Communicating with your Community through Media

Twitter Screenshot of library customers sharing photos of the Bibliotheca self-check machines

We’ve been busy at my library! Our huge RFID/Self-check/Carpeting project is pretty much done – yippie!

How did we connect with our community while our building was closed? Through media: local news media and social media channels.

Here are some of the mentions we received in the local news media:

We have a great relationship with local media, so it’s really pretty easy for us to get mentioned in the news (way to go, marketing dept!). Since we were closed for 5 days while we tagged all our materials, it was nice to be able to share that through local traditional media outlets.

We also used our own social media channels to share what was going on through those five days. Here’s one of our videos showing our first customer using our new checkout kiosks:

We made four more videos:

These videos were uploaded to Youtube, and then shared out via Twitter and Facebook. We also created some Vine videos and took some quick “in the moment” pictures that went to Twitter.

Now, our customers are sharing their experience with our new checkout kiosks. The image in this blog post shows two of our customers who took pretty much the same photo, then shared the photos on Twitter (with slightly different viewpoints).

My point?

  1. We’re done – whew!
  2. Gotta have those media connections – both local and social – in place BEFORE your big project. If you don’t have that already, start working on it NOW.

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?

Save your Community Money … and Announce it!

The photo in this post is from a gas station at a local grocery store. They put up a sign at the gas station showing how much money they saved a community via their fuel points program.

How cool would that be to use one of those library value calculators, add everything up for a year, and share how much money the library has saved the community – in books, videos, and events attended?

For some libraries, this could be a really BIG number!

Why do this? I can think of a few reasons, including:

  • It puts a positive spin on library budget discussions
  • It’s a nice way to share what the library does
  • It changes the conversation from an internal library one (i.e., how many books were checked out) to a community-facing, “why should I care” one
  • It’s a handy way to share the value of a library without having to explain why all those circulation statistics and customer count numbers matter

Has anyone done something like this before? If so, did it work? I’d love to know – please share!

Tell your Customers that you have Ebooks

ebookRecently, the Pew Internet & American Life folks released this about ebook lending at public libraries. It’s part of their Libraries, patrons, and E-books report.

Here’s the pull-out quote: “Most Americans are unaware of e-book lending at their local public library.” Then it goes on to the stats: 76% of public libraries lend ebooks … and most Americans really don’t know if their library has them.

I know. There’s a lot in the current ebook/publisher/distributor landscape that you can’t really change at the moment. Yes, yes, together we can and probably will create some ebook changes.

But for now, your single library can’t change the price of an ebook to a fairer price; you can’t get 27 checkouts from HarperCollins books; and you can’t call up Penguin and beg them to sell you ebooks, even though they don’t sell to libraries … and have them cave in and make an exception in your case (well, unless you happen to be a large NYC library, perhaps).

But there is one thing … One Thing! One thing that you CAN do, and we apparently AREN’T DOING IT. And that’s actually telling people that you have ebooks that can be checked out. What’s up with that?

Guys, this is simple stuff … and putting up a link to Overdrive on your website does not count.

What can you do to tell your customers that your library has ebooks? Here are some starter ideas:

  • link on your website
  • big, bold ad on the main page of your site, above the fold
  • a large sign in your library
  • a couple of large signs in your library
  • a billboard on a major road in town
  • mention it in your events newsletter
  • mention it in your enewsletter … with a link
  • mention it in Twitter and Facebook. More than once.
  • Send out a press release
  • Get an interview in the newspaper, at local radio stations, and on the local TV news station.

Then rinse and repeat. You generally have to tell people more than once to make it “stick.”

So – those are some starter ideas. How about you? How have you successfully told your customers that you do, in fact, have ebooks? let’s share, and turn this silly pew statistic – this horribly pathetic Pew statistic – around.

photo by Nikkorsnapper

The Creative Group

Creative Group
The Creative Group

In my last blog post, I mentioned my library’s Creative Group. What is that, exactly?

My library decided that Public Relations and the web team did a lot of similar things, and needed to work together. PR routinely creates print ads, newsletters, posters, banners, and PR campaigns. The web team does much the same thing, just online. Why not collaborate up-front, so the message online and in-print is the same?

And hey – while we’re at it … both teams are highly creative. What’s not to like about schmushing two creative teams together into the same physical space, to see what happens?

So we stuck both teams into the same work space. We also started holding regular weekly meetings. So every week, our three PR staff, two web developers, me, our Programs Supervisor, our Digital Content Librarian (new position that’s part of Public Services), the Deputy Director, and sometimes our library director meet. Anyone else in the library is invited, too.

What do we do? We talk about projects. Last week, we talked about our Personalized Reading List service – we’re reworking the form and the page the form lives on. The staffer in charge of that service and the Public Services Manager came for that part of the meeting. We also talked about creating some database widgets (did you know database vendors like Gale and EbscoHost have widgets now? Who knew?), guest posts for book reviews, and a new blog we’re creating.

So what do you think? Is it helpful for PR and the Web team to meet regularly? It’s sure been helpful for us!

And – boring pic by me, using my Instagr.am account. Follow me at davidleeking on instagr.am if you’re interested!