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Chains. Photo by Kristian Vinkenes on Flickr.com

by • 29 May, 2011 • Inspiration, PeopleComments (15)7827

Integrated media strategies for museums

One of the recurring themes at the recent MuseumNext conference in Edinburgh was what I call the “holistic” or “integrated media strategy”. Social media or technology is not an isolated department within the whole of the strategy of an institution, but a core function such as communication, education or finance.

This means it’s no longer about having a great Facebook strategy within your team. It’s about having an overall strategy for all media (new and traditional), connected with the activities you do and the expositions you host. A strategy that is interconnected and continuously attracts new visitors, retains the old ones and engages them with what you do.

The museum as a media producer

If you think of media as communication channels (and is there any other way to think about them?), museums are media producers. We’re very much like the BBC, HBO and even Walt Disney, apart from that we’re not into it for the money, but for “the arts”. For-profit museums understand this point very well, presumably.

In my opinion, there’s three levels at which a museum does things: 1) new and traditional media, 2) activities and events with the audience and 3) the physical expositions that you put up in a building. Most of our campaigns are focused at getting people to visit us (3). Not everybody, however, will always be able to visit us. For instance, because the buildings not big enough. New and traditional media (1) as well as activities (2) allow us to reach more people. I use the model below to remind me of this.

Media model museums

This model is all about people moving from one level to another (up and down). It’s in these movements the advantage of an integrated media strategy becomes clearest.

Attracting and retaining (and engaging)

Much like how Tate’s members programme strategy, according to Martin Barden, is basically about attracting new members and retaining the old ones, an integrated media strategy is about reaching new people, keeping the existing visitors and engaging them enough to achieve your goals. An integrated media strategy always works towards a people/visitor centred goal.

Obviously, your strategy shouldn’t be limited to attracting new ones. Making sure someone who came to your exposition (1) starts visiting your website (3) so maybe one day s/he will come back to a debate (2) is just as important. In the model above, it’s not just about the people who move upwards.

Conversion rates

The key statistic in any integrated media strategy is the conversion rate. At MuseumNext Rich Mintz from Blue State Digital referred to this repeatedly. It’s about the people who in the end do what you’d like them to do (In Rich’s case often donate to a cause or subscribe to a newsletter), and the number of people you need to reach in the beginning to achieve that. Conversion rate is the percentage of people who go from one stage to the next in your strategy.

In the “pyramid model” conversion happens at every step up or down in the model. Not all people who read an ad will come to your show. Not all tweeps will attend the meetup. The point of an integrated media strategy is to chose the best possible media and design them so, that you reach your goal. And – a note to the social media people – the strength of an integrated strategy is to consider all options, including the traditional ones.

A newspaper ad will drive very few people to subscribe to a newsletter. A tweet hardly gets people to visit your institution.

Designing a strategy

The image below received a huge “ooooo” at MuseumNext. It’s a example (a tiny example) of how we plan our new media activities at the Museum of National History. It’s therefore only a part of an integrated strategy. Parallel there’s a traditional media model, somebody is organising activities, there’s a team working on expositions, etc. In short: an integrated media strategy is a group effort.

Screenshot of our New media strategy

We design the overall media strategy in regular meeting with all people involved in a project, where we have heated discussions. Not only about the use of Twitter, but about project goals, target audiences and conversion rates. Also, the strategy is under constant revision, as thanks to free publicity (for instance) a lot can change halfway the project.

Conversion rates are a key-determining factor in the design of any strategy. Unfortunately there’s little in general to say about them. Online-offline is tough, photos work well, that sort of guidelines. This is all about experience and feeling for your organisation and its audience. Something MoMA does, can be hard to copy by a local museum, and vice versa.

My advice: report whatever you learn about conversion rates (from your own practice and at conferences) to the management team and other people who are at the table when you design strategies. This will help shape future discussions.

Two examples of integrated media strategies

There are many great examples of successful integrated media strategies from around the world. One that surprised me at MuseumNext was the brilliant design of the strategy behind YouTube Play. Google and ask around and you’ll find many examples. Here, shortly, I’ll explain the rational behind two recent strategies we designed: our exposition 100m2NL and the upcoming National Concert.

100m2NL "Gouden Eeuw"

100m2NL is an exposition in our Zuiderkerk office that shows highlights of Dutch history on 100 square metres. Because the space is limited, we use our INNL website to tell the stories we can’t tell in the exposition. A dedicated website (www.100m2.nl) and a catalogue serve both as marketing tools and as the ‘glue’ between physical exposition and digital content. The thought is to reach people through new and traditional media, get them to visit and follow up on their visit online.

Our communication is focused on free publicity at the launch, limited paid publicity in the physical space and an online campaign that highlights elements of the exposition. Before opening, we started teasing our online following (and people outside of our following if we could) with snapshots of the exposition and directing them to the dedicated website. During the exposition we use both a digital backchannel as our physical guestbook in combination with Google Alerts to find pictures taken at the exposition to follow up on people’s specific interests. “You liked the X, discover more about that topic on our website Y”. This, combined with deeplinks on all our print, convert people back from the expo to our website.

The National Concert is a yearly event where Dutch musicians play music inspired by a historical theme. The event is in a public park – this year in Utrecht – and free to attend. The event pretty well markets itself with help of a press release and some hours of registering it at event websites. However, we’d like to get attendees to visit our website (and other activities) after the concert. To do so, we believe in strongly connecting the event to our online activities prior to the event.

We use a combined approach of directly targeting fan sites, event sites and music sites with relevant content (YouTube videos, Spotify playlists) embedded on our website, and offering the same content in a timely manner to our following online. Most of this content is already available online, so it’s merely a matter of looking for it and sharing it again. Next, at the event, there will be photos and videos made, which will be shared at the same places where we prior to the event advertised the event. Our experience from last year is that these photos and videos have a high conversion rate. Note how we use third party websites (fan sites etc.) as a hub for our own online presence.

Conclusion

It’s easier to advocate integrated media strategies, than to design them. I wrote this post partly to answer to the questions of many people I met recently, and specifically of @BeckieSenior who asked me how she should start such a strategy in her institution. Please remember that I’m available, through the comments or any time you bump into me, to tell you way more about any of the topics addressed in this post.

Header photo by Kristian Vinkenes on Flickr.com

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  • http://twitter.com/Carlotta_Ma carlotta margarone

    Very helpful, thanks Jasper! I’ll share this post with my colleagues :)

  • http://themuseumofthefuture.com Jasper Visser

    Thank you! If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, please ask.

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  • http://mixeum.tumblr.com samuelbausson

    thnanks! great point. integrating offers is now crucial for museums. and tough too if internal operations are not in line…

  • http://twitter.com/BethKocher Beth Kocher Gormley

    Brilliant blog. Mind if I post a part of this blog to our company web page at brando.ie? (Full credits and link to the article obviously to be included.) The agency I work for does fully integrated campaigns (transmedia storytelling) for our corporate clients, but the principles apply across all industries. Amazing the similarities in objectives for social media campaigns between companies and museums- community development, simple sharing, active conversation, opportunity for deeper engagement.Thanks again for your insightful presentation and it was nice to meet you. 

  • http://themuseumofthefuture.com Jasper Visser

    Hi Beth, thank you! As this blog has a CC license, you’re more than welcome to copy/edit/use anything you’d like, as long as you attribute and share alike.

    I always enjoy it when we discover things are quite the same in different sectors. A good reason for us (museum people) to open up to others and not figure out everything by ourselves.

  • http://www.cccb.org/lab/en/ Maria Farràs

    Good summary! I also attended the conference and you are right: one of the main points was about integrated media strategies. We are also applying them in our museum (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona; http://www.cccb.org) because after some practice in social media appeared as an intuition/necessity (for example in a literature festival we organize: http://www.cccb.org/kosmopolis/ca/noticia-kosmopolis_2011_a_les_xarxes-36423) and yes i can confirm: it is hard work and work team. There is only one thing I missed: to use social media and media strategies for something further than communication, or let’s say a more serious engagement with audiences and publics… Maybe next year…

    Congratulations for your talk and your blog!

  • http://themuseumofthefuture.com Jasper Visser

    Thank you Maria, or should I say moltes gràcies :-)

    I certainly heard the relationship between social media and real connections with the audience in numerous projects (such as Brooklyn’s Click!, our National Vending Machine and much of the work Blue State Digital has done), although I believe we’re past the phase where we actually put a name on that changing relationship.

    Great to hear you’re having good experiences with integrated strategies!

  • http://www.cccb.org/lab/en/ Maria Farràs

    Oh sorry, I
    think I might have been misunderstood. I didn’t mean we didn’t hear about real
    connections with audience, we heard several interesting examples (you mention some of them in your post). I just
    meant, that when I hear talking about participation in museums, it always makes me think of bringing the public to the same sphere where we are, and why not, inocorporate them to the working process? It’s just an idea that comes to my mind: taking participation to its maximum expression and breaking the line that separates public from organization (prosumers) in a really horizontal scheme. But of course it is not an easy job.

    Dankzij! ;-)

  • Tim Fulton

    Do you have a higher resolution version of the “designing a strategy” table above? Thanks!

  • http://themuseumofthefuture.com Jasper Visser

    Hi Tim, I wouldn’t feel completely comfortable sharing a readable resolution, because there’s a lot of operational stuff on it. Also, it would be fully in Dutch, so it’s of little use to most people reading this blog. However, I will try to explain how we use charts like this in our media strategy.

    The chart shows all projects we’re doing on the vertical axis. These can be big projects (expositions), or really small ones (digitizing photos for Flickr). Every project is divided in different activities which we do in the campaign. The chart above only applies to the digital media, but these vary from activities such as “Take a picture of visitor feedback and share on Twitter” to “Get local bloggers enthusiastic about the project”.

    On the horizontal axis we have the weeks of the year. Each activity for each project in broken down to weekly actionable points. These vary from “Send three tweets that get feedback” to “Make a list of local bloggers with contact information”.

    By mapping all activities and all projects in one chart, and highlighting important moments in each project with colours, we can quickly see when it will be a busy period. We try to engage with our audience every day, and build towards moments in the year. So, we will grow increasingly noticable and then relax for a while.

    I hope this helps a bit. Any other questions, please ask.

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