How-To-Do-It Tip: Clarifying Your Library’s Public Relations Goal Wednesday, Feb 8 2012
Without a careful plan that includes a clear goal, consistent message, and targeted audience, a library’s efforts to produce a newsletter, develop a brochure, or create a website can fall short of quality public relations, and even do more harm than good. Bringing the same enthusiasm to the planning of the project, and not just the project itself, can ensure that your library’s outreach efforts are successful. Identifying a clear goal for the project can be a good first step in the planning process.
Library Public Relations, Promotions, and Communications, Second Edition: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians by Lisa A. Wolfe walks you through four key questions that can help you identify and flesh out this goal.
You probably have some idea–no matter how vague–of what you want to achieve with your public relations efforts. Answering the following questions in the next section may help you to clarify your public relations goal.
- What is it that you want to tell people? This is your message. You need to determine what it is you want people to know or understand. Often your message will have a quality that is more subjective than just conveying information. For instance, you won’t just want people to know about your books-by-mail service–you’ll also want them to believe that it is a valuable community service. At other times, you will just want to convey information, such as how the library’s new overdue policy works. It is important to try to keep your message as simple and focused as possible.
- Who do you want to tell? Determining the audience for your message is critical to your success. Think about who needs to know what you are communicating. If your message is preschool storytime hours, then your primary audience is parents of preschoolers and your secondary audience may be day-care providers. Deciding who needs to receive your message will help you determine how to communicate it. Remember to consider your internal audiences. Chapter 5 provides an in-depth discussion of choosing your audience.
- When do you want to communicate your message? Timing is everything. Trying to spread the word about school library services is probably more appropriate during the school year than during the summer when families, teachers, and students aren’t focused on school. If you are promoting an event, it is important to communicate your message intensively in a concentrated time period before the event. Sometimes it may take you longer to plan your public relations/communications efforts than to implement them.
- Why do you want to tell people about this? Do you want them to do anything? These questions go back to the subjective nature of your message. Once people learn about what you are trying to communicate, do you need them to act? Is this a proactive message? Do you want them to attend an event? Actively support the retention of a library service? Vote for supplemental funding?Look carefully at the answers to these questions. They should form the foundation of the public relations goal. Remember that a goal should include a statement of what you want to achieve, delineate a time frame for achieving it, and indicate how you are going to measure your success.
- Excerpted from Library Public Relations, Promotions, and Communications, Second Edition: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians, pp. 17-18. © 2011 by Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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