Monday, August 29, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Recently most of my department went to a Retail Marketing Expo, put on by the Retail Merchants Association. It was an interesting contrast to the library conferences we sometimes attend - a gathering focused on our job function rather than our industry. My boss thought it was "way more useful than all of us going to VLA." I'm not sure I agree, but I am glad I went. Here are some insights into the pros and cons of attending this event, and what we learned.
My goals: Get more information about advertising opportunities, get new ideas for marketing/advertising vehicles, make contacts that could be useful later. I know that others in my office were more interested in the networking and making contacts side.
What we gained: I got contact information for A LOT of printing shops. We do a little bit of outside printing, so this was useful information. We could see sample papers and other things that it's hard to do online. One of my coworkers was able to get several price estimates for a new type of publication we want to create. It was quicker than doing the same research over the phone and online, and it allowed us to start building those relationships.
We saw some striking and creative signage and displays, which really inspired us to think about the physical displays in our library. We're interested in getting out of the "shoestring" mentality, moving away from the "boxes covered with colored paper" paradigm, and starting to get some elegant, professional-looking displays up in our library. The catalog that we got from one display company will be endlessly useful as we explore possibilities for future displays.
We were able to talk with some companies where we otherwise might not consider their services, or where it might otherwise have been difficult and time-consuming to get cost information. For example: radio stations, Valpak, small magazines.
The downsides: I would say that about a third of the exhibitors weren't relevant to our interests (Payroll services, health care providers, "groupon" deals, credit unions) and another third were so completely out of our price range that it's unlikely we'll be able to use information from them anytime soon (marketing and branding consultants, TV stations, radio stations, app developers, event planners.)
Speakers: We also attended two "power sessions," which I think were supposed to be like a power-nap or a power-walk, with lots of oomph in a short time. The information was about what you would expect; little nuggets of info, nothing new or groundbreaking, more like a reminder and a conversation-starter.
The first session was "Taking the Work out of Networking" with Jim Roman. It was a very short session, and the speaker didn't try to fit too much information in. He stuck to a couple of key points:
- Networking is different from marketing and selling. It's about building relationships, letting people get to know and like you as a person, to facilitate doing business later (not now.) Networking is about farming, not hunting. It's a slow process of cultivating your relationships, not a matter of finding someone to pitch to.
- You only need 2-3 networking groups to find success. How do you find the right groups? Ask your best clients/customers what networking groups they belong to - rotary clubs, professional organizations, etc. People hang out with like-minded people, so if you want to find other great clients, that's a place to start.
- Begin a relationship by offering something. Take someone out to coffee, find out more about what they do and what they care about, and figure out how you can help them. Help someone three times, and they'll help you back.
The second session was about social media, and it was a little disorganized. But there were still a couple of points that stood out to me:
- Be engaging. (He actually said "enchanting", but we all agree that "enchanting" sounds too Disney.) It's not enough just to post - you should post something interesting. "Be fractious, be factual, be funny, be famous, be first."
- Content is currency. Good content means views and likes, which translate into business.
- Take disputes offline. Don't argue it out on Facebook.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
One of the keynote speakers is Rebecca Kamen, a fascinating artist who explores the connections between art and science. She'll also be presenting a session on Thursday afternoon about altered book art!
One of the preconferences is about marketing. Social marketing, no less - and a good thing, too! It's time for libraries to get serious about our brand and our image. WE know that we're wonderful, and it's time that everyone else knew it too.
I see several cool and applicable sessions I'd like to attend, which isn't always the case. Conferences seem to mainly have sessions at 1) reference librarians and 2) library administrators. Ideas for programming and marketing are much rarer. But this conference has quite a few sessions that apply to publicity; in a different set of circumstances I could see myself happily spending 3 days in Portsmouth, chillin' at a hotel, going to conference events, and getting inspired.
Here's my ideal Marketing Agenda for the VLA Annual Conference, 2011:
10 a.m.-1 p.m. Can Libraries be sold as soap? (preconference)
Afternoon/evening: Skip second preconference about ghosts in Virgina. Bum around, blog, catch up on emails, "network."
10-11:30 a.m.: Opening Session, with keynote speaker Rebecca Kamen
noon-1 p.m.: New Members Round Table Forum Lunch (I'm thinking of joining VLA)
1:15-2 p.m.: What Can I Do with This? Deciphering Copyright and License Notices
2:15-3 p.m.: Sustaining your Professional and Scholarly Identity in the Digital Environment
3-4 p.m.: "Visit the Exhibits"
Since I'm not shopping for RFID systems or early literacy computers, I mainly watch for two things at the exhibits: design and trends. I pick up any literature whose design I like. I keep my eyes open for creative layouts and formats, and new ways of presenting information. And I look at the trends - how are library-focused vendors presenting themselves? What are they emphasizing? Are there any ideas - for example, interactive signage - that I might be able to take back and apply in some way?
4-4:45 p.m. Destroying Books, Creating Visions.
(Yes, this session would be an indulgence, but altered book art is so cool. Alternate session would be Advocating for Public Libraries: Online Tools and Tactics)
5-6 p.m.: Paraprofessional forum
Evening: Conference social. More "networking."
8-8:45 a.m.: Connecting with Community: Reinventing your Library as a Community Hub
This time slot is when I'd most like to have Hermione's Time Turner available - there are several good options.
9-11:30: General session
11:30-12:15 Measuring the Soft Stuff
1:15-2 p.m. Nothing good. Visit exhibits? Take a long lunch? Write a blog post?
2:15-3 p.m. Documenting the Civil War: The Civil War 150 Legacy Project
Digitization and scanning are all the rage. Better get on board.
3:15-4 p.m. Reading Images: Art Libraries in Norfolk, VA
If I make it, I hope to see you there! Conferences are important - not just for the information and networking, maybe not even mostly for the information and networking, but because they give us a chance to focus on the big picture. Details aside, just the act of getting together to discuss fresh ideas, long-term solutions and goals is incredibly valuable. In my opinion, the gain is doubled if you make time to share what caught your interest with your coworkers. If we can inspire each other, spark conversation, and get ideas flowing, we've spent our time well.