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Where and how to market

Overview

There are a number of different ways (or channels) through which to get your marketing and promotion out there. Here we’ll give an overview of the main channels and hints and tips on using each.

If you're just starting out on marketing and need a little more information, read our 'Marketing planning - where to start' page.

How to choose what to use

Your choice of how to best market will be based on the visitor/audience you’re trying to attract (see our ‘who’s your audience’ page). Thinking of each segment of your audience, put yourself in their shoes or speak to someone you know who would fit into this segment – how would you speak to them and what would be the best way to reach them?

Focus on both WHAT you want to say and HOW you want to say it. Your messages should be consistent, but different audiences need slightly tailored marketing approaches.

Marketing channels

Advertising

Advertising can be expensive. It’s not as trusted as a softer PR approach. A few key points to remember:

  • Are you advertising in the right place? Does their audience match yours?
  • DO NOT be swayed by ‘last minute deals’ offering cheaper advertising space – if your audience don’t read it, don’t advertise
  • Make sure you’re in free listings before even considering advertising
  • Measure effectiveness – by asking where your visitors heard about you
  • Tailor your ads to your audience – are you using the right tone of voice?
  • Make sure your advert is eye-catching and stands out on the page.
  • Include a call to action – tell people what to do and how to go about it.

Email and e-marketing

This is sending information to your audience via email. However, often people’s email boxes are over full and emails go ignored or are treated as spam. Remember:

  • It’s a low cost option and instant, but takes time to do effectively.
  • Use an email management tool such as MailChimp to track opens, reads, click throughs etc all of which will track effectiveness
  • Target with relevant information – not everything
  • Make sure you make it clear why someone is receiving the email (‘you’re receiving this as you indicated you were interested in news about xxx museum’) and include an unsubscribe option. Management tools will do this for you.
  • Make sure the subject line is interesting and reflects what’s in the email
  • Include any ‘calls to action’ (things you would like the reader to do) prominently – as a colourful button or text – as many will ‘skim read’ emails
  • Make sure that any information or mailing lists you are keeping comply with the GDPR guidelines (find information on the Information Commissioner's Office website)

Leaflets and flyers

Often the tried and tested way of promotion, it’s important to ensure this is the right method for you and that you’re using the print most effectively. A few tips are:

  • Have your flyers professionally designed, printed and distributed if at all possible – there are few things more off-putting to visitors than badly designed print.
  • Don’t overload with text. Choose your words carefully to make the most impact. People like to skim read and get to the point quickly.
  • Use professional looking, eye catching, images
  • Use the right typeface – keep it clear and clean and large enough to read (minimum 11pt)
  • Use strong headlines to draw the reader in and break up the information into readable ‘chunks’
  • Proofread – make sure there are no spelling mistakes or words missing
  • Make sure it will stand out (and stand up!) when in a leaflet rack

 Public relations and media

Public relations (PR) is implicitly trusted more than advertising. It’s worth getting to know your local journalists and keeping in touch with them as well as keeping a note of what it is they are interested in. In addition, here are a few more hints on effective PR:

  • Press releases should be positive and simple – be brief and to the point and ensure what you are saying is newsworthy. You can use our ‘press release template’ to help
  • Keep a record of the deadlines of the media you are in touch with – especially the ‘longer lead’ publications like monthlies or quarterlies
  • Including quotes is great, but ensure they aren’t too long
  • Try to avoid acronyms or technical terminology
  • Never call a press conference! They’re generally reserved for presidents and prime ministers!
  • Don’t announce anything until you are 100% sure it’s going ahead
  • Don’t phone to check they have received the release or are going to use it – this is a journalists’ pet hate and wastes their time. If you need to know they’ve received an email, include a ‘read receipt’ before sending it out.
  • Send an eye-catching picture with your story – if the publication doesn’t have room for a full release they’ll often publish a photo caption instead

Social media

Social media is increasingly important and effective in reaching people. It reaches a hugely broad audience, is free (although takes a bit of time investment) and your audiences are generally already ‘engaged’ (ie. They either already follow you or businesses like yours). There are a few things worth remembering:

  • Set clear guidelines for the use of social media by staff. This helps to communicate key messages, share responsibility for communicating and set parameters to prevent misuse.
  • Don’t be everywhere – pick a medium or two and do them well.
  • Social media is a conversation – make sure you engage in them. This goes for review sites as well – a bad review on Tripadvisor should be treated proactively and positively
  • Keep personal feelings or views away from your corporate social media, and ensure you carry a disclaimer on your personal social media accounts if they are linked
  • Social media allows you to be a little less formal in your tone, but always remember who you are representing
  • Never post angry
  • Use your followers and friends as just that – can they offer you ideas, information or even photos or reviews of your museum? This will all go to promoting your museum online.
  • To simplify keeping track of your social media accounts, use a management tool such as Buffer, Hootsuite or similar

Website

Your website should be a reflection of your brand and look and feel like it belongs to the museum. It can be somewhere that you drive all your other marketing towards – giving the detailed information on programmes, events and exhibitions that you’re not able to provide elsewhere. There are a few hints on ensuring your website is effective and visible that can help:

  • Most importantly, your website should carry details of your address, directions, opening hours, picture of the front of your museum etc.
  • Ensure the information on your website is kept up to date at all times – your opening hours, entry prices (if relevant) and details of facilities will be what your visitors expect when they arrive
  • Likewise – it’s offputting to go on a website where all the event information is out of date or there have been no recent updates. Ensure you keep up activity
  • Try to mention your museum at least once a page, and preferably anything else you feel people might search for when looking for the museum. This will ensure it stays high in the rankings on search engines such as Google.
  • Think about what visitors want to hear rather than what you want to tell them. Will they want to read a page on the history of your museum or simply find what events/exhibitions are on?

Learn more

MGS has run webinars on PR and regional marketing as part of our #FoMwebinars Festival of Museums programme - they are both available to watch on Vimeo, along with those on event planning, income generation and evaluation.

The MGS blog also carries a number of articles on marketing, fundraising and related topics. 

Culture Hive, from the Arts Marketing Association, contains articles and other learning resources on a huge variety of topics around marketing and promotion.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing's (CIM) Linked In keeps you up to date with the latest news about marketing and promotion.

The Association of Independent Museums (AIM) also have resources on social media, visitor experience, fundraising and others.

Culture Republic is the audience development agency for Scotland. They have a range of tools, downloads and advice across all aspects of marketing and audience. 

We have also attached the Festival of Museums PR toolkit to this page. Although provided specifically for the Festival, it includes some comprehensive advice about promoting an event, a template press release and information on using social media. See the end of the page to download.