Should you pursue a local notable or celebrity for library advocacy? Weigh the advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages: These are probably obvious. When well-known people speak out in support of your library, they bring a distinction and prestige that feels very special. It tends to make people think, “Wow! If this person thinks our library is important and valuable, it must be!” When celebrities speak out or visit your library for any reason, it generates a lot of buzz. People want to see the celebrity for themselves, and the media want to be there for pictures and a story. Your library can get a lot of mileage out of that endorsement, both in print and electronic formats, and its resources, staff, and users get to glow in the spotlight.
Certain notables or celebrities appeal to certain audiences, so selecting advocates who can target your library’s message to a selected audience will be a great advocacy strategy. Such an endorsement may make individuals and organizations that never thought much about the library stand up and take notice. It could increase your door count, circulation, resource usage and program attendance. It could also make more people in your library’s community pay attention to the library and appreciate its value.
Disadvantages: It takes a lot of effort. Identifying, contacting and working with celebrities require a good deal of time, advance planning, attention to detail and follow-up, and all that work might result in disappointment. Celebrities can also be unreliable. They are notorious for last-minute schedule changes. They can be controversial, even polarizing.
Do celebrity endorsements make a difference? Absolutely! If they didn’t, advertisers would not pay huge sums to ensure that we see celebrities pitching every kind of product. However, there have also been instances in advertising when the celebrity was so important that he or she overshadowed the product and no sales gain was realized from the celebrity endorsement. Matching the right celebrity to your library will reduce the chance that these problems will happen to you and make it much more likely that this approach will give you a real advantage.