Volume 14 Number 2 • March 2000
Creatively Marketing the Corporate Library
by Peggy Bass Bridges and Suzette Morgan
Our role is, and always has been, to provide library services to Harcourtemployees in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The company’s products andservices range from book publishing and distance learning to training andassessment. As publishers of lifelong learning materials for the educational,scientific, technical, medical, professional, and trade markets, Harcourt’s10,000-plus employees have research needs that are as diverse as patronsin any public or academic library.
Our need for a marketing strategy coincided with a significant shiftin how we provided library services to our clientele. For many years, weoperated as a traditional information center: With a six-member staff,we managed the corporate archives; provided electronic clippings and documentdelivery; ordered books and journals for employees; and answered researchquestions 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, includingcontent and page development, navigation, and publicity. We assist fellowcorporate service groups with Web page development, teach end-users howto conduct their own research, and pursue special projects such as convertinginternal paper forms into electronic format. The way we allocate our budgethas changed, but the only significant increase in funding has been fortwo additional staff members. Our expanded role is a result of engagingend-users as information partners, and the crux of that engagement is nonstopmarketing.
Changing Our Corporate Image
The first step in our campaign was to address the common, single elementthat appears on every piece of publicity we produce: our name. We coulddebate endlessly on the pros and cons of being known as the “corporatelibrary,” or we could swiftly re-brand and start anew. We opted for thelatter. Our new name, Resource & Information Center (RIC), reflectswhat we are (a resource) and what we provide (information).
Armed with a new name and a half-dozen end-user databases, we decidedto host an information fair for the Orlando, Florida-based Harcourt employees.As intrigued as we are by convenient access to information, we knew thatgetting people to this party would require a little more than booths withdatabase products. Cookies, candy, door prizes, and free T-shirts werethe frontline drawing cards. We called database vendors to tell them aboutthe fair and see what promotional items they could supply as giveaways(Asking if they can supply promo items makes “no” an easy answer.). Wemoved our desktop computers into a large conference room, and assignedeach RIC team member a booth to demonstrate an online database. More than500 people attended the fair, and many said they had not been aware ofthe resources available in this building.
Loosening Up Our Style
Then we needed a way to promote the databases on a regular basis, sowe created a quarterly newsletter. This publication also provides tipsfor using browsers, e-mail, and search engines; lists new reference titles;describes interesting Web sites; and includes articles on topics such asciting electronic resources. Striving to be taken seriously as librariansin a corporate culture, we adopted a very businesslike tone in our earlynewsletters, complete with dense text, third-person narrative, and nothingfun. They were very informative—and boring. Happily, current editions ofthe newsletter are packed with useful information but have more casuallanguage, bulleted text rather than long paragraphs, and a sprinkling ofinteresting quotations. (Our favorite quote, “Caution: Cape does not enableuser to fly,” is the actual warning label on Batman costumes.) Libraryjargon is forbidden in our print and electronic publications, so we havepurged all mention of such terms as “document delivery” and “bibliographiccitation.”
Keeping with our “loose” philosophy, we decided to adopt a mascot. Wetook a cue from Madison Avenue and chose a chocolate Labrador retriever.(Ever notice how many print and television ads feature dogs?) Maggie’sphotographs have added a light touch to our newsletter, notepads, Web site,and training handouts. We managed to have our mascot photographed by barteringwith the in-house photography department. We have frequently traded skillssuch as HTML coding and editing with our colleagues in return for databaseprogramming, 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 justanother form of marketing. For example, almost everyone in the companyuses e-mail, but only a small percentage of people are aware of convenientfeatures such as activating automatic out-of-office messages, or sendingelectronic phone messages. We push information about these and other featuresto our clientele, thus filling a need that is not being addressed elsewherein the company.
Push technology can also be used for delivering third-party electronicjournals and newsletters. Site licenses for many useful electronic publicationsare affordable, and they create good opportunities for low-effort/high-impactmarketing. Depending on the licensing agreement, we either post newsletterson the company intranet and send e-mails to targeted audiences when newissues are available, or have newsletters e-mailed directly to recipientswith a customized message from the Resource & Information Center.
Remember: Everything Is Marketing
Advertising and hosting an information fair is marketing, just as writingand organizing content for the company intranet is marketing. In both cases,information related to our products and services is being presented toa non-captive audience, and the user experience should be as rewardingas possible. Since literary styles used in print media do not necessarilytranslate to electronic format, we continually research how to write forthe Web. Here are a few guidelines we follow:1
Leaving Home to Do Presentations In Our Company’sRemote Locations
Visiting people in their offices is one of our most effective formsof marketing. We travel to various Harcourt locations to meet with employeesto tell them about our library’s products and services. Our sessions havebecome something of a middle ground in the training arena. Having the audienceat computer stations in a “hands-on” class environment is demanding, bothbecause of the facilities that are required and the time that end-usersmust 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 withextensive 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 afternoonpresentation 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 moreserious side of the session. Below are some of the other techniques weuse 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 singlepublicity event by using hyperlink technology. When we announce in theweekly news feature that a Harcourt book has won an award, we also linkto information about employee discounts on Harcourt products. Publicizinga 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 thecompany 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 maintaininglists of special interest groups, such as marketing and editorial, we cansend e-mail announcements directly to them. Knowing the audience comesinto play with this push technology, so it is useful to be on the mailinglists for internal newsletters published by other Harcourt divisions. Usingthe new-hire lists provided to us by the Human Resources department, wedistribute 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 tobe more efficient in getting some kind of publicity message released weekly.The missing element in our campaign was a point person, someone designatedas our marketing coordinator. That individual could simply trigger thechain reaction necessary for activities such as writing a new product description,posting an announcement on the intranet, updating the “what’s new” sectionof the library Web site, sending e-mails to target audiences, or distributingfliers about a new service. Now, every team member routinely enters informationthat needs to be publicized into an Excel spreadsheet. The person designatedas the marketing coordinator then matches the items to our various advertisingchannels (such as e-mails, Web banner ads, fliers, etc.), decides on theschedule, and notifies the appropriate person when to take action.
Marketing Never Really Ends
Giving presentations, distributing brochures and newsletters aboutyour services, creating a Web site, putting your phone number and URL onpublicity materials: The list of possible marketing opportunities is endless.The first step is realizing that you do not need a large budget to publicizeyour library. Instead, rely on your creativity and explore different meansof communicating with your patrons.
Peggy Bass Bridges is the manager of the Resource & InformationCenter at Harcourt, Inc. in Orlando, Florida. She received her M.L.S. fromthe University of Alabama and has worked in libraries and museums for 20years. Her e-mail address is pbridges@harcourt. com. Suzette Morgan is communications coordinator forthe Resource & Information Center at Harcourt, Inc. She is a candidatefor a master of arts in communication, and holds a B.S. in journalism fromthe University of Florida. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
1. Tips for writing for the Web were adopted from JakobNielsen’s Web site at http://www.useit.comand from GoodDocuments at http://www.gooddocuments.com.