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Marketing your library – Instalment 6

Come one, come all! Recruiting and retaining a marketing team

A major component of any marketing strategy is building and developing relationships. As you reach out to your stakeholders, you are creating an important network of people who are then in a position to help you add to that network, generating an important cycle of word of mouth recommendations. For the marketing librarian, the focus of these relationships should include all those folks that you've been reaching out to as well as the people right under your noses: your co-workers and administration. While a library marketing plan can begin in the heart and mind of a single librarian, it doesn't take very long at all before that individual is going to need help and support to sustain their efforts and cope with the demands of all that interest they've been generating.

Volunteer here!

There are all kinds of ways to find volunteers. My advice would be to start small. You want to make sure you have a manageable group of volunteers. One of the worst things you can do is get a bunch of folks all revved up to volunteer and then tell them you don't need them. Chances are they won't give you a second chance. Try just starting out with a couple of your library's regular users. For instance, a retiree that comes in once a week for the newest thrillers may jump at the chance to help with the next book fair. Another excellent opportunity to recruit volunteers is if you are near a library school then recruit those students to help you. They may even be able to help you out and get academic credit for their efforts in terms of a practicum or internship. Thinking broadly can help you come up with ideas for volunteers. For instance, if there are other libraries in your area, see if anyone there is doing any marketing and team up. Academic and public librarians make dynamic teams when they get together on projects!

Once you have a few volunteers, you want to cultivate those relationships. Make sure you learn their names and pronounce them correctly. I know this seems like commonsense, but it is often the little things that get over looked. Also, respect their personalities. If you have a shy volunteer, do not make them greet people, unless they really want too. Don't make them do anything that makes them uncomfortable. Speaking of comfort, make sure the volunteers have a comfortable place to work. If you are holding an outside summer event, make sure you have some sort of shade, like tents or umbrellas, and plenty of water on hand. One of the most important things you can do, however, is show appreciation. Whether it be a personal thank you card, snacks, t-shirts, or certificates of appreciation, thank your volunteers every day.

You run the popcorn machine for me, and I'll help you with that report

Another way to generate help in your marketing efforts is to entice the people who already work with you to participate. When considering who to approach think library wide. The natural thing to do is to involve the public services people, and no doubt they will be the core of your team, but be sure and include everyone. Announce when the planning meetings are held and indicate that everyone is welcome to join the group. Publish the results of the planning and ask for feedback. Create a "to do" list and ask for people to sign up for the things they are interested in. Always give them a choice. And here is an important point. If you are going to ask your co-workers to help you with marketing, you'd better stand ready to help them with their projects. And, of course, thank you notes and other demonstrations of appreciation are always good. Also, if you have volunteers who will need to go up for promotion or tenure, be sure and write them a more formal letter on letterhead for their files.

More ideas!

  • Keep a list of volunteers' birthdays and send them a card.
  • For academic librarians, write official letters of thanks speaking to how that librarian's involvement in outreach supported the library's and school's mission for their promotion and tenure portfolios.
  • Send thank you notes.
  • Make sure you treat your helpers like you'd like to be treated.

Be sure and take a look at There's a Customer Born Every Minute: P. T. Barnum's Secrets to Business Success by Joe Vitale (Amacom, New York, 1998).