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Guide to “Traditional” Museum Marketing and PR

Marketing is a wide umbrella. With social media channels, email blasts, web analytics, websites and SEO, it’s easy to think that’s all there is to the marketing game. However, it’s important to remember the importance of print marketing and PR. An enticing brochure or exhibition postcard is a great way concretely remind visitors to check out your museum and collection offerings. It may seem that print is declining and going out of fashion, which is slightly true, but that’s not because it’s ineffective, it’s because there are SO many choices when it comes to marketing that organisations are becoming more picky and where and how they spend their budget.

Part 1. PRINT

The importance of PRINT

Print is very much still alive in the tourism industry. People love to pick up leaflets, brochures, postcards, etc… There is something appealing about the tangible nature of these advertisements and nuggets of information. People like to have something physical in their hand that entices them to visit your institution. In the era of fake news and internet click-bait, print is trustworthy, relied upon, and still viewed as one of the most authentic sources of information. 

The longevity of print is also something to consider. Whilst all internet ads have a start and end date (with a certain £££ attached), print ads can have a very long life depending on the hands that they end up in. A magazine with your ad in it can live on at the dentist for months, even years on end and can be seen by lots of people in the area. 

Another advantage of traditional marketing methods like print and radio is that it’s easy to reach local audiences. If you are in the market to connect with you immediate community, it may be worth trying a few of these methods to engage the local population and drive interest in engaging and visiting your museum. 

Older generations also tend to gravitate towards print rather than digital. If your organisation is trying to target older generations, then considering investing time and energy in print marketing. The trust in print rather than digital is strong here. People are more likely to take advice from someone that they understand and trust (print) rather than the new kid on the block, which is how some digital advertisements can come across to older generations. 

What you should PRINT

Now that we know the value of incorporating traditional print marketing strategies into your overall budget and plan, let’s talk about what some of the most effective print pieces for your organisation might be. 

If your organisation only prints one thing all year – let it be this. Don’t skimp on this piece and make sure that the look is consistent with your brand, mission and values. There are lots of options here (which we’ve outlined to the right) including: single fold, roll fold, Z-fold, gate fold and cross fold. Map out the content first and have a think about what your organisation needs to convey to your audience. Do you have really stunning imagery? Then perhaps a dramatic gate fold would work. Do you want to include a calendar of events of map of the grounds? Then think about a cross fold with lots of room for your information. 

The brochure is the holy grail of print advertising for all organisations, and it’s especially important for organisations that have lots of different facets and programmes occurring. Make sure that this piece at least mentions any and all:

  • Events
  • Exhibitions
  • Programmes
  • Org updates
  • Contact info

Seasonal flyers
These can either include autumn/spring programming or perhaps the exhibitions that are upcoming. We recommend breaking your year-long calendar down into four quarters and then advertising either quarterly or twice annually with this specific piece. Many people will only know their schedule a few weeks in advance and won’t be able to plan too far out if you advertise dates that are too far in the future. 

If your organisation has a front desk or a box office, be sure to place these flyers here. Distribute them in your local area as well and share with partner/friendly organisations that you have a reciprocal display agreement with. Taking a walk about town and identifying the local coffee shops, community hubs and hotels that display these types of materials is also worthwhile. Developing a good relationship with those local business owners might even encourage them to promote your organisation to their customers which can only result in positive publicity!

There is a world of choice available for flyers. You may think, how hard can it be to make up a simple 1-sheet? Well, first you’ve got to decide on the size of your print piece. 

Once again, take a good look at the text and images you would like to use in your flyer and consider how that will translate to the print piece you are hoping to produce. Make sure that the size of the flyer is big enough to convey all of the information that you want to get across to your audience. Also consider the portability of your flyer. If it’s too big, it’s bound to be folded or crumpled up which would be a shame after all the thoughtfulness put into the design and print. If you are going to be mailing these flyers, think of mailing costs as well. There is often a significant upcharge for oddly shaped letters and packages.

Business cards
Believe it or not, business cards still matter. No matter how slick your LinkedIn profile is, staff members in your organisation still need to have a physical card to hand to new contacts and potential clients. These cards should match your organisation’s overall branding with the corresponding fonts and colours. It’s okay to get a little creative with the business cards as it’s a great opportunity to stand a cut above the rest. Think different shapes, varying thickness, colours, paper materials… The paper world is your oyster. Just be sure that it’s easy to read and stands out.

Picture this… You’ve just had a super productive meeting with a potential funder and you can’t wait to give them some of your brand-new marketing materials. You reach into your bag for the big reveal and pull out, a plain white folder… If you have amazing colourful marketing materials, presenting them in a branded folder can make all the difference. We would suggest ordering branded folders if your organisation has lots of networking opportunities, media requests, funder meetings etc… If this isn’t something you think your organisation will use, then focus on another print marketing piece. 

Letterhead / envelopes / note cards
Every piece of paper that comes from your organisation is a chance for some subtle marketing. Watermark stationery with your logo and slight hints of your brand colours. Do the same for envelopes and even note cards if your organisation sends a lot of letters and notes. Getting a thank you card as a donor is always nice, but imagine that extra bit of impact it will have when the note that they get it beautifully branded with your logo and brand materials. 

Part 2. PR

The importance of PR to Museums

Believe it or not, Marketing and Public Relations are two different things… They may have similarities, but at their core, they serve different functions, have separate audiences and individual metrics. 

PR or Public Relations exists to build favourable relationships with various stakeholders and audiences internally and externally. This differs from marketing or advertising as PR is at it’s core about relationship-building and developing an overall positive and effective public persona. Anyone who supports the organisation’s objectives (suppliers, visitors, partners in the sector, staff members, competitors etc…) is the audience for public relations strategies. It underpins all of your other marketing, advertising and fundraising efforts. By currying favour with your audiences and stakeholders, you are building a solid foundation for future museum visits, financial support, partnerships building, programme funding etc…

How you should implement PR

Any public relations strategy needs to align and reinforce organisational objectives. Is your org striving to become a top authority within the arts and health sector? Perhaps getting an article or case study published about one of your programs in a reputable sector journal would help raise your profile and further that goal. 

Let’s break it down into a few simple steps

  1. GOAL – Define what you are trying to accomplish with public relations.
  2. ALIGN – Check that your goal aligns with organisational values and strategy.
  3. ACTION – Which action are you going to take to make that happen?
  4. OUTCOME – Set an attainable goal – what would be your ideal outcome? 

Now, for example, let’s refer to that fictional maritime museum in Kent. As a small museum, they are aiming to improve their reputation locally and within the sector….

  1. GOAL – To raise the profile and public reputation locally and within the UK museum sector, specifically maritime museums. 
  2. ALIGN – This aligns with the organisational strategy to develop and maintain a positive and respected presence within the sector. It also helps to further the organisational goal of broadening audiences. 
  3. ACTION – The museum will seek out a partnership with Historic Dockyard Chatham to associate themselves with a respected sector authority and increase audience awareness in their relevant local area (Kent)
  4. OUTCOME – Desirable outcomes for this strategy would be a more established and accredited reputation as a figure on maritime history and collections in Kent, reaching new local audiences, and forging a partnership that will ideally last beyond this individual PR strategy. 

If you follow these basic steps, you can develop PR strategies that closely align with your organisational goals and are targeted in their approach. 

In true MuseumNext style, we will share some helpful and creative PR strategies. Remember not to go in blindly with these techniques. Make sure that they are relevant to your goals and tailored to your organisation. 

  1. Be the authority – Show the public that you are an authority figure within your sector. This can be done by producing impactful research, partnering with an even more respected/accredited organisation in the sector, collecting and showcasing endorsements from experts in your specific field. 
  2. Speak up – Take every chance you can get to have your organisation speak in a public forum on topics that you specialise in. This can include speaking at conferences, symposiums, community days/meetings and lecturing at schools. 
  3. Network – If you are going to a business function as a representative of your organisation, you are essentially representing the entire organisation to the public. Make sure to put on a good face as this can contribute to positive public relations. Seek out media contacts, funders, and staff members that are part of organisations that you’d like to worth with in the future. Top tip – bring business cards and have them at the ready!
  4. Host – Why wait to be invited to events to network and build favourable PR? Consider hosting your own organisational events whether they be media previews or industry nights. These exclusive events highlight the fact that you care about your public persona and relationships with external stakeholders and will go the extra mile in creating a favourable reputation. 
  5. Blog, blog, blog – We’ve spoken at length about the positive aspects of blogging, but a HUGE one is the potential to act as an amazing public relations tool. By creating an authentic and curated story that’s being presented to the public, you are controlling your own story and showing the media what you’re most proud of in your organisation. Always be sure to include a press contact at the bottom of all blog posts so that the media can get in touch with any follow-up questions. 
  6. Contribute – Why limit yourself to your own publications? Actively seek out opportunities to write on subjects that your organisation specialises in for a wider audience. Is there a column opportunity at the local newspaper? What about a contributing blogger opportunity for a networks hub? Keep your ear to the ground so to speak for these opportunities that will allow your organisation to appear as current and conversational. 

This article has illuminated the positive aspects of more ‘traditional’ marketing methods and has demonstrated that there is still definitely a place for them in today’s digitally-focussed world. Even though this is a course on digital marketing and we are targeting that quite heavily, don’t be fooled into thinking that print and PR don’t matter… They DO! 

Use the techniques that we introduced in this article to raise the profile of your organisation and help build a solid foundation upon which your marketing strategies will rest. It’s important to do that basework to allow for a comprehensive marketing plan that is well-rounded and includes both print and digital components. 

MuseumNext offer online learning for museum professionals striving for engaging, relevant and flexible professional growth content. Learn more about our virtual museum conferences here.

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