Tag Archives: marketing

In the Doldrums

24 Feb

When I was in elementary school, I had a subscription to National Geographic World magazine (today called, National Geographic Kids). One issue featured a story about Robin Lee Graham, a teenager who circumnavigated the world alone in his 24-foot sloop, “Dove.” I was fascinated by the story, searched for the stories he wrote for National Geographic, and later, read his memoir that he titled after his boat. Over the years, I’ve become somewhat like Mel Gibson’s character, Jerry Fletcher, in the movie, Conspiracy Theory; the guy who compulsively buys copies of Catcher in the Rye. I have six copies of Graham’s book, as well as original copies of those National Geographic issues in which he reported about his travels. There’s something about the story that touched me when I was young and it’s always stayed with me. It’s the story of adventure; it’s the story of a kid who doesn’t quite fit in, yet finds a passion to follow; and it’s the story of a person moving freely and slowly through life, discovering the world in which we live. (You can read more about Robin’s story here.)

One photograph in the book shows Robin sitting, legs outstretched and controlling the rudder, staring off into the distance. He has a paperback in his hand, held open by a finger while it rests on the bench beside him. There is not a ripple in the water; not a sign of a breeze anywhere. The caption: “In the doldrums.”

The doldrums is a colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage, in which it refers to those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. ~ Wikipedia

I have never sailed in the geographical doldrums, but I have been stranded in a motor-less sailboat when the wind dies. I have floated for a few hours, waiting for just enough of a breeze to get home. There’s not much to do, save put on some sunscreen and read a book. 

I thought of this picture this morning and pulled one of my copies of Dove off the shelf. “Yep,” I thought to myself, “that about sums it up.”

Most of the time, I sail through work with decent winds. Sometimes they require that I take a different tack, that I zig-zag, taking that back-and-forth approach to get to my destination. Sometimes they blow a bit too hard, producing rough seas. But for the most part, work-life provides a steady breeze to make the days go by filled with plenty of interesting and fulfilling activities. But, every now and then, I hit the doldrums.

A lot of my focus at work of late is focused on how we define, present, and raise the awareness of our patrons as to the services we provide. As you know, many of these services are new and/or different for us. Providing support around research data, embedding ourselves to provide tailored knowledge and information management services, tracking scholarly communications and research impact are all areas that are evolving and/or coming into being. One result of working in this climate is that I find I repeat myself over and over and over again. Similarly, I hear others doing the same time and again. I sit in meetings and conference calls and webinars and training classes and can’t help but feel, sometimes, that I’m stuck in the movie, Groundhog Day. I have lots of comments in the sidebars of my notes that say things like, “We’ve done this already” and “I heard this at so and so” and “See…” There are a lot of “see…” references. 

Of course, much of this is just what happens – better put, it’s what has to happen – if/when you want to be successful at raising the awareness of others, and marketing new ideas and services. You have to repeat yourself many times to many different audiences. Similarly, you hear colleagues repeating the same message as we all try to chart these new waters (keeping with my nautical theme). The challenge for me is to not to get stuck in the doldrums of repetition, but continually find new ways to keep the message and the energy of it going. If you face similar challenges and/or have some thoughts to suggest for keeping the winds steady, please share them in the comments. 

One rule: Please do not claim that any doldrums are related to winter weather. I love winter weather and don’t want to hear others grousing about it. 😉

No doldrums here!

No doldrums here!

Hop on the bus, Gus!

6 Feb
Really, she was both. Be both.

Really, she was both. Be both.

Quick update (as promised) on my post from last week. As you might recall, I had a meeting scheduled with the folks from the Community Engagement Research (CER) Section of our Center for Clinical and Translational Science. I’m delighted to report that it went really well! Members of the team came with both with ideas in mind and a willingness to listen to my own thoughts. I came away from the hour with several concrete projects; suggestions that I now take to my library director for her approval and input on next steps. Together, we need to figure out some of the nitty-gritty before I jump right in. We need to think about things like how much time I can realistically give to this work, how I should track my time, how I should track the tasks, and other things that will help us down the line when we hopefully move from my being supported financially by the library, to being supported financially by researchers and their grant funding. Planning this out now will definitely help in the future.

As this was my first real shot at this new aspect to my embedded role, I want to capture a few things I’ve learned so far and share them here, in hopes that they might help others traveling the same road:

  • Go with What (and Who) You Know: When charged with the task of drumming up business for you and/or your library, start off by going to people you know. Go to people you have some kind of relationship with already. This is probably Sales 101 (a class that I never took in college), but it certainly makes for an easier – and affirming – event when you walk into a meeting where people are happy to welcome you straight away. I also found it helpful to me that I chose an area of research that I’m both familiar and comfortable with.
  • Plan Ahead: This applies to both sides of the table. I found that it was immensely helpful to me to write out a brief description of my new role, why I asked for the meeting, and some questions that I wanted the CER folks to think about before we met. I did this, you might recall, at the request of the person coordinating the meeting, but it turned out to be as useful, if not more useful, to me than to those that I wrote it for.
  • Hang Around: While my proposal was only one item on the meeting’s agenda, when asked if I wanted to stay after I finished my part, I said yes. Good thing I did, because it resulted in 3 more project ideas being hatched! While I listened to the discussions and planning of other items, I easily saw places where I could help – things that neither I nor the others in the meeting had thought of before. I would ask, “Have you thought about …?” and “Are you going to do …?” and in the asking, we discovered new ideas.
  • Follow Up: Even though I’m waiting for the meeting with my library director, I’m keeping the communication with the Team going. Yesterday afternoon, I wrote up my notes of our meeting and drafted a proposal to work on the things we discussed. I sent it to the Team members for comments and suggestions, and heard back last evening from one of the researchers who offered a couple of lines that helped clarify an item. Today, I followed-up with links to a report, a journal, and an article I found that were all relevant to one of the topics we discussed. (I also invited one of the researchers to my upcoming birthday party, but that might stretch the bounds of comfort for some of my readers here! For me, it’s part of the fun.)

All-in-all it was a terrific meeting, filled with possibilities, and it left me feeling pretty successful in my first sales pitch. Stay tuned as we move ahead!