Outreach & Marketing: The Not So Strange Bedfellows

Never say never.

I tried not to rule out the possibility that I would go back to school. I think, deep down, I knew that I would go back. It was just a matter of time.

As I continue in my work with Outreach and read the works of Colleen Dilenschneider, I become more and more convinced that marketing plays a hand in archival outreach. Like with processing, outreach requires a certain set of skills. Often times, we, as archivists, approach it just as that: archivists.

Do we really step outside of ourselves to think about the programming we offer to people? To do so, to truly do that, requires us to not think as archivists. Sometimes not even to think as historians but people. People with diverse interests. People living in a fast-paced environment where we are connected all the time.

How do you get those people to slow down? Slow down enough to preach the ‘gospel of archives.’ To convert them. To get them to appreciate what it is we have and what it is we, as archivists, do.

So I bring it back to my original statement at the beginning of this post: never say never.

After careful thought and consideration, I’ve decided to go back to school to pick up a marketing certificate and/or degree. (Which ever is cheapest because let’s be real?)


“Marketing is defined as the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”


If you break this definition down, its easy to see it. To have the eureka moment that makes you realize, like I did, that outreach and marketing are intertwined. I can’t do what I do as an outreach professional if I don’t have some idea of the basics and the larger forces at play.

Archival outreach is the action/the business of promoting and selling the product or services (aka archives, archivists, archival institutions, resources, programs). In order to do this effectively. Wisely. It includes market research. Know who I’m promoting and selling to. Their wants. Their needs. I can’t do outreach if I don’t know the audience I’m dealing with. As an aside, that tends to be the problem with outreach in general, we don’t take the time to know the audience that we are reaching AND the audience we are not reaching. Not only that, how do we advertise to these people where ever they are?

Hence that’s part of the reason I’m anti-general public as a catch all. It is true to an extent that we serve the general public but it tells me nothing, as an outreach professional, about who these people are. From an outreach professional perspective, its lazy, incomplete information.

If you think I’m being dismissive of the concept of the general public from an outreach perspective, then you are correct. I could try to back pedal or persuade you to my line of thinking but I’m not. What I do and what I need to know in order to be effective requires that I get specific. I ask the questions. I know who and what I’m dealing with.  So first on my agenda is that the ‘general public’ has got to go.

It is my intent, in the coming months, to enroll in a marketing program and to learn all I can to be a better outreach professional.

I’m throwing the gauntlet down. Here’s hoping I swim instead of sink.



About Ashley S

I'm an archivist!
This entry was posted in Archives, Outreach, Professional and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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