Marketing, Cooperation, and PR
Marketing is an important part of planning a successful program. There are often many events for children and families, even in the smallest communities. They may not know about the wonderful programs scheduled at the library. For a successful program, advertise, promote, and market in as many ways as possible. Promotion must be ongoing, consistent, reliable, and fresh. Promotion is not a one-time activity. Often people do not "pay attention" to publicity until they have a need to hear what you have to say, so make sure that your message is repeated time and time again. Even people who may never step foot into the library should still be aware of the library's programs and services.
Much of a library’s marketing efforts will focus on ensuring that parents know about the programs and attracting an audience. Marketing includes telling the story of the library and its programs. Word of mouth, especially to an audience already in the library, is the most effective marketing tool available. Enlist as many people as possible to tell the library’s story. Tell administrators and staff, funders, and support groups such as Friends of the Library about the interesting and successful programs so they can share the stories. Their stories may lead to additional and unanticipated opportunities.
As part of your public relations efforts, put together a media kit. This does not have to be elaborate but should include the following:
- Press releases
- Schedule of events
- Feature story about the Texas Reading Club
- Public service announcements for radio
- Publicity letters for newspapers, schools, and city officials
Press releases follow a standard format. For most media outlets, they do not need to be elaborate. Most community newspaper editors want "just the facts." Press releases must, however, include enough information to attract interest and sound newsworthy. What you write may encourage the editor to assign a reporter to cover your program, in which case the reporter will call for more details. In larger communities, the newspaper may only list the basic facts. Newspapers in small communities often print the entire press release as a "news" story and may even print a photograph, if one is included. Digital photos are often acceptable if they are of high enough resolution to be useable. Review each newspaper’s policy about the required file format and resolution. Follow these tips for successful press releases.
Space in newspapers is usually limited. Learn each media outlet’s deadlines and send the press release on time or a little early. Generally, it’s first-come, first-served for available space unless your press release attracts someone’s attention.
- Use simple sentences, straightforward language, and short paragraphs.
- Put the most important information first and include additional information further into the press release to be used if space permits.
- Accuracy is important! Double-check spelling and grammar, the date and time of the event, the address, and the phone number. Ask someone to proofread your press release.
- Submit regular press releases for individual programs throughout the summer. A single press release for an entire series of programs may be overlooked or set aside by the target audience.
- Print your press release on library letterhead.
- Double-space all releases that are submitted on paper.
- Limit the release to one page or less.
- Attach a Texas Reading Club flyer to your press release.
- Include contact information so the media will know how to reach you for more information or to cover your program in more detail.
The first paragraph of a press release is the lead and it sets the stage for the message. Make your point quickly and grab the readers’ attention!
The 2007 Texas Reading Club, “Sail Away With Books” provides opportunities for children of all ages to enjoy reading. It begins on June 4, 2007 at the Bluebonnet Public Library. This free program is co-sponsored by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and includes weekly reading activities and events.
Add details in the next paragraph and, if possible, include a human-interest angle or a quote. It is appropriate to “put words” in your director’s mouth by providing a quote.
"More than 200 children read for over 1000 hours last summer," said Library Director I. M. Reading. "This year we anticipate that the children of Bluebonnet will break that record and read for at least twice as many hours." Local school officials applauded the public library for its efforts to help local school children maintain and improve their reading skills.
Provide additional information, such as the library web site, phone number, hours, etc.
Information about the Texas Reading Club is available by calling 555-1234 and on the Library's web site, www.ippl.org. Programs will run through July 28, 2007. The Bluebonnet Public Library is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from noon to 6:00 p.m.
Add a headline at the top (Bluebonnet Kids Set Sail!!) and put your contact information at the bottom of the press release. Date the press release and, if the information is for immediate publication, say so. “Embargoed” press releases request that information not be published before a certain date. Most libraries do not need to send embargoed press releases. Even though the press release may repeat some information, it is important to include all of the programs in case something is cut.
See a sample press release here.
Check each media outlet's web site for deadlines, contact information, and other requirements, or call to get this information. Monthly publications have deadlines 6 to 8 weeks before the publication date. Most other venues prefer to receive information 10 to 14 days in advance. While timeliness is essential, it is not a good idea to send your press release too early as it might be misplaced or discarded.
Most newspapers, radio stations, and television outlets now accept press releases via e-mail or fax. This saves time and postage. Prepare the press release on stationery if it will be faxed. If it will be sent via e-mail, you should still write the release in letter style. Do not send your press release as an attachment, as some e-mail services will not accept them and your message may be ignored or returned.
If you address a press release to a specific individual, it is important to spell the person's name correctly. If you send your press release to more than one media outlet, it is not necessary to personalize each press release. If you use e-mail and are sending the same press release to several outlets, blind carbon them, or hide the e-mail addresses by using your e-mail software’s list function. This will prevent a long list of addresses from taking up the first screen of your message. This also prevents the editor from seeing he or she is not a unique recipient.
Don’t overlook smaller newspapers, specialty papers (such as The Greensheet), and neighborhood association newsletters. Especially in larger communities, these media outlets may welcome your publicity and their readership may reach new markets for the library. If you do not know all of the local newspapers in your community, you will find many of them on Newslink at http://newslink.org/txnews.html. You may look for local business newspapers, alternative and specialty journals, college publications, and ethnic newspapers on this web site. Many communities have Spanish-language or Hispanic cultural publications, weekly newspapers for the African-American community, and publications for other community groups. For example, college newspapers will reach married students and single parents. Austin Public Library regularly submits information about library programs to a publication called The Good Life. It is aimed at "older" adults but many readers are non-custodial parents or grandparents who may be looking for children's activities. Ask your local television or radio station to be a media sponsor for the Texas Reading Club.
Let your Friends of the Library, city or county officials, and staff and volunteers know about the Texas Reading Club. They will be some of your best sources for word-of-mouth marketing and may be willing to include information in their church newsletter, company e-mail, or other publicity venues.
Another outlet for free publicity is the community events or calendar section of media web sites. Most television stations, newspapers, radio stations, and official city or county web sites have calendars. Submit information about library programs about two weeks in advance. Submit information to local cable television stations. Many run community information bulletins.
Many libraries have started using blogs to promote programs and keep the public informed about and involved in library activities. A blog is a web-based log, somewhat like a diary or journal. Visit www.infotoday.com/MLS/nov03/fichter.shtml for an article “Why and How to Use Blogs to Promote Your Library's Services” by Darlene Fichter. As Fichter notes, blogs are a great way to reach younger library users and to let your library’s personality shine through. In addition to using blogs to promote the library, some librarians are setting up blogs for young people to share their thoughts about the books they are reading and to recommend books to others. What a great way to promote your reading club!
If you are not currently taking digital photographs, consider doing so. They are inexpensive to print and you print only what is needed. Many drug stores and one-hour photo labs can produce high quality prints for less than fifty cents. Many newsletters will accept electronic photographs to print with a story. They also make great “thank you” gifts for sponsors and donors. Kodak offers online tutorials and tips for digital photography at www.kodak.com. Click on “Consumer Photography” and select “Taking Great Pictures.”
Public relations and marketing is a cumulative process. It cannot be done just one time. Submit press releases consistently and regularly. Talk with the media contacts and solicit their support as co-sponsors of your program. Thank them for past support, even if it was not as much as you would have liked. Suggest feature stories that highlight your library, your programs, and the Texas Reading Club. Feature stories to suggest might include any of the following:
- “Sail Away With Books!” programs for children and families
- Kick-off parties and special events
- End of summer celebrations
- Multi-cultural programs (bilingual storytimes, programs that celebrate cultural heritage)
- Teen volunteers
- Audio book suggestions for family trips
For more information about publicity, read Marketing the Texas Reading Club, available on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission web site, www.tsl.texas.gov.
Cooperation with Schools
One of the most effective methods for increasing participation in the Texas Reading Club is through partnerships with local schools. The Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association, offers a compilation of ideas at www.ala.org/ala/alsc/alscresources/forlibrarians/SchoolPLCoopProgs.htm.
Ask school librarians and teachers to encourage students to join the reading program. If possible, visit the schools and distribute information about the library. Begin planning school visits as early as possible in order to promote your summer program before the school year ends. Write a letter to the district superintendent in February. Remind the superintendent that public libraries and schools are natural allies in education. Specifically request permission to contact the schools and ask the superintendent to endorse the library's reading program.
As soon as you receive permission to do so, contact the principals or school librarians. Write to the librarian or teachers to schedule school visits in April and/or May. School visits can be brief and simple or they can be longer programs, depending on the amount of time and staff available. At a minimum, let the students know who you are, that the library is planning free summer programs and activities for them, and that you look forward to seeing them in the library. If time permits, tell a story, share some jokes, present a puppet show, sing songs, or lead a simple craft related to the Texas Reading Club theme. Leave bookmarks or flyers for the students to take home and leave a poster at the school with the dates of your program. The school librarian may be very happy to display the poster in the library.
Ask teachers, especially kindergarten through second grade teachers, to discuss the importance of summer reading with parents at the final parent-teacher conference. Teachers have a great deal of influence with parents and their recommendation will often encourage parents to follow through with summer reading. Keep in mind that the last parent-teacher meeting is usually held in March, so start early. Even if you only know the start and end dates for your Summer Reading Program, provide a “teaser” flyer that lets parents know how to get more information. If possible, upload a copy of your summer reading program flyer on your library’s web site, making it easy for teachers to download, print, and distribute. It is easy to create a pdf file or Word document for the web.
Ask if the school will be conducting summer classes or providing summer childcare. Teachers and activity leaders are often eager to cooperate on entertaining projects that support learning. School librarians may wish to become outreach sites for your reading club. Children attending summer school or participating in school camps or childcare become a "captive" audience for your programs.
Remember to contact private schools. Many require their students to read during the summer and the Texas Reading Club can help make that requirement more enjoyable and fulfilling. Childcare centers and preschools are also often looking for opportunities to collaborate with the library. Children can participate in the Texas Reading Club by recording titles of books that are read to them or that they read at the childcare center. Schedule group visits to the library or bring library programs to the centers. Provide outreach collections, or encourage childcare providers to apply for teacher’s cards.
Note that you should be extra careful to check the school calendar for the 2007-2008 school year. The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1 during the 2006 special session. In addition to many other things, this legislation requires that the first day of the school calendar not be set prior to the fourth Monday in August. Later start dates for the 2007-2008 school year might impact your Texas Reading Club plans and will certainly mean that children are still in the library during the day until later in August. Most schools will begin classes ten to fourteen days later than in the past.
Sample letter to schools available here.
Suppliers for Incentives, Crafts, and Program Materials
Contact information is provided below for the suppliers specifically mentioned in this manual, as well as for suppliers that carry some of the materials required for crafts and programs. Keep in mind that the materials recommended, or a suitable substitute, are often available locally.Art Supplies Online
718 Washington Ave North
Minneapolis MN 55401
Avery Office Products
50 Pointe Drive
Brea, CA 92821
Carson-Dellosa Publishing Co.
PO Box 35665
Greensboro, NC 27425-5665
P.O. Box 3239
Lancaster, PA 17604
P.O. Box 7488
Madison, WI 53707-7488
Dick Blick Art Materials
P.O. Box 1267
Galesburg, IL 61402-1267
Discount School Supply
P.O. Box 7636
Spreckels, CA 93962
219 Park Avenue
Emeryville, California 94608
Guildcraft Arts and Crafts
100 Fire Tower Drive
Tonawanda, NY 14150-5812
P.O. Box 18699
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
Kipp Toys and Novelties
9760 Mayflower Park Drive
Carmel, IN 46032
8000 Bent Branch Dr.
Irving, TX 75063
Oriental Trading Company
P.O. Box 2308
Omaha, NE 68103-2308
P & T Puppet Theatre
232 East Acacia Street
Salinas, CA 93901
Puppets on the Move
12005 - 140th St. Court East
Puyallup, WA 98374
Rhode Island Novelties
19 Industrial Lane
Johnston, RI 02919
S and S Worldwide
PO Box 513
75 Mill Street
Colchester, CT 06415
Sax Craft Supplies
2725 S. Moorland Rd.
New Berlin, WI 53151
114 Church Street
Freeport, NY 11520
P.O. Box 2543
Spartanburg, SC 29304
W5527 State Road 106
P.O. Box 800
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0800