NOTES: What is a Benefit Statement?

These are my notes from Pattern Research’s webinar I Cured a Cold, Passed My Test & Got a Great Job: What is a Benefit Statement & How Can It Help Your Library’s Customers Succeed? by Pat Wagner and Tim Sullard (archived here / handouts here).

  • Benefit Statements work, help attract support from community.
  • Rule #1: Our actions speak louder than our slogans.
  • Rule #2 We are all too close to our own stuff. You’re too close to your own work to write about it objectively. GET HELP.
  • Rule #3 Our best partners are our library’s customers.  Let your library customers do 75% of the work on improving library. Get their input into strategic planning, services, etc.
  • Rule #4 Write like a reporter.
  • The more we can share our successes, the more people will appreciate us.
  • How we define our worlds will show how customers want to use their library:
    • Age: +/- 20 years – one generation / different generations have different goals and priorities
    • Socioeconomic status – generally, there is a big difference in salary and education between library staff and customers.
    • Proximity & attention: who do you hang with?
  • Who Are YOU Thinking About?
    • What YOU want: More people to say “thank you” to me.
    • Think about customers not yourself.
  • Who Are THEY Thinking About?
    • What THEY want: a pleasant place to hide out, THEY keep their jobs, THEY find & read books
  • Education leads customers to life successes.
  • Have customers in the room when you’re writing benefit statements so that you don’t get bogged down in library-ese language.
  • Write Benefit Statements from the library customer’s point of view & use first person, what I CAN or HAVE accomplished.
  • What Works:
    • Use a graphic representation (cartoon, photo, painting, etc.)
    • “Show” that the library has changed people’s lives, don’t JUST “tell”.
    • Graphic can make reader smile and nod, connects to reader’s life, engaging, surprising, humorous, compels reader to action.
  • Get the person reading the statement to do something different b/c they were so taken by the example of what the library does.
  • Benefits Statement: What the library is already accomplishing. Strategic Plans are for future planning, what you WANT to do.
  • Gather input from customers all the time. “Yet” can be an important word. “Given our financial situation, we don’t know how to solve that problem YET. Do you have any ideas?”
  • The library is not more important than the people it serves.
  • Cathedral builder anecdote
  • Simplify your language: fewer, shorter, more succinct words.
  • It’s not about the cool things the library is doing; it’s the change in customers’ behaviors, how it’s changed their lives.
  • Keep it short. People unconsciously hold their breath while reading a sentence, so long sentences without commas will make them uncomfortable.
  • We love toys / gadgets for the sake of the toy, rather than for the purpose it can bring our customers.
  • Use concrete images, not abstract.
  • Typical Mistakes:
    • 1) Benign contempt for users. People who think they’re superior to others don’t write good Benefits Statements.
    • 2) Lack of respect for their expertise. People know their lives better than you do.
    • 3) Not taking the time to know customers (usually, we’re too busy). Need to find people interesting.
    • 4) Not continually inviting their input. It’s a librarian’s job to constantly gather customers’ input.
    • 5) Not allowing them to make decisions.
    • 6) Not aligning with their points of view.
  • Writing like a library user.
    • Focus strategic plan on users.
    • Connecting to larger community.
    • Selling the library’s relevance.
    • Demonstrating commonality.
    • Building trust & respect – treating users as equals.
    • Inspiring loyalty.
  • Acting like a user. Make customer-centered decisions:
    • strategic focus
    • staff behavior
    • create physical environments
    • resource allocation
  • Have the people making the decisions actually USED the library like a customer uses it?
  • Make physical environment friendly and welcoming.
  • Next Steps:
    • 1) Invite library users to help you
    • 2) Listen to what they have to say
    • 3) Make them important in the process
    • 4) Ask them to write for you
    • 5) Find out how the library benefits them, collect stories
    • 6) Practice, Practice, Practice
  • Use public domain art to demonstrate your themes. Flickr has lots of public domain & fair use art.
  • Use social media to gather input, when appropriate, but know your audience. Make it one piece of what you’re doing.
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