Making the most of marketing plans

Case study

Module

Module 4: Developing Strategic Relationships: Partnerships and Fundraising

Topic

Topic 4: Marketing

Abstract

Marketing is a critical dimension of library association management as it will enable the organisation to increase its visibility in the community and develop a stronger profile to attract new members and to help develop strategic relationships with external stakeholders.  The case study outlines the marketing plan developed by the South Dakota Library Association (SDLA), with a review of the structure, the audiences and the key features of the plan.  

Key Ideas

As you read the case study, think about the following issues:

  1. The role of library associations
  2. The value of marketing activities and services
  3. The importance of planning
  4. The different stakeholder groups
  5. The factors that help make a dynamic library association

Profile

South Dakota Library Association (SDLA) is a chapter of the American Library Association (ALA). The association, which was founded in 1904, strives to promote high quality library services in the state of South Dakota, to provide opportunities for professional involvement and to further the professional development of all those working in and supporting the library sector. SDLA is directed by an Executive Board made up of nine officers and six Section chairs; the Sections and a number of many committees carry out the association’s program of activities.

The SDLA marketing plan

There is a general awareness that effective marketing is critical for all types of libraries and many library managers ensure that they have a marketing plan to guide their promotional activities. Library associations play a key role in supporting library marketing: they can provide access to marketing resources and the ALA’s @ Your Library campaign has been emulated through library association channels in many countries around the world. However, marketing plans for the library associations themselves are a lot rarer. The Public Relations Committee of the SDLA recognised that there was scope for the association to adopt a more systematic approach to marketing its services to current and prospective members. The Committee created a marketing plan that is aligned with the association’s strategic plan (SDLA, 2008). The document is easily accessible on the SDLA website (SDLA, n.d.). The structure of the document is as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Challenges
  • Opportunities
  • Relevant research
  • Goals and objectives

There are five goals with a number of objectives listed for each.

The introduction to the marketing plan argues that the SDLA needs to convey its ideas and vision to the library sector. It is noted that while the State Library of South Dakota plays a strong leadership role for public and school libraries, the association should clearly represent all libraries and the resources and services they provide.

The challenges faced by the association in developing the marketing plan are briefly outlined:

  • SDLA is a volunteer organisation (time is an issue)
  • No-one is a marketing expert
  • This is a first time effort at developing a comprehensive plan

The opportunities presented highlight contextual events: firstly the state’s strategic directions as expressed in the South Dakota 2010 Initiative, launched in 2003 (South Dakota, 2003). As two of the objectives of the 2010 initiative focus on economic development and education in the state, it is noted that “libraries can play major supporting roles for both objectives” (SDLA, n.d.). Secondly, the plan acknowledges the development of consortial activities for the library management systems, which will build the awareness of libraries state-wide.

The five goals of the plan are as follows:

  1. Stakeholders will value libraries as an essential part of Economic Development, Education and the quality of life for South Dakotans
  2. Raise public awareness of the services and resources provided by libraries
  3. Increase SDLA membership
  4. Increase membership involvement in SDLA
  5. Communicate SDLA’s legislative goals to the State of South Dakota’s legislative branch

The objectives for each of these goals relate directly to public relations, promotions and communications, with different ‘audiences’ and milestones. The objectives for the first goal indicate the need for the SDLA to have a strong presence in political circles.

1. Stakeholders will value libraries as an essential part of Economic Development, Education and the quality of life for South Dakotans

  • Hold legislature day at the State Library (annually)
  • Five members call/meet local state legislator(s) on SDLA issues (annual). Members selected annually by the Library Issues committee
  • Lobbyists meet with legislature before and during session
  • Establish five relationships with entrepreneurs/employers/researchers/ real estate associations (2006)
  • SDLA booth/attendance at 2010 Initiative symposiums and/or education and/or economic development conferences
  • Create tourism page (Site will include information on libraries — location, email access for public, local events, hours, web link to library, etc — links to SD Tourism page, SDLA’s site. Breakdown by region. PR chair/committee should be in charge of site)

The theme of lobbying and advocacy is continued for the fifth goal, with a strong focus on state-specific issues, such as creating public library districts, restoring school librarian certification, and appointing curriculum specialists to the State Library staff. There is some overlap in the objectives for these two goals.

5. Communicate SDLA’s legislative goals to the State of South Dakota’s legislative branch

  • Restore school librarian certification requirements by 2006
  • Discuss issue with legislators during legislature day at the State Library
  • Five members call/meet local state legislator(s) (Library Issues committee selects members)
  • Lobbyists meet with legislature before and during session
  • State of South Dakota adds curriculum specialists to the State Library staff by 2006
  • Discuss issue with legislators during legislature day at the State Library
  • Five members call/meet local state legislator(s) (Library Issues committee selects members)
  • Lobbyists meet with legislature before and during session
  • Create public library districts

The second goal targets marketing to the general public:

2. Raise public awareness of the services and resources provided by libraries

  • Four press releases/PSAs on libraries/library workers role in Education and Economic Development (annually)
  • Establish five relationships with entrepreneurs/employers/researchers/real estate associations (2006)
    • SDLA booth at two large state/regional fairs (annually) - work with state library
    • Create and promote tourism web site.
    • Develop new SDLA web presence for the public
    • Institutional members create link to SDLA site from their individual library web sites

The third and fourth goals look at marketing the association to members:

3. Increase SDLA membership.

  • Membership increases 5% by 2007
  • Collect feedback from library workers (members and non-members) annually via web form
  • Mail packet informing membership of each committee’s and sections’s mission (by Dec 2005)
  • Create student membership category (by 2006)
  • Mailer to all library workers in South Dakota to inform them about SDLA and its mission/goals/programs (2006).
  • Establish mentoring program for people new to the professional and/or South Dakota by 2007
  • Develop new SDLA web presence for the membership (including a electronic membership directory)

4. Increase membership involvement in SDLA.

  • Inform membership of SDLA activities/ projects twice a year
  • Mail packet informing membership activities/projects and of each committee’s and section’s mission (by Dec 2005)
  • Establish mentoring program for people new to the professional and/or South Dakota by 2007
  • SDLA committees are active
  • SDLA’s web site provide online communications (e.g. web form for feedback, information on programming) for members.

Analysis of the marketing plan

The elements of the SDLA marketing plan encompass a number of different activities:

Networking and building relationships

The objectives include making contact with state legislators and lobbyists to discuss the issues of concern to the library sector, as well as developing alliances with other organisations in the state. The State Library is seen to be a key partner for some of these activities. A formal presence at relevant forums, for example with booths at 2010 Initiative events, at education and economic development conferences and at regional fairs are highlighted.

Web presence

A number of objectives outline the importance of increasing the SDLA’s web presence, with a public awareness page, a tourism page, new membership pages as well greater interactivity in the website (web forms, electronic membership directory etc). Institutional members should be encouraged to link from the various library websites to the SDLA website.

Mail outs

The plan includes objectives to promote the association, the committees, and programs and activities through mail outs to existing members, as well as to target non-members with a mailer to all library workers in the state.

Membership

A target of 5% membership growth is given. One objective also outlines the proposal to create a new membership category for students.

New services

A few objectives relate to the development of new services, such as a mentoring program for new professionals and/or library workers who have moved to South Dakota.

General communication

Several objectives indicate the importance of regular communication, for example to inform members about activities (twice a year), and to inform the wider community about specific issues through press releases (four times a year). Two-way communication is encouraged, with the desire to elicit feedback from members via a web form. Summary

The SDLA has recognised the importance of developing a marketing plan for the association to increase its visibility and profile by targeting current and prospective members, the general public and politicians in the state. The library association understands the challenges of effective marketing, especially when the staff and members have little experience, so that they will progressively learn from the process and strengthen their marketing experience in the years to come.

Questions

  1. What do you believe are the key aspects of a successful library association marketing plan?
  2. What steps do you think the Public Relations Committee should be taking to determine whether they have met their marketing objectives?
  3. Does your library association have any committee or group responsible for public relations and marketing? Are there any marketing strategies currently in place? If so, please outline some of the main strategies and how they are used in your immediate context. If not, can you think about how you might establish an appropriate committee or working party?
  4. Can you identify the different audiences to whom you could market the association and its activities? Do you believe some audiences more important than others? Would you need to develop different marketing messages for the different audiences? What would be the best ways to communicate your messages with the different audiences?

Case Notes

Resource: Case study
Country: United States
Region: North America
Agency: South Dakota Library Association (SDLA)
Topic: Marketing for library associations
Keywords: marketing, public relations, communication, planning

Source

South Dakota (2003). South Dakota 2010 Initiative. Available online: http://www.2010initiative.com/2010initiative.asp South Dakota Library Association (SDLA) (2008). 2008-2011 SDLA strategic plan. Available online: http://www.sdlibraryassociation.org/quicklinks/strategicplan.asp South Dakota Library Association (SDLA) (n.d.). Marketing plan. Available online: http://www.sdlibraryassociation.org/quicklinks/marketingplan.asp

Associations, United States, Building Strong Library Associations

Last update: 21 October 2012