When Marketing Your Public Library, Encourage Talk

When consumers share information about brands and products they love in social settings, those recommendations often lead to sales. A recent study by Engagement Labs showed that social media conversation is “much different from what people are saying in private conversations with friends and family.” Thus, these real-life conversations are just as important as the ones happening on social media.  

This is no less true for nonprofits and public libraries than it is for major brands. As marketers, we should take steps to cultivate real-world conversations as much as we tend to our social media programs. 

How can you get members of your community talking and sharing news about your library with friends, family and co-workers? Turn to traditional marketing activities to generate excitement about new initiatives or garner support at budget time. Here are a few activities that can spark conversations about the public library in your community: 

Pitch local TV and radio

Although it’s on the decline, local TV news still has more viewers than cable or network news programs, according to Pew Research. The study by Engagement Labs also found that traditional media and advertising – TV, radio, digital – play a significant role in stimulating consumer conversations. While advertising is usually too costly for public library budgets, you still can take advantage of public relations. Take advantage of events and guest speakers, as well as news about your latest community initiative, to pitch compelling news stories to local reporters. 

Go door-to-door

To learn more about residents’ library experiences and promote its services, volunteers for the Bloomington, Ill., Public Library knocked on doors. Not only did they collect valuable data – such as how often a resident visited the library or what prevented them from visiting more often – but they were also able to share information about online resources and library cards. 

Community appearances

Take advantage of local events, such as craft fairs and farmers markets, to set up a table and promote library programs.  

Speaking opportunities

Seek out opportunities to speak to the local PTA, at government town halls, and to local community and business groups. 

Identify and cultivate library champions

Research shows that people are more likely to act on a recommendation from a friend than from advertising. That’s why asking for help from some of your library’s biggest fans is one of the most powerful ways to spread the word. Ned Potter, author of The Library Toolkit, recommends cultivating library champions from each segment of your audience, parents, Baby Boomers, teens, etc., to reach the wider community more effectively. 

Potter also stresses that a top-notch customer experience is the best way to drive word of mouth. “If you’re serving the needs of your given community successfully and with style, they WILL be telling their friends about you,” he says. “They’ll be tweeting about you. They’ll be dropping your name into conversations.” 




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.