We’ve all been there. Your library has a fabulous public event planned, and you’ve expended a great deal of time and money to make sure it will be one to remember. But two weeks before the event, the majority of the tickets you expected to give away are still sitting at your public service desks. Yikes!
It’s the stuff of any marketers’ nightmares! Stepping back to review what we might have missed, we see the announcement in our newsletter, the web site postings, e-news flashes, flyers and posters strategically placed, the social media engagement, the displays – why are those tickets still sitting there? Haven’t we covered all the bases? In a word – NO!
These days, most of us in the field of library marketing and public relations are overwhelmed with the rate at which new technologies come flying at us, all promising to reach our patrons in new and better ways. Not many of us can keep up with it all – Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Flickr, Pinterest, Slideshare, YouTube…and Hoot Suite just seems to add yet another level of stress needing to be dealt with “tout de suite!”
No matter what kind of technological bells and whistles we’ve got at our disposal, though, it’s times like this that we need to roll up our sleeves and simply get back to the basics. At the end of the day, it’s all about communication. If your patrons aren’t responding, no matter what tools you’ve used, your message just hasn’t been communicated.
So, what now? Well, let me tell you what I did when I faced just such a nightmare scenario recently at my library. First, with the encouragement of my administrator, I made just one more sign. Then I put it on a table right in the middle of the lobby. I got a chair and a stack of tickets, put a smile on my face, and started to talk to everyone who came in the door.
“Hi, how are you today? Did you hear about our event?” And, guess what? Most people I talked to had no idea! And my stack of tickets started to get a little smaller. Not everyone was interested in the event I was promoting. But almost everyone was interested in being greeted, in being acknowledged, in talking about something.
In my two weeks in the library lobby, I heard so many interesting stories and met so many wonderful people. I gave directions, I helped a patron use the lobby copier, I made a crying child smile, I even learned a line dance step or two. And, after a while, I started to recognize the faces of many of our regular patrons and, more importantly, they recognized me.
Curious staff members stopped to find out what in the world I was doing, and pretty soon I had a couple of recruits to cover the hours when I wasn’t working at the library. In two weeks, we gave away over 500 tickets. I think we were all a little amazed. Not only had this simple strategy worked, it was surprisingly easy!
Now, I’m not suggesting that we all pick up shop and camp out in our lobbies. But I did learn some important lessons from this experience. First, there is no more powerful communication tool than the act of one person simply talking to another. Second, our patrons really do want to talk to us. And, most importantly for me as a marketer, the next time I really want to know what our patrons think, I’m going to skip the SurveyMonkey. I’m heading to the lobby. Who knows? I might just learn another dance step or two!
Shelley Campbell is Public Relations Specialist at the West Chicago Public Library District.