This year’s Publicity and Public Relations Group’s conference: Library marketing and PR – critical to success, was held in the Custard Factory, Birmingham. Probably the CILIP group with the most relevance to my work with the Libraries Taskforce, I was glad to get a place and looked forward to seeing presentations from their Marketing excellence award winners.
Celebration cake: pprg award winners 2016
Before we got to those though, first up was Alastair McCapra – CEO of CIPR, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
He started by asking if anyone was familiar with Libraries Deliver…… (not many were – but then as a large percentage of the group were from academic libraries, I’m not that surprised). It was valuable to hear comments from someone not at the heart of the libraries sector, but who has experience and expertise in marketing. Alastair worked from the draft text, commenting that he thought it set out a good summary of what libraries have already achieved – confirming that even in a document looking at a future vision , it is important to remember there is a track record. He went on to pull out some important lines, which, as he put it, sound good, but benefit from unpicking. Overall he was positive, and said he was pleased to see communications, advocacy and marketing given a profile in the document. I’ve invited him to write a guest blog post for the Taskforce, and look forward to hearing his thoughts once he has seen the final document.
He commented that any advice around libraries and marketing perhaps includes the supposition that the library has some kind of PR resource – and he suspects many don’t, or have to rely on a central PR team. His follow up comment: if you work in a library and don’t have your own PR team, but want to land a campaign, DO go and talk to the central team. His aside: “cake will always open doors” went down well! He made the point that the main thing PR people hate is having things dumped on them at the last moment. They like to be in at the beginning, so they can help shape things. nb. this did remind me of the wonderful cartoons I saw from Helen Reynolds the other day – which she called face-palm bingo.
The next speaker was Liz McGettigan, whose lively talk titled: From a whisper to a roar! contained masses of examples of innovative library marketing, modern exciting library and exhortations that we ALL need to shout more about what we are doing. It was delivered at breakneck speed, and I plan once the presentation has been shared to work though it more slowly, following up many of the links I noted and actually watching some of the films she shared tantalising clips from.
Emma Walton‘s talk: Marketing – a nice thing to do? shared how Loughborough University engages with its users to ensure that they continue to deliver exactly what people need. She used the example of their recent refurbishment as something that could have caused problems (while the library building had to close for the summer, services were still available). She commented that while marketing was business critical, and essential, it was also a nice thing to do, and could be fun.
At the end of the day, we heard from the Library of Birmingham’s Dawn Beaumont about the challenges they have faced. Tough times is an understatement, but it was good to hear that this iconic building is now recognised as a real landmark in the city (and its worth noting that their twitter account now is one of the most followed among English library services – with 22,600!)
2016 Award winners
But, as mentioned, what I was really looking forward to was the award winners.
Oldham libraries were the first of 2 Gold award winners, for their live@thelibrary programme of literature and arts events.
The team from Oldham with their award.
Andrea Ellison introduced the context: there are 12 libraries in Oldham, including the flagship central library. It’s is a colourful, architecturally interesting building (definitely one to add to the ‘must visit’ list) which includes a purpose built performance space. The performance space is a good space, but had a low technical level spec and tended to be used more for meetings. ACE capital funding improved the quality of the space, and GftA supported development of the programme.
I’ve invited Andrea to blog about their programme for the Taskforce, so I hope to be able to share more details about their project soon.
The second Gold award was given to Durham University’s Palace Green library for their Magna Carta exhibition. Emma Hamlett – curator of exhibition shared their objectives and evaluation, which included a specific measure of economic impact generated (£2.4m) and % of people who came to Durham specifically to visit the exhibition.
A different team from Durham received a second award: silver, for their 2015 induction campaign for students, which was based around Harry Potter.
Publicity materials from the Durham University library induction campaign.
Their aims were to inform new students about library services, and encourage them to visit the library.
Assets included ‘owl’ flyers, banners, bags and traditional publicity leaflets. They had displays at library entrances, and attended campus events (freshers fairs etc) plus there was lots of activity on social media.
One idea that captured peoples attention was the sorting app they created (as students swiped their library card, they were ‘sorted’ into one of the Hogwarts houses).
Their overall budget was around £3000, which chiefly went on printing materials. Design and organisation was all done by the in-house team.
Their induction video sums up the style tone of the campaign “we think the library is magic” (and it contains owls – whats not to like?!)
NB – someone in the audience asked about copyright. The team did contact JK Rowling’s representative, and as it was non commercial use, permission was given.
Leeds libraries won the Bronze award for their #whatsyourstory campaign. This one was already familiar to me, as they had written a blog for the Taskforce, but it was interesting to hear Alison Millar presenting their plans for the future, and how it has turned around the way they think about services: focus on the people and what difference library makes to their lives. Statistics are important, but stories matter.
The final award was for a social media campaign. Edge Hill University won for #WillOnCampus, a one week campaign which ran 18-23 April 2016. Julie Nolan told us about the initiative, which started as a fun idea to celebrate the anniversary. They wanted to engage with their social media community and lift the mood during a stressed time in the university calendar.
They took a series of photos of the Bard hiding around campus, and shared one each day, challenging participants to guess the PLAY and guess the PLACE. All planning and implementation was done by the in house team and their total budget was c£18 (!) which included the chocolate bars for the winners (and for those alone they deserve a prize for plays on words – as each was relabelled, for example ‘Much Ado About (Fruit and Nut)-ing’)
Having seen the impact of this, they are planning more social media campaigns, for example another photo competition, this time to highlight library services.
All the award winners.
A well organised event in a bright and easy to get to venue, which illustrated the range of activities going on in libraries – both public and academic, showed just how many similarities and overlaps there are between the 2 sectors, and how much we can learn from one another. It also endorsed the calls made by several of the morning speakers, that libraries really need to get better at publicity: while the media loves bad news stories, we must not let these drown out the innovative work being done.
And my own objectives? Well and truly met. Lots of people met and ideas for future blogs and case studies gathered.