Encourage Action For Your Library With The “Problem, Agitation, Solution” Model

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.

problem-solution-magnifyI 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.

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.

Cultivating Support for Your Library with a Ladder of Engagement

This post is the second 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.

So you need more money and people for your library, political initiative, movement, or cause? Try using a ladder of engagement.

In any political movement there will undoubtedly be times when the organization will have to ask other individuals or organizations for resources. It is a fact of political life that initiatives and movements rely on the generosity of others to continue to grow and expand their influence. However, even those that are familiar with an organization and support it may take some convincing to part with their precious time or their hard-earned cash. After all, supporters are not simply ATM machines. They are people with feelings, desires, and needs to be met. That’s why even staunch supporters are often reluctant to give up time and money to a political cause, preferring to support it with their words over their deeds (often referred to as “Slacktivism”). Of course, this causes problems for many non-profits, organizations, or movements because they rely on a higher level of engagement to survive and to have the resources they need to succeed. It doesn’t matter if the organization needs a donation, a supporter’s time as a volunteer, or other resources, the method for engaging any audience in a way that gives them the opportunity to get involved and sacrifice their own resources to make a difference in the world is the same.

The ladder of engagement is a fundamental tool for any organization or initiative that can be used to gradually build the relationships that are required to convince the public to support a cause and libraries can use it just as well. The ladder represents the way that people move from being unaware of a cause or an organization, to becoming broadly supportive of it, and finally to becoming active within it. For example, if an organization approaches someone for a contribution of $500 dollars to a cause they know nothing about, then their chance of success is slim to none. If the organization first took the time to develop a relationship with a targeted individual and then asked for a donation of $500 when the target was mentally or emotionally prepared to be asked, then there is a much greater chance of success.

A standard ladder of engagement would be visualized like this:

This is one of my favorite examples of a ladder of engagement although there are many others online.  In this example, we start with those that are “aware” of the cause and move to those that are “interested” and “interacted.” These initial three steps usually happens through marketing and advertising. This is how we get people to take notice of a cause, buy a product, or walk through the doors of a library. “Interacted” is also where people begin to take small actions such as liking a Facebook Post or Page. But this is where building supporters and activists is different than marketing. We want people to move beyond just supporting a cause with slacktivist actions and become fully “engaged” and “evangelized.” We want people to take real meaningful action.

In order to move people up this ladder, a campaigner needs to spend time and resources making people aware of the campaign. Next, they need to give them small opportunities to get involved or show that they care (changing their profile picture, sharing a post, etc…). After that, they should be given a place to be engaged or take more meaningful action like signing a petition or asking their friends and family to get involved. And finally, asking them to take that final action such as making a donation or volunteering for the cause.

One of the best examples of this tool in action was from the Obama Campaign in 2012.

The Obama Facebook ladder of engagement looked like this:

  • First, people were made aware of Obama’s campaign by seeing boosted posts on Facebook.
  • Then they were encouraged to take an easy next action by ‘liking’ the Barack Obama Facebook page itself.
  • Then the campaign asked people to “sign a birthday card” to Obama on Facebook in the lead up to his birthday. When people took this step they were asked to fill in their name and email address and the campaign had a valuable piece of information in their database: an email address.
  • After that, the campaign sent an email to supporters asking them to fill out a survey, or share a personal story. This step encourages people to become more committed to the campaign and builds a profile for the supporter so the campaign can better target them in the future. (Notice at this point that the Obama campaign has made only easy asks of people. They haven’t asked anyone to give up any money or time. But they have built a relationship with people and gathered some useful data, like an email address and location.)
  • Finally, people who participated in all of the previous steps get a fundraising email. But instead of a direct request for money they are asked to contribute to the campaign in return for a bumper sticker or t-shirt. Never under-estimate the power of swag!
  • Those that gave to the campaign are then asked to volunteer for the campaign or join at a deeper level in some other way such as organizing a house party, canvassing, or phonebanking for the campaign.

The people that a movement engages with undoubtedly start off having almost no knowledge of what it is about. The ladder of engagement allows a campaigner to walk with people as they get to know the movement and what it stands for. The more time a community organizer spends with someone then the better they get to know each other and the more likely they are to give.

Luckily for libraries, most people know that libraries exist and many American’s use their library so librarians typically won’t be starting from the “Unaware” rung of the ladder.

Creating a ladder of engagement for an audience online is fairly easy with Social Media. Facebook’s data is extremely accurate and allows a user to simply upload a CSV of an audience using just name and address and Facebook will connect that list of people to their Facebook Profiles (we won’t think too much about how scary that is). This means that if a library can generate of a target audience from any of wide range of possible sources, upload it into Facebook, and then target that group with ads then they can move them up the ladder of engagement. For example, a library can download a list of known charitable individual donors in the community from AtoZ databases (or ReferenceUSA) that includes name and address and upload that list to Facebook. Then the library can target that audience with ads about the importance of the library. After that, they can ask that group to sign up on an email list or other creative form that gathers more data. Then they can ask the public to change add a badge to their social media or take some small action. Once that is accomplished the library can then begin targeting them with more customized emails that encourage donations or other supportive actions.

It is easy to create ladders of engagement for people offline as well as it is online. Many times it simply starts with some research for a target audience or individual. A library can easily use a donor list, AtoZ databases (free with a library card), or Facebook to build their initial lists. Then plan their target’s engagement from there. For example, if the library has a goal of getting donations from some of the largest companies in their community, the library would download a list of the largest companies from AtoZ Databases (or ReferenceUSA) where the email addresses or phone numbers of many of the executives can often be found. From there, a librarian would reach out with an email or phone call to introduce the library and its needs using a strong script (we’ll talk about developing scripts later), and then if the executive is receptive to the library the librarian can offer to meet the executive for coffee to talk more about the library. Next, the librarian might find some way to get the company to involved in the library in some small way. At  many of the libraries I have worked in, we have been able to get volunteers from companies, sign their employees up for library cards, or have them sponsor or run a program. When this relationship is built, the library will have a much easier time asking for a donation for a capital campaign or an initiative.

To have an effective ladder in an organization it needs to set the ladder up in advance and understand what is needed from the process. It’s important to take the time before beginning to think about the goal of the ladder or where it is that people need to end up. Is the organization looking for money, or volunteers, or letters to editor, or people to show up at a city council meeting, etc…? In any of those cases, thinking about where people are in the community that need to be reached and helps understand how best to reach them. It’s always best to meet people where they are already. It might make sense to reach them online, or in person, or a hybrid of the two. Then plan about small actions that people can take to get more and more engaged in the library until finally, librarians can reach out to them when they are most primed to give.

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.