April 23, 2014

LJ Directors Summit: WOW!

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Wow, wow, wow! I’m returning from the 2010 LJ Directors Summit, and I can only say: wow! Without doubt this was the best library gathering I have yet attended. The people, the speakers, the energy, the hunger to embrace marketing were an inspiration.

Over the next few days I will add more about the experience, including some PowerPoint decks of a couple presentations, but first I want to share key highlights of the speakers.

Opening Keynote from Harbour Strategic Consulting:  Over the two days we heard again and again about the core idea that is the essence of your library brand. What is that key idea that unites everything that we do in a library?  These speakers had a term for it that you’ll enjoy: “the deep that unites.” Meaning the deep essence that unites our service work, our collection and our people. Is it (as in the case of my library) a transformational agency that changes lives? Or a centerpiece of a community? Or a place where people share? It can be a number of things, but you must tap into it before you write any copy, develop a tagline, strategy or graphics.

Cathy de Rosa: Cathy had a paltry 15 minutes, but I’ve never seen anyone embrace 15 minutes with such glee. Her main point is that we have 15 seconds before people tune out what we are saying. Often we lead with what we want to tell people rather than with what might better resonate with them. Her example: we often lead with, “demand in libraries is at an all time high, we’ve had budget cuts, lost staff,” People hear: books. By making it more actionable — “wait time for computers is 2 hours” – we are more likely to change the listener’s perception a little bit. I love this that she said: “As a library we have a nostalgic reality. We have to invite opportunities to get beyond nostalgia.” And, be sure to keep an eye out for the latest update of Perceptions of Public Libraries, which was first completed in 2006 and will be released in December 2010.

Basics & Beyond: I co-presented this session with my new best friend, Tina Thomas of Edmonton Public Library. LOVE HER! Wait until you see what she is doing at epl. I’ll post her presentation here shortly. Suffice it to say that epl’s new mission statement is this: We Share!

Second Day Keynote: Kaiser Permanente. KP is an HMO with big marketing budgets and deep pockets for great creative advertising. But guess what? They had the SAME issues libraries do. In nearly every way her comments mimicked what all speakers said throughout the summit.  Some of what she said: “It’s not about us, it’s about them” – this because they used to focus on how great their doctors are in their ad campaigns, but refocused their message on creating a sense of urgency with their customers: getting them to thrive through healthful lifestyles.

Their goal: “to make an emotional connection with a skeptical audience.” (Here’s our hazard with libraries. I’m worried that we’ve bought so much of our own I-love-the-library-press and are missing that there are a lot of skeptical people out there.) See their Thrive spots here.

She went on to emphasize that we need to focus on what we believe, not what we do. Again, that deep that unites. Stop bogging ourselves down with an inventory of all the things found in a library and focus instead on the why.

Oh, and this made me belly-laugh. She was asked:  libraries are so focused on serving everyone that we try to make sure that everyone understands everything we do. Her answer: “You just have to get over that.” She went on: “when you are so busy trying to please everyone you don’t please anyone. Your message turns to mush.”

Great speed consulting followed, with ten tables covering the gamut of issues: getting your staff on board, involving Friends and Foundations, crafting a powerful marketing message, using social media.

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I’m so inspired. There’s a great deal of work to get done!

Alison Circle About Alison Circle

Alison Circle is director of marketing communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library. Previously she was an Account Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, a global branding agency, and her primary client was Target Stores. Prior to that she was the National Marketing Director for Minnesota Public Radio and "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She has advanced degrees in English and Fine Arts, and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

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