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

Free marketing training resources

Whilst I know that a lot of people are currently firefighting, adapting plans, feeling overwhelmed and anxious due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve also heard from some people who are planning to invest some time in their CPD over the coming weeks. This goes for both staff at cultural organisations and other freelancers and consultants whose work has been reduced or postponed.

If this is you and you’re interested in exploring or upskilling a bit in marketing, here are some suggestions of free sources of marketing training you might want to look at, split into five categories. Hopefully there’s something in here for everyone:

  • Courses and webinars
  • Blogs and inspiration
  • Podcasts
  • Communities
  • Books and eBooks.

1. Courses and webinars

The Arts Marketing Association

The AMA has made some of its upcoming webinars free of charge to members and non-members. Topics include Creating a marketing plan, Connecting with your audience in tough times and Social media analytics.

The Audience Agency is also running some free webinars on core digital skills such as Google Analytics, Facebook advertising and Online community participation.

If you want some structured learning, perhaps some kind of certification and have a bit more time to commit, then these two are great free options:

Google Digital Garage: Free online courses in digital marketing

The Digital Garage cover topics like Fundamentals in digital marketing, Make sure customers find you online, Understand customers’ needs and online behaviours, plus courses on Google Ads. The majority are 1-10 hours in length, apart from Fundamentals in digital marketing, which is 40 hours and gives you the option of an exam and certification.

Future Learn: Free online courses on a range of marketing topics

Future Learn currently lists 86 courses under ‘marketing’ from a range of universities. For example, Create a social media marketing campaign, Marketing analytics, the Secret power of brands. Generally, they require a handful of hours per week for a few weeks. Some are open for intake now, some you can sign-up to be notified when they open. They are free, but a few charge you to upgrade to get life-time access to the materials and a Certificate of Achievement.

2. Blogs and inspiration

The Arts Marketing Association’s Culture Hive provides content from the arts marketing community so you can learn from your peers, including case studies and how to guides.

Museum Next has a load of great articles on all things marketing and museums, with inspiration from across the world.

Empower Marketing is a lovely London-based digital marketing agency that run campaigns for purpose-led organisations. I find their blog and regular newsletter full of useful tips and case studies that have transferable lessons for cultural organisations.

Copywriter Tom Albrighton provides practical, timely and well-written LinkedIn posts about all things copy, words, brands and campaigns.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Exchange is a collection of blogs, quick reads and opinions from the UK’s professional marketing body.

3. Podcasts

I love podcasts and find them great company and an injection of sneaky learning and keeping up-to-date whilst I’m multitasking (running, housework, on school run etc). I’m preparing another blog just on podcasts (and I’m still roadtesting a whole load of marketing ones out there), but in the meantime, here are a couple:

Marketing Week

This podcast covers a range of topics from campaigns, interviews with key industry speakers and how to guides. Generally covers the big, well-known brands and therefore budgets, but still useful to keep up-to-date about marketing trends.

The CIM Podcast

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s offering is a fortnightly podcast with news and views from across the marketing industry. Again, there’s a tendency to focus on bigger organisations and brands but there are still useful takeaways.

The Marketing Meetup

These podcasts tend to be recorded at the Marketing Meetups’ meetings which are dotted around the country. I’ve been to a few in Norwich and it’s a great community with two speakers generously sharing insights every fortnight. A lot of these are aimed at existing marketers and tend to cover specific areas for each 20-minute speaker. For example, The gamification of content, Visual storytelling, Unlocking the potential of AI.

The Media Show

Whilst this BBC Radio 4 offering isn’t all about marketing, I love it and find it really useful on the big topics, with great guests and great probing and fast-paced questioning. Topics include all trends and current stories in the world of media including PR, podcasts, social media, fake news and investigative reporting.

4. Communities

Marketing Meetup normally runs fortnightly events in-person across the country but have now taken their events online, so are now offering webinars, workshops and conversations clubs.

There’s Museum Social Media Managers, a Facebook group which brings together people working with social media for museums – it’s a handy place to pick up tips from others and ask questions, especially on some of the nitty gritty of social media operations. For example recent questions include ‘I am looking for examples of art activities done via livestream’ and ‘Does anyone know how to do voiceovers on a video?’

And there’s also a Facebook group on social media across any sector – The Social Media Geekout group.

And the Arts Marketing Association has created a Coronavirus support group on Facebook for people interested in or responsible for marketing – you don’t have to be a member to join.

There is also the Museum Marketing group and the Arts Marketing Network group on LinkedIn but neither have very good engagement or discussions; they’re mainly a stream of shared blogs, news and videos.

5. Books and eBooks

There are so many marketing books out there and many feel out-of-date quite quickly to be honest. But one is worth a mention as it covers marketing strategy specifically for the museums sector:

Kotler, N. G., Kotler, P. & Kotler, W. I. (2008) Museum Marketing & Strategy. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Philip Kotler has been a key marketing writer and thinker for decades – I had to read a raft of his marketing books at university and this one’s definitely got that meaty and theoretical textbook vibe. Its approaches and models are still relevant, even though it’s a few years old now (and you can get second-hand copies from Amazon and other retailers). In some ways it’s more geared towards larger museums, but many lessons are transferable and if you want something substantial, this is the one!

Digital tourism agency The Tourism Marketing Agency has created an extensive (400 page!) eBook for free: How to turn your online bookers into lookers. It’s aimed at the tours and activities but with lots of more broadly applicable advice. And also they’ve launched a new eBook: Coronavirus battle plan: Marketing through the crisis.

Web design Agency Rubber Cheese has developed this free Book on Doubling Your Visitor Numbers which you can download from their website.

And Museum Next founder Jim Richardson and consultant Jasper Visser created and shared this Digital engagement framework for culture, heritage and arts organisations.

As I’m often asked about the difference between audience development and arts marketing, here’s a handy exploration of the two terms in an article from Ivan Wadeson, from a talk he gave at an Arts Marketing Association conference a few years back ‘Audience Development: Unpacking the Baggage’.

And finally

I hope that’s a useful roundup. If you have any other recommendations for free marketing learning I should add, please let me know.

Before lockdown I wrote a blog with 15 marketing tips for small and medium-sized museums during the Covid-19 outbreak you might also find useful.

I’m rolling out lots of new marketing, communications and audience development content on this blog in coming weeks so please do check back for more, and let me know if there’s any particular subject you’d like me to cover.

[Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash].