readers can keep the rest of the sheet as a reminder.
If you use an envelope be sure to include your library's name, logo, and slogan to encourage people to open the letter. Make it look as personal as possible.
Direct marketing includes communications such as traditional mailings, tele-marketing, e-mail, and fax messages.
Email has become a popular was to distribute information. The key is subdividing the email list into targeted groups with specific interests. Not all marketing campaign materials need to go to all patrons. Focus mailings on specific groups.
Example: Each month a library staff member identified near members of the community and send a "Welcome packet" through the mail that includes information about library cards, the library calendar, a newsletter, and a services brochure.
Example: The Massillon Public Library designed a special flier for kids in their Tots, Tales, and Treats outreach program (Ohio Library Council).
Tools like MailChimp make sending out mass emails easy.
When people search for your library, you want to be sure that your online materials show in the search engines.
Whenever you create a web page, be sure that the metadata includes information for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In other words, when people conduct a web search you want your article to come up on a list.
Use the following list for ideas:
- Title. Your title should appear in two places. First, be sure it's coded into the HTML document and appears in the bar in the web browser. Second, it should appear near the top of the page.
- Article. Keywords should appear in the text of the article. These will be picked up by search engines.
- Meta Tags. When creating web pages, be sure to include meta tags including keywords and description. These are essential because they are used by automated web bots to identify your page.
- Links. Links are important because search engines keep track of who links to who.
- Registration. When creating web pages be sure the Register your library website with Google. When you add new sections, re-register to ensure that the new content has been inventoried. Go to Submit Your Content.
- Tools. Webmasters can use Google's Webmaster Tools to learn more about creating connections with Google.
Although there are companies you can pay to place your website in search engines, it's easiest to do it yourself.
A Press Kit is a print packet or online page containing factual information for the new media to help reporters writing stories.
Go to ALA's Press Kit Center. Examine their kits.
Your library should have a standard press kit ready in case the library is contacted. A web page version is the easiest approach because it can provide instant information. Many library websites don't have all the components of a press kit. Instead, they simply have a new page. To find examples, try a Google search for your library type and add the word press or media.
Elements typically found in a press kit include:
- Fact sheets. Provide information about the library including library statistics, staffing, history, departments, services. These one-page sheets should also have a consistent, professional format. These sheets are also handy at the circulation desk.
- Staff information. Provide information about staff members and contact information.
- Press releases. Include recent press releases and media advisory documents.
- Photos. Include a set of photos that includes exterior shots, interior shots, images with and without people, images showing services, images showing events.
- Logos. Include information about use of the library logo and other general information.
- Publicity information. Include fliers, handouts, and other visuals from recent media campaigns.
Example: The Texas Tech University Library has a Media Kit page containing these elements. Explore other examples. Look for those items that it contains and those that are missing:
- Boise Public Library
- Brooklyn Public Library
- Denver Public Library
- Jefferson County Public Library
- NYPL Media Center
- University of Chicago Library
Press kits can also be designed for specific marketing campaigns. These kits would include background information, but also documents related to the specific marketing campaign. This kit may also inquiry a query letter highlighting the specific campaign.
Example. The Medical Library Association provides samples of useful documents to get you started:
- Sample Newspaper Query/Pitch Letter
- Sample Broadcast Query/Pitch Letter
- Sample News Release
- Sample Photo Alert/Media Advisory
- Sample Fact Sheet
- Sample Photo Caption
Go to Worksheet 11: Promotion by Fisher and Pride (2006).
Adapt this worksheet for your marketing plan.
Many library websites contain a Press Room or Media page.
Example. The Sacramento Public Library's Press Room page contains press releases and news coverages.
Looking for more ideas?
SKIM Chapter 8 of Lucas-Alfieri, Debra (2015). Marketing the 21st Century Library: The Time is Now. Chandos Publishing.
Aggerbeck, Valerie R. (July 2012). Marketing through the Ordinary and the Extraordinary. AALL Spectrum, 9-11.
Alman, Susan W. (2007). Crash Course in Marketing for Libraries. Libraries Unlimited.
Almquist, Sharon (2011). Distributed Learning and Virtual Librarianship. ABC-CLIO.
Armstrong, Kim (2007). Using RSS feeds to alert users to electronic resources. The Serials Librarian, 53(3), 183-191.
Avery, Beth Fuseler, Docherty, Karen J., & Lindbloom, Mary-Carol (2011). Collaborative marketing for virtual reference: the my info quest experience. Reference Librarian, 52(1/2), 36-46.
Blowers, Helene & Bryan, Robin (2004). Weaving a Library Web: A Guide to Developing Children's Websites, ALA.
Bruner, Karen (2010). Promoting Excellence.
Carson, Bryan (2008). Laws for Using Photos You Take at Your Library. Information Today.
Dempsey, Kathy (2009). The Accidental Library Marketer. Information Today: Medford, New Jersey.
Dowd, Nancy (2010). Is mobile marketing right for your organization? Reference Librarian, 52(1/2), 166-177. Available: http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy2.ulib.iupui.edu/...
Dowd, Nancy, Evangeliste, Mary, & Silberman, Jonathan (2010). Bite-Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Over-worked Librarian. ALA Editions.
Gould, Mark (ed) (2009). The Library PR Handbook. ALA Editions.
Handley, Ann, Chapman, C.C. (2010). Content Rules. Wiley.
Keating, Maura (2011). Will they come? Get out the word about going mobile. Reference Librarian, 52(1/2), 20-26.
Kern, Alex & Milliken, Janice (2012). QR Codes: Helping Users Access Content. AALL Spectrum, 16(5).
Ketesz, Chris (2009). Using op-eds, letters to the editor, and state of the library reports to inform public debate. In Mark Gould (ed), The Library PR Handbook, ALA Editions, 43-52.
Lovelock, Christopher & Wirtz, Jochen (2010). Service Marketing. 7th edition. Prentice Hall.
Otto, Elizabeth (2012). Building a Permission-based Email List. Marketing Library Services.
Mathews, Brian (2009). Marketing Today’s Academic Library. ALA Editions.
Plumb, Tawnya (July 2010). Back to the Future: Revisiting Library Display Cases. AALL Spectrum, 10-11.
Pulliam, Beatrice; Landry, Chris (2011). Tag, you’re it. Using QR codes to promote library services. Reference Librarian, 52(1/2), 68-74.
Scott, David Meerman (2011). Web-based communications to reach buyers directly. The New Rules of Marketing & PR (third edition). Wiley, 35-134.
Serfass, Melissa (April 2012). The Signs They Are A-Changin'. AALL Spectrum, 5-6.
Siess, Judith (2003). The Visible Librarian. ALA Editions.
Vogt-O'Conner, Diane (2006). Legal and Ethical Issues of Ownership, Access, and Usage. In Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler & Diane Vogt-O'Connor (eds), Photographs: Archival Care and Management, Society of American Archivists.
Walters, Suzanne (2004). Library Marketing that Works! Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Wan, Gang (Oct-Dec 2011). How academic libraries research users on Facebook. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 18(4), 319-332.
Washburn, Bruce. (January/February, 2011). Library Mobile Applications: What Counts as Success? Information Outlook, 15,1 (January/February). Pre-print available online at: http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/library/2011/washburn-io.pdf
Woodward, Jeannette (2009). Creating the Customer-Driven Academic Library. ALA Editions.
Zalucky, Steve (2009). Reading out to the community with the READ program. In Mark Gould (ed.), The Library PR Handbook. ALA Editions.