As marketing practices change to keep up with new promotional channels, library marketing is changing right along with them. The Levy Library at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is a great example of adapting content marketing principles to expand outreach efforts. Their marketing team reported on their successes with this approach in their JMLA article, “Creating Content Marketing for Libraries.”
Robin O’Hanlon, MIS, Assistant Library Director of Outreach & Public Services, was kind enough to answer some questions I had about their innovative marketing program. Here’s the full interview with all of her useful insights.
What initially inspired you to incorporate content marketing into your outreach efforts?
We found that traditional approaches to marketing weren’t working. Our users are so busy and distracted, our FYI type communications and even calls to action were getting lost in the shuffle of broadcast emails and flyer fatigue. Content marketing seemed necessary to get people’s attention.
What kind of information or research did you gather to plan your content marketing strategy?
We didn’t do a whole lot of research before we started our content marketing efforts. Ultimately we want our outreach efforts to reflect the mission of the institution. So we started looking at initiatives and trends taking place at the school and the hospital that we could support, like app development. We also started by working with communities we know had been collaborative in the past. There’s no shame in starting with the low hanging fruit when it comes to outreach.
How many people are involved in your content marketing team? How do you divide responsibilities?
There are essentially two people who work in outreach and marketing in the library. Myself, who oversees all programming and strategic planning for marketing and outreach and another full time librarian who creates promotional materials and oversees our social media efforts. We get input from all members of team on our strategic planning and work the most closely with Education and Research Services.
How much access do you have to your library’s social media channels and website? Is it easy for you to publish your content?
We control all our social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube) as well as a WordPress blog. Our website CMS is LibGuides, so we can control most of the content our website, but not the homepage (unfortunately). The bigger challenge for us is driving people to our channels.
How did you approach the participants for your Women in STEM whitepaper and the presenters for your Research Insider seminars? Any tips on how to encourage people to share their stories and expertise with the library?
I honestly just do a lot of cold emailing. For the STEM series, I researched on the school website female scientists who had high publication rates and appeared to be leaders in our community. I then developed a customizable template for contacting them via email. I think most librarians would be surprised by how many people are willing to participate in interviews if you just try. People like talking about themselves. My advice would be to be sincere, succinct, and to clearly explain your motivations for contacting them. When we look for speakers, we look for folks who are experts, compelling speakers, but who also may realistically be willing to participate. We try to stay local for this reason, luckily being in NYC this isn’t an issue. We do offer a small honorarium for outside speakers ($100-200). Always have a tentative agenda in mind and a program description before you recruit speakers.
Have you encountered any difficulties in the content marketing process? If so, how did you come them?
It’s time consuming and requires a lot of coordination. Hiring another staff member focused on marketing was really the only way we got a handle on it in a meaningful way. It can also be hard to let others “steer the ship” – sometimes it feels like it would just easier to stick to traditional library marketing of services and expertise.
How do you generate new ideas for content? Where do you get your inspiration?
We definitely look at what other libraries are doing, but also what the big trends and issues are in health care, tech, and research. This year, for example, we knew we wanted to focus on public health and developed a Year of Public Health theme because we knew with recent changes in the government there would be huge issues coming down the pipe within this area of medicine.
The Levy Library’s success serves as great inspiration for other libraries looking to get into content marketing. Their seminars, original blog content, and whitepapers can be adapted to reflect a wide variety of research communities.
Robin will have a chapter with more tips in ACRL’s upcoming book “The Library Outreach Casebook.” Be sure to keep an eye out for it in late 2017!