April 19, 2018

"Library Marketing Emergency"

That was the intriguing subject line of an email I received this past week. Library Marketing Emergency, what the heck? Out of respect for the situation of the sender, I’ll keep name and library confidential, but I would love your insights into her dilemma. 

Said library is redesigning their website. In doing so, they have allotted only marginal space for any promotional message and/or marketing positioning about the library. She stressed the website needs to make an emotional connection of some sort to their customers, but: "I got a lot of resistance, which I almost didn’t expect (silly me)." 

She goes on: "I am so distressed to still hear that patrons don’t want to read about what we do and that we don’t want to clutter up our web site with this stuff, that other Libraries don’t do this and that we have our newsletter for marketing (a dry email newsletter people can opt out of getting and most probably ignore)." 

She recently launched YouTube videos and is getting resistance because the hits are small. "There is just no long view on these things! A few weeks isn’t enough time (is it?) to declare the idea a failure, especially when we do so little marketing. Am I right?"

And here’s where I really would love to hear from you. She says: 
"I suggested that at least we consider running some sort of graphics a la Live Strong to suggest our orientation to service – staff giving stuff to patrons, meeting at the reference desk with patrons… "no one will look at it" – well, maybe not, but they will still "see" it and be reminded, on some level, that we are there to help them should they need it. I don’t think I’m so off base… what do the pictures on Lance Armstrong’s site do? They remind us that he has fought cancer and we can also overcome things that life throws at us, right? It doesn’t say that anywhere, but we get the message. 

I need some backup. Can you easily direct me to other authoritative sources to help convince the staff here how vital making that emotional connection really is?"

Here are a couple of things I sent to her:
Seth Godin, talking about how customers act on the basis of three emotions (fear, hope, love); 
Katya Andresen, talking (specifically about donors, but relevant to everyone) about the importance of making an emotional connection. 

I sent a list of sources talking about the value of emotional connections, including
Encyclopedia Britannica (!): "marketers must appeal to the hearts, not just the minds of their customers…even in seemingly unlovable industries such as electronic components and concrete."
Open Forum: "Emotion is the final arbiter of the effectiveness of your message."

Would you:
1) offer some encouragement
2) share with her any sources that may have helped you with similar issues

And if you would like to connect personally with her, let me know, and I’ll send you her email.

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.



  1. I have just the thing! Elisabeth Doucett’s book, “Creating Your Library Brand.” It takes the basics of disciplines of branding, marketing, and public relations and puts them in a context libraries and their professionals can quickly respect and appreciate. Provides objective expertise and credibility.

  2. She needs a trusted messenger to help deliver her message. Someone else. Find a person on staff or outside the library walls who can talk about these things so that it does not just come from the marketing person. Gather stories from customers about the feelings (emotions) created by the library and keep on plugging away. She’s not off-base!