DENMARK
Across the footlights

Converted into advertising kroner, press coverage of AgeForce has up till now proved to be worth about DKK 1.200,000. AgeForce is developed by Roskilde Libraries with funding from the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media

With AgeForce Roskilde Libraries have developed a new network for anyone over 50. In the course of one year www.ageforce. dk has attracted about 4,000 members from all corners of Denmark, and every day brings new ‘customers’. Close dialogue with users and strategic use of the press are important reasons for the offer to have reached right across the footlights.

About 18 months ago Roskilde Libraries took the first step to creating a new meeting place for all adults and older people who would like to meet others on the net or face to face.With inspiration from popular networks like My- Space and Facebook Roskilde Libraries’ chief aim was to initiate and be responsible for the technical solutions. Gradually the users’ own content and enthusiasm were to substantiate the network.

Dialogue with users

When planning to develop a service that matches adult needs, it is essential to enter into a dialogue with the target group itself. Consequently, AgeForce kicked off with a meeting where Roskilde Libraries invited local citizens to put forward their suggestions as to what a new network for adults should look like. The attendance at the first meeting in autumn 2008 was more than satisfactory, and a number of clear tendencies emerged: The more than 100 attendants would like to use the Internet for net- working. They placed the emphasis on seriousness and IT-safety. And next they wanted to focus on communities and interest groups. They wished to meet new people, with whom they might freely exchange knowledge, ex-periences and attitudes.

– Many adults over 50 buy their own books and take advantage of cultural offers elsewhere. They do not automatically visit the physical library. But they sent a very clear signal at the meeting. If the library can give them access to meaningful, flexible communities, targeted their age group, then they would really like to use it, says project manager for AgeForce Anne Kathrine Skibelund.

After several more meetings and workshops with users, AgeForce entered into a new phase, where final decisions about the network’s purpose and target group had to be made:When do you become a senior – at 50 or 60? Would it be possible to use an English name for a Danish network? How do you communicate with the ‘resourceful’ older people – without eliminating other groups? How do you reach this adult target group?

The age limit was fixed at minimum 50, because AgeForce is not only for people who have retired. It is also for those who have another decade ahead of them on the labour market and who therefore – or from entirely different reasons – need to build up new networks. And then we had the ‘brand’ for AgeForce – ‘Ageforce – forceful mature adults’.

Marketing

The beginning of 2009 saw www.ageforce.dk take to the air. Apart from the virtual meeting place, AgeForce also encourages meetings in real life. Roskilde Libraries make available their own meeting rooms to members, arrange meetings and regularly offer instruction in AgeForce.dk.

In the beginning marketing of Age- Force consisted exclusively of local publicity. Articles in local papers, the library’s own homepage, posters, flyers and contact to various local associations proved sufficient to yield a couple of hundred members. But gradually, as AgeForce gained momentum, the need for a conscious marketing strategy became more pressing.

– The moment one is present on the net, one is in principle present all over the world. Little by little AgeForce spread out in ever-widening circles. Then it became imperative to launch a more professional campaign to cover more than the local community, explains Anne Kathrine Skibelund.

Since then marketing has been given greater priority, and about 20% of the total budget has so far been spent on marketing. Visiting cards, fridge magnets, fair banners and folders belong to the traditional ‘kit’ when promoting AgeForce. Subscription on Google adds and a fan page on Facebook are likewise regular features. So in relation to Roskilde Libraries’ other projects, Age- Force has prioritised marketing highly – which is also reflected in the budget.

Press contact and personal stories

The major effect did not originate from commercial marketing, however, but from a conscious, pro-active contact with the press. Apart from the important technical ‘nursing’ which at all time must ensure that the AgeForce ‘product’ functions and develops, we have worked out our press strategies for securing the visibility of AgeForce in the future. The stories in the press have been supported by real ‘cases’. AgeForce users have agreed to be inter-viewed about their bicycle, art, literature or gardening groups and in this way they supplemented the library’s various kinds of information with a personal and trustworthy public image.

In the first instance press strategy centred on getting the AgeForce message across to library colleagues in the rest of the country. Then articles were written for the specialist press and the journal Danish Municipalities. Next step was to ‘enlighten’ more users, and we got a 15 minute interview on the regional radio station ‘Copenhagen Radio’, where active AgeForce members talked about their periences. When shortly afterwards we got an article published in the life-style magazine Helse – the membership soared to 1,200.

The next move was to get the AgeForce story spread to the whole country, so we contacted the nationwide television channel TV2 – and were successful. On 27. December 2009 three AgeForce members got their ‘2 1/2 minutes of fame’ on the TV2 News. During the following hour several thousand people clicked their way onto www.ageforce.dk. And the membership rose in a few days to 3,500.

Across the footlights

The story of AgeForce’s journey through the media machine is an example of the media having a quite decisive influence on how well our message gets across to the public. This is in fact nothing new. But that we – as a library – derive strategic advantage from it and consciously exploit it in order to get our projects across the footlights – that is rare.

Many things have to fall into place for a marketing plan to be successful. A good, stable ‘product’, a strong graphic identity and a well-defined target group are some of the most important elements. But AgeForce has taught us that close dialogue with the users is also immensely important – and literally speaking worth its weight in gold in terms of marketing.

Pernille Carneiro Juel
Communication specialist, Roskilde Libraries
pernillecj AT roskilde.dk
Translated by Vibeke Cranfield

Communication specialist, Roskilde Libraries