Author Archives: Tiffany McClary

About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.

7 Reasons Why Content Is the New PR

Local media coverage of public library news and events is extremely valuable. It is usually viewed as more reliable and objective than advertising, and for that reason, it has greater influence.

But, as many library marketers know, media outreach can be time-consuming. There’s also no guarantee the media will cover your story. But there is an alternative: content marketing. Although the term is new, PR professionals have long created content for their organizations, such as thought leadership pieces and contributed articles.

What’s changed is we now have inexpensive means to distribute content, including email newsletters, websites, blogs and social media. While it’s still important to reach out and build relationships with local journalists, public library marketers no longer need to rely only on the media to get their messages out.

For public libraries who want to create their own content, here are seven reasons why I think content is the new PR.

1. Engage Directly with Audience

Public libraries can tailor content to the interests of their stakeholders – community leaders, library visitors, non-users, moms, teens, etc. – and publish helpful and informative pieces that might not make the editorial cut elsewhere. After publication, any comments or “shares” will come to your attention, enabling you to continue the conversation directly with your readers.

2. Share Your Perspective

When news happens, you want to share the full story with your readers. Given space and editorial restrictions, local media may not be able to accommodate all of what you’d like to say. But you can provide your perspective and more details about your news in your own content channels, and share it directly with your audience.

3. Respond More Quickly

In a crisis, getting information out quickly is critical. If you have control over the medium, you can publish urgent news immediately. On the flip side, you can also be the first to share exciting news.

4. Attract the Media

Reporters are always on the lookout for good story ideas, so they talk to a lot of people and they read widely. If you publish regularly, you may not need to conduct as much media relations outreach. Journalists can sign up for your newsletter or follow your blogposts and social media. When they see something that might add to a story they’re working on, they’ll give you a call.

5. Correct Misinformation

As a public institution, public libraries are often subject to criticism. Correcting misinformation or filling in gaps can be a challenge. As I’ve mentioned, editors have a good deal of discretion over what is printed in their publication (as they should). But you can use your own channels to correct errors and omissions.

6. Regular Coverage

In a perfect world, the media would write about your public library every day. Alas, that’s not realistic. But, with a well-planned content marketing strategy, you can build awareness by producing a regular stream of content distributed through each of your media channels.

7. Higher ROI

While a comprehensive content marketing strategy can take up a fair amount of resources, it can also pay off in a big way by giving you multiple opportunities every day to engage with your audience. As you reach more people and the volume of conversation increases, this strategy will result in a higher return on investment. A content program will build loyalty, increase library visits and event attendance, and gain greater support for your budget proposals.


How to Cultivate Your Public Library Advocates

Enthusiasm is contagious, which is why the people who love your public library are often your most effective advocates. But how do you find and nurture these library lovers? And more importantly, how do you give voice to their passion?

The secret to cultivating advocates is simple: It’s relationship building. And the more you engage with stakeholders, the more you’ll be able to build the kind of relationships that benefit both parties.

Fortunately, we have shelves of business books packed with tips and ideas for networking and relationship building. In my experience, the following four practices have proven to be reliably effective. Check them out.

1. Bring the Library to the Community

This is perhaps the best piece of advice I can offer: Be sure the library is highly visible throughout the community. Show your support of local arts foundations, business groups and chamber of commerce and school groups by attending their meetings and learning about their challenges and needs – especially those the library can solve. Over time, these contacts will prove to be especially valuable. They won’t hesitate to step forward and support library needs, budgets, and initiatives when you ask.

2. Be Generous

At the start of every relationship, spend more time thinking about what’s in it for the other party than what’s in it for you. There’s a reason this networking tip appears at the top of every best practice list: It works. Each time you solve a problem for a stakeholder, it provides tangible evidence of what the library can do. This is an especially effective tactic for both educating stakeholders and turning them into advocates. But be aware that creating trust in this way takes time, which means it’s important to start the process early, long before you need the stakeholder’s help.

3. Be Direct about What You Need

When the time does come to ask for help, be specific. Your stakeholders may be passionate about library programs, but they don’t always know what will make the biggest impact. So, have a plan and know exactly what your advocates can do for you, whether it’s writing a letter to the editor or reaching out to local politicians to support your budget.

4. Be Creative

Sometimes, even our biggest fans overlook the importance of sharing their viewpoint, but every voice counts when it comes to promoting library initiatives. A creative marketing campaign can encourage them to speak out. For example, to get your visitors to share their library stories, give them space in the library (a cork-board with note cards, for example) to post the reasons why they love the library. Or ask them to share on your Facebook page or on Instagram. Don’t forget to create a hashtag, such as #LibraryStories or #WhyILoveMyLibrary.

Remember, great relationships need time and nurturing before they can blossom. No matter who you’ve identified as potential library advocates – parents, educators, teens, business organizations, local artists, nonprofits, library trustees – be sure to make relationship building part of your everyday efforts.

How to Interact with Library Followers Using Facebook Live

Searching for a better way to connect with a younger audience? Why not try live streaming an event or announcement? By now, video has secured its place as a powerful marketing tool, especially among teens and Millennials, who are heavy consumers of video content.

Live streaming video got its start with apps like Periscope and Meerkat, but the medium was catapulted into the mainstream when Facebook launched Facebook Live in 2015. With more than one billion users, it’s all but certain Facebook will be successful with its live streaming feature. Before Facebook Live became available to all users in early 2016, Facebook users were watching more than 100 million hours of video a day.

Still, this is a relatively new feature, with a small percentage of marketers using it to promote their brands. However, research shows people watch live streamed events three times longer than they do pre-recorded video. All of which means this is a very good time for public library marketers to begin using this feature. Early adopters usually gain an advantage – and plenty of followers – when they are one of just a few content producers.

If you decide to live stream an event or announcement, you may feel as if you are freewheeling out of control. But the beauty of being one of the early entries is that mistakes are quickly forgiven.

In any event, Facebook Live is worth the experiment, even if you ultimately decide it’s not for you. If you do plan to give it a whirl, here are 10 ideas for library-focused live streaming videos.

1. Job seekers’ workshop

The advantage of live video is that it’s interactive. Viewers can comment and ask questions. Rather than simply stream step-by-step instructions about how to use library databases to search for a job, set it up as an interactive workshop.

2. Live announcements

Sometimes words aren’t enough for big news. If you’re launching a new program or initiative, take viewers behind the scenes to introduce staff and demonstrate how it will all work.

3. Virtual events

With live streaming, everyone can attend library events. This is especially valuable for community members who may find it difficult to get to the library, for example if health, family or transportation issues stand in the way.

4. Meet the author

The next time you host an author at your library, follow up the reading with a live interview and stream it on Facebook. By encouraging questions from viewers, you’ll engage a wider audience far beyond your library.

5. Advocacy appeals

Seeking additional funds for your library? Live stream an appeal for budget support. This format is best if you have the means to show your audience exactly what the funds will do for the library and how users will gain. Just be sure to include a call to action – such as an appeal to vote “yes” on a referendum.

6. Weekly staff picks

Show off your literary chops by engaging in a regular live stream of what your staff currently is reading. You can also gather some important market intelligence by asking viewers what their picks of the week would be.

7. Q&As

As noted earlier, Facebook Live is an excellent engagement tool, which makes it ideal for getting feedback from library users. Consider hosting a monthly library Q&A, during which viewers take the lead in asking the library staff questions.

If you’re not sure how to get started with Facebook Live, check out this article for some great live streaming tips!

4 Ways to Market to People Who Read Books – and Those Who Don’t

I’m confident public librarians have a good sense of their community’s reading habits: who’s coming into the library, what types of books they’re reading and why. But it’s always good to see hard numbers.

Pew Research Center released two reports this fall, one on trends in book reading and another covering nonreaders.

As always, demographic studies such as this provide useful intelligence for public library marketing. So here are a few of the findings as well as some thoughts about how to apply the data to marketing strategy.


1. Promote Reading Options for Mobile Devices

More Americans are reading books on tablets and cellphones, even as dedicated e-reader use has remained stableThe number of Americans who say they’ve read a book in the last 12 months has remained constant since 2012, at 74%. What is changing is how they are reading them.

The share of Americans who say they’ve read a print book has remained unchanged since 2012, but Pew notes the share of people reading on tablets and phones is growing. Since 2011, the use of tablets has tripled while the use of smartphones has doubled. This presents an excellent opportunity to promote your e-book collection. Consider a marketing campaign targeting these readers to make them aware the library offers e-books and to help them understand how they can download them to their devices. You may want to create a video or invite library users to a hands-on workshop.

2. Book Lovers as Library Advocates

College graduates are four times more likely than those who didn’t go to college to read e-books (and twice as likely to read a print book). Eighty percent of 18-29 year olds say they had read a book in the last year, compared to 67% of those 65 and older. And women are more likely than men to read books, and more likely to read print.

Book lovers are our best customers, and they could be some of our loudest cheerleaders as well. Develop programs to reach out to these groups and encourage them to become library advocates.

3. Why People Read

Pew also asked respondents why they read generally – not only books but magazines, newspapers and online content. Eighty-four percent of Americans say they research specific topics, a 10% increase over 2011. And while 82% of Americans say they read to stay on top of current events, almost half say they do so nearly every day. Reading for pleasure is still very popular, with 80% of Americans saying this is why they pick up a book.

Engage these readers with contests and games. For example, use your Facebook page to promote current event quizzes.

4. Who Are the Non-Book Readers?

Pew also looked more closely at the 26% of Americans who say they haven’t read a book at all, in any format, and found several demographic traits that correlate with non-book reading.

Adults with a high school degree or less, and those with an annual income of less than $30,000 are more likely to be non-book readers. These same demographic traits also apply to those who have never been to a library.

Older adults ages 50 and older are somewhat less likely than adults under 50 to have not read a book in the last year. And geography also made a difference, as adults in rural areas are less likely than those in urban areas to have read a book.

Public libraries should find creative ways to connect with nonreaders. One idea is to partner with local leaders and charity groups to bring the library into the community.

Be sure to check out both Pew reports for more details on their findings.






Here’s Your 2017 Marketing Strategy Checklist

christmas-1091176_960_720It’s that time of the year! You’re putting the final touches on next year’s strategy and – just like Santa – you’re checking your list and checking it twice. That’s why I thought I’d share the following checklist. It covers today’s hottest marketing trends, ones that I recommend including in your strategy.

You don’t have to include each and every one, of course, but I challenge you to experiment with at least one in 2017. So, go ahead and mash this list up against your plan.

Customer Experience

I can assure you, the heart of every marketing plan next year will be this idea: Focus on the customer. Brands are investing millions of dollars in strategies that enable them to deliver exceptional customer service in the places customers prefer to interact. Public libraries can take a page from this book by listening more closely to library users and understanding what they want and need, and how they want to interact with you. By doing so, you can direct your marketing resources to the activities that will have the greatest impact.

Video Content

Driven by mobile, video usage continues to surge. According to Cisco, by 2020, more than 75% of global mobile data traffic will be comprised of video, which means more people watching and interacting with video content. If you haven’t started to experiment with this yet, be sure to put a small project in the plan for 2017. This can be the first building block of a multi-year video strategy.

Live-Streaming Platforms

Live-streaming video platforms such as Periscope, Meerkat and Facebook Live are poised for growth, as more organizations integrate interactive video into their communications strategies. The option to broadcast live on Facebook is particularly attractive, since most brands already have built substantial fan bases. Use it for announcing major news, holding Q&A’s with library users, or sharing performances held at the library.

Serial Content

How to keep visitors coming back again and again to your website? Create serialized content, such as “12 Steps to Starting Your Own Business,” and publish one step each week.

Voice & Tone

If traffic to your website and engagement on social media isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, perhaps it’s time to shake up the content. Today’s readers gravitate toward writers who they find relatable. Review your voice and tone to make sure it aligns not only with your brand, but also with your target audience. Take a look at TheSkimm, a newsletter originally designed for Millennial women. It’s an excellent example of a brand that has mastered this alignment.

Marketing Audit

Time changes many things, including the content or design of your website, social media, newsletters and other marketing material. Each year, make it a point to review all your marketing pieces with an eye for the future and update as necessary. Be sure your audit covers these marketing staples:

  • Buyer Personas
  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Images
  • Bios
  • About the library copy
  • Social media profiles

That’s my list! Did I miss anything? Are you integrating or experimenting with a new marketing strategy or tactic in 2017 not mentioned here? If so, please share in the comments!

How the Public Library Can Connect with Readers on Goodreads

researchlibrariesSomewhere between 600,000 and a million books are published each year, and that’s on top of an estimated more than 129 million books (at last count) that have been published over time. This vast collection should thrill readers. But it presents a challenge too: How to choose what to read next?

Public librarians and like-minded friends have always been excellent guides to this universe. Today, readers also have the internet: Amazon, book review sites, and social networks for book lovers allow readers to search with abandon for new books rising in popularity as well as learn about the well-loved classics.

Goodreads, a popular social network for readers, is an excellent resource for learning about new books and making decisions about what to read next. It enables readers to keep track of the books they read, see what their friends are reading, and read reviews by other book lovers. These features make it an excellent place for public libraries to promote their collections, engage with readers and share their own recommendations and insights.

Here are five ways you can use Goodreads to market your public library.

Create a Member Page

By joining, public libraries can use their member page to share information about their collections, start reading lists, and make recommendations using status updates. Goodreads users can add the library as a friend or simply follow its updates. Take a look at the New Jersey State Library Goodreads page for an example of how it works – and be sure to add us as a friend!

Start a Book Club Group

Another way to engage readers is to use Goodreads’ Groups feature to establish an online book club. For example, Emma Watson, the actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, runs a group focused on feminist writings. Here at the State Library, we decided to take our Book Café online and established a group on Goodreads to accomplish this. You can find it on Goodreads under the name, Online Book Café. Here, we encourage discussions about what our library users are reading each month.

Start a Reading List

Goodreads allows members to create reading lists. One advantage of their approach is that you can create an unlimited number of lists, or as Goodreads calls them, “bookshelves.” There are a couple of defaults, including “read,” currently reading,” and “to-read,” but you can add a customized shelf too. For example, our “read” bookshelf includes all of the new titles that have been added to the Recent Fiction shelves on our third floor. We’ve also created an “audiobooks” shelf to feature the books we have in this collection.

Highlight Staff Picks

As I noted earlier, one of the most valuable services that librarians provide is helping people find books to read. Goodreads can help you reach a wider audience for Staff Picks. Simply create shelves for different genres. For example, “Staff Picks – Fantasy,” or “Staff Picks – Young Adults.”

Create an Instructional Video

Once you’ve created your member page, bookshelves and groups, be sure to promote it to your library users through your social media channels, website, email newsletters and on signs posted around the library. To help others get the most out of Goodreads and find your page more easily, consider creating a short instructional video about how they can set up their own accounts. Check out these videos created from two recent State Library webinars here and here.

For more information about Goodreads and other reading resources, check out this blog post.


How to Host a Hackathon at Your Library

hackathonHackathons have become increasingly popular over the last few years, and they’re no longer conducted just by tech startups and companies. Groups as varied as professional sports organizations, local government and universities have embraced the concept.

These events can be extraordinarily beneficial for local communities. A marathon coding session can produce technology applications for the library as well as build upon STEM education efforts. As both community centers and technology hubs, public libraries are ideal places to host hackathons.

Technopedia defines a hackathon as “a gathering where programmers collaboratively code in an extreme manner over a short period of time. Hackathons are at least a few days – or over a weekend – and generally no longer than a week. While working on a particular project, the idea is for each developer to have the ability and freedom to work on whatever he/she wants.”

Many hosts design their hackathon with a specific purpose or theme. For example, Code for Civic Hacking events aim to develop solutions for government and community challenges like the lack of affordable housing or unemployment. Your hackathon can focus on the needs of the library, with coders developing library-related mobile apps or revamping the website. Other projects include creating new ways to put vast amounts of library data to better use.

One example is the Toronto Public Library, which hosted an Open Data Hackathon to explore new ideas for taking advantage of public library data. The projects included a catalogue speech interface, an interactive query system, and a map to explore library neighborhoods. You can view all of the pitch presentations from the event here.

Hosting a hackathon at your library is a big undertaking, however. In Georgia, after the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries hosted a Hack the Library event, deputy director Gabriel Lundeen shared his experience in a blog post.

If you’d like to host a hackathon, here are a few takeaways that you can use as a framework for designing, promoting and hosting.


Create a Project Plan

Not surprisingly, such a large event will take you and your staff months of work. Start the process by putting together a project plan and a timeline. It will help you track all of the logistical and marketing details to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Partner with Your Local Tech Community

Reach out to local technology organizations and begin building relationships. Local techies and coders can help you create a list of challenges for the event, help you promote it, and act as mentors to young and inexperienced participants during the event.

Find a Sponsor

Your costs will include food, prizes and marketing, so it’s a good idea to find a sponsor who can provide financial support. Reach out to area businesses, especially those who recruit and hire technology developers. Their next great hire might attend your hackathon, so they will benefit too.

Pay Close Attention to Logistics

Hosting 60-70 students, amateur techies, government officials and developers is a logistical challenge. You’ll need to arrange plenty of seating and table space, easy access to electrical outlets, WiFi, food, and more. This useful Hackathon Guide covers many of the details you need to run a successful event.

Promote the Hackathon

As you map out your marketing plan, be sure to take advantage of partnerships and sponsor opportunities. Ask your local tech community to promote via their own channels, and seek support from sponsors for media outreach and advertising. In addition, reach out to local schools and after-school tech clubs to get the word out.

Invite the Press

The hackathon is an excellent opportunity for the media to see the library in action, engage with participants, take tons of photos, and incorporate pitch videos into their articles. So don’t forget to reach out to the local press well in advance and offer them complementary access to the event.


Remember that this type of event doesn’t end after just 48 hours. Several projects will continue to completion, helping to strengthen your new relationships with members of the tech community. If all goes well, it’s likely you’ll see more local techies using the library, and you will find yourself planning more hackathons.

5 Planning Tips Based on the Latest Pew Library Survey

pewchartGood news! Americans do value their public libraries, according to the latest report from the Pew Research Center.


But while two-thirds of Americans still visit libraries to borrow books, 80% say libraries should offer programs to teach people how to use digital tools.


The study provides several insights that can help libraries become even more relevant to their communities. As you work on your next three or five-year plan, you’ll find it worthwhile to delve into the details of this report, which will help guide your investment decisions.


Let’s look at a few that could impact your planning.


  • Add Digital Skills Programs: In addition to the strong demand for digital skills programs, 37% of Americans say libraries help them understand what information they can trust. This is a significant increase from 2015, when just 24% of Americans responded in this way. Many libraries already offer programs covering how to conduct research using library databases and how to use the Internet to apply for a job. But they should also consider adding programs especially for children and senior citizens, to help them learn how to use computers, smartphones and apps.


  • Embrace the Maker Movement: Half of Americans also say their public libraries should invest in new creative technologies such as 3-D printers, a finding that indicates strong support for adding a Makerspace to your library.


  • Update and Promote the Website: Fewer people said they visited their public library’s website in the previous 12 months. However, half of those who did used a mobile device, up from 39% in 2012. In addition, 58% of website users searched the library catalogue, while 44% conducted research or got homework help. There are likely several reasons why library websites aren’t attracting visitors. There may be low awareness in the community, or the site simply isn’t friendly for mobile users. A website update can be an expensive and time-consuming project, but it may be necessary, especially for older websites. If you do embark on such a project, be sure your new site is responsive and mobile-ready. Another way to improve traffic is to launch a marketing campaign aimed at building awareness.


  • Promote eBooks: There’s also a clear need for public libraries to do a better job of marketing their library eBook programs. Only 44% of Americans know that their public libraries loan out e-books, despite the fact that 90% of libraries have such programs.


  • Non-Users: Nearly 20% of Americans have never been to the library. According to the Pew study, non-users are often male, 65 or older, Hispanic, Black, high-school graduates or less, or living in a household earning less than $30,000. Community outreach programs can be effective in reaching diverse and underserved populations. Consider forming partnerships with local community leaders, businesses, and schools, and creating new programs based on the needs of specific population segments.


These are just a few of many findings in the report, which is worth reviewing in greater detail. You can read it here.


5 Steps to a Better SEO Strategy – and More Website Traffic

If you’re feeling underwhelmed by the volume of traffic to your public library website, it may be time to conduct an audit of your SEO strategy. The search engines are always adjusting their algorithms, which makes it necessary for website owners to regularly revisit and adjust their search engine optimization strategies.

But what’s the best way to conduct such an audit? Moz is an SEO consulting firm that offers advice on how to improve your ranking in search engines. In this YouTube video, which is part of the company’s Whiteboard Friday series, CEO Rand Fishkin recommends website owners consider five questions about their organization and the people it’s trying to serve.

To create content that brings more visitors to your website, you need to describe the library’s unique value and the ways in which you help solve community and user problems. But getting people to visit your website is just one goal of SEO. You also want people to visit the library in person. Or, as corporate marketers might say, you want to convert them to customers. Your SEO audit also should define this process.

Rand’s video offers practical, easy-to-follow advice. I’ve taken the five questions he poses in his video, and adapted them for public libraries, with suggestions for how you might answer them. Keep in mind, though: your answers will be specific to your goals. Here are Rand’s questions:

What does our public library offer that helps solve our visitors’ problems?

One answer to this question might be: Our public library offers research databases to help local businesses create strategic plans.

What is the unique value we provide that no one else does?

One advantage of public libraries? Our services are free. For example, you might answer this question by stating: “We offer free access to computers and to the internet for people who can’t afford their own.”

Who will help amplify our message?

The key takeaway here is that you must define both your target audience and key influencers. For example, local media influences both community opinion and behaviors of local residents. In social media, members of local Facebook groups will share opinions about local businesses and services. So it’s important to actively share library news in these groups, not just on your Facebook page.

What’s the process for turning website visitors into library users?

Just because someone visits your website, it doesn’t mean she’ll walk through the library doors. If your goal is to raise funds for the library, you first need to map the donor’s journey from fact-finding to understanding the library’s need to making a commitment to give. A public library web marketing funnel might look like this:

  • A resident of your community will search online to find local charities to support.
  • This search may lead him to the public library website.
  • He signs up for your newsletter via a link on the site.
  • He receives an invite to a library fundraising event.

How do we expose what we do in a way that search engines can understand?

Of course, content creation is the way to drive people to your website. You must write content that answers questions and solves problems for your target audience. For example, some members of the community may want to download ebooks from the library, but have no idea how this works. You can create a simple video explaining the process, and post it on your website. This is exactly the type of content search engines want, and when they find it, they will rank it highly.

Google and other search engines are placing heavy emphasis on well-crafted content that answers their users’ questions. The five questions in the Moz video provide an excellent framework for understanding how to create content that will rank highly in the search engine algorithms. After you watch the video, you’ll find it easier to create an effective SEO strategy for your public library website.

Why Public Libraries Should Embrace Brand Storytelling

booklet-426781_1920When you work in a library every day, the power of storytelling is clear. Thousands of people walk through our doors, and many will discover at least one story in the stacks that moves them. Great writers know how to evoke emotional responses from readers.

Everyone has a story to tell – not just authors or filmmakers, but brands too. The good news is that the ability to move people isn’t unique to great writers. Brand marketers understand that good storytelling is the key to getting consumers to feel emotionally invested in their brand.

That’s why brand marketers use the very same storytelling structure that great writers do. By incorporating storytelling techniques into marketing activities, the public library can motivate and inspire both advocates and visitors.

Let’s take a look at each of the major components of story and how they apply to building the public library brand.


Just as great novels have themes, so do brand stories. Themes are the common link between all marketing activities, helping to tie them together in a more meaningful way. When all your stories relate to one theme, your brand becomes more memorable.

How can you determine what your theme should be? Bring your staff together and brainstorm the answers to these questions:

  • What value does your library bring to the community?
  • What is your mission?
  • What impact do you have on each segment of your community?
  • What benefit do visitors gain from your library?

Structure & Plot.

The novel format consists of a single narrative arc, comprised of multiple chapters or stories. A brand is similar, except that its story is continuous and never-ending. Still, each story you tell should fit into your larger theme. These individual tales are comprised of three parts:

  • The beginning, which introduces your characters and setting (e.g. The teenager whose dream it is to attend college and who comes to the library every afternoon for homework help.)
  • The middle, which sets up the problem and supplies the tension (e.g. He needs a computer to complete his homework, but he doesn’t have one at home.)
  • The end, which provides a resolution (e.g. The library provides him with free access to a computer every afternoon, which allows him to get good grades and an acceptance to college.)


All great stories are rooted in great characters. They are so real and so relatable they could be our best friends. We root for them when adversity strikes.

The best brand storytellers are the ones who put their customers at the center of their stories. They are the heroes, not the brand. When prospective library visitors or advocates see themselves in other people’s stories – when they share the same problems and issues – they will find it easier to relate.

In addition, a story’s hero is always transformed by the action. This is critical to the success of telling a brand story because it shows how customers benefit from library services. For example, to promote your resources for job seekers, tell a story about a successful job search. This both emphasizes the library user as hero and reinforces what the library can do for the community.


Remember that a story is versatile and can be told through a variety of media. It’s not limited to the written word. In fact, younger audiences tend to gravitate more to visual content, so embrace video, images and audio when telling your story.

Storytelling, as we know, is an art. But it’s not simply for great writers. When you put story at the center of your marketing activities, you’ll engage a larger audience and build loyal fans.


How Instagram Can Help Public Libraries Connect With Teens

Public libraries have so much to offer teens. They’re not only reference resources for homework, but they also offer social meeting spaces, job training and search resources, and access to computers and year-round learning. Thus, connecting with teens is an important objective for public library marketing programs.

Of all the social networks, Instagram is perhaps the most promising platform for connecting with teens. And just what do teens think of Instagram? Well, they make up a very large share – 62% – of all Instagram users. And one-third call it the most important social media platform.

One reason for Instagram’s popularity is that it is 100% mobile. Visual communication is especially important in this format, which makes reading large chunks of text on a small screen difficult.

It should come as no surprise that we are in the midst of a visual revolution, in which images are favored more than plain text. Today, visuals are the “universal language,” especially for younger generations. And Instagram is just perfect for visual content and storytelling because it enables easy sharing of photos, images, GIFs and video.

“The teens I work with say it is the last app they close at night and the first they open in the morning. If teen brands can speak teens’ Instagram language and serve them fresh, entertaining content, they’ll connect with their audience,” says Laura Tierney, social media director at Digiday.

How can libraries take advantage of this platform? Here are five ways to use Instagram for building a rapport with teens.

Engage with lifestyle marketing

Tierney says the most successful brands on Instagram use lifestyle marketing to engage teens. This aspirational approach focuses on creating and sharing images that show how the brand’s products fit into the teen’s life. Of course this works exceedingly well for fashion, but it can also work for public libraries.

For example, you can create Instagram images that illustrate how the library fits into the teen day. Go beyond images of students poring over books in the library, and instead create images of teens socializing in library areas, participating in library events, and earning recognition for their accomplishments, such as getting a job or earning an A on schoolwork.

An emphasis on sharing user generated content

One of the best ways to build your brand on Instagram (or any social network) is to share content created by other people. This makes the library seem more “human” and helps to foster enthusiasm. Plus, whenever you share a photo taken by a library visitor, it builds loyalty. Use Instagram’s geography tags to find posts taken in or near the library and use hashtags to share content on topics important and relevant to both teens and the library.

Time your posts to optimize reach

Be sure to upload and share your images when teens are most likely to be on Instagram: in the morning and at night. You’ll reach a wider audience, and there’s less chance your post will be overlooked or missed while teens are in class.

Be generous with hashtags

Hashtags make it easier for teens to find your content, and they are a popular convention on this platform. It’s important to use only hashtags that are relevant to your image, but it’s also acceptable to include 10 or more hashtags with each post. In fact, interactions are highest on posts with 11 or more hashtags.

Be sure to incorporate a couple of the most popular Instagram hashtags. As teens follow these hashtags, they’re more likely to see your posts.

Also make a point of creating a few hashtags specific to your library or the campaigns you are running. Some examples relevant to New Jersey libraries are: #library, #libraries, #nj, #newjersey, #reading, #books, #librarians and #librarylove.

It’s Time for Candid Camera

Research from Edelman PR shows that we tend to trust people like ourselves more than we trust celebrities or CEOs. That’s a key reason candid shots on Instagram work so well. Behind-the-scenes shots – of your staff going about their daily work or interacting with teens – make the library more relatable for teens. These shots are perceived as more authentic, and they help create and build a stronger relationship.

Let teens know the library is on Instagram!

Don’t rely on teens stumbling across your Instagram account. Be sure to promote your presence on the platform in all of your marketing materials, flyers, newsletters and email accounts. Post signs promoting both your account name and your hashtags around the library and in other public areas to encourage teens to follow your account.

Instagram is a promising platform for building the relationship between teens and the library. Start with the basics and experiment with the platform. Over time, you’ll learn what types of images both keep teens coming back and get them excited about sharing.


Marketing Budgets 2016: 5 Reasons Instagram Matters, Big Time [Infographic]
by MDG Advertising

Five Ways Pokémon GO Can Help Promote Your Public Library

It’s Tuesday night, and a dozen teenagers are congregating on the plaza in front of your public library. Inside, a swarm of 20-somethings wander around your art exhibit, staring at their phones. A month ago, this type of behavior would have seemed incredibly odd. But by now, we all know Pokémon GO is the hottest game of the summer.

Those laughing, joyous explorers? They’re searching for Pokémon. At your library.

The new mobile game partly trades on nostalgia. It’s an extension of the Pokémon franchise, whose video games, trading cards, and television series were beloved by the Millennial generation during their elementary and middle school days. Your library almost certainly has a copy of the comic book series.

The game design uses augmented reality, which is particularly engaging for players (also known as “trainers”). This technology overlays computer images on a real world environment. In Pokémon GO, images of Pokémon creatures, Poké Balls and other game items overlay real-life places – such as public libraries.

The game is essentially a scavenger hunt, where trainers search for creatures in public places, including landmarks, institutions, and outdoor features, such as lakes and parks. Using GPS technology, the game makers have turned these locations into treasure spots for trainers. By doing so, it encourages players to get outside, walk around, be more social and learn new things about their surroundings.

To get a sense of the scale of this phenomenon, the game topped the download charts within 24 hours of its release, and as of July 14, 26 million Americans were actively playing it. While these numbers alone are impressive, the engagement numbers are what’s eye-popping. Users spend 43 minutes playing each day, more time than they spend on WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat.

The discovery aspect makes it ideal for public library marketing. As trainers gather at your library to catch Pokémon, you can use the game to promote your services. The following five ideas are easy ways to help you attract and engage trainers.


1. Post a Sign Outside

What could be simpler and more effective? Let passersby know you’re a home for Pokémon and welcome gamers inside. But don’t stop there – use the opportunity to engage players further. Set up a Pokémon display inside, and greet trainers as they walk in the door. While they’re rediscovering the books, remind them about the free WiFi you offer and encourage them to sign up for summer reading or a library card.


2. Blog About It

In some places, Pokémon might be found next to specific art exhibits. In Bentonville, AK, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art used this opportunity to blog about it on their website. They posted photographs of the Pokémon near specific pieces of art.

This also creates an opportunity to discuss the work in more detail. If you have creatures guarding books or a piece of artwork, find a way share more about that particular item, even if you simply hang a poster with more information.


3. Promote on Social media

Be sure trainers know which Pokémon creatures and items they can find at your library. Promote this information across all of your social media, including Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and Facebook. Be sure to follow all of the Pokémon accounts, and share your updates using the hashtags: #PokemonGo and #GottaCatchEmAll.


4. Place a Lure

One way to attract more players is to purchase a lure module within the game – they cost 100 PokeCoins (99 cents) for one lure or 680 coins for a pack of 8 modules. When placed at your library, a Lure will attract new Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes. Be sure to make the most of the lure, however, and plan a Pokémon party with some activities to engage them further.


5. Create Pokémon-Themed Activities

Find ways to extend the fun in your library. Create a related activity, such as a craft station where trainers can decorate Poké Balls or make Pokémon cards, as Sarah Bean Thompson writes on the ALA blog. She also created a passive window display where players could share the creatures they caught.

Of course, the first step is to download the game and become a trainer yourself. This will enable you to find out which creatures or items is hiding in or near your library and if it’s a Poké Stop or a Gym.

Then, you can promote your status as a treasure stop in one of the above ways. But beware – there’s a good chance you will become enthralled by playing the game too.