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© Leeds City Council

#whatsyourstory – creative marketing by Leeds library and information service with local people


At a time when many local libraries are closing or seeing a reduction in services, the creative marketing campaign #whatsyourstory demonstrates how Leeds Library and Information Service has made a difference to the lives of local people. The ongoing campaign shows new ways of engaging with new customers and enabling existing customers to make new connections.

Read how it all started and how social media can be used effectively for impact assessment.


Marketing of public library services is notoriously difficult. We offer so much to so many people, so when designing a marketing campaign it’s hard to know where to start!

In June 2015, Leeds Library and Information Service launched a new marketing campaign to change people’s perceptions of modern public libraries. We knew it had to be fresh, exciting and high profile. We also wanted to align our online and offline marketing so our offer was more ‘joined-up’ across promotional channels.

We wanted a campaign that would:

  • Engage new and existing customers;
  • Raise awareness of libraries in Leeds;
  • Develop brand recognition;
  • Change perceptions of what libraries can offer by highlighting services such as our Business & IP Centre, Studio12 multimedia suite, eBooks and library apps;
  • Improve online engagement with users through our existing social media accounts and the Leeds Reads blog.

Change Management

We developed a public relations strategy and detailed content strategy for both online and offline media.  We wanted the campaign to be about people’s stories and how the libraries played a part in their achievements.  The first two case studies that we used to launch the campaign were:

Case study 1: Wayne Levitt

Collateral copy: Former miner Wayne Levitt, from Belle Isle, wanted to trace his family tree. So, he started exploring the West Yorkshire Archive, using basic computer skills he’d learned at his local library. He soon discovered he’s related to Arthur Louis Aaron, the only soldier from Leeds to win the Victoria Cross in the Second World War. Wayne’s now gone right back to 1803 and his great-great-great-great grandparents – and he doesn’t plan to stop digging yet.

Case study 2: Ma Maposa

Collateral copy: Ma Maposa had a tough time growing up, but he always wanted to be a writer.  He met Jamie, who runs Studio12 at Leeds Central Library and helped script a short film broadcast on the BBC. Inspired, Ma set up his own YouTube channel promoting local music talent, designed a business-card-sharing app, and is currently producing his first Leeds-based film. Definitely our local hero.

The #whatsyourstory campaign was launched in late June 2015.  It was designed to be fun and appealing to adults living in Leeds to inspire them to engage with the library service.  The campaign features real people telling their personal stories about the positive impact Leeds Libraries has had on their lives.  Lamppost banners, a billboard, press and TV coverage, a website, blog posts and print flyers all accompanied a comprehensive social media campaign.


With inspiring content featuring real-life case-studies, #whatsyourstory brought Leeds Libraries to the attention of new demographic groups of the Leeds population.  The careful strategic planning of the social media content also resulted in the campaign gaining exposure regionally, nationally and internationally.  Online engagement rose dramatically on Facebook, Twitter and the Leeds Reads blog. 

Phase One of the campaign featured Wanye’s and Ma’s stories.  Phase Two of the campaign launched in early 2016 with two new case studies from Jean and Bill:  

Case study 3:  Bill Hyland

Collateral copy: 72-year-old Bill Hyland, from Oakwood, invented his 4-in-1 de-burring tool for plastic pipes way back in 1976, but didn’t have the time or resources to put it into production. So, after he retired, he went to an exhibition at the Central Library. The team were able to offer him expert advice and support, including putting him in touch with Leeds Business & IP Centre. Six years on, Bill’s device, the Burrfect, is on the market and selling well. Proof that you’re never too old to start something new.

Case study 4:  Jean Murgatroyd

Collateral copy: Grandmother Jean Murgatroyd, from Armley, wanted to expand her social circle.  So, she joined the ‘knit-and-natter’ group that meets at her local library. Every week, Jean and her friends spend a happy afternoon knitting, chatting and relaxing over a cup of tea and biscuit (or two). Although Jean admits she gets her stitches back-to-front sometimes, it’s a highlight of her week – and she’s always got a homemade gift for her beloved grandchildren. Definitely something worth shouting about.

You couldn’t move in Leeds without seeing something relating to #whatsyourstory – it was incredible!  

Performance indicators

Phase One of the #whatsyourstory campaign generated articles in the Yorkshire Evening Post, a broadcast feature on Made in Leeds TV and many more articles in local publications.  The potential audience reach of these media outlets is over two million people:

In addition to reaching new audiences, we wanted the social media element of the campaign to promote engagement and interaction.  Throughout the four weeks of the campaign launch we had 213 Twitter interactions for #whatsyourstory content and 152 interactions on Facebook.  One of the most popular tweets was a photo of Ma’s billboard, which was erected on a popular commuter route between Leeds and Bradford.  

The campaign received great support on social media from Leeds residents, businesses and organisations as well as other Leeds City Council departments and staff.  The impact of #whatsyourstory reached far beyond Leeds, with positive interactions from Australia, Canada and the USA! Our social media engagements increased throughout the campaign and as a result we gained more followers and raised our social media profile.  Wayne and Ma’s stories were posted on our Leeds Reads blog and were by far the most popular posts of 2015, gaining 120 shares on social media.

We are using the responses that the campaign generates to find new case studies and engage with new audiences. 

Detailed analysis of the first phase of #whatsyourstory included the impact it had on social media.  We got great buy-in and support from Leeds library staff as well as key engagements with influencers for the library sector nationally and internationally.   

Costs and savings

A budget of £10,000 was allocated to the campaign.  Leeds Library and Information Service worked with a private marketing company to agree the concept, initial project plan and campaign launch.  The fact that the campaign was co-delivered by local people meant that the campaign was sustainable beyond this first phase.  Engaging local people in storytelling has not only helped to increase outreach with a very limited budget but improved the connectivity and wellbeing of service users as the testimonials show.

© Leeds City Council

Lessons learnt

We decided that the best way to promote our services would be to have real people advocating on our behalf.  Their stories have generated a real buzz around the campaign and have really helped to raise the profile of Leeds Libraries within the city and beyond.  As the campaign is all about local stories from real-life people it has a longer shelf life.  We plan to continue with the campaign over the coming months, collecting more case studies and sharing more positive experiences from people that have used and benefitted from Leeds Library and Information Service.

About this case study
Main Contact

Jason Tutin
Digital and Learning Development Manager
Leeds Library and Information Service
Leeds City Council
Tel: 0113 39 52357

This case study was
written by Jason Tutin
in July 2016.

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