Planning to Reopen Your Library? Start with a Communications Plan

As we stare in the eyes of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus teaches libraries much more than we bargained for. We’re learning that the keys to communicating during a crisis include building trust, crafting a unified message, dispelling misinformation, promoting our response, and showing empathy. Hopefully, these actions remind our communities that they can rely on libraries, even when our physical doors are closed.

Now that we have the keys, let’s consider how we will use them to reopen our libraries. As we have conversations about when and how to reopen, a communications plan should be one of your priorities. A communications plan will not only help reinforce libraries’ commitment to service, but it will also remind your patrons about our immense value.

Under normal circumstances, libraries compete for the attention of our patrons. Many of whom have unfettered access to the worldwide web, which includes access to audiobooks, fitness classes, job assistance, and much more. One of the many things that sets libraries apart is that we offer our resources and assistance at no cost to our patrons. Our library staff can guide patrons through the use of new software, just as we can guide their understanding of public health information amidst a pandemic.

But first, we need to inform our communities about all that we have to offer them.

Each week for the next few weeks, we will show you, step by step, how to create your own communications plan. One of the things you’ll learn from this easy, actionable guide is that communications plans are versatile. You can use the plan for explaining your reopening strategy, promoting library services, or sharing information about future webinars. Today, we’ll start with an overview of the full plan, and later, we will dive deeper into the first section, providing explanations and examples.

Let’s get started!

The Communications Plan

Library Goal – What is your library’s goal? Maybe you want to increase the number of patrons that you serve weekly, rally government support for a funding opportunity, or build partnerships with local organizations.

Communications Goal – What is the purpose of communicating? You should aim to inform, educate, or persuade your community.

Audience – Who are you trying to reach? You may want to invite middle-grade children and their parents to a story time session or help citizens returning to the community from prison gain access to resources.

Objective – What is your end state? Your objective should contain a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) statement that is no more than one sentence.

Strategy – How will you approach your objective? If you wanted to appeal to your local government, perhaps you would create a letter-writing campaign.

Tactics & Tools – What steps will you take to support your strategy? In the letter-writing campaign example, consider how you will ask patrons to write letters. (The tactic is how you will ask and the tool is the delivery method).

Message and Talking Points – What do you want your community to know? Your messages should be short and memorable, and your talking points should be verifiable facts that support the message.

See! A communications plan isn’t daunting. If you think through these steps now, you will be amazed to see what your library accomplishes.