How to Build Audiences to Effectively Engage Your Library Community

This post is the fourth 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.

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Let’s talk about building audiences for library campaigns. Whether you are working with a ladder of engagement or building and testing messages for effectiveness, the key is to start with strong and well defined audience. Professional political operatives, fundraisers, and marketers spend millions of dollars building audiences for their campaigns because starting with an effective audience is the most efficient way to win a campaign. So often I see libraries sending broad messages to entire communities and then being disappointed with the results. If your audience is too large or broad, you will waste money messaging people who don’t care about the issue and your ROI will drop. Remember that you should only spend resources on putting your messages in front of the people who are most likely to care about it. If your audience is too narrow then you’ll miss people who are likely to take action for your campaign. Or, if you are working with a ladder of engagement (which you should be creating for each audience) then you want to make the most of your resources by starting with an audience most likely to be moved from one rung to the next. Starting with the most effective audience is one of the best ways to ensure success and efficiency for your campaign.

Of course, there are many different ways to build audiences for a campaign, but here are three of my favorite audience sources.

Voter File
A voter file is easily one of the most obvious audiences and it is available fairly inexpensively from your board of elections. This is, of course, the best list to use to build political power in your community for your library.  However there are many nuances to a voter file. A standard voter file often includes name, address, party affiliation, voting history, phone number and occasionally email addresses. You can buy enhanced voter files from companies like L2 that have a lot more consumer data or issue data or more accurate phone numbers (phone numbers on voter files are notoriously inaccurate). While a voter file includes everyone in a community who is registered to vote (often referred to as a universe), it isn’t often effective to target an entire voter universe. Instead, you can break down the voter file to target individuals who are registered with a specific party, or you can target the high propensity voters, or voters who live in various areas of the community.  You can target conservatives in your community with messages that resonate with conservative voters or target progressives with messages that resonate with progressive voters. In the long run, targeting these voters with effective messages will help build up the political capital you need when your library goes to the voters so start targeting them years before you ever have to ask them to vote for your library.

*Please remember that it is illegal to use a voter file as a fundraising list.

AtoZ databases
AtoZ Databases and ReferenceUSA are two of my favorite audience building platforms that are freely available at many libraries. This is one of the best list sources for likely donors although there are many different audiences you can build here. At EveryLibrary we often build donor lists and lists of large companies in a community so that we can target them for fundraising for library initiatives. Because the data is fairly robust and decently accurate, you can find out someone’s household income or value or find people who have a history of donating to a political or charitable cause. In Sunnyvale library we were able to download a list of residents by area code and then compare that to our list of users in that same area code from our ILS. By deleting any of the duplicates, we were able to come up with a list of non-library users in Sunnyvale. We could then run a direct mail campaign that targeted non-users to encourage them to come to the library. Of course, we could also upload those lists to Facebook and target them with ads or run a phonebanking campaign. With decent GIS software, we could even map out our areas of the highest number of non-users. The benefit of starting with AtoZ databases or ReferenceUSA is that you have the lists available to you with phone numbers and addresses and these lists are great for fundraising. My next audience builder is far more powerful and accurate, but you are left to find a way to cultivate the contact information for any follow up contacts.

Pro-tip – You can often find the email addresses and phone numbers of the executives of many of the major fortune 1000 companies in these databases to help you make the first contact.

Acxiom
Axciom is easily the most powerful audience building tool for Facebook and many other digital platforms such as Twitter, Yahoo, MSN, eBay, and a few others but I primarily use it to target audiences on Facebook. These lists are best used for engaging community members in taking action on a ladder of engagement that starts with social media. Acxiom is a data company that allows you to request audiences by various behaviors such as buying habits, donations, consumer data, lifestyles, etc… You can request an audience from the Data Guru who then creates that audience in the platform that you are using or you can use their first person audience tool. In either case, this service is completely free because Acxiom makes money from you paying for ads on these platforms. The big drawback is that you don’t get an audience in a format that allows you to view names, addresses, phone numbers, or email. In other words, you can’t see who is specifically in the audience so you have to wait for their interaction with your data collection platform to get that information from them. If someone signs a survey or a petition for example, you then have their contact information for follow-up contacts. The benefit of Acxiom is that you can get a highly targeted audience of people that is extremely accurate. The are people who are most likely to sign a survey or a petition for your specific cause or issue and that can greatly reduce the cost of signatures through ads.

Targeting
Once you have these audiences it’s up to you to decide how best to target them. For some audiences, you can simply upload the CSV with name, address, and phone number into your library’s Facebook account and start targeting them with ads and follow up with more contacts later. For other audiences it might be best to start by running a phonebank campaign and call each of them. In other cases you might have to knock on their door or send them a piece of direct mail. While I made some suggestions here, you’ll have to look at your audiences and make your own decisions or feel free to ask me in the comments below. No matter where you get an audience, try to build ladders of engagement for each one by understanding your goal with each of them.

Sometimes it helps to work backwards from your goal. For example, if you want more people in your community who are likely to vote for your library, then of course, start with a voter file. Or, if you want more donors, you can start with local likely donors from AtoZ databases. And, if you want more volunteers, you can have Acxiom upload a list of non-profit volunteers into your Facebook account and you can target them through Facebook ads with links to your VolunteerMatch page. These highly targeted audiences are the key to bringing you the highest ROI for your initiatives.

Other Audiences
I have only barely scratched the surface of building audiences for library campaigns and initiatives. Major political parties, PACs, and causes, spend billions of dollars on cultivating the most accurate audiences they can and use data sets, voter models, test messaging, focus groups, etc… to win campaigns. One of EveryLibrary’s big initiatives is to build a lot of these datasets and audiences. But these are just three of my favorite ways to build an audience to start a campaign quickly and easily. We’ve worked with many political operatives  who have their own tools and techniques for their own campaigns and initiatives. I know that there are many other sources for audiences and I’d love to hear where you like to get your audiences from or how you like to build data on top of your audiences to make them more effective.

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.

Build Your Library’s Influence in the Community with Power Mapping

This post is the third 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.

A power map is a visual tool used by many political campaigns, activists, and community organizers and it helps them understand their relational power structures in their communities and to map the power structures of local influencers and organizations. By working through a power mapping exercise a campaigner can visually see relationships that exist in a community making it easier to understand those relationships. Once these relationships are understood it becomes easier to see who should be targeted in a campaign and where a campaigner can exert pressure to influence the target. Likewise, visualizing these relational lines of influence in a community can help a library understand how to influence the local politics and power structures. It can also use a power map to identify potential coalition partners and donors as well as persuade local individuals of influence to take a favorable stand for the library. Not only can a power map be used to map the power of an outside organization or individual, but it can also map the power of the library in order to better understand the library’s power structure in the community.

Step 1. Identify the Target

An organizer begins power mapping by identifying a specific person or an organization that they are going to engage or influence. The target for the campaign is the person or organization in power that can address the issue that the library is working on. For example, if the library were interested in convincing the mayor to keep from cutting library funding, then the target would be the mayor or if the library was looking to get a big donation from an organization, then the influential members of the organization like the Executive Board or the CEO would be the targets.

Step 2: Plan Their Action

Once an activist knows who their target is, they are going to need to know very specifically what action they are going to ask the target to take. Since the target might have other ideas about how to or why they should help the library achieve its goals its important to make it clear what is being asked of them. It’s also important that the action that take is specific and actionable. This means that a campaigner is going to ask them to go beyond just saying that they like or support the library. Instead, they are going to be asked to vote for your library at the May 2nd Council Meeting or they are going to be asked to write an editorial in support of the library bond measure to be published before the November Election. An activist would think about this as an opportunity to ask only one question of a person of influence in the community. Don’t want to waste it by asking for something that the target doesn’t have to give a solid commitment to or won’t lead to an action.

Step 3. Identify Relationships of the Target

Here the activist would brainstorm as many of the relationships that are associated with the target. It’s important to think as broadly as possible in this step. These relationships can include work, family, religious, neighbors, social groups and society’s, or political organizations. It’s important to not leave anyone off the list. Even if the library is not going to use family members to get to the target, simply listing them helps the brainstorming process and could lead to other potential lines of influence. It’s important to take the time to thoroughly research the target by looking up political or charitable donations and any volunteer activities that they may have participated in. Once you have this list, its important to start thinking about who and what these associations are connected to. Occasionally, in order to reach the target, the starting point may be 2-3 degrees of separation from the target.

Step 4. Draw the Relationships

Once the relationships are identified they need to be mapped to the target. This is a process of drawing the relational lines between each person on the list to the target. Some of these lines will interconnect and show that there are strong connections between the target one or two relational nodes. For example, if the target is a member of a local social club and there are multiple connections between the club and target then the social club is a much stronger influencer on the target. Also, many times there are nodes of power that aren’t directly connected to the target. For example, if the target was not a member of a local social club but many of the people of influence around him are connected to it, then it may still be a strong node of influence on the map.

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Step 5. Target the Relationships

Now it’s time to take a few moments and analyze the connections in the map and decide how to use them. Look at who or what has the most lines of influence between the target and the library or the organizer’s own networks of influence. For example, if there is someone in the library that connected to this example target’s social club, then the best initial step may just be working within that social group to influence the target’s wife, neighbor, and business associate. Or, finding some way to put pressure on the social group to take a pro-library stance may have a positive affect on the target since there are so many connections between the target and the social group even though the target is not directly connected to the social group. Or, it might be most beneficial to put pressure on local big donors to entice the mayor to take action to influence the target. Of course, it may be as simple as taking the time to talk to the wife of the target about how important libraries are to young or new mothers and letting her put pressure on the target to take some kind of pro-library stance or take action on behalf of the library.

Step 6. Make sure it happens

While all of this planning and power mapping is great, someone has to make sure that it happens. A good activist always puts someone in charge of an action and gives a deadline for that action. Instead of saying that “We should do this activity” they would say that a specific person would get an action done by a specific date.

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.