Sunday, January 16, 2005

Marketing Is Key to Success of Virtual Reference

The article "Virtual Reference: Alive & Well" by Brenda Bailey-Hainer (Library Journal, 1/15/05) points to examples of statewide virtual reference collaborations that are thriving.

One of the examples she cites is Ohio's own KnowItNow, a coperative 24 x 7 reference service which serves the entire state.

The key to a successful service, these statewide-cooperatives agree, is marketing.

Even natural users like teens need to know virtual reference service exists. All collaborative services agree that effective marketing is essential. Targeted marketing, implemented in a planned, consistent, and creative manner through a single coordinated effort, can pump up the volume of questions. Collaboratives that focus on marketing and brand a single service with a single logo statewide have the opportunity for far more exposure than a service provided and marketed by a single institution [for more on branding, see "Target Your Brand," Library Journal 8/04, p. 32]. The placement of a service's logo on every library's web site, with coverage in the local media and newspapers, has a huge impact on the volume of usage.

Other ways successful cooperatives mentioned in the article have marketed their service include: holding a media conference to promote the service, getting coverage in local press, adding a link to the front page of the state government web site, and distributing promotional materials (e.g. temporary tattoos and refrigerator magnets) in local schools.

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