Your Marketing Plan

Fundamental to the marketing process is to first develop a formal marketing plan.  You may think is not important, but if you do not draw the map of your branding and marketing actions, they may not be achieved. The plan does not have to be a complex document/process. What you need is to:

  • Identify your information literacy aims
  • Define your objectives
  • Know how you want to meet your objectives
  • Figure out the best way to incorporate the InfoLit logo in this process

If you do not meet all the IL objectives, how do you propose to do so?  Keep in mind that your plan does not have to be perfect.  What you need to be aware is that a successful plan is the one that is implemented, not the perfect one that never gets materialized.  Make sure your staff participates and gives you support at all planning stages.  Remember, you need to be backed by your staff in the whole IL marketing process.

4.1. Aims and Objectives.  If your library has a written mission with clear relation to your IL work, use it, but if it does not, then prepare a positioning statement or purpose of your program.  The statement needs to include (Harp, 1999):

  • Type of learner that comes to your IL training
  • What you do for those users
  • How do you do your information literacy work

Crafting this statement of purpose is not easy, but it will help you to focus on what you do in terms of information literacy.  You need to learn how you meet your objectives by identifying the type of customer you serve, what you do for them, and how you do your information literacy program.  This information may be partly derived from your mission statement, or if you do not have one; ideally, this would be a good time to develop one, but if this is not feasible, you can use your answers to the questions mentioned above to have a clear focus on your IL priorities and audience. The following step is to post your mission statement on the wall, making sure to include the logo. 

4.2. What and How Objectives are Being Met.  Here, you must be impartial, to be honest with yourself, and determine if you are really meeting the IL needs of your users when they attend your IL sessions.  Here are a few adapted questions that you need to answer, according to Harp (1999):

  • Do your learners come because they have to come? 
  • Do they attend your training because they want to? 
  • If you are not meeting their IL needs, is it because you are out of target?
  • Are you too old-fashioned of a teacher?
  • Are you in the wrong location?
  • Are your training sessions timed correctly?
  • Are your learning resources too poor?
  • Do users know that you exist?
  • Do learners ignore IL benefits?
  • Does your administration appreciate and support the IL benefits?
  • Do you know who your IL competitors are?
  • How does Internet compete with your IL program?

Many of the answers will lie within your customers, your IL reports, your library peers, your management directors and within you.  What you need to do is to investigate, to use your information skills, to find out why your IL program is where it is now, and how it may be improved.

4.3. SWOT Analysis.  It is advisable to do at least a simplified SWOT analysis to get a broader picture on how you stand in your information literacy services. The acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats; the first two (SW) correspond to your internal factors, and the other (OT) to the external environment of your IL program. You can perform a simple analysis, or you can do a more orthodox one, but you will need to review the strategic planning literature to get to know how.  For the sake of a more general and simpler analysis, you can list the four SWOT factors, using a matrix.  Organize a session and think and ask your library colleagues the following questions:

  • What are your IL Strengths?
  • What are your IL Weaknesses?
  • What are your IL Opportunities out there?
  • What are the IL Threats that your environment poses on your IL activities?

Once you have listed the four lists of factors influencing your IL activities in the matrix, write a paragraph or two with your conclusions based on the four lists of elements.  This will give you a general picture of where your IL program stands within your library, your institution and at your community.  Now, if you have time and resources, check the literature or get an expert to do a more in-depth SWOT analysis

4.4. Market Segmentation.  One of the first steps that you need to take in the marketing process is to identify your potential costumers.  This is a key task because any information literacy effort that you may work on requires to be focused on the needs of your users, therefore you ought to identify them by breaking the market into segments. Market segmentation means to group your potential market according to the characteristics they share and that are relevant to information literacy training.

4.4.1. Market Segmentation - Concept.  Market segmentation begins with the task of getting different lists and information of potential users to group them into small groups or segments that share similar information literacy needs, so that you can tailor your IL training.  The factors to consider for market segmentation can be:

  • Information literacy needs
  • Type of IL training needed
  • Time when they need the IL training
  • Location of the users
  • Mode of IL delivery
  • Degree of IL expertise

If you work for an academic library you will first need to group your users into major groups, for example, the first broad groups are faculty, students and staff.  These groups can be further divided into the subject that they study/teach/work, then by the different level of their studies or teaching.  In case of students, it can be by first year, second, etc. If you reach your students regularly with IL instruction, they will come to recognize the IL logo as a marker of useful information and will search for it. Further on, you can cluster them by subject, location of their campus, etc.  Similarly, faculty can be grouped according to their subject or for what they facilitate, as well as the location of their campus or their faculty.   You can define their IL needs step by step, such as time when they can take the training, how they can take it, online or face-to-face learning.  The specific characteristics may change according to the type of library.  Public libraries may face the most difficult challenge because of the diversity of communities that they may serve; but special libraries may have the easiest process to segment their IL market because of their generally narrow market

4.4.2. Critical Success Factors.  In order to develop a good information literacy program you will need to identify the factors that are critical to your customers’ success, because those factors will also measure your IL program performance.  In other words:

  • What information skills do users need?
  • How can they develop them?
  • When do they need the IL skills? 

If you determine that students need to have good information skills before they take their first research methods class, your program will have to be delivered before such event happens in the student academic life.  For university staff, you will need to identify when they need the information, what kind of information they need, because, again, it means that you need to provide IL training before these critical success factors occur.

4.4.3. Market Segmentation Benefits.  The time that you spend identifying the different groups of customers that may be recruited for IL training will pay off well to you, you will be able to:

  • Customize your IL training
  • Maximize your IL efforts
  • Be more relevant in what you do
  • Attain your IL goals more easily

The more you focus your IL courses on your users needs, the greater your success will be.  Once you have indentified your market groups, you will also have to analyze what your customers really need, when they need it, and how they need it. A detailed knowledge of each sector group will help you to craft a better training to hit the right user demands.

4.4.4. Identifying Customers – Segmentation.  Public libraries may have more difficulties identifying IL customers than other libraries due to their diverse users. If you work for an educational library, such as an academic or school type, you may have an easier task to group your customers, but, as said, other type of libraries have less homogenous market.  Whatever your library is, the time that you spend in identifying your users, the easier it will be to communicate and to tailor your IL product/service.  The ways to segment an IL market will vary according to your objectives, but, in general, you will need to consider:

  • Age
  • Library experience
  • Previous information skills
  • General education background
  • What they study
  • Time when they study / work
  • Level of their studies
  • What they do, if they work
  • Location
  • Reading skills
  • Preferred mode of learning

Every group of your market population needs to be identified, no matter how small or big it might be (10 people or a 1,000). You need to identify each of the relevant groups.  Be aware that IL learners can belong to more than one market segment. For example, at an academic library, a faculty member can also be part of the university management, or be an adult postgraduate student.  This means that you can count that person in each group that he/she may belong to.  However, if you want to simplify this process because your IL program is a general one, you can include this person in the group where he/she performs the most important activity.  You will also need to use your research skills here to identify your customer needs within each identified segment.

4.5. Meeting your IL Objectives.Now that you know what your mission or IL objectives are, and you know who your customers are in each IL market segment, you need to define how to meet your objectives.  Make a list of the menu that you can prepare to meet your IL goals.  Determine how you will provide the following in your training program:

  1. Talks
  2. Workshops
  3. Short courses
  4. Long courses
  5. Credit courses
  6. Information product demonstrations
  7. Training to use specific databases
  8. Introduction to websites
  9. Lecture-visiting classes
  10. One shot lecture
  11. Etc.

Then determine how to best integrate the IL logo into your presentations, hand-outs, website and brochures. Here you select what you are going to offer, according to the resources that you have, in terms of time, staff, classrooms, computer laboratories, and learning resources.  You can check the vast information literacy literature to find out what are the best options, and use your experience to craft the IL products that you can deliver.

4.6. How to Communicate.You already know the objectives you want to meet, you know who your customers are, and you have identified the information literacy services that you can provide; so now, you need to define how to communicate with your users.  “Communicating with your market requires that you reach the right audience in the right way.” (Hart, 1999), therefore the key elements for success are:

  1. Right audience
  2. Right message
  3. Right way

Your audience is defined by identifying your customers, and your message is based on your objectives, and you may have different objectives according to the market segments that you have identified.  Your IL message should be crafted taking into account your customers and your objectives.

4.6.1. Creating the Message. An advertising message must aspire to get two things (Etzel and Walker, 2003): To gain and maintain the attention of the public. This can be achieved mainly through:

  1. The surprise
  2. The shocks
  3. The amusement
  4. The curiosity
  5. Other

To influence on the public in the desired sense, Kotler and Anderson (2006) remind us about the acronym AIDA, created some decades ago to help define an effective message. According to this acronym, a good message gets Attention, holds Interest, arouses Desire, and produces an Action.

4.6.2. Message Content, Structure and Format.  When writing a message, a communicator needs to think in three main appeal elements (Kotler and Anderson, 2006):

  • Rational
  • Emotional
  • Moral

For general audiences, emotional contents seem to be more utilized and there is an increasing trend to use humor as the main appeal. Polls show that people like to find humor in advertising, however it is very important to use it cautiously, because a poor use of humor can even irritate your IL customers.

A very important aspect when you prepare a message is to emphasize the benefits that the IL service will bring to the user, instead of underscoring some service features.

4.6.3. Structure. There are three main issues to care about and decide:

Is it better to draw a conclusion or to leave it to the audience­? Researches show that it is better to allow the customers to arrive to their own conclusions.

Is it better to present the strongest arguments first or last? When presenting them first a stronger attention is obtained, but then it is necessary to find out how to avoid a poor ending.

Is it convenient to present both strengths and shortcomings? A one sided argument is more effective, but when dealing with highly educated audience you need to talk about opposite positions to give a more balanced/objective message.

4.6.4. Format.  The message needs a strong format, be it transmitted in a print, radio or TV. There are a lot of elements to consider: color, shape, movement, words, sounds, size, etcYou need to think about your information literacy learners, their tastes and preferences and prepare the format of you message.  Age and backgrounds are important and all those characteristics that you used to group them in segments.

4.6.5. How to Convey Meaningful Messages.  You will need specific messages, therefore you will write them down in such a way that your IL users are persuaded.  There will be needs for different types of  IL written materials to the different audiences, each of them with specific principles but general ones to apply are (Hart, 1999):

  • Branding
  • 10 minute test
  • Language
  • Information literacy power words
  • What they do next?
  • Test it on a colleague

4.6.6. What to Say and How to Say it.  Besides your logo and your motto, you will need to take care of crafting texts to communicate with your IL consumers.  You will need to use simple and direct language.  It is considered a priority to develop a list of selected key messages and slogans referred to information literacy programs. The idea is to compile a list of inspirational messages, with high chances of being applied in general contexts.  Here are some messages written or found on a quick search on the Internet, as examples for you to do a brain storming:

  • “Create your own path to the information knowledge society”
  • “Don’t get lost in the Infospace”
  • “Information Empowers”
  • “Think strategically about information”. Read in TIP: Tutorial for InfoPower. University of Wyoming Libraries.
  • “Discover how to find, evaluate and use information effectively and ethically”. Seen in the University of California at Santa Cruz NetTrail

Avoid jargon and sentences that are grammatically correct but difficult to grasp.  Again, check what big libraries or even big companies do with the marketing of their products.  As Hart (1999) states it, Keep It Short and Simple (KISS).  The principles are:

  1. Short messages
  2. Simple words
  3. Direct to the point

4.6.7. Your ‘Power’ Words.  You need to think of a short list of the words that better describe your services but they have to also attract your customers.  These words will help you create the right image for your service.  Here is an adapted list based on what Hart (1999) recommends as commonly used in marketing:

  1. New
  2. Learning
  3. Lifelong learning
  4. Reliable
  5. Proven
  6. Free
  7. Effective
  8. Special
  9. Flexible
  10. Valuable
  11. Service

4.6.8. Test your Message on a Colleague. Once you have written your IL message, first, read it aloud to you.  Check if it reads smoothly, if the words roll out well.  Second, ask a colleague or a friend that is not familiar with your IL task to read your message.  Ask him/her if it was clear and how the text can be rated.  If your message will go to a big crowd, it is advisable to pilot the text in five to ten people to see if they get the right meaning, if not, change the message.

4.7. Marketing Communications. Once you know your IL learners and know what messages you want to send to them, you now also need to communicate with them.  As you may guess, each type of marketing message sends your communication in a different way.  Whatever media you choose, your objective is to attract your IL customers, gain their interest in your IL training, and make them take some action to enroll in your IL program. 

4.7.1. Promotion.  This is a broad concept that refers to any action intended to influence on the public, may it by providing information, persuading or remembering the existence of a product or service.  There are five main forms of promotion (Stanton, Etzel and Walker, 2003):

  • Personal sale
  • Advertising
  • Sales promotion. Referred mainly to incentives addressed to customers and sellers to close sales
  • Public relations
  • Propaganda. Understood as “any communication referred to an organization, its products, services or politics, through media that do not receive a payment”

Since libraries normally have to work with reduced or non-existent budgets to cover promotion costs, it is necessary to optimize the benefits of the personal actions, public relations and propaganda.
Your marketing options will vary according to the library and budget that you may have, but even if you do not have the economic means, use whatever is available to you for free.  Among your options are:

  • Public relations
  • Advertising
  • Email
  • Website

4.7.2. Public Relations.  The broad concept of PR is that it is a “planned and sustained communication of your messages to your target markets using the public media of print, broadcast, and electronic press.  The main tool is the press release that will be published if you build relationships with news people, and editorial staff of:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Blogs
  • Twitter

You can build a relationship by informing and inviting them to your IL and general library events, such as courses, new sources releases, celebrations and cultural events. Public relations are important because they give you more:

  • Authority
  • Credibility
  • Promote your IL program to the right user
  • Exposure to the IL program
  • Parades your contributions
  • PR cost less than advertising

PR efforts are cheaper and generally more effective than advertising because they cost less, or can even be virtually free and have more credibility, because the reader knows that the message is more controlled by the advertiser.

4.7.3. Advertising.  If you have the budget to advertise, you need to prepare your strategy for each of your market sectors, therefore you will also have to define:

  • Objectives of your advertising
  • What you want them to know
  • What you want them to understand or be aware of

Once you have a clear idea of these answers, you have to identify your target media, and the best way is to ask your users, what media they prefer, such as:

  • Magazines
  • Street signs
  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • Radio stations
  • Time of the day they listen to the radio
  • Newspapers

If you choose to pay for advertising your add needs to meet the following criteria to gain success, according to Hart (1999):

  • Seen
  • Scanned
  • Read
  • Understood
  • Remembered
  • Easy to respond to

Your learning market, your users, need to see your ad among tens from other sources that will compete for their attention, then they have to make the decision to scan through it, then decide to read or not to know what the add says.  Readers must easily understand your message.  You have just a few seconds to convince them to attend your IL sessions.  After reading your advertisement, they also have to remember where to contact you for your IL courses/services, so make it easy to respond to you.  Your address has to be simplified and give the different options to locate you: postal address, email, website, etc.  Remember, you need to create a desire for IL in your users.  Check all these details before you sent your add out, and also check if it represents well your IL program, and the quality of your service.

The potential list that you get from this survey chooses the media that covers the highest proportion of your market targets (users).  The shortlist that you obtain needs special attention from you.  You will need to get the names of the news (reporters) and editorial staff and learn about their deadlines for inclusion of items in their publication.

4.7.4. Press Release.  Learn how to prepare a press release, so that they are picked up by the local newspaper, magazine, radio and television programs.  The normal elements are:

  • An excellent heading stating that it is a press release
  • Date – Make it prominent
  • Title – Meaningful and catchy short phrase
  • Double-spaced text
  • Brief summary (less than 50 words) in the first part of the text
  • Main body text – Making clear the value of your event to the readers of this medium
  • Use clear jargon-free vocabulary
  • Define acronyms
  • Appendices for background information – Not too many
  • Your contact or the library details (address, phone, cellular, website, email, etc.)
  • Your name or the name of whoever will be the contact

4.7.5. Making News.  PR is about news, so you need to learn to create them.  Most editors are overwhelmed by news items they receive, so you have the challenge of making your news newsworthy so that they get published, the principles are that:

  • News is first
  • Information is second

As Hart (1999) states, you need to convince the editors that your news are a must for their readers by showing the worth of it.  Editors are interested in what their readers want.   You need to make sure that the word “New” is in all of your press releases, if it is not new then you must emphasize why readers need to know.  You can also inject news to your press PR activity by including:

  • Story cases of IL successes (real life)
  • How your IL program made a great impact on a user’s activity
  • New IL learning approaches
  • A description of the virtues of information literacy
  • Talks given by your staff, guest speakers
  • Anniversaries, any celebrations that may be coming
  • Staff that just came back from a conference
  • Propose yourself as expert on your subject to the newspaper, radio, TV, etc.
  • Do not be afraid to make some news yourself

Use your imagination, think about the media reader and give that slant to your press release.  If your press release does not get published find out how to improve it.  Call your newspaper and ask them for advice. Evaluate if you sent the press release to the wrong publication, ask the editor.  Another possibility is that the way the press release was written was inappropriate for that particular medium.  Your writing style may need to change.  Check the way the articles are crafted in the publication.

4.7.6. Direct Email.  Email communication is almost free, you do not have to pay any extra money to your Internet provider however it does require work like any other strategy you adopt.  According to Hart (1999) direct mailing has three characteristics:

  • Personalized – Sent to named individuals
  • Unsolicited
  • Sent by email

This media can be seen as a junk mail or as advertising, and used to be sent by snail mail, normal post.  Either media normally includes a letter (text) with attachments looking to induce your users to be part of your IL program.  Direct email has three components:

  • The source directory
  • The IL offer
  • The text to communicate

The first two elements, according to Hart (1999) are the key elements.  No matter how good and relevant your IL offer is, it needs to go to the right user, otherwise it is a waste of time and effort.  So, you need to put special attention to compiling your directory of users, real or potential.  You will need at least the following data:

  • Name
  • Institution / Job organization
  • Email address
  • Market sector (student, faculty, business person)

If time allows, you can compile and update a real database with more information about your potential IL learners, where you can add addresses, phone numbers, website URLs, etc.  There is database software available in most offices, or you can use free software, but the greatest challenge is to update your directory.  You can draw information from your institutional records, for example at an academic library, the registrar’s database of students, or at a public library, the local directories and newspapers can be good sources.  Business cards, direct phone calls to request the addresses are other sources.

If you do not already have access to user distribution lists, cultivate those within your institution (department chairs or deans or other administrators) who can provide access. You can use direct email to send invitations to take your IL courses, workshops and starting of new IL programs, as well as to recruit new IL learners, or to inform your market about relevant IL topical news.  To have success you need to get, as stated, the right reader, to brand your messages, make a clear IL offer and do something different to catch the attention of people.

4.7.7. Exhibitions. Evaluate to exhibit what you do in IL, because it demonstrates that you are a serious player in the market.  It does require time and effort, because you need to prepare the materials to exhibit and does have to attend the exhibit for a day or more.  You can take part at your institution’s fair or just about any event where your market is present.  For example, if you work at a school or at an academic library, you can set up a table during the welcoming of new students and show your services.  If you do exhibit pay attention to these questions:

  • Is this the right exhibition to attend?
  • Will you attract the right type of visitor?
  • How much will it cost you?

Pay also attention to the materials to exhibit.  Prepare good flyers, prepare statistics if appropriate, good ads, a plant or flowers, and get some freebies, or at least sweets to give, to attract your customers.  You can maximize attendance by dressing yourself with flare, wear a colorful hat, and you need to promote in advance your exhibit participation to your users.  You and your staff will need to give the right image, look welcoming and enthusiastic at all times.  Take a good look at exhibits next time you attend a conference, and check those you like more, and identify why, so that you implement whatever is feasible to promote your information literacy work.

4.8. Evaluating Marketing Activities.  An important feature to include at the beginning of your plan is how you intend to evaluate whether you have been successful.   Evaluation is critical and key to building your success.  Your boss is more likely to fund additional efforts if you can show measurable successes.  . If you do not evaluate, someone from outside may do it on your behalf.   Evaluation is better when you do it at the different stages of building up your marketing process, but at least, you need to evaluate when you have applied your IL marketing strategies.  Evaluation and consequent identification of your success allows you to: tell your learners and funders the facts and effectiveness of the marketing activities. Evaluation will uncover mistakes and weaknesses in both your marketing planning and communications. To measure your success there are four specific actions (Hart, 1999):

  • Quantify your objectives
  • Build your measurement and evaluation methods into your marketing IL plan
  • Find out when new IL learners approach you
  • Evaluate constantly

There are several different ways to ask customers and potential customers for their opinions and perceptions of your marketing activities, each with their own advantages. Whether you choose to survey users online, via email, telephone, or a focus group or other method it is important not to be afraid of criticism and complaints from your learners.  Once you reach this stage you will have performed the whole branding and marketing process, so you are now ready to share your experience.

4.9. Logo Best Practices - Your Story. You have evaluated your branding and marketing plan using the UNESCO-IFLA Logo, so now, please share with the global InfoLit communities some of your best practices or experiences in promoting your programs.

  • To common citizens
  • To students
  • To faculty
  • To decision makers
  • Else

You can upload your marketing experiences at  This directory/repository is a great place to give visibility to your marketing endeavors.  Visit the site for more information on how to register your records, or to learn how to consult the many different IL resources available from libraries, institutions and from different countries.