Friday, 31 January 2020

PPRG Marketing Excellence Conference

The Publicity and Public Relations Group Conference held on the 31st of January at Aston University Library, Birmingham. My attendance was mainly due to the fact that I had been given the task of developing the marketing plan for my service and the workshop on putting together a marketing plan on the programme seemed serendipitous. I also wanted to further my activity in the wider community.  The event was attended by about 50 professionals across a variety of sectors which made for great networking opportunities.

The chair, Davina Omar, welcomed attendees and went through housekeeping. The programme was arranged in an unorthodox format with the keynote at the end to allow for the winners of the 2019 Marketing Excellence Awards give their presentations first and allay anxieties. Something I'm sure they appreciated. It kicked off with the Shetland Libraries eServices Outreach Project by Louise Arcus and Kate Riise. The aim was to increase eService uptake by hard to reach clientele who were digitally, socially or geographically excluded, something I could relate to my work in a Community Trust. They marketed their RBDigital collection of audio books, eBooks, and eMagazines by raising awareness during physical visits. They also made use of the local media, newspapers, radio broadcast, and social media. The success of the campaign also led to promotion by word of mouth and created opportunities to highlight other Library services.
The next presentation was by Tracey Williams from Solihull Libraries on an exhibition on the self-build revolution in the 1950s where families gave their time and skills to build homes for the Self-build Housing Association and rent the homes back. It was important to bring it to the attention of decision makers to find parallels with current housing issues. The exhibition promotes a sense of place and empowers feeling of belonging. It promotes a sense of time to anchor past events to the present and shape the future. A combination of methods were used to create exhibition panels with more images than text. The exhibition was marketed with promotional flyers and tweets.
The final award went to Staffordshire Libraries for their Burton Bedtime Stories. The presentation was by Liz Gardner (Staffordshire Libraries), Kate Thomson-Rayne (East Staffordshire Children's Centre), and Dan Wareing (Volunteer). The team filmed recruited volunteers reading featured bedtime stories and posted the videos on Facebook. Theresulting interest demonstrated the value of the Library service and showcased the service offer. It also supported speech language and communication within the home environment. The featured titles were announced beforehand using a variety of media and there was a corresponding rise in the number of issues of the featured title around the time the video is published. Volunteers went on to champion the service and this led to a more volunteer offers.

After lunch, there was a choice between two workshops. One on creating a marketing plan and the other was a forum on exchanging library marketing experiences. I attended the first session which began with the idea of using the PPRG Marketing Excellence Award criteria as a baseline for a marketing plan. A clear statement of objectives is required with a short description of what you aim to achieve and your target audience. The range of marketing channels to use should be identified - social media, posters, email, leaflets etc. What is most suitable for your campaign. Consider how you'll time the execution of tasks and establish roles and areas of responsibility with expected deadlines. Hints and tips for marketing were supplied.
Next was the AGM which revealed that the group has been rebranded from its 36 year name and will now be known as the Marketing and Communications Group. A research grant for marketing has also been introduced. It was followed by the Keynote speech by Rachel Van Riel, Director of Opening the book. She discussed what we need to focus on and steer away from when considering marketing a service positively. An attitude of blaming the user when they do not understand what is meant needs to be discouraged. It is your responsibility to be articulate what you mean clearly. We were given several examples of marketing fails and successes.

My day didn't get all my questions answered but it definitely gave me a starting point. It also helped me reflect on where my marketing focus should lie. What I think is most important might not necessarily be the case. I am considering an audit of most asked questions to identify areas in the service that might need clarification in a future plan. In the meantime I have been able to state an objective which I will present to my team and hopefully move forward with it. All in all it was a productive day.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Strategy on a page Workshop

I attended the one day strategy on a page course led by Amanda Stearn. It was held at St. Chad's Court, Birmingham with 16 attendees. I wanted find a way to align the Library service strategy to that of my organisation and present it in a simple format that is succinct. Amanda steered the conversation away from the NHS to give some context to how we look to strategies as a whole. Bringing the session back to healthcare with a host of examples and exercises, she put us through our paces eliciting ideas on what we considered contributing factors from macro drivers such as the HEE, service users, host organisations to SWOT (local and external factors) such as budgets, staffing pressures, technology, and the political climate.

Aligning the vision and mission to that of the organisations ensures that the strategies and operations executed advance those of the organisation. We looked at how different segments of a strategy fit together and what they address.
Why - Vision - Why the service exists
Who - Mission - Who the service is in support of the vision
What - Priorities - What the service intends to accomplish in to meet the mission.
How - Strategies - Outline of how the priorities will be realised
How, where, when - Operational plan - More detailed practical actions that will be executed to realise the strategies.

We practiced on a whole strategy and converting it into a one page document with the use of a very helpful template. We also had the chance to identify enablers which are the things that will impact and make what we want happen such as funding and technology.

Different terminologies are often used to describe the same thing such as mission / purpose or goals / priorities. It is important to avoid the use of passive words like "support" and embrace the use of power words like enrich and strengthen to sell the service as an integral instrument for meeting the overarching goals of the organisation. We were supplied with tips on how to engage team members in the process by supplying the priorities and having them individually give their opinions on post-its on what the operational plans could entail. This gives every team member the chance to voice their thoughts and then collectively work backwards to the core strategies.

The focus of the workshop was generating a strategy on one page but it gave insight into how a template can be used to derive the summary for the service from my organisation strategy and then develop the full strategy for the service thereafter. It was useful to work with others and see how our different organisations and ways of thinking influenced our approaches to writing and structuring catchy sentences to reflect what we want. I had a wealth of ideas which I intend to implement in the hopes of enhancing the content of the service strategy.