Best Practices: Outreach to steal from the corporate world

Good ideas come from inspiration. Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest places. Which is why I always have a small notebook on me (I won’t look at Notes on my phone but I will look at paper shoved in my wallet.) If you’re looking to reach users through video and online media, may I suggest stealing from some excellent, recent examples of outreach from the corporate world?


I spent most of November on an airplane and one airline stood out from the rest: Delta, who is not compensating me for this. We mostly ignore the safety instructions much like users ignore our well-intentioned efforts to convey important information to them.  Delta figured that out and created a safety video that literally had seatmates jabbing each other and laughing out loud.  So, what was so great about this particular video, and what can you learn from it?

  • It’s unexpected: the video begins in a conventional way with the CEO saying nothing new. Then we get into the meat of the video and suddenly, it does not go where we think it will. Surprises are timed and presented so that anyone glancing at the screen must take a second look. The unexpected quality of the video hooks viewers who want to find out what will happen next.
  • It’s funny. But it’s visually funny; the instructions and information are still presented in a straight-forward manner so that we get the important info we need. But we are entertained along the way.
  • We have a straight man to keep us grounded and again gives us info in  a straight-forward way. This is crucial because the information is not compromised by humor or gimmicks, it’s ENHANCED.
  • Timing is everything here. Information is punctuated by memorable images. It’s not a non-stop stream of visual jokes. Each joke serves a distinct, informational purpose designed to highlight information, not detract from it. Notice how timing supports this. Sometimes viewers are made to wait for the next joke which is key in keeping their attention.
  • delta Familiar images are used. It’s very niche and Christmas-centric, which might put some folks off and clearly works best in Western markets. Hopefully the folks at Delta know this. While they did give a nod to Judaism with a spinning dreidel in the aisles, the imagery is all borrowed from Christmas. Yet it mostly works because as consumers of Western culture, we recognize most of them. And if we don’t, we can ask our seatmates. But we’re all still mostly in on the joke, which is key to using popular culture in outreach.
  • We got the information we needed. Because at the end of the day, that’s the most crucial piece of outreach: people get what they need.


downloadA colleague pointed me toward the Hour of Code campaign launched to highlight Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15. The Hour of Code is an online tutorial designed to get anyone who can operate a mouse to start writing code. CSEdWeek is sponsored by the Computing in the Core coalition, whose members include corporate giants, education associations, and technology organizations in the hopes of educating the coders needed for 21st century employment. Plus, coding is cool and can open up creative, innovative, and intellectual doors. And librarians of all ilk are feeling the push to incorporate STEM into our programming. I highly suggest doing the Hour of Code for yourself (hour is an estimate; I did it in 45 minutes), but here’s what I took away from the experience.

  • Keep it short and sweet and TO THE POINT. Pay close attention to how information is chunked here. The videos are usually less than 2 minutes; many run for one minute. And yet, most viewers will get the point. Because they are asked to focus on ingesting one piece of information at a time. When we convey information to our users, we want to give them as much as possible while we have their attention. Hour of Code shows us that we can sustain their attention by asking them to learn a little bit at a time in a way that acknowledges how little time they have.
  • Lots of interaction here. If you plan to reach users through online tutorials, make them interactive. If you cannot make your own, browse places like Khan Academy for ready-made interactive tutorials. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. If you make them interact and practice, you might get them to come and keep them there.
  • Variety of voices heard. We’ve got everyday folk, celebrities, students, Bill Gates! A nice sense of community is created through this variety and there’s opportunity for everyone to find someone who gets on their nerves! But really, the variety creates an element of unexpected. And it’s just more interesting.
  • safe_imageUse of celebrities. You have celebrities in your community. They might own a popular bar or play on the college volleyball team. They are the mayor, the provost, the beloved kindergarten teacher. Celebrities are not just in Hollywood. Identify them and use them in your outreach. Whether it’s a promotional video or them handing out hot cocoa at the winter fair, get them to vouch for your library.
  • Rewarding participation. I got a nifty certificate with my name on it stating my completion. It cost the Hour of Code nothing and yet made my day! Find a way to acknowledge participation in outreach events whether it’s a Flickr page, a certificate, M&Ms, anything.

Clearly we don’t have the multi-dollar budgets or huge creative/techno teams that went into these outreach campaigns. But the lessons learned are adaptable to your library and its resources.

2 responses to “Best Practices: Outreach to steal from the corporate world

  1. Craig, This is good information!! Would love to orchestrate this, in our spare time! I can get those “celebrities to work with us….we would be awesome! Virginia

    On Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 1:08 AM, the outreach librarian wrote:

    > the outreach librarian posted: “Good ideas come from inspiration. > Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest places. Which is why I always > have a small notebook on me (I won’t look at Notes on my phone but I will > look at paper shoved in my wallet.) If you’re looking to reach users > throug”

  2. Pingback: 34 Library Stories You May Have Missed in December -·

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