When the “product” is an open textbook, “marketing” takes on new meaning. The promotion and communications tools you use may parallel those in conventional marketing, but the underlying principles of openness, collaboration, and inclusion give it them a less sales-driven flavour. In what follows, we share some of the whys of ‘open marketing’, as well as the hows of getting it done.
Marketing starts at day one, or better yet, day zero. Well before content is written, even before a project officially ‘starts’, the story of the textbook has begun, including the reasons for creating it, the subject it covers, your team approach, and people who make up that team. Get in the mindset of telling that story early and often.
Every open textbook project is different: so is the marketing. Our suggestions are a guideline, not a standard. Formulate your own suggestions, based on what happens in your project, and share them with the larger community in the forum!
Collaboration in marketing is as important as it is in content creation. The more voices and perspectives that are brought in, the greater the diversity, which also leads to greater potential for adoption, use, and re-use.
Connection-making is at the heart of communications. Create and tell a story about your project, connect with those who listen, and respond to their feedback.
Marketing and communications can be done by anyone on the team, but not everyone thinks of themselves as a “marketing person.” That is why it’s best to provide a clear outline of the promotional plan, along with the resources your team members will need to communicate with a consistent message. Some of the roles are:
- Project leaders: who create the plan and decide on the strategies to deploy
- Communications lead: who assembles the promotional material, writes a project summary, composes tweets and other blurbs
- Contributors: who can provide (or solicit) reviewer blurbs, endorsements, and recommendations for communications channels
Word of mouth and grassroots efforts are easily the most effective tactics for marketing your open textbook. The team working on your textbook is one community, but you and everyone else in it has ties to many other communities and can help the word get out! To that end:
- Share content updates, success stories, and key milestones.
- Use every step as a communications opportunity and keep content flowing outward.
- Showcase the team members behind the work –make it personal!
- Share aspects of inclusivity, accessibility, and diversity in your concept, content, and design.
- Engage with new ideas and opinions to connect with relevant, current discourse.
- Tell your stories honestly and transparently.
- Provide accessible feedback tools, so that communication can be two-way.
- Repetition is good: get the word out early and often, using different channels:
- blog posts
- social media (with links to useful content)
- listservs (in your discipline and across communities)
- email signatures
Like all the processes in publishing openly, marketing and communications may happen in non-chronological order, and/or in unexpected ways. Make everyone on the team a part of it, and nurture their involvement as ambassadors for the book. If you all think about marketing as producing value in the world by sharing your resource’s content, this will allow it to find its market – those readers, adopters, and adapters who need it.
Read on to explore the whens and hows of marketing and communicating your open textbook project.