Corinne Estrada , 17.06.2016
Corinne Estrada shares her top tips on how museums can improve external and internal communications
Corinne Estrada is the founder of Communicating the Museum (CTM) – an international conference for communications professionals working in the arts and museums. 

The topic for this year's edition of CTM is ‘dialogue’ and will be discussed by more than 300 museum professionals at the conference taking place at Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin.

Five top tips: Internal communications

Open your permanent collection – be flexible.  Invite artists and professionals from the creative industries to use your collection for research purposes or marketing campaigns, let fashion brands make consumer goods such as milk bottles or dresses.  Your works of art are icons, masterpieces and are very inspiring. 

They should be present in every household.  Like football, the arts should be part of the daily lives of all families.  For example, the Rijsksmuseum was very successful in running a simple and successful marketing campaign for its reopening in 2013.

Be accessible.  Adopt a friendly tone of voice that is accessible and easy to understand.  The Louvre uses ‘tu’ on its social networks instead of ‘vous’ which is more formal.  Most organisations have several tones of voice: one is usually academic and designed to fit corporate communications or press releases.

This formal tone of voice can sometimes come across as too corporate for the general public.  Another tone of voice which is more friendly and accessible is used for social media and aimed at targeting different, mostly younger audiences.

Work with your fundraising team. They are very creative, business orientated, adept at raising money and have efficient communication tools.  Their mindset is focused on selling techniques. Their stories are business focused and messages are sharp.  Communication helps them to develop the museum’s reputation. They can bring sponsors on board to build advertising campaigns and reach wider audiences.
Reward your team – they need to be at the forefront of your organisation.  Like curators, they are part of the museum’s identity.  They are proud to work for you and should be your ambassadors. 

They generate buzz through their social networks, connect with colleagues via industry events and promote the museum to their friends and family.  They are part of your communication strategy and are therefore essential.  At a museum re-opening or exhibition opening, a dedicated event should be organised specifically for your employees to thank them for their hard work.

Think contemporary.  Adopt a forward thinking attitude in everything you do: the way you dress, the way you work, where and what you eat, what you buy, which car you drive. 

The same applies for a museum, from the shop, to the coffee shop, the building, the staff, the design, the artists involved in the collections, the exhibition programme, audiences and even the toilets, everything should look contemporary. Even historical and archeological museums should adopt the same approach.  The present should always be in a dialogue with the past.

Five top tips: External communications 

 Be relevant with the outside world– Find out what’s relevant to the market, identify a connection between what you are trying to communicate and what’s going on in the world.  At the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, new museum guides from Syrian communities have been appointed and trained to run guided tours in their native language.  This is an example of how to address the issue of immigration. Museums should be a platform for social debates and be open to new audiences.

The hero of communication is the museum, not the exhibition.  Don’t start from scratch each time you launch a new exhibition but capitalize on your existing brand.  For example, the V&A ensures that the corporate logo is always in the center of its exhibition posters. Hide your logo, and ask yourself if your poster or leaflet can be easily recognized without the logo.  In most cases, it can’t be and you should work to change that.

Involve ambassadors: ask writers, football players, musicians or rappers to talk about your permanent collection.  Will.I.AM, the famous American entertainer and creative innovator has recently produced a video with a curator of the Louvre.  This resulted in three million views on YouTube within a week.  This is a great way to reach out to younger audiences who are, in general, less inclined to visit museums.
Go outside: advertise in unexpected places, search for large audiences who aren’t used to visiting your museum.  Collaborate with partners.  Each year, the Louvre creates an exhibition on ‘Paris Plages’, a beach installed on the banks of the Seine to showcase iconic masterpieces from the museum’s collection.

Be digital. We never say it enough. Try to adopt the latest trends in technology. This is the ideal way to stay relevant and connected.  Even if most of your visitors are not active on social media, you should be pioneering the use of these tools because they are designed for teenagers of today who will be the decision makers of tomorrow.  They are curious, engaged, interested in the arts and very connected to the digital universe.  They are our future visitors and donors.

Think global. The world is huge - seven billion people live on this planet.  That’s a huge number of potential visitors for your museum. They won’t all come to your doors but they could visit your website.  There are far more potential visitors for your museum online than for your museum building. Your museum has to be world class and connected to the world.  

Speakers from international museums will be sharing their insights and presenting their communication strategies at CTM Berlin including: Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern, Scott Tennent, director of Advancement Communications at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, Dasha Kotova, head of development and marketing at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, Margot Lopez, communications coordinator at the Biomuseo in Panama and Alex Capriotti, director of marketing and communications at The Broad in Los Angeles.


More information about CTM