Now more than ever, it’s easy to get lost in the day to day stresses and lose sight of the future.  Most museums will reopen within the next three months, and the level of success we experience in the first six months after reopening will be fueled by the plans we make now.  I hope everyone is having internal conversations about a ‘relaunch plan’ at your respective museums.  If you are not, find a way to make this happen even if you have to do some of it by zoom call in the short-term.

When we reopen, our audience of potential visitors will be highly motivated to get out and do things after months of sitting at home.  At the same time, these potential visitors will be engulfed in a sea of advertising messages as every type of business aggressively campaigns for their time and dollars.  To break through the advertising overload, you must communicate a message that resonates with potential visitors and creates buzz.

What we will be discussing today is the language you would like to become the predicate of the following sentence, “Let’s go to the XYZ museum, they are doing (blank), and I really want to see it.”  Before anyone visits your museum (or any attraction) they will say, or think, the last sentence.  The predicate of this sentence is driven by your communication efforts.  Let’s dive into how to make this sentence something meaningful and memorable.

  1. The pandemic permits you to ignore the ‘norms’ – The rest of 2020 will be a new and atypical reality. You have the leeway to do things that you typically would not.  Try new programs or exhibits in areas of your building you otherwise wouldn’t.  Do something in your lawn, a lobby, or paint one of your galleries a unique color with a unique theme.  Do something that includes audience voting such as ‘pick ten artifacts we will exhibit this week,’ do an interactive, ongoing art project that each visitor will add too.  What you do is up to you, the important thing is to go into your brainstorms considering things you would not normally do.
  2. Create a Gripping Headline– If your headline does not capture potential visitor’s attention, the rest won’t matter.  It’s not about you; it’s about why the exhibit or project is relevant to the reader.  When you are marketing, talking about exhibitions for their own sake is like talking about the wires and fabric that make a good mattress.  People don’t care about the materials; they are buying the mattress because they want a great night’s sleep*.  Here are a few examples:
    1. “The artist that inspired the design of every toy you owned as a kid.”
    2. “The artist that every modern master considers the best in glass, and what he understood about life that would benefit us all.”
    3. “How Da Vinci’s mind worked and how he stayed amazing productive.”
    4. “If the Capital were built one block south in would now be in the river and then ten other events that created Western Ohio.”
  1. Make it Identifiable – One of the most successful traveling exhibits is Titanic: Artifacts and More largely because it connects to our previous knowledge on the topic.  The same is true regarding exhibits about the moon landing, The Beatles, Kennedy assassination, and many more topics that the majority of the population knows something about.  This is why the movie industry does endless remakes and movies about themes that are in our zeitgeist like Sherlock Holmes and Peter Pan.  Our brains process the world through connections.  Connect your exhibit to something already relevant to your audience, and you will trigger mental associations, and in many cases, bring back emotions they connect with the original material.
  2. Make It Life Changing – Everything we purchase in life is based on a benefit that we receive from the purchase. This is as true for a museum as it is for our car or our house. Most people in your audience care about how attending your museum is going to impact their lives versus other entertainment options.  When discussing the communication strategy for your next exhibit or program, ask yourself, does it inspire, provide hope, motivate, tell a self-actualizing story that promotes personal growth.  Does it create a nostalgia moment or memories that will last a lifetime?  Does it deepen understanding of something important to their lives?  Your audience has to understand and feel the benefit to them if they are going to choose your museum in the sea of entertainment options available to them.
  3. Make the Next Step Easy – Don’t make people search for information. Have a landing page that’s easy to remember and matches your other communications.  Make sure your hours, pricing, and ticketing process is easy to see.  Make your phone number prominent on the page because it reduces anxiety.  If it’s difficult to park at your museum, make that information easy to find.  Also, include some information on the safety steps you are taking regarding COVID.  The inclusion of this information is more important than the specific words.

If you have ever heard me speak, or we have worked together, you know that I say “message before mediums” more than anything else.  If you don’t create a compelling message that matters to your audiences, it does not matter how many times you repeat it or which mediums you use to promote it.  Your mediums are just conveyance tools; the message will win or lose the day.  So often, I get into discussions that start with a question like, ‘what is your experience with Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Email, postcards, etc.’ these questions bury the lead.  Your message is at least 2/3rds of what leads to your result.

In this article, I summarized a number of concepts that deserve a more detailed discussion.  For now, my goal is simply to stimulate discussions so we can all make the most of our relaunches.

If you wish to discuss any of these concepts further, contact me at

*When I present this idea in person, I occasionally have someone say that I’m insulting the artist by saying that the materials don’t matter.  Marketing is about getting people in the door.  Our responsibility is to bring the work of the artists we represent to new audiences so they can build their following.    

Article by Frank Bennett, originally published at

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