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What I Learned at Wonewok

What I Learned at Wonewok: Participating in the 3M Marketing Retreat, March 28-31, 2003
Knowledge Quest, 2003 Vol 32

As a right-thinking person, I have always believed libraries are just a plain old God-given right, up there with clean air, a loving family, and listening to the World Series afternoon games on the radio at work. The value of a good school library media center seemed so self-evident that worrying about advocacy, public relations, communications, and even, good grief, marketing never seemed to make my Top Ten list of job priorities.

So when I was asked to attend the 3M @your library campaign planning meeting right here in Minnesota, I agreed, although I didn’t expect much out of it. So then, maybe a chance to pick up some free Post-It Note pads and maybe do some fishing “up north.” You betcha.

But then the cuts started coming. Apparently, not everyone viewed libraries as quite the inalienable rights that I did. Evil rumors about library programs being slashed had been flying around the state for the last couple years, but multiplied this spring in the face of a state revenue shortfall of billions of dollars.
  • “Hey, did you hear ABC district cut their high school librarian to half time?”
  • “A teacher in XYZ schools told me they replaced all their elementary librarians with clerks there.”
  • “Don’t bother applying for the library director’s job at District LMN. Once she is gone, the position will be eliminated.”
Unfortunately, too many of the rumors turned out to be well-founded. Now, what was that about marketing again?

The business gurus will tell you that you need two things to be successful: a good product that people need and a way to introduce that product to the people who need it. That introduction is marketing. And marketing is something about which school library media specialists are neither very knowledgeable nor skilled. The great minds at ALA and 3M set about to remedy this lack of marketing savvy by helping all types of libraries design marketing campaigns under the logo @your library and develop workshops to bring marketing skills to the masses.

One job for those of us who went to Wonewok was to sort of test drive the workshop. (I believe they thought if they could teach me something, they could teach it to anyone. I can’t explain why the bright people were invited.) We had a whole day of PowerPoint, workbooks, testimonials, activities, really big Post-it Notes, small group work, and good teaching by Deb Levitov from the Lincoln (NE) Public Schools. We learned that a formal campaign strategy had the following components:
  • Identify your customers (users), organizational decision-makers, and their needs and wants.
  • Create a strategic plan that includes mission, goals, services, and other good and important stuff.
  • Transform benefit statements into messages that are simple and catchy.
  • Create the vehicles and timetable for getting those messages to the intended audiences.
  • Implement, adjust and evaluate the campaign.

It’s just that easy.

No, it’s not really easy at all. That’s why the workshop on market strategies included time for individual participants to begin work on their own marketing campaigns which were later shared and critiqued.

The one I planned is below.

Strategic Marketing Campaign for Mankato Area Public School Library Media Center: awareness@your library media center

Goal: to create, administer and assess a 3-year marketing campaign for Mankato Area Public Schools’ library media centers that can be shared as an example for other schools across the state of Minnesota.

Year One Action plan:
Spring 2003: meet with SLMS to share the materials and recommendations from this workshop. Ask that SLMS be thinking about target audiences for marketing campaign and priorities of those audiences and a primary message to be added to the @your library media center theme. Include the marketing campaign as part of the district’s media technology objectives for 2003-04 school year.

Fall 2003:
    Conduct the marketing workshop during teacher preparation week at departmental meeting with SLMS and PR director. Do sticky-wall activity. Write up results. Share results and ask for input at October District Media Technology Advisory Group meeting.
    Begin ordering any pens, posters, or other commercial “message vehicles” decided on by groups.
    Introduce the campaign’s theme and activities to district administrators.
    Assign sub-committees for marketing efforts to SLMS at first staff development day.
    Have written plan finished no later than November 2003 that includes: target audience, major messages, 3-5 formal activities, and assessments.
    Write regular articles for state library media organization newsletter about the campaign.
    Offer workshops at state library media organization fall conference on @your library media center marketing.

Spring 2003:
    Conduct planned activities.
    Complete assessments.
    Give report to District Media Technology Advisory Group and School Board.
    Generate ideas for modifying and/or expanding campaign for 2004-05 year.
    Write regular articles for state library media organization newsletter about the campaign.
    Offer workshops at winter state library media organization conference on @your library media center marketing.


I am afraid I didn’t get to fish and did not come home with any more PostIt Notes than I left with. But thanks to the generosity and hospitality of 3M, I did get the opportunity to work with some exceptional people from the company and exceptional library folks from across the country, dress up as The Cat in the Hat, and bring home the conviction that a good marketing campaign is vital for every school library media program to have along with some skills to design such a campaign.

Plan to attend the big @your library roll out at the fall AASL conference in Kansas City. Attend the marketing workshops and sessions being given there. Seek out the person from your state who attended the Wonewok retreat and ask for a marketing workshop in your own state. Collaborate with other types of libraries on a state-wide @your library campaign. Hone your marketing skills.

Do it before you become a rumor.

Posted on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 01:34PM by Registered CommenterDoug Johnson in | Comments1 Comment

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Reader Comments (1)

Great article and agree with everything you said. My company waited 2 years (my fault) before we got serious about strategic planning. I did some research and found some great strategic planning software that has made my company much more effective. These folks also have a library of articles that offer more insight into the strategic planning process.
Thanks again for the thoughts,

August 1, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjason

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