Current Publicity Workflow

I’m feeling a little better about how I’m doing at this new job. Using Asana to track projects is working well. My current workflow is such:

* Get a request for publicity help. If it’s complex, I schedule an in-person meeting.
* We meet in person. They tell me the scope, their dreams, and desired outcome. We discuss how to reach their audience. We sketch out our plan of attack.
* I go back to my desk and put it in Asana. Simultaneously, I cross-check due dates with my Google Calendar where I track the blocking out of time to work on projects.
* Then I use Asana’s project-level print view to print out the plan and deliver it to my colleague. It seems to impress the hell out of them to get a physical sheet of paper in hand.

I’m also trying to live up to the advice I got from the Cecily Walker interview I co-did with Michael Schofield on behalf of Circulating Ideas. The advice: pad your time. When I’m setting up my schedule for the following weeks, I block out an hour a day called “Downtime.” This is really code for “wiggle room” as things come up as they always do. Yesterday for instance, my day got hijacked for three hours. However, at the end of the day, I managed to get all my major tasks done thanks to the set aside time.

Facebook Services

Courtesy of Darien Library


Do you know if you convert your library’s Facebook account into a business account, you can add Services to it? We made the transfer so we could buy ads on Instagram. Insider tip: this gives you an extra hurdle to do anything even something simple like post on your account.

I couldn’t figure out what I should really do with services. There is pretty much no info on FB itself (kept 404-ing) and the web wasn’t talking about. So I winged it.

Things to know:

* You can’t adjust the images’ location like you can for your profile pic.
* You only get 200 characters to describe it.
* I chose to use generic terms for services (i.e. not giving the actual name of our cafe) since I figured people would be searching for cafe instead of Cafe’s Official Name. I may even go back and change it out to Food and Drinks to be even more generic.
* I’m not sure what the best practice is for how many services to add, so maybe experiment with what looks right to you?
* Organize your services to be in most appealing order to your community.

The little bit of info I gleaned off the web is that Facebook Services is meant to be a way to connect users with local services. I hope it pans out for us! I’d like to talk with other libraries which are using the Services tab.

Fixing Dates in Excel

I was inspired by a project in my marketing class to dig through our data to look for some basic demographics information. Very quickly I got hit with Excel acting up on dates. All I wanted was the year.

* Highlight the column in question.
* Go to Home > Cells > Format > Format Cells.
* Choose Date then select *3/14/2012 > OK.
* Go to Home > Cells > Format > Format Cells.
* Choose Custom then in the box below Type, change it to yyyy.

Ta-dah! I kept trying to do delimited and text-into-columns, etc. Garbage kept coming out.

Almost Made It

I was off today thanks to Columbus Day, so I get to back up to yesterday’s adventures. Namely, I was on help desk for three hours and it was somewhat quiet enough in the afternoon that I could get some work done like switching out the Art Gallery page. I also finished the Mini Golf website, launched the FB ad for the event, sent my first press releases (nerve wrecking), and worked on the weekly events email.

With the email, I’m especially anxious to get it perfect each week before sending it to the two reviewers. It was once remarked that I care a great deal about the emails (as an admirable quality, I think was the intent), so I need to live up to that. That being said, I added three new features as my first act:

* Added a photo next to the Did You Know…? so it stuck out.
* Added a link to the previous video in a lecture series for the next meeting.
* Added an audiobook from Hoopla which means unlimited download opportunities. That is, you won’t eagerly click through only to be disappointed that there’s a waiting list. My colleague Stephanie selected the book for me. This feature is meant to be a filler for weeks when we have an uneven number of events.

I discussed with a colleague my idea of changing the events email to be more demographics focused. She thought it was a good idea. Now to see if I can add anchor links to an email so people can just hop to the section they want. I believe I’ve seen that in Smashing Magazine’s emails…

At the end of the day, I was foiled when I did a test print of the author flyer I designed. InDesign keeps putting a dark box for the backgrounds of transparent images. Our logo is on this flyer and… it’s ugly. I’ve seen it do this to dropshadow text too. I don’t know how to stop it from happening. My usual solution for transparent PNGs is to open it up in Photoshop and color the background to the same as the one it’ll go over. This is a terrible workaround. Got any ideas on how to stop this from happening? What I’ve seen on forums is “you need to do all this special conversion setup in the PDF before you export it” which seems like a really broken aspect of this program if so.

Getting My Publicity Manager Work In Order

Summer Loving
I just realized that it’s been nearly two months since staff were told about my new role as publicity manager. It’s been a long transitional period. My awesome colleague Alex left us two weeks before the website launch which shifted the workload around a bit. My other teammate took most of it, but the little incidentals and knowledge base Alex managed soon showed up. So over the summer after the site launched, my time was spent catching up with all the publicity requests and answering questions. One-on-one requests popped up like flowers after a rainstorm. It was a busy time.

New Job Catch Up
Once I was placed into my new role, my first task was to interview department heads and key people about their publicity workflows. I also stuck questions in there about their hopes and pain points. This took place over the three weeks till I went on vacation. I was gone for two weeks. When I returned, it took four days to get through emails and to a point where I could breathe again. Within half an hour, I broke out in a sweat and came down with a stomach bug for two days. It wasn’t fun. However, dawn broke through while I was on vacation when we hired our new Senior Tech — the much needed fourth in our department.

Press Release Contacts Spreadsheet
So now here I am seven weeks into the new job and I created my first two spreadsheets. One to get the list of all PR contacts. My sheet has more columns than necessary, so I hid ones which I won’t use much (fax, home number). This is all kept in a folder on Google Drive.

The PR Contact sheet has these fields: Venue, Contact (how often/when), Website URL, Type (blog, newspaper), Name (of Contact), Email, Cell Number, Home Number, Fax, Twitter, Send them…? (meaning what their interest is), and Notes (best for fundraising). I created the multiple phone numbers and fax columns since one of the people have that as part of their contact info.

Press Release Template
Then I tried my hand at a Press Release template. I used the one my colleague Mallory uses and changed it to have my name on it as the contact person then wrote a draft of a new boilerplate info about the Library. When I sent it back to her, we discussed how to handle this tricky area and decided to keep her name on them. She would know more about the specific programs. My job here is to just send the emails outwards.

Publicity Knowledge Spreadsheet
Next I created a spreadsheet titled Publicity Knowledge. This is a place to track publicity duties and who is responsible for what and why. The above discussion about whose name goes on the PR is a good example of something to document. Right now I have six items on the list. As I go back over my meeting notes, I’ll likely fill in more spaces and figure out how to put that into my schedule.

Stepping Out
I’ll take my first official step this week by sending out the PR pieces on Thursday morning. Next week I’ll take over our weekly events email. I’m excited about that since I was in charge of it before. Since I’m obsessed with email stats, I’m looking forward to all the little experiments I can try to improve what we’re doing. Mallory and my other colleagues have been so gracious in letting me set up A/B tests in the past. It’s just going to be great to control that from an end-to-end perspective. However, our individual event emails are still going to go through Mallory and the Children’s Library’s person. I’ll just be getting a schedule together to make sure we’re not bombarding patrons with emails.

Tomorrow I’m going on a field trip to meet a fellow publicity person at another library. I hope she likes Dunkin Donuts!

Tiny Characters

The most interesting thing I did on Friday was write an email telling a staff member of all the changes I made to their publicity piece (alignment, spelling). Once I was done listing out the precise things I done, I realized she likely didn’t care and it’d hurt her feelings. So I highlighted it, copied it, and pasted it after the closure. Then I brought the font size down to 8 and turned it to white characters. This gives me a place to look for if she really wants to know what I did w/o having to retype it later.

Otherwise, met with another department head (everyone needs time to plan out what programs they’re doing. The PM should push them into taking the time to do that), made a banner, worked on the Staff Art Show, and setup the website to encourage September is Library Card Sign-up Month. Not a bad day all-in-all.

Thought Experiment: Then & Now Maps

You know when you look at Google Street View how you can sometimes click in the upper left corner to see what the site looked like the last time the Google car came through? I want that for historical photos. After doing some research on the topic, here are some potential leads on putting that together:

  • Leaflet for open-source mobile-friendly interactive maps
  • Pinbox.js for tacking historical photos over modern day locations
  • Time Machine, a WordPress plugin, to show what posts were published on this date for another interactive layer if you connected it to articles
  • Embed content into Google Map InfoWindows
  • Google Maps Easy, a WordPress plugin, for some very interesting ways to display content

My idea is that you could add historical photos or postcards to a map location. Then the pop-up window would allow you to click through time. Originally I thought about using those image comparison options like Before-After.js, but it restricts you to only two images. I dug around for a moment to see if I could find some way to add more images, but nope.

There’s likely a more complex way to do what I’m trying to achieve, but it’s likely cost prohibitive. Putting together this system I’m envisioning using open source tools would be very time-consuming. There’s gotta be a better way. But for now, it looks like a dream I could turn into reality (if you didn’t care about copyright of those images).

Direct Mail Tips

I attended a Direct Mail class from the local SCORE group. I’m not feeling up for formatting it correctly right now, so forgive the mess. The main takeaways:

* There are two types of Direct Mail from USPS:

– Retail: no permit, but with a limit of 5,000 items per zip code per day

– Business: buy a permit ~$250 and you can send more items. This is for people sending direct mail all the time.

* The process:

– Your mail object needs to be within a certain size.

– You need to print the default stamp and mailing address on your items (your printer does this for you usually)

– You go online to http://eddm.usps.com/ and enter a zip code.

– Then you can use the table tools to look for people based on income, family size, and ages (info from the Census)

– You can pick the exact route you want to send mail onto. The site tells you how many households that is and how much it’ll cost. You can pay online or at the post office.

– Once your mail piece is printed, you need to bundle it into stacks of 100s and 50s. Then you use their provided facing slip (get off the website when you place your order) to wrap the bundles. Each facing slip says how many slips you have for that route.

§ If you have 268 mail objects for route X, you would organize your bundles like so:

§ Two stacks of 100

§ One stack of 50

§ One stack of 18

– USPS is responsible for sending the mail onwards within 48 of delivery (I think this was the message)

– You can save money by taking your bundles to the post office which services that zip code.

– You can go to Irresistible Mail, which is USPS’s site for more inspiration

– The main thing is to try and send your mail to the people who are most likely to be interested.

– You can go to Town Hall and ask for a list of people who have dog permits. Then your grooming business can send mail to only them.

– This sounds crazy to me, but the guy said that’s what he does for his clients.

– Never send your mail first class. Send it standard to save money.

Planning Out UX

An Infopeople student emailed me today saying that they’re starting up a UX team (yay!). They wanted to know how do you get a handle on all this? How do you start? How do you hold meetings?

Here’s what we do at work:

Each of us has our specialization and own regularly scheduled work that has to be done (for me, this is teaching and publicity)

We have a weekly standing meeting on Mondays for 15 minutes to an hour where we give a progress report for the past week and what we’re working on this week.

Once a month we have a big meeting where we do long-term project planning. Right now we’re consumed with the website, so our meetings focus on that. In addition, we’re also having a meeting every other month on a particular aspect of the website. Content strategy is next!

Shorter term, we do very informal interviews/chats with staff and patrons to pick up on what’s going right/wrong. If it’s something we can fix immediately, we discuss it in our Slack channel. Otherwise, it goes into our Help Desk ticket system to be addressed.

Each of us then picks up pet projects along the way. Since I work on publicity, I’ll meet with staff on some small project. Right now, I’m developing the automated welcome email which will be sent out via MailChimp. The public services assistant director is the one I’m bouncing this off on. My colleague, the Systems Administrator, is doing API work so we can get Polaris users to be sent to MailChimp so they’ll receive that email. From there, we’ll do a two-month test to see what patrons think about it/do.

My recommendation on how to get started:

First go around and interview staff. You don’t have to talk to every single person, but get at least two from each department. Preferably a mix of new people (new eyes) and old (long-term experience). Be careful about people’s biases which may not have any grounds in reality. You’ll also need to be careful about describing what you’re up to. For my website interviews, I made it clear that I wouldn’t be sharing the identities of who commented on what. I have it in my Google spreadsheet, but I’ve locked that column so only I can see it.

Then go through the comments and start separating the rubbish, things to pursue further, and actionable items you can do quickly. My boss is a big fan of uh… small investment, but big impact (can’t recall the business jargon). For example, putting new desktop wallpapers on the computers vs. designing a complete signage overhaul.

Once you have an idea about what you’re looking at (internal stuff tends to be easier to manage in some ways. You don’t have to chase patrons), you can start making plans on what to tackle first.