27 January 2020

Sometimes the boss tells you to do something and you really don’t want to. That was the situation I found myself in when our Executive Director suggested that we enter our Communications Team for the Library Journal Marketer of the Year Award based on the successful referendum campaign we accomplished, and I grudgingly agreed.

It really wasn’t on my radar and I didn’t think we had any chance of winning at all. We’re a mid-size library with two branches, about 100 staff, and have similar struggles and success stories as other local libraries. There are other library champions doing tons of great work to advocate for libraries and deserve the praise. At most, I thought we could win an honorable mention.

However, my boss pointed out that the work we accomplished for the referendum was quite significant and that we should enter this contest. Thankfully, we had planned ahead to keep documentation through the process and I had a lot of collateral to present. When we submitted our documentation for the successful campaign, I was able to supply a ton of cohesive marketing materials that showed all the planning, timeline, content, promotional pieces, a dedicated webpage, and social media posts.

I remember thinking that once we were done with the whole campaign we would be able to look back and see how cohesive it was, even though as we were going through the process that wasn’t always easy to do. We did a lot of editing and tried to anticipate the different kinds of people that may interact with the content.

Our goal was to keep the content transparent, authentic, and tell our story with the least amount of words as possible. When it comes to a referendum that’s no easy task. There’s so much information to share and you need to think through several different types of patrons: those who just want the high points, those that just want the bottom-line, and those who want to examine everything.

That’s something to keep in mind when preparing for any kind of campaign. You’ve got to think about your community and realize that one-size does not fit all. I trusted my staff and their input. We showed our copy and graphics to various people on staff to see if it made any sense. Was it clear? Did it compel them at all? Does is it resonate with our users?

In the end, our referendum was successful with a 64% yes vote. Our whole Library worked hard to make the referendum a success but that wouldn’t have been possible without the excellent content and graphics that the Communications Team supplied.

Apparently, it was enough to sway the judges for the LJ Marketer of the Year Award. I was greatly surprised to get the phone call that our Communications Team won. I’m proud to be counted among the many librarians across the country who work hard to advocate for their libraries.

Lessons learned: document your campaigns, push yourself, try something new, be ok with tooting your own horn sometimes, and trust your staff to do their best work even under great pressure!

P.S. I’m happy to share our work. We looked at other library samples and I talked to marketers I know about their referendums. Send me an email: Andrea Lublink, alublink@palatinelibrary.org