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Marketing Ideas for Small Museums

You may have the greatest exhibit, program, or special event in the tri-county area. But what good is it if no one knows about it?

Here are some ideas to help spread the word about the latest and greatest thing going on at your museum!

1. Have some free events. At my museum, when an exhibit is finished we have a free exhibit opening. We usually spend less than $150 on refreshments, and the openings are ALWAYS free. The object is to get as many people to come, so they can go out into the community and talk up your exhibit. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. The friends you gain from doing things free is almost always worth it in the long run.

2. Find a cheap place to print postcards, flyers, and posters. I use an internet company called Jakprints for all of our postcards. They are inexpensive and can print from a PDF file created in any graphic design program. There are lots of options online, and usually they are less expensive than local printers because they work on high volume sales.

3. Partner with a local newspaper or magazine to create a weekly or monthly column written by someone on your staff featuring exhibits, programs, and events at your museum. You can feature a special artifact, ask for help identifying a photograph, or ask for people to loan items for a specific exhibit that is coming up.

4. If you can’t get space to write in your local publications, get to know the reporters who will write about you. Who covers which kind of stories? Is there someone who consistently writes about Art? History? Education? Food? It is important to send the right person your press release, to increase your chances of having it printed. Reporters are very busy people, so you have to make sure you get to the right person and capture their interest right away.

5. START A BLOG! This isn’t just the wave of the future – many museums are already doing it! It is free to set one up, and you can write whatever you want, as often as you like. I use Blogger. It is very easy to learn, and has a huge amount of storage space. Blogs are great to get the word out about events, but also just to let people know what’s going on behind the scenes. You can talk about what staff members are working on, to educate the public about what goes on at your museum on a daily basis. A blog is also great if your museum does not yet have a website. Today, if you don’t have an internet presence, you don’t exist!

6. Many local radio stations do “community spotlight” interviews about local events. See if you can book a slot for that. Does your area have a cable access channel? Colleges with newspapers? Most public libraries will put up posters and flyers for you.

7. Contact your local education service center. They probably have a free courier service that can distribute flyers about your events to every teacher in the county, with approval.

8 Brainstorm about specialized targets for flyers. For example, if you are doing a music exhibit, be sure to send a flyer to every college and high school music department you can think of. Record stores and music stores might also let you put up a poster or a stack of flyers. Local churches, senior centers, and social clubs are always good targets.

9. Take a close look at what makes your museum special and promote the heck out of it! What do you do that no one else does? What are your best artifacts? What talents does your staff have that you can really showcase?

10. Identify your audience. It is very important to know who comes to your museum, and who DOESN’T come. If you know who your visitors are, you can plan projects that will get the most people in the door.

11. Stick with what works! If you have a successful idea, think of a way to capitalize on it! Make it a yearly or monthly event. Plan things in the same format. Concentrate your time and energy on sure-fire winners. Staff and volunteers will go home tired, but happy, after a successful event!

12. Try partnering with local marketing firms. Some have special rates for non-profits, or they might be willing to donate their time. At my museum, we were able to pay for some major TV airtime because a local marketing firm donated their services to us. They used their connections to find funding for us, in addition to the time they spent working on our project for free. It really helped increase our exposure in the community! Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Kim Kenney. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.



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