Responsive marketing: Pivoting in times of crisis


Marketing in this new COVID-19 environment is challenging, but it also presents opportunities. This is a time when you can give your team latitude to experiment, build off existing relationships you have with your customers and followers, and be responsive to community needs when they need your library the most.

When we create a marketing strategy at Anythink Libraries, the scene typically looks a lot like this: Our team sits around a big table together to write the creative brief. We discuss stakeholders, audience, and budget. We define our goals and metrics for success. We methodically plot deliverables and deadlines, and assign tasks. We ask questions like, “What emotions do we want to evoke? How do we engage staff? What creative ways can we convey our message?”

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This is a process we’ve honed over years. And it’s now been turned on its head. Decisions that typically take months of collaboration and thought feel like they’ve been boiled down to minutes.

Thankfully, Anythink’s culture has primed us for disruption. Change is something we embrace. In fact, two of our core competencies focus on flexibility and creativity. Because of this, our team was able to respond quickly to the COVID-19 crisis. We immediately launched an engaging campaign to promote our online resources. And, within weeks, we introduced Anythink Everywhere, a collection of services and resources designed to keep our community connected and learning.

Five responsive marketing strategies

Here are some of the strategies that have always guided our approach, and have also proven to be essential over the past couple of months.

  1. Be flexible. When things change daily (even hourly!), flexibility is key. You must quickly identify your community’s most critical needs, which library services help meet those needs, and the most effective messages for connecting people with them. Start with an inventory of your assets—staff, existing media buys, resources, content, partnerships—and find the best ways to leverage them. For example, at Anythink, radio spots and bus shelter ads quickly shifted from district-wide programs to promotions of online resources.
  2. Be authentic. Marketing is all about relationships. People need to know that someone they trust is on their side now more than ever. Use your brand’s voice and personality to deepen connections with your existing followers, and to build trust among new followers. The personalities and expertise of your staff are also great ways to provide authenticity and human connections. Through videos or blog posts, they can provide an anchor to someone friendly and familiar.
  3. Match message and method to your audience. Most libraries and businesses immediately focused services and messaging online. However, we know that not everyone has access, and different people are reached in different ways. Think about who you are trying to reach and what need you are trying to fill. For instance, promoting resources for online learning and entertainment make great sense for families who are already online. Fliers distributed via Meals on Wheels promoting your call-in services make more sense for reaching aging adults.
  4. People at the center. We want people to feel connected, creative, smart, and successful. Marketing helps us to connect them with the tools to do so, and the resources we provide are the means to that end. Try leading with the human element versus the tool to help customers connect with your brand on a more emotional level. That emotional connection builds trust and longevity, and drives people to share with their neighbor, “Hey! Did you know the library offers…?”
  5. Leave room to experiment. This might be the right time to experiment and explore different marketing methods. Have you wanted to try Google Adwords? Are there opportunities to leverage existing partnerships in new ways to get out your message? Try it, evaluate it, tweak it, ditch it, and carry on the strategies that you find effective.

By using strategic marketing practices, you can amplify your library’s most important messages—especially in times of crisis—ensuring your community knows the library is a partner that is always there for them.

Anythink Libraries is an OCLC Wise early adopter. Learn more about how Wise fits into Anythink’s goals and aspirations in a short video. For more marketing insights from Stacie and other public library marketing experts, please consider viewing the panel, “The marketing value proposition: Why buy-in makes all the difference.” You can find additional community engagement resources at