Creating Groupies: Info-Pro Guerrilla Marketing

Being able to effectively market talents, skills and abilities, greatly enhances one’s ability gain employment, recognition and sufficient compensation. It can also make them seem indispensable. At a time when institutions are looking for ways to save money, this is even more true for librarians, archivists, knowledge managers, web content specialists and other types of information professionals. It is important that the people you work with/for understand the contributions they make. Their ability to understand this greatly depends on information professionals ability to articulate it without diminishing it’s significance. It was with this in mind that I attended “Creating Groupies: Info-Pro Guerrilla Marketing” by Mary Ellen Bates.

Like the other sessions I attended at the Special Libraries 2011 Annual Conference I left Bates’ session with knowledge and steps I could take to appropriately convey my value. This document will highlight key points made during the presentation and provide tips that will help advance your career as an information professional.

The most significant thing I walked away with was that We have to earn our groupies!

With this in mind Bates took us through a series of slides that helped the audience understand what exactly needs to be done. To start she went through three (3) questions:

  • What do you do that’s unique?
  • What do you do that your organization needs?
  • Are you sure?

To help the audience think about ways to answer these questions Bates started by distinguishing between features and benefits. Features are basically a laundry list of items that many people mention when asked a questions regarding their job. The problem with this is that it leave the listener to interpret and determine what those list of tasks mean in the context of the conversation, department, or company. Unfortunately, people are not always able to connect the dots. As described by Bates, the second term “benefits,” allows you the freedom necessary to make explicit your value. In case you’re wondering, it’s the latter that you want to be doing. I see it as taking seemingly mundane tasks and transforming them to essential ones.

Bates went through a several examples to demonstrate what it means to make clear your value. Examples she provided included:

A housekeeper that clean rooms vs. one that creates homes away from home. Not just I clean and make beds
A delivery boy that delivers food vs. one that creates a memorable event
An accountant that does taxes vs. one that gives strategic advice.

The example that really hit home was the last one. People are more likely to hire an accountant that says something like, “I do more than just processes taxes. I see myself as someone who can look at the numbers and tell you why. I can give insights that will allow you to take advantage of the range of options available” than someone who boasts about their ability to crunch numbers.

Bates moved on to talk about perceptions that people have about librarians & more about how to market yourself. One strategy to accomplish this is to describe what you do without much of the library school lingo. I know this is a touchy matter for some people, but it is very good advice. Whether you wan to accept it or not “I went to library school” just doesn’t convey the range of skills we bring to the table. Furthermore, the word simply turns some people off. As mentioned by Bates,when you are in discussions with current or future employers, your focus should be the value you bring, not what you do. So use words that will click for them. Not sure what type of words click for non-library professionals? Try looking at the list SLA came up with during the year-long study on whether they should change the association’s name or not. You’ll get plenty of ideas.

Some of the key points here:

  • WHY, notHOW or WHAT: It’s all about why! Instead of walking them through what you do, explain the relevance
    • Information analysis: Focus on talking about the analysis, instead of the process (here is what I found & here’s where we want to go next. JUST finding information is nothing)
  • Think Big: The day-to-day tasks are important, but focus on the big picture. It will allow us to recreate ourselves

So what is it that you do? – Marketing Vignettes

By now you are probably tired of hearing about how important it is for you to market yourself an would like more explicit advice on how to do that. Bates’ suggestion was to develop stories to articulate value in a very specific way. Write 8 to 10 Marketing vignettes to articulate your value. Be sure to include in the story what did you do that had an impact?

TIP: Focus on the company’s bottom line. Then you will gain groupies

Self-promotion is not evil

Though it may be difficult to laud yourself, it is necessary in the quest to gain groupies. If you being the process and do it well, your groupies will do the rest of the work. Create what Bates’ calls a “Brag-olouge. Keep track of all the times you get acknowledged & contributions you made that effected the company store them in there. When the time arises pull them out and assemble a talk that highlights the comments in them. Be able to do it with all of the things mentioned earlier in mind.

Your Digital Presence

In this day and age whether you want to your not, having an online persona is almost mandatory. So, be active in maintaining yours. This is another way to gain those groupies you’ve always wanted. Be sure to cross-link your online persona’s so that its easy for the right people to find you.

TIP: It’s all about the networks

Key points regarding online persona’s:

  • Try your best to maintain your digital persona’s, other wise it will have little worth
  • Find ways to engage with people (comments, polls, feedback, & input)
  • Make time to cultivate your online persona’s (social networks, blogs, etc.)
    • Make sure you are findable
    • Tweet from conferences
    • Blog about things people are interested in reading/learning about
    • Use words that work
  • Don’t have access at work? Negotiate

Using Twitter as a Branding/Marketing Tool:

  • Follow interesting people & retweet
  • Write to be retweetable (the more things that you get retweeted, do more of that).
  • If people aren’t retweeting you, than re-strategize, say more interesting things. Your job to make sure you are interesting enough to be retweeted.

TIP: “Dress” for the job you want, not the job you have

Your digital persona speaks volumes. At one point it was the space inside the margins of an 8×11 sheets of paper that was used to market one’s skills and abilities. That’s changed. The internet now gives people more ways to make sure they stand out. With it you can gain more groupies then resumes alone could ever get you. You should always aim to develop an online persona that is reflective of where you want to be, not where you are.

In closing, remember, “we HAVE TO earn our groupies”. They don’t come for free. Using the tips highlighted here can get you started on this journey. Have fun!

(NOTE: Information above was pulled from notes I took during Mary Ellen Bates’ talk and slides she so graciously made available to attendees).

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