‘I Am Not a Brand!’: Building Your Personal and Professional Profile #SLA2014

I was looking forward to attending a session by Mary Ellen Bates at SLA 2014. Having seen her speak at SLA Chicago in 2012, I knew her talk would be engaging and full of practical advice.

The content was applicable to any information professional, whatever their role or level of experience, from a self-employed consultant looking to brush up how they appeal to clients, to a job-hunter looking to impress a prospective employer. This was the case because all of us have a brand, whether we like it or not.

What is your brand?

‘Brand’ is a very corporate word, which I know many may take issue with. I am going to use it in this post because it is the term Mary Ellen used, but essentially its means:

How you are perceived by others –

  • How you show up
  • What you’re known for
  • And what Google shows about you (It’s not a good thing if you don’t show up on Google. Clients, or recruiters, expect you to show up. And a vacuum is still a message – it’s a blank and boring message)

The important thing is whether you own the brand. This can be a bit scary as it can feel out of our control, but there are ways to own the message.

Where is your brand?

It’s your email signature, a cover memo for research results, your internal website bio, social media…

The Wall Street Journal found a significant amount of companies are using social media to research job candidates – no surprises there! However, interestingly, they’re looking for positive things:

  • 50% are looking for good personality
  • 50% are looking for a wide range of interests
  • 46% are looking for creativity – whether you can do today’s job, and the ability to grow into a job in a year’s time.

So it’s not just hiding pictures of your Friday nights out, it’s about creating a positive brand.

How can you own your brand?

Mary Ellen listed some great ways to cultivate a positive message.

Photographs lend authority. For example, an author photo on a book is totally unnecessary, so why do we see them on so many books? Think about the credibility of a Twitter account where the avatar is the default egg, would you follow back?

Be authentic – this is something Bethan Ruddock mentioned in a session I attended a few years back, and has really stuck with me. She said something along the lines of: be authentic, because if you’re not you’ll get caught out eventually! It’s also tied to the WSJ findings, where employers are looking for a good personality and wide ranging interests. I like to think I come across as genuine on social media, I like to post about things I find interesting so hopefully others will too.

“But I haven’t got anything to say!” – You don’t have to say much! Read others’ blogs and tweets; learn something and blog about it; ask questions, conduct a survey and blog/tweet the results. This reminded me of the 1-in-4 rule, which Ned Potter mentioned in a marketing presentation I attended in 2012 (of four tweets only one should be about your organisation. The others should be retweets, @replies, or just tweeting something your audience might find interesting). In that context, it was about avoiding simply broadcasting on Twitter. However, I think it’s also useful here, in that retweets and replying can be ways to engage if you don’t feel confident you have something original to put out there.

When you describe yourself, is it what/how, or is it why? Emphasise the benefits of what you do, not just the features. Talk about results. Express your success in a way that demonstrates your value. A good tip from Mary Ellen is to emulate the pros – how do vendors describe their value? They’ve spent money on it, so benefit from their investment!

This session was a highlight of the SLA conference. Mary Ellen is an engaging and entertaining speaker, and I’m very glad I sought out her talk this year.

Library outreach and the Italian beef sandwich – #SLA2014

I couldn’t resist this session at the SLA conference last month, with its intriguing title.

What on earth has library outreach got to do with a beef sandwich?!

We had to wait an agonisingly long time to find out the beef sandwich analogy.

The speaker, Eugene Giudice, Research Librarian at law firm Latham & Watkins, is from Chicago, where this particular style of sandwich originated and is still a classic. The point was this:

The beef of an Italian beef sandwich is cooked slowly in stock. The meat is the heart of what librarians do. The juice/stock is the outreach; it adds spice, flavour, and value to what we do.

A ‘classic’ Italian beef sandwich will taste slightly different from different places. It might have more gravy, they might dip the bread in the stock – but there’s a certain, traditional way of cooking the beef that makes it a Chicago style Italian beef sandwich. Outreach will look different in different libraries, depending on our consumers ‘tastes’, but it shares commonality across libraries, so we can learn from each other.

A moody sky over Vancouver Harbour and Stanley Park, from the conference venue.

A moody sky over Vancouver Harbour and Stanley Park, from the conference venue.

I’ve been musing on what I learnt from this session, from which there were many stories and much advice about outreach. A great write up is on the SLA First five Years Blog. There was a wealth of examples and tips, but one thing particularly struck a chord:

Inject personality, make friends, show something of yourself

On Eugene’s desk, there is an impressive trophy, won at the firm’s sports day. However, it’s not for first place. Instead, it’s a ‘dead last’ trophy. The trophy gets people asking questions, and then gets them laughing.

This was just one example of how Eugene gets people chatting and makes friends in the firm, and by extension builds a network and performs outreach. He had lots of other examples of really simple things we can do to get known out and about, like asking about someone’s photos on their office wall, or chatting about a sports game the night before. It may not feel like ‘work’, but it’s about creating connections and alliances with people who will advocate on our behalf. It’s about embracing opportunities for engaging in conversations.

On the pin board above my desk are two postcards of poppy-filled fields, which were there when I arrived. One person has asked about them, but because I didn’t put them there all I could do was agree that they’re pretty. Inspired by Eugene, I’m going to personalise my desk a bit more to have a conversation-starter, maybe a postcard from one of my own trips.

This, along with many of the other examples Eugene gave, are about find an excuse, or creating permission, to talk to your users and get yourself known. If they come to the library to chat about the football, they know where the library is when they have an information need.

At the time, I thought “this is all really basic, obvious stuff. Where’s the ground-breaking idea?”, but actually, having had some time to think about it more, I took an awful lot from this session. It also made me realise: not only is it okay to inject a little personality into your work, it can actually be a very good thing to make yourself and your service more memorable, and therefore people are more likely to use your service in future.

Targeted marketing strategies that work: a CILIP PPRG event

Earlier this month I attended the CILIP Publicity & Public Relations Group (PPRG) event Targeted marketing strategies that work. It was a fantastic event, celebrating great marketing success stories from public and academic libraries.

Mist on the way to Birmingham

Mist on the way to Birmingham

I began my day earlier than usual (though it only seems early now I’m no longer commuting), and headed to my train to Birmingham New Street. I have only been to Birmingham once before, for Library Camp in 2011, so I was pleased there was time in the evening to visit the new, state-of-the-art Library of Birmingham.

The day consisted of several presentations on a variety of marketing campaigns, as well as presentation of the Marketing Excellence Awards. I have created a Storify of the tweets from the day:

[View the story “#PPRG13 Targeted marketing strategies that work” on Storify]

Using social media for promotion and reach

Fifty Shades of Devon Libraries, Lynda Bowler

Social media as a tool for marketing and promotion was a running theme of the day, and most of the questions following the presentations were about this. Lynda Bowler presented how Devon Libraries used social media, in particular Twitter, in a targeted bid to increase membership by 1,000 in the first week, and 3,000 overall in February 2013 as part of their National Libraries Day campaign.

The statistics were really impressive, with their targets far exceeded and over a million ‘impressions’ that month. Lynda emphasised a need not to get hung up on number of followers, or number of retweets, and that instead it is about your reach and engaging. The tweet that created the most buzz, about the number of times Fifty Shades of Grey has been borrowed in Devon, was picked up by BBC Devon radio!

What we can learn from commercial marketing
Enhancing perception and engagement at the University of Manchester Library, Penny Hicks

Before beginning her presentation, Penny, who is Head of Strategic Marketing and Communications at the University of Manchester Library, admitted to the audience she is not a librarian, but is instead from a commercial marketing background. It was refreshing to hear an outsider’s perspective on library marketing, and interesting to hear how her assumptions sometimes clashed with librarians’.

She headed the Eureka Innovation Challenge, which challenged students to come up with an idea to improve the Library, with money set aside to implement the idea and a cash prize of £1000 to the winner. What I really took away from this presentation was not to be limited by traditional ways of doing things, and to approach communications not from top-down but instead from your audience’s perspective (for example, their Library top tips were not that successful, as they were the librarians’ tips, not the students’).

Strategic marketing on a limited budget
Bases loaded: setting up for success, Jo Cornish, Hertfordshire Libraries

Jo set up the Library Youth Consultant Project, a team of young volunteers who order and promote books they think would appeal to their peers. Jo’s demonstration of strategic marketing with a limited budget, using the baseball analogy of loading bases, was really effective. Without big hitters, baseball teams can score runs by loading the bases with players, strategically scoring runs rather than hitting home runs:

  1. With the Youth Consultant Project, materials and time was the first base. The materials were professionally designed, and in plenty of time to ensure professional-looking promotion was available for the author event to promote the stock selected by the volunteers.
  2. Secondly, Herts libraries worked with their partners, such as the Volunteer Centre, school librarians and Youth Connexions, which allowed for marketing they couldn’t have done just by themselves.
  3. Thirdly social media and online promotion were harnessed for free, accessible promotion, but with the caveat that the message must be intriguing and inviting in an onslaught of online information.
  4. Finally, the role we have as ambassadors to ensure people understand what libraries are for.

Jo’s presentation, and approach to marketing, was clear and straight-forward, and to be honest inspirational!

Co-ordinated marketing to raise awareness of resources
Discover the Library! Libraries and learning innovation at Leeds Metropolitan University, Julie Cleverley

Last year, Leeds Metropolitan University library embarked on a targeted marketing strategy to raise awareness and usage of Discover, their resource discovery system. Library staff were involved in the implementation, such as choosing a name for the service, which empowered them to train students in its use. Promotion included training for academic staff both within the library and in departments, and at university events like the Fresher’s festival, along with promotional materials.

Since the campaign, the number of negative comments in the 2013 National Student Survey was down. The library have also found the use of different databases has been shaken up, which is great news for lesser used (and therefore more expensive-per-use) databases.

Wine and bubbly to celebrate the Marketing Excellent Awards

Cake and bubbly to celebrate the Marketing Excellent Awards

After a break for cake and bubbly, the Marketing Excellence Awards were presented, and we heard a little bit from each of the winners. Particularly interesting was Loughborough University Library’s ability to turn the temporary closure of the library building for refurbishment into a real ‘good news story’ and buzz of excitement, through a co-ordinated approach to allay concerns, outline the services available through the closure, and share the benefits of the refurbishment.

The presentations all highlighted the importance of laying the groundwork and preparing in advance. For these projects, it was absolutely vital – as was the need to market in a targeted way to particular groups.

Marketing for the Rest of Us – SLA 2012 session write up

The session Marketing for the Rest of Us: a guide for introverts, with speaker Mary Ellen Bates, was standing room only, so I hope that writing up my notes from it will be useful for those who couldn’t attend. The slides for this presentation can be found here.

Marketing, both our services and ourselves, was a theme that cropped up in a few sessions. This presentation focused marketing techniques and advice for the introvert personality type, which I am sure is very common among librarians (I know I’m one!).

I wanted to write up my impressions from this session, as it was inspiring and really got me reflecting on my own marketing/branding etc. Here are some of the ideas and tips that I found most useful and interesting.

‘So, what do you do?’

Mary Ellen started the presentation with some interesting examples of how simple it is to transform an answer to “what do you do?”. Think about what it is you do that’s unique, that’s what your organisation needs. It’s also important that you’re not making the other person do all the work; in other words, it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m communicating the value of what I do. This reminded me very much of elevator pitches, which I later discovered Mary Ellen ran a workshop on at SLA last year!

She also pointed out the importance of talking about benefits, not features. This is something that Ned Potter also spoke about, a few months ago, and is something I am wholeheartedly behind. As soon as it was pointed out to me, I now see people talking about features everywhere, and have vowed not to do myself!

Promote, don’t defend

By taking on a defensive approach, it’s an uphill battle, since you’ll probably be going against your user’s prior experience. Saying Google isn’t reliable, for example, contradicts, for the user, all those times they used Google and found what they wanted.

I think this has some interesting implications for teaching information literacy, and engaging people in wanting to gain these skills; if you can show them how to make the most of Google, rather than saying DON’T USE IT DON’T YOU DARE, they’re more likely to get the most of the instruction because they feel it’s relevant and useful to them.

Build up your brand

Social media is a great way to develop your personal brand, but you can also add value to your profile by doing things such as live-tweeting a conference, blogging, or sharing your slides from a presentation. I’ve been trying to keep my personal brand in mind after reflecting on it for CPD23, but the idea of adding value hadn’t occurred to me. It makes a lot of sense though; I’d rather be contributing than lurking.

I was also tweeting (adding value!) during the session, and I created a storify of my tweets, which should hopefully build you a broader picture of my impressions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to embed in wordpress, but please visit the link below:

[View the story “Marketing for the Rest of Us, with Mary Ellen Bates” on Storify]

Were you at the session? What were your take-home messages from it? And if you weren’t, what tips do you find helpful for marketing as an introvert?

Library Marketing & New Professionals

On Tuesday eveing I attended my first SLA event; Library Marketing & New Professionals, with speakers Ned Potter and Bethan Ruddock. It event was hosted by SLA Europe, and was also my first time in Leeds!

Ned Potter: 6 things you, yes YOU, can do to market your service

The slides from Ned’s presentation can be found here. I don’t want to just reproduce the presentation as notes, so I’ll just mention a few things that stood out to me.

  • We are all marketers. But what can we do as new professionals? In terms of face-to-face and online interaction, it’s important to give a positive impression and good service. Word of mouth is very powerful!
  • New perspectives. Senior people will LIKE it if you come to them with ideas!
  • Social media is a huge way for new professionals to get involved, as we can bring expertise. But you need to consider what social media does for the institution which isn’t happening now. How can you help solve an existing problem?
  • 1-in-4 rule: With Twitter, for example, of four tweets only one should be about your organisation. The others should be retweets, @replies, or just tweeting something your audience might find interesting. Which leads on to…
  • The ‘at a party example’: If you were at a party, you wouldn’t stand in the corner, making announcements. The same goes for social media; you need to interact with your audience.
  • Benefits, not features. Focus on what the library can do for your audience. A course titled Advanced Search would be better marketed as ‘Getting the most out of Google’, for example.

Bethan Ruddock: Marketing yourself

Bethan’s website for the LIS New Professionals Toolkit can be found here. Instead of presentation slides, coloured cards were distributed around the room, with various terms on them. We waved them in the air, and Bethan spoke a little about each one.

The cards were divided into three criteria; Motivation, Medium, and Message. Again, I’ll just pick out a few things that I found particularly interesting or useful.

  • Be authentic: Your message has to engage people, it has to get across different media and audiences. It has to be who you are. Otherwise, you’ll get caught out eventually!
  • At work: This is the best place to market yourself. The best way to advocate for yourself is to do your job well.
  • Flows from your activities: It’s much easier to share ideas and projects when it’s something you know about and are enthusiastic about.
  • Success criteria: Make goals for yourself; ‘I want X number of views for this blog post’, for example. Then celebrate meeting these goals!
  • Marketing yourself is not something to be scared of! It should be part of what you do, not something extra. Once you start thinking of opportunities to build a profile and project yourself a certain way, you’ll start seeing them.

Once the presentations were finished, COMPETITIVE UNSEEN-SLIDES BATTLE-SUMMARISING took place. Two brave souls, Katie and Laura, volunteered to live out my worst nightmare; giving a summary of the two presentations with slides they had never seen before. They both did fantastically! Well done!

I really enjoyed this event, and it’s always nice to meet people from Twitter in real life! I’m looking forward to my next SLA event, the Summer Social, in a fortnight’s time, and then it’s onto the SLA Annual Conference in Chicago!