The most supremely logical Mr. Spock, from the Star Trek series I adored from the very first, says in one episode, “It’s not logical, but it’s true.” As librarians we need to take those words to heart in order to frame our message in words others can hear.
For as long as I have been in the profession, we have worked hard to prove our worth to the communities we serve (no, this is not a new issue – far from it). School librarians regularly point to the extensive research, replicated in many studies, showing that school libraries, staffed by certificated librarians significantly improve student achievement and their performance on high stakes tests. And where has that gotten us? Libraries are being closed and school librarians eliminated. (Although there has been some indication that the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way.)
Repeating the same action in hopes of a different response is a definition of insanity. Yet we seem to be locked into the loop. As librarians we are supremely logical—although maybe not as logical as Mr. Spock. It is built into our DNA as researchers.
Time to recognize Spock’s wise words. It’s not logic that convinces people. It’s emotions. Have you ever noticed automobile commercials? Even while the screen is showing price or mpg, the video portion is selling the fun and exuberance of owning that car. You don’t bother reading the numbers until you are committed to the purchase—then you are ready to check the pricing and safety factors to prove you made the right decision.
Saatchi & Saatchi, the big advertising company, is reputed to have said 80% of our decisions are based on emotions (including voting). That leaves little left in the decision making process for logic, which is why advertisers create their ads to reach the emotions of consumers. Notice the words used in commercials the next time you watch television.
In one of the workshops I present, I discuss the importance of taglines to promote the school library program. I point to those we all know – AllState, McDonald’s, Campbell Soup, and others. They all have high emotional content.
When I became the owner/publisher of School Librarian’s Workshop, I knew I needed a tagline. I came up with, “Your whole library program in every issue.” Do you see where it misses the mark? My Operations Manager who is excellent at marketing said it was good but not great. Asking and answering her own questions, she said, “What do School Librarian’s want? They want to feel valued and validated. What do they fear? The fear their job will be eliminated.” Then she came up with our tagline and brand focus: Indispensible – Just Like YOU!
What do your stakeholders want? Can you figure out what they fear? How can you send a message showing your program responds to that? Don’t worry if your first attempts aren’t “perfect.” Taglines can be changed. The big companies do it regularly. Start thinking about how to emotionally bring the message of the value of the school library program. You care about your library program – let that feeling come through in all you do to present your program and you’ll find more people connecting with you. Its not logical….
And remember if you need help – the Ask Hilda column in the School Librarians Workshop is available for you!