Strategies for engagement on a budget


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During the last few years, cultural institutions have been required to do more with less—cutting back seems to be the order of the day. However, there are creative and collaborative strategies that may allow museums to create spaces of inspiration for individuals and communities—while on a budget.

Presented at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM) Annual Meeting, October 2011.

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  • Flickr image by dmkphotography
  • We used the Museum’s blog to announce the upcoming public vote. The blog typically gets 25,000 visits a month.
  • Blog posts about each auto contestantThe content of the initiative was engaging and informative--this wasn't just a marketing gimmick but high-quality history shared openly. We were able to take a relatively shy curator with incredibly deep historical knowledge of automobile innovations and make him a social media darling. His blog posts provided intriguing behind-the-scenes details and brought readers virtually into the vaults.Roger introduced us to eight of the jewels of the Smithsonian car collection, covering 120 years of history and presented in order from the oldest to the newest. At the end of the series, the public vote was opened.
  • Top billing in January enewsletter to existing mailing list (~24,000)
  • Facebook posts helped pique interest in the automobiles prior to the public vote
  • The story was picked up by the Washington Post with a half-page of photos and background about the campaign--an earned media slot that would have cost the Museum over $50,000 if purchased through paid media.
  • We engagedinfluencers on Twitter.Auto bloggers, fan clubs and enthusiasts, and journalists picked up the story.
  • POLL attendees: Which car would you vote for?Vote for your favorite of 8 automotive jewels in the Smithsonian car collection, covering 120 years of history. 
  • And the winner is…Miller race car, 1929 Harry Miller’s eight-cylinder, supercharged, front wheel drive race cars hit the tracks in the late 1920s, and the dozen demons were unlike anything the competition could offer.Tucker sedan, 1948 Today the 46 remaining Tucker sedans, housed in museums and private collections, preserve the legacy of the man who tried to change America’s driving habits. This Tucker was forfeited in a drug arrest.
  • FOX news covered moving day:, AP TV:
  • On "moving day," several news crews covered the event and the Museum used its YouTube channel to bring visitors behind the scenes from storage facility to final display.“These two vehicles are powerful cars from our past that blew everyone away with their looks and performance,” said curator Roger White. “They are not mainstream vehicles, but they represent the diversity of the museum’s automotive collection, which spans many technological and aesthetic highlights.” 
  • The winning cars, a 1929 Miller Race Car and a 1948 Tucker Sedan, went on display for a limited time to drive traffic to the physical Museum during a traditionally low-visitation period. 6.5% increase equals 19,586 more visitors
  • Collect user-contributed photosModeratedSet your own requirements (e.g., must be geotagged)User Flickr API or 3rd party tools (e.g., Google Maps) to display your group
  • HistoryPin Was There
  • Strategies for engagement on a budget

    1. 1. Strategies for Engagement ON A Budget<br />Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums 10/11/2011<br />
    2. 2. Presenter<br />Dana Allen-Greil<br />Chief of Digital Outreach and Engagement<br />National Museum of American History<br />Twitter: @danamuses<br />
    3. 3. Doing more with less<br />Less of what?<br />Money<br />Staff<br />Time<br />GOOD<br />Pick two!<br />Fast<br />Cheap<br />
    4. 4. Key to tech tools<br />Most of these tools are free. A green icon this indicates a cost and/or freemium.<br />The orange icon suggests tech skill required on a scale of 1-10, 1 being least skill.<br />NOTE: These tools are simply those that I have direct experience with. This presentation is NOT an advertisement for any of these products. It is recommend that you review and evaluate tools based on your own organization’s needs and budget.<br />$f<br />2<br />
    5. 5. Viral marketing<br />Race to the museum<br />
    6. 6. The Challenge<br />Increase visitation during typically slow period (January and February)<br />Budget: $0<br />Creativity: 100%<br />
    7. 7. An experiment<br />
    8. 8. “In the National Museum of American History, there is a cabinet full of keys—keys that fit the 73 cars in the automobile collection. Most are sitting under car covers...but now the covers are coming off!”<br />
    9. 9. Blog posts were written about each auto “contestant.”<br />
    10. 10. The contest got top billing in our January enews.<br />
    11. 11. A dozen Facebook posts piqued interest prior to the vote, announced the voting period, and then announced the winners. <br />
    12. 12. We used HootSuite to monitor the use of our hashtag #Race2Museum and other mentions of the initiative on Twitter<br />
    13. 13. HootSuite<br /><br />HootSuite is a Social Media Dashboard for managing Twitter, Facebook, etc.<br />Useful for scheduling posts, tracking trends and keywords, analytics on clicks, etc.<br />3<br />
    14. 14.
    15. 15.
    16. 16. Google Alerts<br /><br />1<br />
    17. 17. A.<br />B.<br />C.<br />D.<br />F.<br />E.<br />G.<br />H.<br />
    18. 18. SurveyGizmo<br />Online surveys, polls, quizes, forms<br />Cost: Free version limits number of responses; $19/month for up to 1,000 responses; 50% nonprofit discount on all plans<br />1<br />$f<br />
    19. 19. And the winner is…<br />
    20. 20.
    21. 21.
    22. 22. In addition to traditional television news, we used the museum’s blog and YouTube account to tell the story of “moving day.”<br />
    23. 23. Results<br />
    24. 24. Lessons Learned<br />
    25. 25.
    26. 26. O Say Can You Sing? contest<br />
    27. 27. Results<br />Over 800 eligible entries were submitted<br />Thousands of people rated and commented on their favorite singers<br />
    28. 28. Grand Prize Winner<br />Jordan Shelton of Arvada, Colorado<br />Performed the national anthem at the museum and at the Baltimore Orioles versus Atlanta Braves game in Baltimore on Flag Day, June 14, 2009<br />
    29. 29. Julia Child Recipe of the Week<br />
    30. 30. Blog series<br />Weekly post by a staff member<br />Followed Julia’s detailed instructions (included links to recipes)<br />Featured specific tools and gadgets in Julia's home kitchen<br />Invited readers to join in the celebration of Julia Child's life, work, and contributions to American culinary history.<br />
    31. 31.<br />
    32. 32. Tumblr<br />3<br />Microbloggingplatform that allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio.<br /><br />Cost: Free; Can purchase premium themes<br />
    33. 33.
    34. 34. User-submitted photos<br />
    35. 35. TalkBack Tuesdays<br />
    36. 36.
    37. 37.
    38. 38. User-generated photos<br />
    39. 39.
    40. 40.
    41. 41.
    42. 42. MailChimp<br />Design and send email newsletters, manage subscriber lists, view reports<br /><br />Cost: Free for up to 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails per month.<br />3<br />$f<br />
    43. 43. Geotagging photo apps<br />2<br />
    44. 44. WordPress<br />3<br />Blog tool and publishing platform<br />Free hosting with (ads, limited themes) <br />Or download and manage your own implementation with<br />
    45. 45.<br />7<br />Recommended hosting provider: Bluehost<br />Hosting cost: $7/month<br />Purchase themes<br />Theme cost: $12-60<br />
    46. 46. Omeka<br />Open-source Web publishing platform for collections, exhibits, user-contributed content<br />Download and use on your server ( or use a hosted version (<br />8<br />Sandbox:<br />