01 December 2011 // Thoughts

10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences: Connecting with Your Community

Hello, and welcome to another Blog and Learn.  Today we continue with VP of Marketing and Business Development Shawn McCoy’s 10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences.  It’s been a few weeks since we last met on this topic, so let’s review the first six keys:

  1. Design for the audience (interests, style and experience)
  2. Accommodate various demographics, interests and learning styles
  3. Connect on an emotional level by telling authentic, personal stories
  4. Deliver strong takeaway messages
  5. Make the exhibits flexible and updateable
  6. Provide “only here” experiences

But museums are not just for the out-of-town visitor, right?  Essential to a museum’s success is connecting with the local community.  That’s where you’ll find your repeat guests (and potential donors).  In today’s post, Shawn explains how to build relationships at home and create experiences that will attract the locals and keep them coming back.

7. Connect to local audience first/make it a community resource

A mistake that many nationally focused museums often make is to focus on marketing to a national audience first, and inadvertently ignore their local audience. Nothing will cause the failure of a museum project quicker than your offending your local audience who then will not support the project. Repeat visitation is vital to the long-term sustainability of a museum project. Therefore, your local audience must feel that the museum was built with them in mind. A good way to make your local communities feel part of your project is to inform them about its development from the very beginning through good public relations. This can be achieved through traditional newspapers, public meetings, your website and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also involve them in the design process itself through open community forums; by asking them to loan artifacts and memorabilia; by posting design drawings on your website for review and comment.

Once the exhibit is open, it is important to position the museum as a local resource. You can accomplish this by making free meeting space available for use by local groups; by giving an admission discount to those visitors with a local address; and by providing seminars or speaking engagements aimed toward local audiences.

8. Programs and events

While your new museum will be most known for the quality of your exhibits, especially at first, it is the quality of your ongoing programs and events that will contribute more to your success in the long term. By staging exciting programs on a regular basis, you will be sure to keep your facility fresh, exciting and relevant. Examples could include topical temporary or traveling exhibitions; speaking engagements by content experts or authors; seminars; after hours events, etc.

Thank you, Shawn.  For our final post in the series, we’ll shift to the operations and planning side.  How do you provide customer service that is as dynamite as your new exhibit(s), and what do you want your museum to look like in the years (and decades) to come.  Until then, thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll enjoy a museum experience or two this holiday season.