CPD25 event: Introduction to Marketing within Academic Libraries

The Weiner Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide is a fascinating place – such a treasure trove of unique material, although both physically and emotionally daunting, I think. Anyway, that’s where the CPD25 event I attended last week was held, in a room that was definitely too small to accommodate the number of participants attending!

The session was two hours long and there was a lot of material covered during this time. Samantha Halford, who facilitated the session, has put together a helpful storify outlining the key points we discussed.

We began with an icebreaker activity in which we were asked to match celebrities to the brands/products that they endorsed. There were some really obscure ones there, which sort of undermined the point that ‘we subconsciously absorb marketing information all the time’ because clearly in these cases… we hadn’t! It was fun, however, and it’s certainly a useful activity to bear in mind if ever I run a session on marketing…

We then ran through a quick overview of what marketing actually is (building relationships with users), and what it isn’t (just promotion, advertising, or branding). I feel like I already have a good grounding in this area thanks to a session on this topic during my MA in Librarianship at Sheffield. However, it was good to go over the basics; remembering to focus on the reasons why you are running a particular marketing activity was my main takeaway point from this first half of the session. Ned Potter’s book was also plugged during the session; I’ve found it a really useful and accessible introduction to library marketing and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in this topic.

Mam Tor, in Yorkshire

Mam Tor, in Yorkshire

There was then an interesting group activity in which we discussed the different ways in which we would target different user groups within our libraries. This has been echoed somewhat with a session I’ve just had today at my EDMAP1 teaching day, on how ‘minorities’ are now the ‘majority’ of our users, and how we need to think about the ways in which we communicate with and cater to the unique needs of our heterogeneous user base.

The most useful part of the session was, for me, Jacqui Gaul’s top 7 tips for marketing in academic libraries. These were really practical:

  1. work with a marketing department if you have one
  2. create a visual identity for your service
  3. use a planner to map out your activities throughout the year
  4. always remember what the purpose is underlying your marketing initiatives and keep this at the forefront at all times – don’t just do something because it seems like a good idea!
  5. highlight benefits, not features
  6. think like a user
  7. use ‘AIDCA’ to underpin your messages

Looking at my own current practice at my organisation I can see that there is plenty that we can do to improve the ways in which we build relationships with our users. To some extent I do feel limited because I am in a junior role within my organisation with few opportunities to really make any decisions; however, I still think within my own departments I certainly will be able to put some of the tips explored into practice.

I think that over the next few months, I will use these marketing tips to try and improve my relationship with the MLES department, which as I mentioned awhile ago is one of those that I have had little engagement with (in terms of with the student body; the staff are great!). I will particularly work on the planner idea, trying to match my communications with students so that they are timely and in sync with what’s going on in their academic lives. I will also try to improve the email communications that I send out to them by highlighting benefits and using AIDCA, while putting on a ‘user’ hat to ensure that any confusing terminology or presumed knowledge is left out.

Here’s hoping this will help increase the number of enquiries/interactions I have with students – one of the few KPIs that I have at my disposal!

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