The Horniman holds family-friendly PR events to attact journalists

Attracting journalists to your museum

Alison McKay, 15.06.2018
An alternative to press views
Like every other venue on a limited PR budget, the Horniman Museum and Gardens in south London relies on editorial media coverage to promote events, especially our annual family blockbuster exhibition.

Unlike most of our exhibitions, we charge entry to these, which forms a key part of our income generation so we need them to be popular and well-visited.

But the Horniman is in a funny place. We are in the borough of Forest Hill, which is undeniably London but is far enough away from the centre to have a great view of the city from our gardens. This means that there aren’t many journalists on our doorstep during working hours.

So how do we entice our friends in the press – people with busy lives and often families – to leave their desks and make a foray to Forest Hill to see our new exhibition?

Since a traditional one-off press launch doesn’t always work, we take a different approach.

We now offer exclusive media views before opening hours every weekday during the opening week of the exhibition, and we invite our guests to bring their children along with them.

The annual family exhibition always opens at the start of February half-term week, so we capitalise on journalists who are taking annual leave to spend time with their children, as well as freelancers and bloggers who need to fit childcare around their work.

By offering more flexibility, free entry for the whole family and that all important “something to do with the kids during half term”, our press launches benefit the journalist and their family as well as the Horniman.

By getting to know our target journalists and understanding what works for them, we now secure more press attendance during our opening week, and more exposure as a result. And we’ve had some lovely reviews, even written by our younger visitors on occasion.

It’s really no more than an extension of the Horniman’s family-friendly approach to programming and front-of-house, but carrying this through into how we work with the media has business benefits.

And it doesn’t stop at media-facing events.

We held a family-friendly “Instameet” for digital colleagues for our current annual family exhibition (Colour: The Rainbow Revealed, until 28 October), and children were also welcome at a breakfast view of our tropical indoor garden Butterfly House for communications professionals from other museums.

Alison McKay is the PR and media officer at Horniman Museum and Gardens

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