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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Open Educational Resources Promotions Guide: OER Press Kits & Promotions Strategies

OER Promotions Guide by Janet Swatscheno as part of the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program

Promotional Strategies

As you prepare to release a new open educational resource, creating a press kit ahead of time will make it easier to get the word out once it is published. Press kits are sets of promotional materials that provide information about the book or resource.

A press kit might include:

  • Press release
  • Contact information for the publisher, author, or editor of the OER
  • Author biography
  • Author photo
  • Reviews and blurbs about the OER
  • Blog posts and social media posts

Developing a Promotional Strategy

Publishers of OERs should work with authors to develop a promotional strategy for the resource. The strategy does not need to be expensive or elaborate, but it is important to determine the goals of the author, potential audiences for the resource, and ways the author wants to promote the resource.

 

One way to get started is by asking the author some questions about their project:

  • Who is the primary audience for your publication project?
  • What are the key disciplinary fields that your project addresses or would appeal to most?
  • What are the primary use cases and contexts in which you envision your publication being used (e.g. college courses, K-12 courses, community resource)?
  • Are there specific academic publications (e.g., scholarly journals, newsletters, scholarly societies’ publications) general interest publications, and/or university publications should be notified about your publication?
  • Are there any online media outlets that should be notified about your publication?
  • Would you be willing to participate in promotional activities (e.g., Blog Q&A interview)?
  • What conference presentations and/or speaking engagements do you have scheduled or anticipate doing in the next 12 months?
  • What self-promotion efforts would you be able to undertake for your publication (e.g., email targeted scholars, conference presentations)?
  • Are there scholars who would be willing to review your publication and provide endorsements? If so, please list their names, affiliations, and contact information.

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Promotion plans should be customized to each resource and author, but you should also consider your overall promotion strategy. The Promotions and Marketing Impact Module of the Library Publishing Curriculum provides valuable information on developing an overall promotions strategy for library publishers and includes many helpful tips on branding, budgeting, writing press releases, and planning events.

Expert Opinions

John Warren of the Mason Publishing Group emphasized the importance of finding your audience ahead of time as well as identifying influencers in a particular field:

The first thing is really understanding who the audience is because I think a common thing that you see with most authors is that everybody would be interested in this, but you can’t really reach everybody, so kind of narrowing the focus as specific as possible. One of my phrases I like to use is ‘dominate the micro-niche’... as a small publisher, you’re not going to be able to dominate English language textbooks, but if it’s a really specific part of that, then you can.

Karen Bjork also emphasized the importance of finding the target audience for a textbook and encouraged authors and publishers to develop an elevator speech for their resource that explains exactly how the textbook is meant to be used:

Knowing who your target audience is really key… If your book is designed specifically for a course, what level course is it designed for? How can you put that down into a paragraph?... It’s sort of the elevator speech for your open textbook. Being able to have that really succinctly, I think is really important, particularly as your looking to go and be able to publish it and promote it. If you have those quick, bullet points, I think that’s really helpful.

Collaboration

Karen Lauritsen emphasized the value of collaboration when writing open resources:

With any project having contributors is such an asset, because you go from being the sole person responsible for the marketing to a team of people responsible for the marketing because, ostensibly, they have a stake in the success of the guide. They want people to benefit from what they worked on.

She also pointed out that making a resource open during the writing process and soliciting feedback from colleagues early in the process, through mechanisms like peer review, can itself be way to promote a new resource. Laurtisen said it is a good idea for authors to ask their colleagues if they are willing to take a look at the resources because “presumably those colleagues would have expertise in the same subject area and then again you’re potentially talking to your future adopters.”

 

Karen Bjork described collaborating with faculty to publish open textbooks and emphasized that the faculty authors were the driving force behind promoting the books beyond the Portland State campus:

A lot of the faculty who have participated are the ones who have really done a lot of the promotion above and beyond the library and I think that’s really where we get most our traction from because it has a lot more meaning when it comes from another faculty member talking about how they were able to create a book designed specifically for their course, that was their own pedagogy, their students get to participate in the creation and provide feedback and so that’s really where I think we’ve gotten a lot the interest from.

Events

Events was another theme from the interviews. It can be a great way to engage people in person, promote OER on campus, and get the word out to other potential authors.

We try to feature our authors, in as much as they are willing to be featured in events that we do, so I invite them, when I feel like ok this a good point in the project, they’re comfortable, we have a good relationship… when they’re happy about the project and we are happy about the project it’s a wonderful time to say ‘hey would you be willing to be on this panel to talk about what it was like to author this or to talk about why you chose to write a book that you’re not making any money off of, or why this topic is important?’, and so that’s really another way we’ve gotten the word out is through events.

- Anita Walz

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