August 29, 2014

What’s Your Big Announcement? | From the Bell Tower

There’s something about sharing a big news item that just seems to get people excited and engaged. Did your library have a big announcement to start off the new academic year?

It’s become a somewhat standard practice in the hi-tech world to create frenzy around a big announcement—or perhaps it’s a not-so-big development that a company would like to generate as much buzz about as possible. Just the act of orchestrating an announcement about a new product or service, particularly if shrouded in mystery, has morphed into an big-hype production that will likely reap far greater far greater attention than deserved. That is now an expected practice for a company like Apple. Thanks to years of Steve Jobs using these programs to debut iconic devices, any Apple conference or meeting with the media is as highly anticipated as the release of actual products. The followers are eager to be first to hear about a new product or software release. Apple often lives up to the hype, but sometimes we wonder why these announcements generate so much excitement. Given Apple’s success with this approach, it’s no wonder other companies are using the same strategy.

What will they say?

Back on August 24 Mashable reported that Amazon released an announcement that it would… well, it would make an announcement today, September 6…about something…really big. Mashable, in its report, noted that Amazon very rarely holds an invited special event to make an announcement. It typically rolls out new products and services only at the annual corporate meeting. That lead to some significant conjecturing among the experts as to what the fall announcement would divulge. Would there be a new piece of hardware? A new operating system? A new version of the Kindle? What’s amazing is that Amazon needed little effort to gather an enormous amount of attention. All they had to do was issue a press release putting everyone on notice that they had a big announcement to make. The tech media does the rest.

What’s new this fall?

For academic librarians, fall is when students and faculty return to campus to get back to the business of learning. The start of a new academic year is the perfect time to roll out something new or even fairly new. Perhaps it’s a totally redesigned website or a new service that’s undergone months of testing and is finally ready for prime time. Your academic library is unlikely to generate the immense attention of an Apple or Google, but following their lead may lead to some interesting possibilities. Things get a bit more challenging when the library team is lacking something really fresh and different to share with the community. That’s when the truly creative manage to come up with something around which to focus attention on the library. Flashy orientation events or a giveaway may serve that purpose. When all else fails organize a fun event with free food—and perhaps the promise of a big announcement.

Going with the big announcement

Admittedly, the big announcement approach is not for every library. If you decide to employ it to promote as your newest, latest, and greatest resource, keep a few things in mind. Experience suggests that the style of the announcement may actually be more crucial to capturing attention than the actual substance. Craft the announcement in such a way that it makes significant as possible without saying exactly what it is, because you want to save the big news for a live event or even a specific date when all will be revealed. Take, for example, that new discovery engine your library implemented over the summer. That could easily be turned into a big announcement with an event and some sort of public relations campaign centered on the news. Announce it at an event in the library to ramp up the hype about your search. This is where having connections with the campus media outlets proves fruitful. If it’s early in the fall or pre-semester, it may be too early for the student newspaper to publish, but with good outreach it might ignite some student texting.

Visualize and make it happen

If there was no big announcement at your library this fall or your latest announcement generated a big collective yawn from the community, now is the time to start thinking about the next announcement opportunity and how to do a better job of creating some campus buzz about the library. Start by thinking big and clever. What would both capture your community’s attention and stir their interest? Think about the possibilities for creating the big announcement for this new service or important event. Visualize the way you would want students and faculty to react, and then develop the strategy for making it happen. Look for campus partners who could help to elevate the attention level. As your action plan emerges share it with colleagues to find out how it resonates with them, but try to get some feedback from students. Coming up with new ideas and actually implementing them is hard enough. It may help to approach your next great idea as something worthy of a big announcement to encourage bit thinking and big ideas. It sounds ambitious, and in the end it may not add up to all that was hoped for, but there’s something about special about a big announcement that can’t be denied. Here’s hoping that your next big announcement is a big hit.

This article was featured in Library Journal's Academic Newswire enewsletter. Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to your inbox for free.

Steven Bell About Steven Bell

Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, is the current vice president/president-elect of ACRL. For more from Steven visit his blogs, Kept-Up Academic Librarian, ACRLog and Designing Better Libraries or visit his website.

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