Blog

Book Burning Brings Community Together

Crisis communications doesn’t need to be a head-to-head messaging competition. Through smart tactics melding together with grass roots efforts, events, social media and traditional PR, it’s possible to direct the conversation in clever ways. The benefits of implementing this kind of strategic approach were reflected in how the Troy Library addressed a recent crisis.

I know a lot of people who place an emphasis on their summer reading. And whether it’s through an e-reader or in-person, the library is a great place to check out a variety of books. However, late last summer, Troy, Michigan was considering closing the Troy Public Library because of a financial deficit.

To secure the necessary funding, Troy scheduled a vote to ask local citizens to approve a small tax increase of 0.7 percent. This angered well-organized and well-funded anti-tax Tea Party members. With their “vote no” signs and flyers, they quickly changed the focus from the need for library support, to the issue of increasing taxes. However, a clever reverse psychology communications campaign helped turn things around. 

Yard signs began appearing throughout Troy that read: "Vote to Close Troy Library on August 2nd - Book Burning Party on August 5th" (along with a Facebook page address). The idea of a book burning party angered the citizens so much that they decided to push back by posting comments on the Facebook page about the merits of libraries and books. Following extensive news coverage of this heated debate, the true intent of the campaign was unveiled: “A vote against the library is like a vote to burn books.” This revelation resulted in the citizens of Troy voting yes on August 2 to support the tax increase.

The outcome-centric approach that was employed here, involving multiple communications methods, is a concept at the heart of what we do at Star. This clever communications campaign worked because it resonated with people and engaged them in a meaningful discussion. The dissemination of this emotionally charged message across a variety of channels (i.e., video, print, online, etc.) compelled citizens to vote “yes” and save the library. Furthermore, it illustrated the benefits of approaching a crisis with a strategic mindset.