missrachelsmith

Posts Tagged ‘Marketing

Planning and organising projects

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In my last blog post, I thought about how I organised my time at work. But actually, as I mentioned, most of my work as Communications and Marketing Officer for the Library and Heritage Collections is project-based, and most of the projects I work on I’m usually also leading. For me, time management and project management are pretty much intertwined, so I couldn’t really tackle one subject without exploring the other…

Project management

Although I manage a range of marketing and communications projects, I don’t have a formal background in project management. Everything I know about project management comes from common sense, or from what I’ve picked up from other people.

So how have my project management skills developed? Well, back in 2010, when I started working towards CILIP Chartership, I wasn’t working in a management role. As a Library Assistant, I was required to support projects, but I wasn’t really supposed to manage them. But things don’t always quite work out like that…

First steps

The first marketing project I managed was back in December 2010. The Library’s previous Communications and Marketing Officer was absent, so I managed the production of all of the publicity materials to open our new special collections gallery. This was a challenging project – at this point I wasn’t working closely with archives and special collections and had little experience of publicising exhibitions. I had to liaise with the University’s central communications and procurement teams, as well as external design and printing companies for the first time. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention – the deadline for getting everything produced was early January 2011. Counting out the Christmas break, I had about 3 weeks to get a poster, leaflet and gallery opening booklet ready.

Treasures of Durham University exhibition banner

However, I knew that this was strategically important for our historic library and for the University, and the publicity materials were delivered on time, to budget and to specification. Due to the short timescales involved, there was no formal plan involved – I just made sure I prioritised this over all of my other tasks.

Induction 2011

In 2011, I got more involved in managing our induction communications and I project managed a complete format change from our Library induction tours for new students from the previous years: the Library Treasure Hunt.

Library Treasure Hunt

I developed the programme, came up with a range of questions and activities, and figured out how the Treasure Hunt would work operationally in the Library. The Treasure Hunt was part of the larger induction 2011 communications plan – I also led on other activities that year, including organising our stall for the International Students Fair and overseeing our stand on the first day of the Fresher’s Fair. The Communications and Marketing Officer and I discussed all of the activities that needed to be completed ahead of the induction period, and my colleague organised these into a Gannt chart (I’ll come back to this in a moment) so we could keep track of all of the different timescales involved in the project. I found that for a complex marketing project like this, having a visual idea of what needed to be completed when really worked for me.

The induction period that year went really smoothly as a consequence…

… and then the Communications and Marketing Officer left the Library and I was offered a promotion in November 2011. So after that, I wasn’t just picking up projects at the last minute when colleagues were absent, or leading on aspects of larger projects which someone else was managing. Now, it was up to me to plan and organise projects…

Getting started

The first thing I decided when I took up my new role is that I felt that even smaller projects needed to be planned more carefully. One of the things I’d learnt from covering for my colleague was that it’s difficult to know what has and hasn’t been done if you’re not working to a plan. I also felt that having a project plan would make it easier to convey to my line manager what I was doing. So as soon as I started managing Library communications and marketing, I started to plan.

Communications plans

Every campaign I run now has a communications plan. They’re usually pretty straightforward. Here’s one I put together for this year’s MORE BOOKS campaign:

More Books communications plan

Essentially, I think about the activities that need to be completed as part of the project, the timescales I want them to be completed in, and then the staff members that will be involved. This involves considering which activities depend on other tasks being completed (I can’t expect a colleague to design a screensaver, for example, if I haven’t finished the campaign graphics), and the staff resource available.

Communications timelines

Projects don’t always work out this way, of course. In the end, I put together the MORE BOOKS graphics and posters on the morning of Wednesday 14 November (5 days before the service relaunched, so not ideal) due to another project heating up. So when that happens and I’m not keeping to time, I sometimes do a backwards record of a marketing project. As well as planning forwards at the start of the project, I’ll record when things actually happened as the project progresses.

Here’s an example of the communications timeline I put together for the building development communications that dominated my work in 2012:

Library developments publicity timeline

Having a record like this can be really helpful for analysing how successful particular publicity methods have been. For example, if I see a sudden spike in hits to our website on 13 February, I can tell that this is due to the link being circulated in the Vice Chancellor’s regular email bulletin, as well as the social media posts we published that day.

Project plans

But these quick plans aren’t so good when you’re organising a complex project with a lot of discrete actions. An example of this would be communications activities leading up to the new academic year in October. Following my colleague’s lead, I used a variation on a Gannt chart when planning my work for Induction 2012, which helped me to work to a range of timescales and track my progress:

Induction Plan 2012

Down the left hand side, I’ve listed the main activities that need to be completed. At the top, I’ve plotted out the weeks between the beginning and end of the project. Then I work out when I think each activity should be completed by, but also (and here’s the big difference between that and the simpler communications plans) how long I think each activity might take.

This is a plan from very near the end of the project. How can I tell? Well, most of the bars are green, which in the traffic light system I use, mean they’ve been completed. Usually, I’ll adjust the bars if activities are completed earlier/later than planned, so the finished plan reflects the timescales I actually worked to. I felt that this worked really well for induction last year, and I’ll be using this same system in 2013. In fact, it’s a technique I’d like to use more, but I find that I often don’t feel like I can afford the time to set it up.

So what’s next?

I think the next big thing I have to tackle in this area is evaluating projects – I have very little time for reflecting on projects in any great depth at the moment, as I’m straight onto the next deadline. As and when more support is found for my role, this is something I’d like to do more of. I’d also like to undertake some training to further improve my skills in this area too!

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Written by missrachelsmith

February 2, 2013 at 18:02

Organising ‘Marketing Libraries’

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Earlier this month,  I organised a one day training event on behalf of the CILIP Career Development Group North Eastern division committee. The day was entitled ‘Marketing Libraries : Strategic and Creative Communications for Information Professionals’. When the committee first came up with the idea of running an event on marketing, I found myself accidentally volunteering (one of my favourite hobbies) to take the lead on organising the day. Given that my job centres around communications and marketing, it seemed a little unfair not to help out!

Someone suggested the University of Sunderland’s strategic marketing workshop, and I was keen for the rest of the day to cover practical areas of library marketing and look at some of the toolkit steps being used creatively in different library contexts. So I contacted speakers, organised a venue, developed the programme – and co-ordinated other members of the committee who handled advertising the event, the booking process and payment.

And you know what? Marketing Libraries was the first time I’d done any of that stuff. I’ve organised training sessions before – I do it pretty much weekly at my Brownies group. Organising events is part of my role (I’m currently juggling six separate induction fairs over the next two weeks! I might try to blog about that). But I’ve never organised a professional development event before on that sort of scale.

So how did it all go? Well, the preparations for the day took longer than I expected. You know, organising the timings and writing the programme for a training day actually takes quite a while, because you have to make executive decisions on things like how long each session will last, when people will want breaks, which order the presentations should go in, etc etc. And then after you’ve done all that you still have to make sure the booking process and costs are sorted, write some vaguely attractive sounding blurb and make sure all the speakers are happy with how you’ve presented them and their session, before you can even tell potential participants that the event is taking place!

This ‘not really accounting for the time things would take’ thing continued into the days before the conference, when I suddenly realised there were lots of little jobs to do, like making sure the room was correctly laid out, buying gifts for the speakers, printing the event handouts, finding name badges… there is a lot of work that goes into a training day that you just don’t realise as a delegate attending. I think at future events I’ll definitely be more appreciative of the effort that goes on behind the scenes.

On the day itself? Well, everything went well on the whole (apart from when the projector decided randomly to time out twice throughout the day – why does technology never behave?). Although I was concentrating on making sure the event was running smoothly, the sections of the workshops and presentations I did catch were really interesting. Myself and Aude, the committee’s Secretary, shared the job of introducing the speakers throughout the day, which was probably the most terrifying part of all – having the confidence to speak to large groups of people is  something I need to work on.

All in all, I get the impression that delegates seemed to enjoy the training day and took some useful information away from it – job well done. And the CDG North Eastern committee are satisfied that the event was successful and profitable, so I’m happy about that.

All that’s left now for me to do is look at the course feedback, and write a review for CILIP about how the day went. So I haven’t finished organising Marketing Libraries just yet!

Written by missrachelsmith

September 23, 2012 at 15:31

New Year, new job

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So it’s been a while. You know how it is – life takes over. Blogging and Chartership work haven’t really been at the top of my to do list. Outside of work, there’s a lot of family drama unfolding. I’m pleased to say though that things are looking much more positive as far as work’s concerned. Back in November, I had an interview for the post of Communications and Marketing Officer for Durham University Library and Heritage Collections. And I got the job!

My new role is to continue and develop Durham University Library’s communications processes. I am responsible for ensuring that we deliver clear, consistent and effective information about Library and Heritage Collection resources, services and developments to internal and external audiences. Planning, managing and developing promotional campaigns, publicity materials and events from initial concept to final production are part of my duties. I’m going to be advising and supporting our Web Steering Group and scoping potential mobile applications. I will be heading up collecting feedback, evaluating how effective our services are at meeting customer needs and responding to the National Students Survey results. I also have some responsibility for internal communications.

That’s what the job description says.

I’ve come back to work after Christmas to a series of introductory meetings and I’m using January to review, plan and prioritise. And at the very start of this process, what I’m already starting to realise is that it’s a big job. I’m managing marketing and communications for 5 libraries, one of which is just about to open a £10 million pound extension in April. So far, so at least kind of within my comfort zone. I’ve worked in the Library for two years and I’ve been involved in all of our major campaigns and publicity activities. I have been a student at the University. I know what we offer as a library service, I know our main customer group and I’m confident I can promote what the Library does to our different audiences.

But as well as the libraries, I’m responsible for effectively marketing our archives and special collections. There’s also the small matter of our growing special collections gallery space, which will be hosting the Lindisfarne Gospels in 2013. And then there’s the two university museums. And all of the outreach work that goes with this.

I’m really excited to have been offered the promotion. It’s definitely going to be a challenge and a job that I can hopefully do some really interesting things with. It’s my first ‘professional’ level post, and my first ‘graduate’ job. And I’ve managed to get it without postgraduate qualifications in either librarianship or marketing. I feel massively lucky that my colleagues have recognised that I work hard, that the standard of work I produce is good and that I’m capable at handling whatever’s thrown at me.

But with the very serious concerns I have for my family, who are falling apart over 300 miles away, I can’t help but feel that a lot is being thrown at me right now.

2012 is certainly going to be interesting…

Written by missrachelsmith

January 15, 2012 at 12:09

Adobe wan Kinobe

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This post has been hanging around in draft form for a while now, lost somewhere in the Tatooine desert that is my work desktop. IT skills is an area for development I identified on my original PPDP for CILIP Chartership, where I proposed to ‘learn to use Adobe Illustrator using online tutorials and information’ so that I could ‘take over the updating of Library floorplans’. So when I started playing with the Library floorplans back in May, I started writing this post. It’s now August, and since that point I’ve not only learnt how to manipulate Adobe Illustrator, I’ve also taught myself to use Adobe Premiere and I’m currently dabbling in Adobe Flash/SwishMax as well…

Adobe Premiere

Why did I use it?  I’m creating a testimonial video to promote our institutional repository, and I found screencasting and video editing software Camtasia Studio limited. Having created a first draft of the video in Camtasia, I used Adobe Premiere to create the final version of the video.

How did I learn it?  Mainly through using online video tutorials. I have the CS4 version of Adobe Premiere, so I watched a lot of the Getting Started guides on the Adobe website. I also consulted online forums when I had trouble exporting my video.

What worked?  I created a video from scratch, which I’m quite proud of. I was also able to adjust the brightness of the filming and use overlays using Adobe Premiere, which I couldn’t do using Camtasia.

What do I need to work on?  I need to try to remember to save regularly, as I got quite frustrated when I lost an hour’s work when using Adobe Premiere. Also, the video camera I used to film the footage, which was borrowed from our IT department, is pretty old and this means that the quality of the finished video isn’t great, despite my best efforts at editing it.

Adobe Illustrator

Why did I use it?  To update the Library floorplans, which were already in Illustrator format

How did I learn it?  When this responsibility was passed to me by my line manager around a year ago, he went through how to make basic changes to the floorplans using an older version of Adobe Illustrator. I already use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, and the menu structure of Adobe Illustrator is similar, so I mainly used trial and error to pick this package up. Although I was making fairly significant changes, I was also working to update a document which already existed, which made this task a lot easier.

What worked?  I managed to pick up the programme quite easily and created professional-looking maps for two of the University libraries which are undergoing major redevelopment work over the summer.

What do I need to work on?  I tend to try and find quick and efficient solutions to problems. However, in this case, it meant that when I was trying to ‘grey out’ unusually shaped staff areas, for example, I’d go for the primitive method of just colouring those areas in with a paint brush tool. This doesn’t affect the way the finished plan looks, but there’s every chance I’ll be using Illustrator for other projects in the future and I should take some time to pick up more advanced tools and features.

I’ve got to say, being able to add ‘familiar with the Adobe Creative Suite’ to my CV makes me feel like  a graphics Jedi. The force is strong in this one…

Written by missrachelsmith

August 8, 2011 at 17:27

CPD23: Branding – a piece of cake?

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CPD evidently now stands for Cake & Professional Development. Image courtesy of M i x y on Flickr

Last week, I celebrated one year of tweeting using my missrachelsmith Twitter account! I’ve also just reached the 6 month mark with the missrachelsmith blog. The turning of a year is often a good time to reflect on the year past and think about the year ahead, so week 2 of 23 Things for Professional Development, and Thing 3: Consider your personal brand are quite timely for me.

Now, communications and marketing is kind of my bag, baby, so in theory, this personal branding Thing should be a piece of (tweetanniversary) cake. But for me, using social media for professional development was kind of an organic thing which just happened. I never really planned or structured my personal online ‘brand’. So what do my current professional social media profiles say about me?

What I think

Well, I think that I present myself in quite a straightforward way. Both my blog and my Twitter account are named after me and I also proudly display friendly mugshots of myself (although the photo I’m currently using, taken during the Toon (lib)TeachMeet, maybe isn’t the most obvious).

I write about what I’m doing at work, about professional development activities and about ideas I have about libraries and information. I don’t go into a huge amount of detail about out of work stuff, but I don’t divorce my work life and my personal life entirely, as it tends to creep in. And I write quite honestly; the whole point of my CILIP Chartership work is to be reflective, and that means telling you how I feel about the things I’m doing, as well as what I think about them.

I definitely think that there’s room for improvement, however. Visually, my blog and Twitter account don’t look all that enticing and a strong online visual identity could be easily achieved through using consistent headers and backgrounds. I’ve also been keeping an eye on my blog stats in recent weeks, and a lot of people seem to find their way to my About page, which currently tells you very little about me. These are things that I need to look into and would be quick improvements to my personal online brand.

What my colleagues think

I decided to be brave and go for the optional extra activity, so I asked a couple of colleagues for their opinions on my blog. My colleague Vicki called it (and I quote) ‘the most professional blog I’ve ever read’. I’m guessing this is because there are other people at my workplace who blog – see Helen’s Bright Inside, a blog about interior design, or Ben’s bloggin’ bones, subtitled ‘musings of unremarkable idiot’, for example –  and don’t write about professional stuff at all. But still, as I’m blogging about work, professional is kind of what I’m aiming at, so I was fairly pleased with that response.

What Google thinks

I’ve learnt that I’m not amazingly easy to find or ‘googleable’ – I blame this mainly on having the world’s most common name. I did consider changing my surname as a teenager, to something a bit more exciting and glamorous, but my mother was quite offended when I suggested it. Actually, if you search ‘Rachel Smith’ on Google, you mainly come up with results relating to an American beauty queen (don’t be fooled – if I looked like that I wouldn’t be doing this job).

Can I improve my Google result rankings? Well, I’m sure there’s a few SEO-type rabbits I could pull out of my library marketing hat, but I don’t think I can improve my visibility that much, without changing names. I’m planning to use the missrachelsmith ‘brand’ for at least the course of Chartering, but maybe I should rethink this further down the line, as and when my blog and twitter activities have a change in purpose/emphasis.

And lastly, what do you think? I’d love to know.

Written by missrachelsmith

July 1, 2011 at 12:42

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Works well under pressure

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Last week, I submitted a job application at the very last of all last minutes, having misread the deadline. One of the criteria on the person specification was ‘works well under pressure’, or words to that effect. This made me laugh in a slightly hysterical manner when rattling off a covering letter at 11.30pm on the closing date.

But in actual fact, working well under pressure is something I’ve been managing admirably for some weeks. Whilst I work well when presented with short timescales and unexpected challenges, this is something I generally try to avoid. I’m not a ‘last minuter’ when I have any say in the matter – but life, and work, is not something I have much control over, and over the past month a few unexpected things have been thrown into the mix.

The library has a dedicated communications and marketing officer, who like me, is based within the academic liaison team, and part of my role is supporting my colleague in this area. Unfortunately, the communications and marketing officer has now been off work for around 4 weeks due to illness.  Obviously, you really can’t choose when you need to take sick leave, but it’s been pretty unfortunate timing, to say the least. I’ve only been in the library for two of the last four weeks myself, having arranged to go on holiday and see my family. But when I have been at work, I’ve needed to deal with a week of catalogue and system crashes, as well as a myriad of opening hours changes, moving from Easter vacation opening hours to Easter weekend opening hours, to term opening hours, to bank holiday weekend opening hours. I’ve chaired a communications and marketing group meeting for the first time. And then finally add into the mix the fact that two of our library sites went into 24 hour opening on Easter Monday…

So it’s been a bit of a crazy-whirlwind few weeks. But now it’s sort of over (is it ever over?!) I thought it might be interesting to take a look at my own personal performance during April in the area of communications and marketing, and how that has affected the library’s service performance (the first of the CILIP Chartership assessment criteria, for those interested!):

Personal performance: Firstly, I probably need to give myself some credit for stepping up to the mark in a pressurised environment. I wasn’t expecting a week of system crashes, I wasn’t expecting my colleague to be off work for such a prolonged period of time, and I wasn’t expecting to have much involvement in this year’s Library 24/7 campaign.

But I’ve managed to roll with it as the circumstances around me have changed. When the system crashed, I put out news stories, posted social media updates and organised posters and notices around the library to make sure that as many people as possible knew why they couldn’t search the catalogue or renew their items.

When it became apparent that my colleague wasn’t going to be able to attend the library’s communications and marketing group meeting, I sought the input of the other group members, who agreed that the meeting should go ahead. I put myself forward to chair the meeting, even though it’s something I’ve never done before, because I was aware that with the communications and marketing officer absent, I was the person who knew the most about what was going on and the person best placed to act as chair. This was a challenge for me, as I had to sort out the confusion surrounding whether the meeting was to take place, as well as prepare for the meeting, in a matter of hours. The meeting itself though went well; we kept to the agenda and to time, the group came up with a list of actions assigned to different members, and I was thanked for chairing the meeting by the group (which was nice!).

And the Easter vacation and Library 24/7 marketing? Well, it hasn’t been perfect, and with so much going on and only one of me I made some mistakes – I forgot to distribute the Easter weekend opening hours posters around to the other library sites until a couple of days before the Easter weekend, for example. Similarly, although I managed to get permissions to make changes to the complicated PHP database behind the library’s opening hours web pages, with nobody to show me how to work it, our opening hours pages were completely wrong at the start of Good Friday and customers were waiting at the Main Library doors an hour or so before we opened. But despite these blips, I got the information out there and the remaining copy and design work was completed to a high standard to form a coherent campaign. The publicity materials were organised and scheduled so that the campaign could be rolled out in my absence online, around the five library sites and the rest of the university at the beginning of the 24/7 period, and I was able to delegate tasks out to colleagues as appropriate.

Service performance: It goes without saying that no matter what is happening behind the scenes, you want your customers to have a positive experience of your service. It really doesn’t matter that taking on responsibility for communications and marketing tasks isn’t necessarily my job, or that I prefer things to be slightly less rushed. My job, as a Library Assistant, is to assist with the overall performance of the library as a service; getting the message out about the disruption to the library catalogue and about Library 24/7, which has massive cost implications, was a service priority. And although it might not have been quite as smooth as last year, I would say that these messages were communicated effectively.

Works well under pressure? I think so.

Written by missrachelsmith

May 2, 2011 at 17:47

A few of (a librarian’s) favourite things…

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My second library anniversary draws ever closer, and in the time I’ve worked here I’ve learnt a number of things about your common-or-garden librarian. Librarians are generally a very nice and knowledgeable bunch of people. High proportion of vegetarians, knitters, technology geeks, film buffs and dog/cat lovers. They do like a good acronym (CILIP, RFID, LMS, anyone?). And if there is anything to be discussed or decided, there’s a group for that: group meetings, project groups, purchasing consortiums, task-and-finish groups, interest groups, regional groups, working groups…

In the spirit of pretending to be a proper librarian, I thought I’d dedicate this post to two of the regional interest groups I’ve recently attended. Here in the North East, representatives from the academic libraries in the area (Sunderland, Teesside, Durham, Newcastle and Northumbria universities) often meet to discuss common interests, ideas and issues. I’ve heard of a few exchange events going on elsewhere in the country through JISCmail lists and Twitter: the cpd25 consortium put on staff training and development days for librarians within the M25 circle, the (lib)TeachMeets in Cambridge bring librarians involved in teaching together and NoWAL, the North West academic libraries group, recently held an exchange of experience event. But these are the more official events, the kind that you can book on – I think there must be hundreds of other exchange meetings going on within the LIS community (I can use librarian-type acronyms too!). In my experience alone I’ve been involved in four different exchange groups that the library contributes to and I’m sure there are others that happen even within my workplace that I’m not aware of.

Anyway – back to my subject. Back in February, I attended the North East Repositories Group, held at the University of Teesside. This was quite a formal meeting, with a proper agenda, minutes and Chair. I learnt that most of the institutional repository staff at the other member institutions were new to their role, suggesting that repository positions might have a high staff turnover rate. Two of the other institutions didn’t have technical support for the repository within the library and relied on external hosting – hearing about some of the problems they faced made me think we were lucky to have this support in-house. A change in staffing structure meant that another university no longer had a repository manager and advocacy of the repository was shifting to the academic liaison team. One institution was just setting up their repository, with their sights firmly set on the REF – I’m interested to see what happens there, as this didn’t seem to be a particularly long-term goal and their repository wasn’t necessarily engaged with Open Access, one of the key projects of institutional repositories. Amongst the group we discussed a range of issues; supporting different kinds of research outputs, publisher’s policies and embargo periods, recording author names, the REF… It was interesting to hear what our peers in other universities are doing. It helped me to see what both what we’re doing well as a team, and where our weaknesses are.

Due to the nature of its subject, the North East Communications and Marketing Group meeting that I attended last week at Newcastle University was very different. Usually more informal, with workshops and presentations, group meetings also involve lunch and tours of the host library. This time round, there was a presentation from Newcastle’s graduate marketing and communications project officer on the ‘marketer’s ideal library’. The presentation came very much from a marketer’s (rather than librarian’s) perspective and discussed a range issues surrounding library marketing including branding, staffing, advocacy, marketing materials and new technologies. Whilst Newcastle’s graduate project placement was about to come to an end, one of the other libraries had recently reinstated a marketing post. Talking to staff from other institutions, library videos seemed very much to be the order of the day, although nobody was planning to be as brave as the Harold B Lee Library. One university had installed a Big Brother diary room-style booth to capture student feedback on video(!) whilst another had gone for post-it note boards to invite and display comments from library users. We also talked about marketing e-books and internal communications amongst staff. Hearing other people’s experiences helped me to understand the common challenges associated with marketing academic libraries and I definitely noted a number of ideas that we might look into here.

There are a lot of groups going on internally, regionally and internationally that the library is involved with. Although I don’t see the need for quite so many groups, I do think attending these regional groups is really valuable for me at the start of my career in libraries. They help me to understand the wider context of the different areas that I work on and they help me to assess how we’re performing as a library service. And in both repositories and marketing, we’re not doing badly at all.

Written by missrachelsmith

March 15, 2011 at 21:00