PR 101: Don’t Make Major Announcements on April Fools Day

innovative and Polaris Announce stuff on April Fool's DayDon’t make major announcements on April Fools Day … or your customers might just think you’re a fool.

So, apparently Innovative Interfaces acquired Polaris Library Systems – two major ILS vendors (and yes, Polaris is my library’s ILS vendor).

When did they decide to announce this? On April 1, better known as April Fools Day. The day when companies large and small … make up stupid stuff on purpose. Just to be funny.

Many of us “online types” know that Google does this every year (this year’s Shelfie was pretty funny). Other companies do this with varying levels of success.

So when a major announcement from your ILS vendor springs up from out of the blue on April Fools Day? It makes you think twice, to say the least. That’s certainly what happened over at ALA Think Tank (a Facebook Group for librarians) – much discussion – none of it about the actual merger.

I tweeted about it, and Polaris answered:

So – Polaris and Innovative Interfaces:

  • I get that you have to announce it. It’s probably a legal thing.
  • But – the purchase happened on March 31. That’s when you should have announced it.
  • If you really HAD to announce it on April 1, you should have mentioned that at the start of your press release (which they did finally add sometime late afternoon yesterday).
  • The email I received should have gone out on March 31 – not April 1.
  • That’s besides the whole “talk to your customers” thing. I’m lookin’ at YOU, Polaris (who tried to sell us an early release beta version of their new LEAP software. No way now – not until the dust settles with the merger).

I’m pretty sure you guys both have some PR types on staff – use them next time, please?

Communicating with Our Customers

new catalog signageDuring my library’s ILS (library catalog) migration project, we wanted to make sure our customers knew about it. It’s not usually a good thing to have your customers show up the day after we go live, thinking “what in the world happened here?”

Communicating with 170,000 people is no easy task! Here’s what we did:

Signs in the building: We had signs everywhere in the building (check out my Flickr set to see some of our signs), including:

  • huge banner in our entryway
  • images pointing out the new catalog was coming on our digital signs
  • small stand-up signs on tables and at the service desks
  • signs on all the catalog-only computers
  • a HUGE sign at the circulation desk

digital branch signageSigns on our digital branch: if you visited our website in the past month, you knew about our ILS migration! We used one of our big ads on the main page of our website to point to an article and video about the change. People actually read the article (judging by our Google Analytics numbers) and we received 38 comments on the article (some from me, answering questions).

We actually used that article and the big front-page ad as a countdown of sorts, too. Every day, we updated the ad (i.e., 3,2,1, it’s here! type stuff) and updated the article with a “tip of the day” for the new catalog.

Social Media: We shared about the project widely via social media. For us, that meant pointing to the article and answering questions about the project using Twitter and Facebook. We also made a video about the project, and dumped it into Youtube and on our website.

Traditional Media: we have a good relationship with local media, so we were able to tell customers about the new library catalog via a local TV station (they do a “Library Tuesdays” segment during their 4pm news show) and through an article in our local newspaper.

And now, the big question – did all that communication work? I think so. While I’m sure there are people showing up at the library or at our website, thinking “what the heck? Why does this look different all of the sudden?” I also know that customers knew about our project. Why? Because they told us. I had more than one person come up to me, find out I worked at the library, and said “how’s that new library catalog project coming along? We love the library!” Other staff told me they had a similar experience.

That says to me that our customers, for the most part, got the message. So – mischief managed!

Have you ever had to communicate with a large group of customers about a project? Did you do something I didn’t list? Let me know in the comments!

The Daily Grape and the Daily Book?

Gary Vaynerchuk, who made videos about wine at Wine Library TV and now at the Daily Grape, has a really cool idea about how to add value to his wine videos, and to help his viewers keep track of (and buy) wine they’re interesting in trying.

Here’s what Gary wants to do (from episode #1 of the Daily Grape):

  • Create mobile app-based video (and have a web-based version too)
  • Make his videos shorter
  • Make the content entertaining and usable
  • Created a mobile app (Daily Grape in the iTunes app store) that goes along with the videos

Gary noticed that he mentions a lot of wine, and some of his viewers forget about the wine after they’re done watching the video. So why not make an app to solve that problem?

Here’s how Gary’s app works:

  • sign up for a free account through the Daily Grape app.
  • Then, watch one of Gary’s videos
  • If you like the sound of a wine Gary mentions, you can click through to the video details, and add the wine to your wish list.
  • Then you have a handy list when you’re at a restaurant or a wine store.
  • You can also comment on the wines found on the app.

Cool idea, huh? Believe it or not, I think this could work for libraries, too. More wine for everybody! No, just kidding.

We have books, don’t we? My library has a collection of almost 500,000 books/videos/etc. Do you think our patrons can remember all those titles?

Right – probably not. But that’s why some of the newer ILS’s include things like wish lists, tags, and comments. I’ve seen some library catalogs that let you take those wish lists and turn them into RSS feeds, which gives your patrons the ability to embed their lists wherever they want.

That’s cool. But what if library staff did the same thing? Why not keep a running list of staff picks that can be discovered in the catalog and on the website. And on the library’s blog sidebar (since it’s embeddable). And in Facebook (with a little coding added in).

In fact, my library is already providing some of that, in the form of blog posts with links to good books that happen to be in our collection.

So – just a slightly different, slightly more purposeful way to think about content created by library staff. Be a bit purposeful, like Gary Vaynerchuk – direct your customer to good content, help them check stuff out – and provide them with ways to remember the books they want to read.

Do you do that? If so – how do you do it?

CIL2010: The Global Library Automation Scene

Notes from a talk I attended …

Speaker: Marshall Breeding

Current State of the Industry:

Check out Marshall’s Library Technology Guides (www.librarytechnology.org) – great info on who is using what ILS systems, what libraries switched ILS systems, etc.

Most used ILS software in the world: Isis ??? never heard of it! Marshall’s point – there’s a lot happening in the global ILS industry that we don’t really know about in the US

Horizon is next to last on the list of “how satisfied is your library with your current ILS system?” – Great – that’s what we have!

Marshall does say take those stats with a grain of salt – people on both ends of the spectrum respond, people int he middle don.t That said, he’s gotten over 2000 responses to his survey.

Observations from his 2009 Perceptions report:

– small libraries generally receive higher perception scores.
– Companies supporting proprietary ILS products receive higher satisfaction scores than companies involved with open source ILS systems

Discovery Platforms are mattering a lot more right now – that’s what our patrons see, so libraries want to spruce those up.

Library users in transition:
they don’t want help in the beginning anymore.

Tech in transition – web-based, cloud-based is the new thing. Client/server is the old thing. Local computing is shifting to cloud platforms.

Full spectrum of devices – mobile, web, tablet, etc…

Evolutionary Path: ILS systems are slowly evolving – they are wrapping their legacy code in APIs and Web services

Revolutionary Path: Ex Libris URM, Kuali OLE, WorldCat Management System

What does it mean to be open?

Interestingly, open source systems generally run behind proprietary systems in terms of customer-facing APIs… which makes sense. Smaller libraries are using the open source system, larger libraries with complex problems are using the proprietary systems.

Cool – he has a table showing what discovery layers work with what systems – http://www.librarytechnology.org/discovery.pl?SID=20100413922332763

COSUGI Conference in March 2010

Sorry – had a hiccup there. In March, I’m speaking at the COSUGI Conference! OK – I asked the same thing…. “what in the world does COSUGI stand for?” It stands for “Customers of Sirsidynix User Group Inc.”

Anyway, I’m giving a keynote and a couple of executive track sessions – on digital experience design and on reaching out to customers through virtual services (this one with MPOW’s Library Director Gina Millsap).

Here’s the blurb for the conference:

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Three action packed days. 100 informative sessions. 1,000 fellow SirsiDynix users.

Join us in warm, sunny Lake Buena Vista, Florida March 3rd, 4th and 5th for the 2010 version of the SirsiDynix COSUGI Executive Track Conference.  This comprehensive three day information and training extravaganza will have you pumped and ready for an outstanding year ahead.  You’ll get the latest news and product developments from SirsiDynix leaders, while industry movers and shakers share their knowledge and insight.

Find out:

* How SirsiDynix develops new product ideas
* How to get the most from your technology investments
* What makes a memorable digital experience for library patrons
* How to use market segmentation studies to get past the guesswork
* How to stay on strategy in tough economic times
* And much more!

You’ll also have the opportunity to socialize and network with your peers, and actually kick back and relax a bit, too.  And don’t miss the gala SirsiDynix shindig on Wednesday night.  Mark your calendar now, start packing your suitcase…and don’t forget the sunscreen.  We look forward to seeing you in Florida!

You don’t want to miss the chance to connect.  For the Full 2010 COSUGI Executive Track Schedule click here.

Register now for COSUGI 2010!

For more information about the entire conference, visit the conference home page.

March 3 – 5 | Walt Disney World Coronado Springs Resort

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Enjoy!