Sep 01 2004
by Dennie Heye
Information professionals usually don’t think of marketing themselves as a big issue. We know are the key to accessing information; we are service- and customer-oriented; we know our business - so, customers will just come to us, right?
Unfortunately, we do need to market ourselves - not just to be known, but also to let our customers know who we are and what we can do to help them. Here, I share my experiences with marketing myself successfully as an information professional, both inside and outside my organization.
Promoting my Services Portfolio
I work in a large, multinational company, so a lot of my clients are not in the same building - or even on the same continent. To be noticed, I have set up a short, informative web page about my services within the library group on our intranet.
I spend time every week browsing and reading internal discussion forums, and try to participate in discussions by providing references, pointing to online and offline sources, or suggesting that I set up a literature search for participants. At the bottom of each of my replies is a pointer to my services web site.
Participate in Client Meetings
Besides participating in virtual discussions and collaboration areas, I block time in my calendar every week to attend team meetings and stay up to date with my clients’ work. I try to be proactive in supplying information, or to suggest training for relevant online and offline sources.
When possible, I scan and browse relevant industry journals related to my clients’ business. This way I pick up trends, pointers to relevant publications, plus, I learn their jargon. By being able to speak my clients’ language, or at least show that I am interested in their world, I am taken seriously.
Publishing About Professional Interests
To help me be noticed outside my organization, I have created a web site which links to my presentations and articles. This has proven to be very useful when I am asked to present at a conference or write an article; through one link, I share my entire portfolio. I try to select two or three relevant conferences per year related to library and information management topics that I am interested in, and send in abstracts.
During all my communications, whether through a PowerPoint presentation, a web site or a face-to-face meeting with a new client, I always try to be clear on the services I provide. I emphasize my key advantages as a literature searcher: I have access to a variety of quality information; a wide network; professional knowledge of interviewing, searching and dissemination; and last, but not least, I can provide better information faster and cheaper. Honesty is also something I emphasize - I do not promise what I cannot deliver, even though there sometimes is pressure to do so. On an annual basis, via an anonymous feedback form, I ask my clients to provide comments on my services. This provides me with new ideas for improvement. To get more feedback on my professional performance, I ask trusted colleagues (from different departments) to tell me honestly what they think of my services or approach.
Both inside and outside my organization, I consider networking essential to my job. I’ve joined several informal groups within my organization (including a network of young professionals and the literature researchers group), and attend monthly meeting of different teams. This brings me into contact with a wide variety of colleagues, and often I am referred via someone I’ve met during my network. When someone has met you, even though it’s just briefly during an event where you explained what you do, it’s far more likely that they will refer a colleague to you.
Outside my organization, I am member of a professional library organization and participate in the alumni committee of the college where I received my Library Sciences degree. Via the latter, I have access to a wide network of other alumni, which I can use to get information on topics and industries I know less well.
A last tip regarding marketing yourself as an information professional is to learn from others. Look around in your organization, in your peer group or your neighborhood for people whom you consider to be good in marketing themselves. If possible, try and meet them to ask them questions about their ideas and experiences.
One book which I consider to be very clear and helpful on this topic is Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith (New York: Warner Books, 1997), which will help you think about marketing both your services and yourself.
Dennie Heye is an information scientist at a global energy firm in the Netherlands, working on information architecture and global library projects. That said, he is still able to dress himself and carry out simple tasks.