Communication as we open up [Part 2]

This post sets out practical ideas and inspiration from around the world on communications as museums and galleries re-open following the Covid-19 lockdown. It follows Part 1 which set out strategic questions and tips about communications that organisations can consider when re-opening.

Tailor your comms to your organisation

  • Your reassuring information and safety messages don’t have to be dry and generic – link them to your collections and tailor them to your organisation if you can.

I love:

Really make the most of your website

  • Signpost all your marketing to a focal point on your website (ideally a short and clear url) which you can easily update regularly.
  • Date your information page so visitors instantly know if it’s current.
  • Use FAQs as a way of clearly breaking down key information for visitors so they can easily find answers to their questions – consider asking your audiences via social media channels what questions they have ahead of a potential visit, and answer them. Creswell Crags have a great set of clear FAQs for potential visitors.

Chester Zoo has a clear homepage that signposts you to their re-opening video, very comprehensive FAQs, and their booking page.

Consider the images you portray

  • Audit your marketing images and take down any showing busy groups and crowds which will not represent the visitor experience going forward, and put people off.
  • If you’re requiring or advising visitors to wear a face covering when they visit, include some photos of visitors wearing them in your marketing. This will act as a visual prompt, reinforce the message, and help normalise it. The Cromwell Museum has recently announced they request visitors wear face coverings with a photo of a statue of Cromwell wearing one.
  • Involve and show your team in your communications as this is reassuring and shows your whole organisation being on board. I love how this re-opening video from Historic Royal Palaces involves so many different team members.

Don’t forget the importance of internal comms

  • It might sound obvious but make sure staff, volunteers and trustees are kept up-to-date with and are involved in re-opening plans and policies.
  • Prepare answers to FAQs that staff/volunteers may face from visitors and brief them. For example. why do visitors have to pay the same as before when some of the galleries/interactives/experiences aren’t open? Why do visitors have to wear a face covering in the museum shop but not the museum as a whole?
  • Encourage anyone who’s front of house and in visitor-facing roles to feed back on visitor experiences, whether through anecdotal feedback, observational or more formalised surveys. And back office staff – including those with responsibility for communications – should be encouraged to spend time on the “shop floor” to get a better understanding of what it’s like and how the experience can be improved.

Make the most of stakeholder comms

  • Invite local media to visit and walk through what a visitor experience will be like.
  • Partner up with other local attractions and support each other, cross-promote visitors and encourage visits to your locality.

Word of mouth

  • Encourage early visitors who have a positive experience to spread the word, whether it’s to their friends and families or on TripAdvisor.
  • Listen to and be responsive to feedback (whether directly to you or on TripAdvisor or Google Reviews).

A big mismatch in your messaging and visitors’ reviews will have a detrimental impact on trust and future visits (see for example some very mixed TripAdvisor reviews since re-opening for LegoLand Windsor).

Make the most of the We’re Good to Go mark

  • Apply for and use the We’re Good to Go mark in your promotion. I’ve seen lots of organisations already proudly sharing the mark e.g. the National Holocaust Memorial Centre and Museum on its Facebook page, and Woodbridge Tide Mill Museum on its home page.
  • Contact Visit Britain for PR opportunities (page 21), who are interested in hearing:
    • Stories of people or tourism businesses that are adapting and / or innovating as they prepare to re-open
    • Day trip content ideas an hour or less from a major city, town or location
    • And news and major upcoming events.

I’d love to discover more great examples of museums and cultural organisations’ re-opening communication, so do share if you know of any gems.

Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

Communication as we open up [Part 1]

As museums start to re-open their doors to visitors following the Covid-19 lockdown, marketing and communications will play a crucial role in informing, reassuring and engaging audiences.

It’s not business as usual and we can’t expect audiences to come flocking back simply because we’re open again, much like the “build it and they will come” mantra was always disingenuous.

Audiences’ experiences of the lockdown and pandemic have varied enormously, and the same goes for their confidence, willingness and ability to visit in the coming weeks and months.

This blog sets out questions and tips about communications that museums can consider when re-opening, and Part 2 includes some ideas and inspiration from museums across the world that have already re-opened.

Context

ALVA (The Association for Leading Visitor Attractions) has commissioned visitor sentiment research tracking how the public feels about returning to visitor attractions over the past months. ALVA has generously made this available to all free of charge, and it’s a really useful place to start.

Key findings (from Wave 4, conducted 8-11 July 2020) that impact on communications include:

  • there is growing confidence in visiting attractions although half the market remains cautious about visiting
  • younger people are more likely to be the earliest returners, with those from older age groups less confident about a quick return – especially to indoor attractions
  • visit confidence among those with children is now higher than average for every attraction type and growing
  • the main barrier to visiting is still around social distancing (especially about fellow visitors), although this has softened slightly following the social distancing guidelines’ reduction from 2m to 1m+
  • anxiety around using all forms of public transport to travel to attractions remains high
  • attractions located in tourism hotspots need to keep local residents onside as they seek to attract summer tourists (many local residents would rather tourists stay away)
  • the ‘We’re Good to Go’ mark has built some strong awareness already and is likely to have a major positive impact on visit confidence
  • there is a demand for attractions’ facilities but also high anxiety around using them, especially toilets, indoor catering and interactives
  • there is increasing support for the compulsory wearing of face masks/coverings for visitors to make them feel more comfortable about a visit.

Questions to consider when planning your re-opening communications

  1. Can any elements of your existing communications plans be resuscitated, or do you need to develop something from scratch?
  2. Which audiences are you now targeting? Which of your previous target audience groups are likely to return in the short-term? Are there any new audiences you could reach out to and engage?
  3. How will you reach these audiences? What channels will you use?
  4. What are these audiences looking for? What concerns do they have? What information do they need? What do you need to communicate to them?
  5. What will you spend your marketing and communications budget on?
  6. How will you evaluate what you do?
  7. How can you maintain an agile approach to your communications? (You may need to quickly adjust what you do as government guidelines change or in the event of a localised lockdown).

Top tips for re-opening communications

  1. Communicate as a human, show empathy and build trust – this is more important than glossy and expensive efforts.
  2. Provide reassurance and build confidence about visiting.
  3. Be mindful of the public mood and sensitive to different personal experiences of the pandemic.
  4. Manage audiences’ expectations, be honest and upfront.
  5. Be clear and succinct in your guidelines and advice.
  6. Remain true to your organisation’s vision, values and personality.
  7. Provide a warm and heartfelt welcome.
  8. Don’t do a heavy sell. The National Gallery’s line “The Nation’s Gallery, open and ready when you are” is simple and feels right.

Read Part 2 for some practical tips, inspiration and examples from around the world.

Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash