Volume 14 Number 2 • March 2000
Cover Story •
Creatively Marketing the Corporate Library
by Peggy Bass Bridges and Suzette Morgan
Our role is, and always has been, to provide library services to Harcourt employees in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The company’s products and services range from book publishing and distance learning to training and assessment. As publishers of lifelong learning materials for the educational, scientific, technical, medical, professional, and trade markets, Harcourt’s 10,000-plus employees have research needs that are as diverse as patrons in any public or academic library.
Our need for a marketing strategy coincided with a significant shift in how we provided library services to our clientele. For many years, we operated as a traditional information center: With a six-member staff, we managed the corporate archives; provided electronic clippings and document delivery; ordered books and journals for employees; and answered research questions using DIALOG and NEXIS, CD-ROMs, and a print reference collection.
Today, we offer those same services, along with 34 end-user databases,
a table-of-contents delivery service, and a directory of 1,500 Web sites.
The corporate pages of Harcourt’s intranet are our responsibility, including
content and page development, navigation, and publicity. We assist fellow
corporate service groups with Web page development, teach end-users how
to conduct their own research, and pursue special projects such as converting
internal paper forms into electronic format. The way we allocate our budget
has changed, but the only significant increase in funding has been for
two additional staff members. Our expanded role is a result of engaging
end-users as information partners, and the crux of that engagement is nonstop
Changing Our Corporate Image
The first step in our campaign was to address the common, single element that appears on every piece of publicity we produce: our name. We could debate endlessly on the pros and cons of being known as the “corporate library,” or we could swiftly re-brand and start anew. We opted for the latter. Our new name, Resource & Information Center (RIC), reflects what we are (a resource) and what we provide (information).
Armed with a new name and a half-dozen end-user databases, we decided
to host an information fair for the Orlando, Florida-based Harcourt employees.
As intrigued as we are by convenient access to information, we knew that
getting people to this party would require a little more than booths with
database products. Cookies, candy, door prizes, and free T-shirts were
the frontline drawing cards. We called database vendors to tell them about
the fair and see what promotional items they could supply as giveaways
(Asking if they can supply promo items makes “no” an easy answer.). We
moved our desktop computers into a large conference room, and assigned
each RIC team member a booth to demonstrate an online database. More than
500 people attended the fair, and many said they had not been aware of
the resources available in this building.
Loosening Up Our Style
Then we needed a way to promote the databases on a regular basis, so we created a quarterly newsletter. This publication also provides tips for using browsers, e-mail, and search engines; lists new reference titles; describes interesting Web sites; and includes articles on topics such as citing electronic resources. Striving to be taken seriously as librarians in a corporate culture, we adopted a very businesslike tone in our early newsletters, complete with dense text, third-person narrative, and nothing fun. They were very informative—and boring. Happily, current editions of the newsletter are packed with useful information but have more casual language, bulleted text rather than long paragraphs, and a sprinkling of interesting quotations. (Our favorite quote, “Caution: Cape does not enable user to fly,” is the actual warning label on Batman costumes.) Library jargon is forbidden in our print and electronic publications, so we have purged all mention of such terms as “document delivery” and “bibliographic citation.”
Keeping with our “loose” philosophy, we decided to adopt a mascot. We
took a cue from Madison Avenue and chose a chocolate Labrador retriever.
(Ever notice how many print and television ads feature dogs?) Maggie’s
photographs have added a light touch to our newsletter, notepads, Web site,
and training handouts. We managed to have our mascot photographed by bartering
with the in-house photography department. We have frequently traded skills
such as HTML coding and editing with our colleagues in return for database
programming, graphic design, printing, and photography.
Practicing Our New Mantra: Low-Effort/High-Impact Marketing
Filling information gaps, as we try to do in our newsletter, is just another form of marketing. For example, almost everyone in the company uses e-mail, but only a small percentage of people are aware of convenient features such as activating automatic out-of-office messages, or sending electronic phone messages. We push information about these and other features to our clientele, thus filling a need that is not being addressed elsewhere in the company.
Push technology can also be used for delivering third-party electronic
journals and newsletters. Site licenses for many useful electronic publications
are affordable, and they create good opportunities for low-effort/high-impact
marketing. Depending on the licensing agreement, we either post newsletters
on the company intranet and send e-mails to targeted audiences when new
issues are available, or have newsletters e-mailed directly to recipients
with a customized message from the Resource & Information Center.
Remember: Everything Is Marketing
Advertising and hosting an information fair is marketing, just as writing and organizing content for the company intranet is marketing. In both cases, information related to our products and services is being presented to a non-captive audience, and the user experience should be as rewarding as possible. Since literary styles used in print media do not necessarily translate to electronic format, we continually research how to write for the Web. Here are a few guidelines we follow:1
Leaving Home to Do Presentations In Our Company’s Remote Locations
Visiting people in their offices is one of our most effective forms of marketing. We travel to various Harcourt locations to meet with employees to tell them about our library’s products and services. Our sessions have become something of a middle ground in the training arena. Having the audience at computer stations in a “hands-on” class environment is demanding, both because of the facilities that are required and the time that end-users must give up. Most often we opt for the safety of a presentation format, and so we use PowerPoint slides with screen shots of the Web, along with extensive handouts.
Presentations became more enjoyable for the audience, and also for us, when we began to think loose. If there is ever a time for humor, an afternoon presentation in a darkened room is it. We plan the pop quizzes, door prizes, and humorous, work-related stories as carefully as we plan for the more serious side of the session. Below are some of the other techniques we use for effective presentations:
‘Tie In’ to Get Them to ‘Buy In’
Another key concept in our marketing is “tie-in.” Tie-in leads to buy-in, and the company intranet allows us to gain maximum exposure from a single publicity event by using hyperlink technology. When we announce in the weekly news feature that a Harcourt book has won an award, we also link to information about employee discounts on Harcourt products. Publicizing a new database is an opportunity to link to the existing list of databases, along with the end-user tip sheets. A story about a new initiative in the company prompts a link to the section designed for other business initiatives.
Defining a Target Market
Some publicity information is either not applicable across the board, or is pertinent only to people working in specific areas. By maintaining lists of special interest groups, such as marketing and editorial, we can send e-mail announcements directly to them. Knowing the audience comes into play with this push technology, so it is useful to be on the mailing lists for internal newsletters published by other Harcourt divisions. Using the new-hire lists provided to us by the Human Resources department, we distribute Resource & Information Center welcome packets to new employees. They include our business cards, a brochure, a notepad, and sample newsletters.
What Element Was Still Missing?
To keep our marketing campaign fresh, we realized that we needed to be more efficient in getting some kind of publicity message released weekly. The missing element in our campaign was a point person, someone designated as our marketing coordinator. That individual could simply trigger the chain reaction necessary for activities such as writing a new product description, posting an announcement on the intranet, updating the “what’s new” section of the library Web site, sending e-mails to target audiences, or distributing fliers about a new service. Now, every team member routinely enters information that needs to be publicized into an Excel spreadsheet. The person designated as the marketing coordinator then matches the items to our various advertising channels (such as e-mails, Web banner ads, fliers, etc.), decides on the schedule, and notifies the appropriate person when to take action.
Marketing Never Really Ends
Giving presentations, distributing brochures and newsletters about your services, creating a Web site, putting your phone number and URL on publicity materials: The list of possible marketing opportunities is endless. The first step is realizing that you do not need a large budget to publicize your library. Instead, rely on your creativity and explore different means of communicating with your patrons.
Peggy Bass Bridges is the manager of the Resource & Information
Center at Harcourt, Inc. in Orlando, Florida. She received her M.L.S. from
the University of Alabama and has worked in libraries and museums for 20
years. Her e-mail address is pbridges@
harcourt. com. Suzette Morgan is communications coordinator for
the Resource & Information Center at Harcourt, Inc. She is a candidate
for a master of arts in communication, and holds a B.S. in journalism from
the University of Florida. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
1. Tips for writing for the Web were adopted from Jakob Nielsen’s Web site at http://www.useit.com and from GoodDocuments at http://www.gooddocuments.com.
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