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Museum Marketing: 5 People to Help Grow Tourist Visitation

Working in museum marketing, your professional focus is likely fine art, history, archeology or another area that aligns with your institution’s purpose. While you may have a working knowledge of how your local tourism industry works and the role it plays in bringing visitors to your museum, you’re not sure about who in the tourism sector can help you achieve your organization’s goals.

As tourism trickles back to museums across the world, it’s time to think strategically about how you will rebound in this new world we’re all navigating. To help, here’s a brief primer on the top tourism people to reach out to, what they do, and how they can help you attract visitors.

Museum Marketing with CVB President

The head executive at your local convention and visitors bureau (CVB) or destination marketing organization (DMO) can serve as your top-ranking ambassador in the tourism sector. Overseeing your community’s tourism efforts, these are the leaders who steer the ship for travel marketing and have a strategy in place to attract a range of visitors such as family vacationers, history buffs, as well as international travelers.

Keep in frequent communication with these tourism leaders to let them know what’s new and what’s coming up in your institution. Participate in tourism and community partner roundtables and other local business community exchanges and attend annual meetings to learn firsthand about the health and future direction of the organization. You may even show your support by offering space to host an Annual General Meeting (AGM) or other high-profile CVB events.

CVB presidents often serve as a sounding board to tourism and business communities and can help you connect with other partners to develop powerful promotional opportunities. Also, these leaders are often interviewed and quoted in tourism articles and are more likely to mention your institution when you keep your organization top-of-mind.

Director of Communications & PR Team

If having the support of an entire tourism communications team on your side sounds good, be sure to build a strong relationship with your DMO’s director of communications and PR team for your museum marketing strategy. Tourism publicity teams work hard to communicate to the media all the many attractions and businesses that make up an area’s tourism offering and can often provide outstanding opportunities for you to spread the word about your museum.

Keep these teams up to date with the latest information about your museum and provide details on new exhibitions at least six months in advance to ensure they can include it in their media pitches and other activities that require longer lead times to market. Provide high-quality images (and update with new exhibition images) for promotional use in websites, brochures, as well as for social media.

Another way to partner with the publicity team is to help host an inbound media press trip, perhaps providing lunch to journalists in exchange for a tour of your institution and an interview with your head curator. You may also consider participating in a media mission with your CVB’s PR team. These initiatives are coordinated through your DMO’s PR team with a focus on consumer and travel media and include short desk-side or coffee shop chats with top editors and freelance writers and can help garner national media attention for your institution.

Director of Sales & Convention Sales Team

Are you interested in developing special hotel packages, discounted museum admissions with other arts or cultural organizations? Or maybe you have great meeting space that you’d like to see used more by groups (you know, eventually) to maximize your museum’s bottom line? If that’s the case, your local DMO’s director of sales and convention sales team are the people to know.

These movers and shakers work closely with the sales and marketing teams at hotels and attractions, as well as with tour operators, travel agents, and even meeting planners, to develop ways to tie it all together to sell the entire destination.

To work with these connection-makers, communicate your interest in working together and with other tourism partners. Seek them out for advice and assistance if you’re considering participation at a tourism trade show. Make sure they are aware of your venue’s meeting and event facilities. If you receive an inquiry for a large group booking, ask for their help and support in responding to the RFP. They may be able to help you lock in the business and provide other meeting services such as managing hotel room blocks, program promotion and registration, and more once it becomes possible to do so again.

Hotel Concierges and Museum Marketing

Hotel concierges are the people who visitors look to when they want insider recommendations on where and how to spend their time in a city. Armed with brochures, maps, and hundreds of tourism contacts on speed dial, these are the people who can elevate a visitor’s vacation experience with a mere phone call.

Connect with these travel influencers by hosting a VIP experience at your museum. Consider an informational reception, either in-person or virtually, along with an exclusive draw such as a behind the scenes tour. Offer a ‘swag bag’ with a detailed information card that includes museum hours, entrance fees, advanced booking and accessibility information, as well as a phone number that is answered during open museum hours. You can also coordinate quarterly information drop-offs at concierge desks for a quick and friendly face-to-face update on what’s happening at your museum.

In smaller properties, consider a similar approach with hotel front desk staff. And in smaller destinations, you may include visitor center and airport information desk volunteers, tour guides, and even cab drivers who are known to serve visitors in town.

Museum Board Members

It’s an obvious assumption that your museum board members are your champion advocates. Often highly accomplished in areas outside the sphere of your institution, they bring their professional prowess to the table to assist in areas like legal and financial guidance, grants and foundations, long-term institutional planning, and other areas critical to an institution’s well-being.

In your museum marketing strategy, look to these prominent individual’s ‘spheres of influence’ to determine if there are other ways they can help your institution meet its goals through a simple, but instrumental introduction. Perhaps that attorney who sits on your board could put your facility forward to host the next area bar association meeting. Or that financial whiz might be able to help you lock in a coveted corporate sponsorship or research or other project funding through their connections.

You may want to identify and approach individual board members with a specific ask in mind or coordinate a special board meeting to collectively brainstorm ways in which members can help link their work affiliations to their support of your organization. In the end, the potential outcome could not only help your organization meet its goals, but can also help fulfill your board member’s desire to serve your institution in the most meaningful way.

Does your museum marketing strategy or cultural institution need guidance and support in working with the tourism sector? As leaders in place marketing and proven experience in helping museums reach their goals through tourism-driven marketing campaigns, we can help. Reach out to Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn more about our museum marketing capabilities.  

Written By

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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