Monday, August 06, 2007

An internal marketing recap and the next chat!

Before I continue my posts on the values of gaming in libraries, I want to relate the feedback I received on our last chat about internal marketing. As you may remember, I asked internal marketing expert Sybil Stershic to review our chat and comment on the issues that sprouted up. She generously did so and now I'd like to share her insights with you.

One participant mentioned that her library is working on a logo redesign, and she was concerned that there was little staff buy-in since the process did not involve their input. My inclination is to encourage staff involvement in the planning stages, but I acknowledge that doing so may put too many cooks in the kitchen and stall projects. In her e-mail to me, Sybil noted that staff input does not necessarily mean getting full staff consensus. Rather, at minimum, staff should be told of the process and rationale for the design. They should also be the first to see it. As Sybil summed up,

Bottom line: employees should be considered an organization’s "first audience."
I thought this was a great tip and one that is simple to implement.

Another concern raised was that there exists an aversion to risk, or "culture of fear" as I put it, that precludes good ideas from being implemented and devalues experimentation as a part of the daily routine. We discussed that some staff feel like it's a waste of time to try out new technologies that don't seem immediately beneficial, for example. Sybil brought up a number of ideas that apply to this problem. First, she noted that internal marketing involves aspects of "attitude management" and "communications management." Attitude management means getting staff to buy into the organization's mission and goals, while communications management means giving staff the information and tools to do their jobs. Sybil pointed out that management needs to address each of these areas and be attentive to staff perceptions and concerns about technologies and other aspects of service. She mentioned a report from the Marketing Science Institute called, "Paradoxes of Technology: Consumer Cognizance, Emotions, and Coping Strategies." The study sounds like a good primer for managers about how technology can be a source of excitement as well as anxiety for their staff. It's easy to overlook the fact that staff perceptions count as much as patrons' perceptions. If they perceive a technology as irrelevant even if it isn't, they won't be inclined to investigate it further, which could ultimately hurt library services. Sybil also suggested that better communication is needed to clarify policies so staff feel comfortable taking some risks.

Finally, Sybil recommended treating staff like any other target market by doing some market research to identify how to best engage them. She states,

As for what helps motivate staff or what's holding them back from learning or moving forward, just ask them. I'm a big believer in internal surveys (whether formal or informal)...ask your staff: What barriers are in the way to [fill-in-the blank here]? And what suggestions do you have to get around these roadblocks? (Of course, the quality of answers will depend on the organization's culture, particularly in how open communications are, how well management listens and responds, etc.)

What a terrific point! Sometimes we forget that the simplest way to solve a problem is to first have a clear understanding of what it is.

My hearty thanks to Sybil for taking the time to share her years of experience in this area!

I'd like to build on some of the topics that came up in the last chat and develop them further in our next one. To that end, let's chat about transforming cultures of fear into cultures of creativity. How can libraries improve their ability to innovate and how can they also support their patrons' own creative pursuits? I'm to conduct the next chat a little bit differently. Instead of having a set time for the chat, I'm going to leave the chat open for an entire day. Just stop by the chat room, leave your comments and suggestions, and the next person can build on your ideas or just leave their own. I envision it as a sort of day-long brainstorming session. (You can also feel free to chat with anyone who happens to be in the room). By the end of the day, I hope to have a monster list of ideas. I'll review them and pull out the themes and most intriguing ideas, which I'll share in a blog post. Sound good? If you're game, here's how it'll work:

  • Go to the Library Marketing Exchange on Thursday, August 16th (anytime).

  • Introduce yourself and where you work (optional).
  • Leave your answer to the question, How can libraries improve their ability to innovate and how can they also support their patrons' own creative pursuits? I'm interested in your creativity tips and how you can inspire a creative culture in libraries.
    • Build on previous responses or leave ideas that are entirely your own. Chat with anyone who may be in the room.

  • That's it! I'll summarize the responses in a LM blog post.

I'm hoping this approach will allow more people to participate and be involved in the conversation. I'll be poking in throughout to day to deposit my 2 cents. Hope to find you there!

[By the way, please feel free to suggest a theme for an upcoming chat! I'd love to get your ideas.]

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