If the preservation unit is to be recognized and/or funded by the public, information about its operations must be made accessible. It can be disseminated in straightforward or more creative ways. Word of mouth is the cheapest way to transmit information, but this can be harmful if the information is misrepresented or misunderstood. The best way to prevent misinformation is to stop it before it starts; at any rate, the record should be set straight swiftly. Information coming from the source, such as announcements about new projects and the completion of old projects, is generally more reliable. All merit attention and may be of interest to the public.
The "behind the scenes" activities of a preservation unit are often interesting to the public. Tours of the unit may be educational and illustrate the need for improved equipment and facilities. Handouts such as bookmarks, brochures, posters, mailings, and newsletters are excellent for quick highlights of collections or current projects. Visually stimulating graphics can get a point across swiftly. Joint exhibits with museums or other institutions, or the publication of articles in prominent journals, can also garner attention.
The Internet, with its ability to reach a vast audience, is fast becoming a staple of institutional public relations programs. If the Internet is to be used to full advantage, a few points have to be kept in mind:
All information should be honest, accurate, current, and well organized. Dishonest, confusing, or out-of-date information can deter people from visiting the site and lessen confidence in the institution.
The web site should contain basic information such as the institution's name, telephone number, fax number, and relevant e-mail addresses.
A web site should not be a maze. The design should be visually appealing and straightforward, with information easily accessible.
Web pages might include an online newsletter, updates on noteworthy projects, a staff list, most frequently asked questions, and links to all relevant universal resource locators (URLs).
Media Relations and Self-MarketingThe medianewspaper, television and radiocan give a powerful boost to an institution's public image. Though most of the media sell advertising space, seizing opportunities for publicity in something other than reoccurring advertisements may result in more productive attention. Media coverage depends on being in the right place at the right time, with the right representatives from the institution.
Reports may not all be positive, but it is crucial to present clear and timely information to the public. For example, a serious flood or fire in the library must be reported by the preservation professional to prevent rumors. In such cases, it is extremely important that the institution speak with one voice, preferably the voice of an official spokesperson with a clearly defined role. It is not advantageous to have preservation staff airing differing opinions about an event or situation, as sometimes the news media gives more attention to apparently conflicting information than to facts. Teamwork is helpful, even in non-crisis situations, and staff should direct questions to chosen spokespeople. An institution is represented not only by noteworthy news, but also by staff who can help or hinder a media relations effort. Staff demonstrating pride and confidence in their institution will automatically burnish its image.
Staying one step ahead of the media by providing briefing documents, press kits, and photographs, and obliging the media with interviews, will help guarantee that complete, correct information is heard. Background research on specific newspapers and journals should help the preservationist fit his or her news to the media organ, saving time and preventing frustration on both ends. It is important to ensure that the media outlet correctly name the preservation unit's contact person, as this helps with follow-up queries. If a news story is to be reported internationally, foreign customs and protocol should be investigated and respected. As always, friendly relations with the media can create strong public relations allies. Frequently, the preservation professional can stimulate the news media by initiating contact, offering news tidbits, or submitting short articles of interest to the general public.
If the institution has a public relations or external affairs office, the staff should keep abreast of noteworthy news and trends. For example, the anniversary of a landmark event could be celebrated with an exhibition of relevant restored artifacts, with notices sent out to the media. Public relations staff should also have advance information on significant events occurring in the institution. For example, a conference for scholars on a famous writer could be enhanced if the preservation unit took the initiative to present photographs of the writer and examples of his or her works. Advance intelligence work is the sensible course.
Related ReadingsBaumgartner, James E., ed. National Guide to Funding for Libraries and Information Services. 3d ed. New York: The Foundation Center, 1995.
Boss, Richard W. Grant Money and How to Get It: A Handbook for Librarians. New York: R.R. Booker, 1980.
Kohl, Susan. Getting Attention: Leading-Edge Lessons for Publicity and Marketing. Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, c2000.
Ledingham, John A., and Stephen D. Bruning, eds. Public Relations as Relationship Management: A Relational Approach to the Study and Practice of Public Relations. Mahwah, New Jersey: L. Erlbaum, 2000.
New, Cheryl Carter, and James Aaron Quick. Grantseeker's Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Funding. New York: John Wiley, 1998.
Teygeler, René. Preservation of Archives in Tropical Climates: An Annotated Bibliography. Paris: International Council on Archives, 2001.
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