To draw the audience you seek and create awareness about your Let’s Talk About It series, your library needs to plan and implement an effective promotional campaign. The following guidelines are intended to help you launch a successful campaign. Included are general suggestions for promotional activities and sample media materials.
Please note: All promotional materials must carry the funder credit line and/or logos that appear in Sponsor Credits. Libraries are required to follow credit guidelines in all promotions.
To meet media and other deadlines, you will need to start promoting your Let’s Talk About It series two months in advance.
First, determine your target audience, goals for audience size and the best communication methods for this program. Involving your fellow staff members in program planning can be a great way to start determining these things and foster new ideas and additional support and enthusiasm. Try holding a mini-workshop or brainstorming session. During this session:
- emphasize the potential for recruiting new users and building support for the library;
- communicate the goals for your program—what audiences you wish to reach, what you wish to accomplish; and
- assign staff with various interests/talents to work in small groups to carry out the goals.
Additionally, share your program plans with the library director, board, Friends and other library support groups and invite their ideas and cooperation.
Defining the Target Audience
General promotional materials such as postcards, flyers, press releases, and advertisements are great vehicles for reaching a general audience of mixed ages and backgrounds. Certainly, there are also several groups in your community that will be very interested in your Let’s Talk About It series. These groups can provide support through passing information about the series onto members of their organization who may be interested in attending or providing financial, programmatic, and other support. For a list of some of these organizations that may be in your community, see Program Planning.
Choosing Communication Methods
Once you’ve determined who you would like reach out to, you need to focus on how you’re going to let them know about the series. Most communication methods fall into these four categories:
- Public Relations/Publicity: press releases, newspaper and magazine articles, announcements on television and radio programs, websites, public service announcements (PSAs), letters to the editor, social media;
- Direct Marketing: direct mailings, mass email messages, online marketing;
- Personal Contact: word of mouth, public speaking engagements, telephone, emails, letters;
- Advertising: print ads, TV and radio spots, banners, flyers, bookmarks, posters, buttons, and displays.
Public relations/publicity refers to content about your library and programs that appear in the media. For example, a press release or public service announcement informing the media about your events may result in newspaper coverage or an announcement on a local radio program.
Press and Media
Contacting the media and using the Internet to publicize your event is key to getting your message out to a mass audience. Here are a few methods you can use to contact your local media and reach out to audiences through the Internet:
- Email a press release announcing the event to your local newspapers, radio stations and television stations at least two to four weeks before the event. If you have regional magazines or talk shows that list upcoming events, you may want to send a release to them as well. Since these media outlets often have longer lead times, send these press releases out at least four to eight weeks before the event. Sample press releases have been included in the following pages and the Let’s Talk About It Online Site Support Notebook.
- About a week before your event, follow up the press release by sending a media alert via fax or email to key contacts. A sample media alert appears on the following pages and in the Let’s Talk About It Online Site Support Notebook. The alert provides specific information about the date, time and location for reporters and photographers who may be interested in attending the series, reporting on the series, or including the information in an “Upcoming Events” section. If possible, call each contact a day or two later to confirm that they received the media alert, find out if they have any questions, and see if they are interested in attending the program, scheduling an interview with the program director or scholar, getting more information about the program, or if they plan to include the news in an upcoming issue.
- If you find that media professionals are interested in visiting the library for a program in the series, a related event, or an interview, you will need to have additional materials available in a press kit. The press kit should contain one copy of the press release, media alert, photos and biographies of your scholar and other key participants, and copies of all promotional materials—flyers, bookmarks, postcards, etc. Alternately, you may decide to create an electronic press kit, which would include PDFs of all the materials listed above saved to a disc or a USB flash drive, or uploaded to a section of your library’s website that can be easily accessed by the local media. If you do get an opportunity to discuss the event with a reporter, suggest story ideas and offer to schedule an interview with your speakers and partner organizations. (First, make sure your program guests, scholar, and partner organization representatives are willing to be interviewed.)
- Since television and radio stations are required to use a percentage of their airtime for non-profit and public announcements, your local stations may be willing to air a public service announcement (PSA) about your Let’s Talk About It series. A PSA will advertise your event, but is donated airtime, so there is no cost to your library. If you have the capabilities, you may wish to create taped, ready-to-air PSAs for radio and/or TV. If not, you will need to work closely with stations in your community to gain their interest in the series and help them develop the PSAs.
- If your library’s website doesn’t have a calendar or Coming Events section, talk to your webmaster about creating one. This is the perfect place for library patrons to find out details about your series. Make sure you include as much information as possible on your website and keep it current. If you do have a Coming Events section, you need to include information about the series in it. Participants in the series who do not visit the library on a regular basis will look to the library’s website for details or last minute information, and it’s important that you make that information available. If you post information about the series on your library’s website, be sure to include the URL on promotional materials.
- The Internet can also be useful for getting the word out about your event through other organizations’ websites. Your partner organizations, city, community centers, local media outlets and Chamber of Commerce may post information about community events on their websites. Additionally, many major cities also have local entertainment and news websites, such as Patch.com, Eventful.com, Upcoming.Yahoo.com, and Everyblock.com, which provide information about events in several cities. Find out if these websites exist in your area and learn how you can go about getting your library’s events added to the site. Many sites allow for user-generated content, so adding your Let’s Talk About It series could be easier than you think. Also, be sure to include links to your partners’ sites and encourage them to return the favor.
- If your library has a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Flickr, be sure to post information to those venues when promoting your upcoming events. Include the relevant information about date, time, and location, but also include a preview of the themes of the program. Consider creating a short video or podcast to preview the subject matter to be discussed and provoke conversation. Remember to include the library’s electronic networks not just through the promotion period, but through the programming period as well. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be the logical place for participants to continue any conversation that begins in the library.
- To establish connections between local library programs and the national Bridging Cultures initiative, please consider tagging any related content with the hashtag #muslimjourneys. On Twitter, include @NEHBookshelf to have your content considered for retweeting and posting to the public Muslim Journeys public website. You may wish to ask your project scholar(s), community partners, and program attendees to join the conversation by using this hashtag as well.
Using the list of community organizations and other groups you have identified as your target audience, you can use direct marketing to contact these groups and individual members of these groups:
- When contacting community and other organizations, use a personalized letter or phone call. You can also use a copy of your program flyer as an informal letter, if needed, but be sure to include a personal note soliciting support, especially if you are asking for financial or other support. A sample letter to community groups appears on the following pages.
- In addition to contacting organizations, you may want to target individuals in your community. If you keep a list of patrons’ email addresses, sending a mass email message about the upcoming event can be an effective and inexpensive way to get the word out to a number of people. You may also want to consider printing a customized version of the Let’s Talk About It postcard found in the Online Site Support Notebook. Postcards can be mailed to library patrons, community members or others. Additionally, you may want to send an email message about the program to community group leaders to post to their electronic discussion groups or forward on to their own address lists.
One-on-one personal contact can be one of your most effective means of communicating with key individuals and groups. It can create a better understanding and build more enthusiasm than any other communication method. Some tips:
- Create a list of influential individuals in your community—the mayor, city council members, business leaders, religious leaders, etc.—who may be interested in your event. Send them a letter and program flyer about the event and ask to meet with them to discuss further. If a meeting is not possible, mention in your letter that you will call them within a week to follow-up. Even if these individuals are not able to participate in the series, letting them know about the program could help the library in other ways.
- When contacting community groups, you may want to ask to speak for five to ten minutes at one of their upcoming meetings or events. This is inexpensive and effective since it allows you to both deliver your message and gauge responses. At the meeting, outline your overall series plan and present convincing reasons why the series may be of interest to them. Bring flyers, bookmarks and other materials along to distribute after your speech. If possible, speak at the end of the meeting or offer to stay until the end of the meeting to answer questions.
- If speaking at a meeting is not possible, solicit support from these groups to help promote the program themselves. Ask the group leaders to pass out flyers or mention the program to their members and staff.
Often the most expensive promotional method, advertising can also be one of the most effective vehicles for promoting your program. Here are a few advertising methods:
- Promotional posters: Participating libraries will receive 5 posters that can be customized to include information about your library’s Let’s Talk About It series. Posters should include series program times, location(s), scholar’s name and title or brief biographical information, acknowledgement of local funders, and your library’s URL, email address, and/or phone number people can call for more information. Posters can be posted at your library, community centers (e.g., city hall, the post office and schools, local colleges), restaurants, grocery stores, dry cleaners, bookstores, health clubs, etc. Ask Friends and trustees to post flyers and posters at places they frequent. It’s easy for them to take the posters with them and won’t require as much work for the project director or staff. If you need more posters, the print file can be downloaded from the Online Site Support Notebook.
- Paid advertising in local newspapers and on local radio or television stations can be another effective, but costly method. Before considering paid advertising, approach your local newspapers, radio and television stations regarding public service announcements (see Public Relations/Publicity above). Some newspapers and broadcast stations may be willing to donate or offer discounted airtime or ad space for non-profit groups. If you do receive free advertising, acknowledge the media outlet as a sponsor on program materials. If you consider paid advertising, also look to your Friends or other groups to underwrite costs.
- Developing simple, cost effective promotional items (bookmarks, buttons, pens/pencils, etc.) is another effective way to promote your event. These promotional items can also double as a “freebie” for patrons who attend the Let’s Talk About It series. Hand out promotional items at schools, community group meetings or other locations. Ask Friends and trustees to hand out bookmarks to their friends and others. To get you started, ALA will provide 200 printed copies of a Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys bookmark. Additional copies may be printed from the Online Site Support Notebook.
Putting It All Together
After reviewing this list, spend a little time thinking about which of these methods will work best for your event, your community and your library. Consider your budget and time available. Consider your planning team—is this effort a one-man production or committee-based? And, consider your past successes and failures by taking a look at which communication methods you’ve used to promote past events. For this Let’s Talk About It series, you may want to combine some successful methods you’ve used before with some new ideas.
Also, keep in mind your goals for the size and type of audience you wish to attract. If your library can only hold a group of twenty, you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on publicity. Instead, use your resources wisely. Use cost-effective methods and spend the majority of your time contacting individuals and groups that you are most interested in reaching or that could benefit the most from the series.
On the other hand, if you are looking to attract an audience of people who have never set foot in the library, you will need to be more creative in your promotional activities. Most likely, you will need to spend a little more time contacting new people and developing promotional materials for new outlets and locations. However, this time and effort should pay off. Bringing new faces into the library for a program will undoubtedly result in issuing more library cards and finding new life-long library patrons.