Marketing for advocacy doesn’t just need to come out of storage annually, like holiday decorations, when it’s time to defend this year’s youth services budget. Instead, advocacy needs to happen all year-round. If we’ve done our work during the year, it should be easy to have a range of examples of real impact from which to draw when next year’s budget is being decided.
What is advocacy marketing in the context of serving teens in the library? It’s all about showing in concrete ways how your programs and services are helping make differences in the lives of teens. Many of us are probably well-versed in traditional evaluation and publicity. That can range from sharing statistics from your department at a board meeting to developing surveys to measure intended outcomes of your programming. For example, did teens feel they learned more about the topic your event?
Marketing can also mean incorporating those same powerful messages in the online tools we use to connect teens with the library. “Email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media technologies are useful for getting the word out as part of an advocacy effort. If you post regularly on these tools about what you do and why you do it, then members of the community will be more likely to remember what library teen services are all about,” writes Linda Braun in Being a Teen Librarian Services Advocate (Neal-Schuman, 2012).
While there’s more to marketing and advocacy than your library’s online presence, social media can also be a powerful vehicle for sending the message that libraries making a difference for young people. Since online content can easily be re-shared with others, it expands the effective reach of your message. And don’t forget the evidence! Taking snapshots in the midst of a program (depending on your library’s policy of course) and posting them online can capture the immediacy and energy of an event. Over the longer term, collected artifacts can reflect larger shifts that take more time to happen, like learning or developing a new skill. Sharing what your library patrons are doing via social media is also a good way to “give back” and remind the community that library programs and services are changing lives.
If you’ve had a success in using advocacy marketing to help better connect with teens and the library, feel free to share your experiences below.