How to Help Your Colleagues and Base Become Effective Messengers (Case Study)

NJ Library ChampionsAs a Jersey Girl , I was thrilled to hear that the New Jersey State Library was recently honored for outstanding marketing of its Tell Us Your Story advocacy campaign with a 2010 John Cotton Dana Award.

Here’s how the campaign worked:

  • Campaign organizers mobilized staff members in 240 libraries across the state to ask their  communities to Tell Us Your Story.
  • Countless Jersey-ites who rely on public libraries for computers to aid in job searches, free summer programs for kids, books, DVDs and films stepped up to share their stories here.
  • The organizers used these terrific stories (you can read some of them here) locally and in a statewide media campaign.

There’s lots to learn from the way the Library designed and marketed this campaign. Here are the campaign’s main success factors:

1. Mobilizing and training first-line messengers – library staff – as campaign advocates

This fantastic campaign harnessed on-the-ground staff to solicit patron stories. But organizers didn’t just expect that library staff would know what to do or would spend the time to figure it out.

Instead the organizers trained library staff (a.k.a. messengers) via a marketing toolkit supplemented by a  library communication network linking more than 500 users.

2. Motivating the second-line messengers – Library users to library champions

Campaign organizers knew that NJ library users had a lot of good stories to tell. And that their favorite library staffers could motivate to do it.

But they made involvement more compelling by naming it. Become a Library Champion is a far more powerful invitation than Share Your Story. It tells library users that their story will help sustain the library and gives them a name easy to remember and repeat.

3. Putting the stories to work in an all-state media campaign

The campaign generated powerful stories on how libraries have helped users in areas as varied as job searches to providing audio and braille books for blind users. But it didn’t stop there.

It used NJ library users’ stories as the core of a strategic media campaign that reached millions of people, including elected officials, through stories, commercials, outreach and the website.

4. Building a core of citizen advocates – From sharing a story to fighting for library funding

It’s likely that many of those who shared their stories would never have stood up to fight for library funding if asked directly. But sharing their stories engaged them.

And now, the Library has compiled a database of library champions (you can become one here) to update them on urgent legislative issues as they arise.

Due, at least in part to this campaign, the 2011 cut in library funding was reduced to 42% of the 2010 budget, from the 74% slashing initially proposed.

NJ State Library’s campaign design and process of engagement is a definite success, and a fantastic model for your organization. Of course the celebrity champions didn’t hurt – but they alone wouldn’t have had the same impact.

What are you doing to mobilize your colleagues and base as messengers? Please share your story here.

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing (and video) success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Advocacy, Case Studies | 1 comment

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