This post is the fifth post in a series on tools from political campaigns that can be used to arm librarians in the face of growing opposition during the Trump era where anti-tax and anti-government sentiments have a much stronger voice than ever before.
I am often asked about writing compelling emails and messages to support library issues. Many campaigns are looking for an answer that tells them exactly what they should write to get people to take action for their library. For the most part, I try to refrain from giving specific advice about which message is right because different messages and languages work well in different communities or when delivered to different audiences. In fact, there are dozens of factors and many different data points that are considered when creating an email that includes an ask or that attempts to move people up a ladder of engagement. However, I do have a favorite structure that I use for many of my emails and blog posts that encourage some kind of action or next steps.
The problem, agitation, solution communication structure is often used by marketing companies, activist/advocacy groups, and almost everyone that is interested in getting people to take some kind of action. It relies on the ladder of engagement structure that I talked about in this previous post by making them aware of a problem, getting them interested through agitation, and then giving them an opportunity to engage in a solution. If you are on campaign email lists you can often see this pattern in many of the emails that you receive and some of the best performing Facebook ads, fundraising scripts, presentations, and blog posts that encourage action also follow this structure.
If you are looking to engage an audience in fundraising, taking action, or getting more involved in your library, you can follow this basic outline.
- Identify THEIR problem
When working to encourage other people to take action for your cause its always most efficient to start where they are. This means identifying how the problem that you are trying to solve affects their lives or is a problem in their life. For example, if we are interested in engaging with an organization, individual, or audience that values economic development and we want them to support libraries, it would be best to first frame libraries in the context of a problem in the economy. You would start this conversation by talking about how important the economy is in the community.
- Agitate the problem
Once their problem is identified, then its times to agitate that problem. You can talk about how there are some serious economic issues in the community like high unemployment, low entrepreneurship, almost no structure of support for budding business owners, etc… Talk about how bad it is (or could be) to not have that structure in place. Highlight how the community might fail due to this lack of support for businesses and business owners. Take the time to play to strong emotions in this step.
- Present the solution
Once they are engaged and ready to take action, it becomes an easy step to present your solution as a means for them to take action. In this case, you can talk about how the library offers a network of support to small business owners, or databases that help entrepreneurs gain a competitive edge, or even co-working spaces and high-speed Internet for new startups. More simply, you present the library as the solution to those problems that were presented in first step and then you ask them to take some kind of action.
Do not forget the action!
I can’t stress enough about how important it is to give them the opportunity to take some kind of concrete and tangible action as part of the solution. The entire reason you gave them the solution was to allow them to release the tension you built through action. There’s nothing more dangerous than drawing a hungry crowd. Even if it’s as simple as signing up for the libraries email list, a pledge of support for libraries, or a petition. Depending on their level of interest you might be able to make an ask for more high level actions like making a donation, volunteering, or speaking on the library’s behalf at city council.
If you are interested in having EveryLibrary conduct a training to build political skills for librarians or speaking at your conference or staff development day you can get more information here. Or for information about my training, workshops and consulting, please view my speaking page.