Your message about the library program and its value to the educational community needs to out there constantly. You work at collaborating with teachers. You build advocates for your library program. You create programs that demonstrate the vital role you play. Leadership and advocacy have become an integral part of your program. To make sure that parents, administrators and school board members are aware of and connect with all you’re doing you need a library brand that is recognizable. I blogged about Branding Your Library over a year ago, but the topic is one worth repeating. Once you have established your brand—and consistently maintain it—it becomes a 24/7 messenger of your value.
Believe it or not, you already have a brand. Or possibly multiple brands. It’s what people think when they hear your library mentioned. As I noted in that blog post, it could be “the shushing place,” or the “dusty book place.” Your brand carries an emotional message. It’s what you promise your customers, and it’s how they connect to you. If your brand is the dusty book place, you are not likely valued. Any messages you send are going to hit up against that emotional reaction to your library.
You need to carefully and consciously create the brand that will add weight to your message. Doing so takes time, but you can do a lot of it when you are away from your desk. It’s the kind of thinking and connection making I do when I am walking.
In the Basics of Branding, John Williams takes you through the steps, starting with preparatory ones.
- What is the Mission of your program? (I would add Vision as well). – This gives you the foundation on which your brand will be based. Some of the keywords you use here could be in your brand.
- What benefits do you provide? – In answering this, be sure these benefits are unique, that no one else in the school is doing it. And do these benefits have value for your stakeholders. In other words, are these benefits something they need and want?
- What do your customers think of you? – What do you want them to think of you? Are you the dusty book place or the place everyone wants to be? If it’s the former, you must work extra hard to correct that image.
- What qualities do you want stakeholders to associate with your library? – This may vary with your stakeholders, but there should be a unifying theme.
These four steps should lead you to your brand but play with the wording for a while. Brands are not taglines which may change with your target audience or over time. Your taglines will reflect your brand, but they are not interchangeable. Your brand is core to who you are, the heart of what you want people to feel when they think of the library.
When I go to the supermarket, I often look at how brands are ingrained in us by the various companies. My current favorite is Oreos. When I was growing up, Oreos meant two chocolate cookies with a distinctive design and a cream filling. Today they come in many different configurations, but they are still Oreos. And you still think of how you eat (and savor) them, which is the emotional connection. If they tried to make this change as a new product, they would have had more trouble creating their brand as the world’s most fun cookie.
My personal brand is “Inspiring librarians to be indispensable leaders.” When people in school librarianship think of me, they think of leadership. They know my books and workshops are all about how to become a leader.
Your brand might be “Finding your answers in a safe and welcoming space.” This works even if your library goes beyond its four walls.
Once you know your brand, your next step is to live it. How do you talk to students, teachers, administrators if “Finding your answers in a safe and welcoming space” is your brand? What could you use as a tagline? Perhaps, “You have questions. We have answers.” Note that the brand has emotion while the tagline, in this case, doesn’t.
Williams suggests you write down the key messages you want to communicate with your brand. This will help with taglines as well as solidifying in your mind what your brand is. You need to know who you are first. Then find ways to send it out.
As a final piece, a logo can help to get your brand ingrained in your stakeholder’s awareness. Designing one makes a great project for art or marketing students. Find out if it’s possible. Even if you are in the middle or elementary school, speak with the art and/or marketing teachers at the high school. They can decide if students should do it individually or as a team.
Be prepared to explain your needs. For example, if you are using “Finding your answers in a safe and welcoming space,” the logo needs to reflect the safe space and the answers. Have some sort of prize for the winning design or an event for all who contributed.
Let your world know who you are. Make an emotional connection. In the words of Staples (brand and tagline), “That was easy.”