Effective communications are key to gaining visibility for your new program and recruiting participants. They can also help to set the stage internally and externally for future efforts to sustain your programming.
Establish Registration Procedures & Guidelines
Before inviting patrons to register (and before you can publicize the program), you will need to determine with the teaching artist the maximum and minimum number of registrants. The following are also worth considering as you plan your recruiting efforts.
- Allow people to register in person, via phone, or online?
- Register people on a first-come, first-served basis?
- Give preference to those who live within your official service area?
- Allow people to enroll in concurrent programs within your library or system?
- Establish a wait list?
Best Practices & Insights
As you may know, it is generally a good practice to establish a wait list and register two or three participants beyond the maximum number:
- Many people will want to participate in this type of program, especially if it is a new offering
- Because participants will be asked to commit to attending a workshop series, there will inevitably be some attrition due to life events. Usually new participants aren’t brought in off of the wait list after the mid-way point, but your teaching artist partner will help you determine a cut-off date.
Possible Reasons for Lackluster Uptake
While patrons usually respond positively to creative aging workshops, and they are often over- subscribed, there are some potential challenges to be aware of:
If the days or times scheduled for the workshop are inconvenient to the target population, i.e. evening which can present problems due to nighttime driving and transportation. The ideal time to schedule is between 10am and 4pm. In addition, some of the most successful programs occur in the winter time, when there is little else to do.
The topic of the workshop (or the artistic discipline) isn’t meaningful to the individuals in the community, or isn’t relevant to the local culture, OR there are already many other opportunities in the community to do similar activities.
Execute a Recruitment Campaign
To carry out a recruitment effort, you might enlist branch or system staff to help with design or distribution of posters, print and online messages, media announcements, video or audio content. (Different libraries have varying capacities for this type of outreach and marketing. Assess the resources available in your branch or system and tailor your efforts accordingly.)
The more any in-house communications, marketing, and development teams are involved from the beginning, the easier it will be to work with them to publish web updates, create promotional materials, and integrate data about your programs into future presentations. The teaching artist may also have helpful ideas to share. If you do not have marketing support in your branch or system, please be sure to include whomever is responsible for external relations. And, if you are partnering with a local organization enlist them in your recruitment efforts.
Consider using a combination of the following tactics to promote your creative aging programs:
- An initial press release about the workshop series inviting participation and acknowledging any funder(s);
- Spotlight features on the library’s homepage (in addition to individual program listings in the events calendar);
- Graphics on in-house monitors or external electronic billboards/banners (if your library uses these);
- Posters displayed at community centers, arts centers, community colleges, local supermarkets, houses of worship, and the YMCA;
- Flyers distributed by partner organizations to their members;
- Social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter; and
- Broadcast media such as public access television or radio.
+ Mini-Case Study: St. George Library Center, NYPL, Staten Island
Margaret Siggillino, Senior Librarian at St. George Library Center in Staten Island (NYPL), conducted extensive outreach at her library an in her community to promote the creative aging program she coordinated.
Web and local media
In addition to posting details about the workshop on the NYPL’s events calendar, Margaret sent emails to people and organizations on the branch’s regular distribution list. She also emailed artists and art groups who have exhibited at our library in the past as well as those are set to exhibit in the future.
Margaret contacted local media outlets like NY1 (a NYC-based cable TV news station) and Staten Island Community Television with requests that they include information about the workshop on their community calendar and create “videogram” content. She also sent an e-mail to the Staten Island Advance, a local newspaper, and asked them to publicize the workshop.
Community organizations and support groups
In addition to publicizing the workshop via the web and media, Margaret made sure to capitalize on Staten Island’s network of government offices, community organizations and its creative community.
“I took the flyer to local area businesses, Staten Island Borough Hall (they put our flyers and brochures in their information kiosk at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal), the Staten Island Museum of Arts and Sciences, the jury duty waiting area (NYS Unified Court system building), the Staten Island LGBT Center, the Every Thing Goes Book Cafe and Clothing store (their stores are a local hub for the Staten Island creative community; especially their cafe which is also a musical venue and has gallery space).”
In addition, Margaret contacted and followed up with the following organizations in Staten Island:
- Jewish Community Centers
- Inter-Agency Council for Aging, Inc.
- Senior centers and friendship clubs
- Caregiver support groups organized by:
- Visiting Nurse Service of New York
- Nalitt Institute
- American Cancer Society
- Alzheimer’s Foundation of Staten Island
- JCC Caregiver Services
Consider Reaching Out to Related Audiences
“Many caregivers are 55+, so I thought that some might appreciate the opportunity to have a creative outlet,” said Margaret. She also called patrons who were part of the adult book discussion group at her to see if they were interested in registering for the workshop as many of them are 55+.
Finally, Margaret also contacted the leader of the Grandparent’s Support Group, a group run by NYC Department of the Aging who meets at the St. George branch of the NYPL.
As with all marketing efforts, customizing your plan to fit your community and your available resources is important, but it is also worth observing that there are so many groups in your community who might be interested in attending creative aging workshops or who might help you promote them, as illustrated by Margaret’s efforts above.
An Ideal Recruitment Flyer
Some things to keep in mind when creating a recruitment flyer to promote your program include: keeping the font size large enough to be legible; highlighting the fact that the workshop series is free and for older adults 55+, including a description of the workshop, detailing the registration process, clearly stating the dates and times.
Often funders will provide acknowledgement verbage that also needs to be included. It is a lot of information to get on one page, but it can be done. Even if you plan to create a black and white version, consider a layout that is bold and inviting.
Below is an example of how one teaching artist from Westchester County gave an interview to a local radio station there:
The Grove Hall Branch of the Boston Public Library created a Facebook Event to promote an upcoming program there:
Sample Press Release:
- Free library workshops: For older adults it’s never too late to learn, Miami Herald (PDF)
- “Creative Aging” A Popular Program Returns to the Pelham Public Library, Pelham Weekly (PDF)
- Speak, Memory! Creating art with life stories, The Scarsdale Inquirer (PDF)
- If your library publishes photo galleries, video or podcasts, all are effective media for “showing vs. telling” about the benefits of these programs;
- 50+ adults are extremely diverse in their communications habits and preferences;
- Use eye-catching, clean and modern graphics like large photographs (avoid clip art);
- Keep headline text large and use body copy sparingly;
- Include concise, clear, instructions and specific calls-to-action.