Thursday, April 19, 2007

Davenport Public Library gets an M+ for marketing cooperation

It takes a library to market its services, a fact that's not lost on librarian Angela Campbell, Public Relations & Programming Coordinator at the Davenport (IA) Public Library. Angela formed an interdepartmental marketing team called MarketingPlus (M+ for short). The group meets once a month to brainstorm on PR issues and plan events. On a PR listserv, Angela noted that having representation from many departments and administration helps to keep everyone on the same page and to generate innovative ideas for improvements. I contacted Angela and asked her to describe in greater detail how M+ came to be, how it operates, and what projects it tackles. The following is the description she gave me in full. If you have any questions about this approach, Angela provides her contact information. I'm very grateful to her for taking the time to share her efforts! I hope M+ will spark some further thinking on internal marketing approaches. From Angela:

"Public relations and programming efforts at the Davenport Public Library used to be spread across many departments and people. The Youth Services Department did their thing; Reference did their thing; and Special Collections did their thing. There was no cohesiveness to the Library's publicity and programming efforts. Due to the retirement of a few key staff in 2004, Library administration re-evaluated some of the job descriptions and also began working on building plans for two new neighborhood libraries that would open in 2006 and 2009. The focus of the two new neighborhood libraries would be to offer leisure reading materials, homework help, and excellent programming; with the goal of becoming the neighborhoods' community center. Because of this change in focus, administration decided it was time to centralize PR and programming efforts; thus creating the PR Department in January of 2005.

I had worked in the Reference Department ever since I graduated from graduate school in 1997. I have a MLIS and a BA in Corporate Communication. When the PR/Programming Coordinator position was announced, I was up for the challenge to be a one-person PR machine.

First task – updating all internal and external forms and publications. Before I was hired the Library had an "old school" graphic artist who did excellent work – but did it all by hand. Nothing was digitized. I did a major inventory of all our forms and publications. Each department went through their "department-specific" items and either threw them away; told me to keep them the same; or made notes for updating. I ended up digitizing all of these items by redoing them on Microsoft Publisher; I then pdf'd the items and indexed them in a joint folder on our computer network, so that they were accessible to anyone at any building. Finally, I reprinted everything with our new logo; contact information; and a standardized look, to aid in our branding efforts.

Second task
– the MarketingPlus Committee. The internal MarketingPlus Committee (M+) used to lack direction and focus. I was on this committee while working in the Reference Department, and I speak from experience that it was one of those meetings I dreaded going to. They used to be weekly, and last for hours. One of my personal goals in this new position was to reach out to supervisors and have them assign an interested staff person from each department. I wanted committee members who wanted to be on the committee. I thought everyone would want to help – who doesn't want to market the library? I was wrong. It was actually hard to get people to volunteer because of past practice and perception. It took almost two years to create a reliable core committee. We now have representatives from each of the following departments: reference, special collections, youth services, customer services/circulation, administration, branch(es), and public relations. As the PR/Programming Coordinator, I head the committee, which meets the third Thursday of every month at 2:15 p.m. at the Main Library. The consistency of the meetings is important because of the scheduling issues and the diversity of the committee-members. The meetings last no longer than 3:30; and we have a proactive agenda that everyone can contribute to via the computer network. The meeting agenda lists the topic; the person responsible; the projected outcome; and a due date. Even though it is a highly structured meeting, it's also a lot of fun (especially the sharing of treats)! The departmental diversity of the members really adds to the brainstorming sessions, and the communication channels have really opened up. M+ Committee members are encouraged to share their experiences during their department meetings, not only to help create staff buy-in, but to communicate what is going on at both Libraries. For example, at one meeting, a staff person from the Customer Service Department told us that the staff was unhappy about all the handouts laying around on the service desk. Was there any way to combine these into one master handout? From that initial discussion, and after many revisions, the PR Department came up with a monthly 11 x 17 calendar format that would be easy to read, have the same amount of info (if not more!) as the flyers, and become less of a time-commitment to the PR Staff. This never would have happened if it weren't for the M+ meetings. Patrons and staff both benefited from this wonderful idea. Another example of the M+ productivity came during the planning of the Summer Reading Program. Our frontline folks expressed concern over the size of the program's finishing prize - that there was not enough room to keep the prizes behind the Customer Service desks. Because of concern, the Youth Services and PR staff found smaller (and even better!) prizes to offer to our patrons. Again, this would have never happened if it weren't for the M+ Committee, and is a good example of how important it is to communicate with all departments on a regular basis.

Third task – Get some help! It took only a few months for the Library to realize that even though I was doing a great job, I needed some help. Administration decided it was time to hire on another PR professional. My full-time assistant was hired in June of 2005, and we've been a two-person department ever since. Because we are responsible for all media communications, internal communications, graphic arts, most partnerships, special events, and ongoing adult programming, we’ve divided up our tasks by our strengths. My assistant (who has a BA in journalism) works on all written publicity – writing press releases, posting the releases to online community calendars, and compiling the releases onto a monthly calendar we hand out in the Library. She is also responsible for distributing printed items to staff and the public. I am responsible for portraying the programs and events graphically, on posters and handouts. I also edit two bi-monthly newsletters Main Entries (a general Library newsletter); and Booktalking, a bi-monthly readers’ advisory newsletter. I'm also responsible for media relations and placing stories; building partnerships; looking for grant opportunities; and coordinating the rest of the Library's programming efforts, including Reference computer classes, Youth Services programs, Special Collections' programs, and large "all-ages" special events that we do on an annual basis. Finally, when our budget allows for advertising, I look for the best deals in our local media outlets that can get us the most reach and frequency for the least amount of money.

We are never bored! Last year our Library offered more than 300 programs between the two buildings, with more than 15,000 people attending the programs. My goal is to continue getting the word out so our statistics continue to increase. This includes library use statistics, walk-in statistics and programming statistics.

If you have any questions about implementing a PR Department from the ground up, please don't hesitate to email me at:; or call at 563-888-3371."

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