Marketing can be an uncomfortable challenge when it comes to academic libraries. We ideally want our services and the importance of our libraries to academia speaking for themselves. However, we must publicize our services and collections effectively in order for users to not only know what we can offer, but why it matters.
While at the SLA conference last week, I attended a talk by Mary Ellen Bates (Bates Information Services Inc.) called “Marketing for the Rest of Us: A Guide for Introverts”. Perhaps the target audience was the shy and timid librarian, but I found the session useful for anyone in outreach and marketing of libraries. Here are five key points I took away from the talk:
1. When talking up services, focus on the benefits of those services. A list of services does nott convey how they can help the researcher. For example, say “We help find better and more results than Google” as opposed to “We help with online research”. Similarly, “We provide information analysis” is better than “We get you search results”. These phrases are not only catchier but describe why our services are useful.
2. Promote your library and services, but beware of being on the defensive. Avoid saying things like ” The web is not reliable” or “You can’t trust everything on the Internet” True statements? Perhaps, but take the opportunity to spin your promotion into a positive message: “We go deeper than most internet search engines and bring you analysis you can use.”
3. Use vignettes and stories to highlight your library. People relate to hearing case stories and not just “things we offer.” Use the rule of three: Describe a sample patron’s situation, what a patron gets as a result and what the patron in turn does with this service. Try a story like this: “One of my graduate student’s needed a better way of managing their search results and articles they downloaded to PDF. I showed the student a variety of citation managers and how to use them for organizing research into folders and even share research with other patrons. As a result, the student told me s/he felt more organized, saved time looking for saved PDFs and search results and could devote more time to actually writing the paper.”
4. Figure out how do your patrons describe the library services to their peers – and follow suite. Talk their language to then promote your library in their terms to avoid “librarianish” language. We may use terms like “resources”, “databases” and “records”, but do our patrons refer to these in the same way? Speaking their language builds connections and lets you appear “in tune” with your users.
5. Utilizing simple techniques such as having custom email signatures make a difference. Add a link to your blog or other online profile in your signature and invite people to visit.