|People will always talk so do what you |
can to control the message.
When considering the work before you, knowing your reputation and improving or enhancing it is critical to your success. There are four strategic ways you can solidify your reputation:
Start taking steps for future fundraising campaigns and annual appeals by establishing or reconnecting with a donor base. Set up coffee chats, special visits or tours of the museum, attend public events and programs to be seen and meet people, or simply network through friends and family and connect with your base of donors, e.g. members. Make sure donors know who you are and what the museum’s mission is and be sure to stay in contact. People give to people and when your donors know who the face of the organization is, their giving comfort improves.
Once you’ve had some “face time” with donors and feel like you understand why people give to the museum, consider a membership drive or a small capital campaign to test the waters. You, of course, have sizeable funding needs, but instead of tackling them all at once, carve out a smaller campaign that matches your staffing, board, and volunteer capacity. Establish a goal for members acquired or funds raised and don’t let up until the goal is met. Then, thank the donors, steward the relationships, and keep them primed and ready for future giving opportunities.
Separate from the fundraising strategies but critical to your success is your relationship to the local media. Pay close attention to the messages used to describe the museum and the topics local media focus on when reporting about museums/your museum. Get in the habit of crafting regular press releases with consistent messaging. Get to know local journalists and editors – make sure they know they can call you directly when news relates to your organization. And, never lose sight of how the museum is described in social media circles. Respond to negative comments with positive language that invites the author to return again. Develop some kind of regular posting schedule that pushes interesting information about the museum to social media audiences. A united, consistent messaging process will influence your reputation in lasting ways.
And lastly, and by far the most important way to solidify your reputation is to be kind to everyone. It sounds ridiculously simple, but one or two bad days and you’ve created a ripple effect among community members who may think you’re inaccessible, disinterested, or worse, rude, and they will make decisions about supporting the museum based on their interactions with you. If you live in a small town, this extends to the grocery aisle, the day care drop off point, and so much more. This visibility can be a drag, but it’s also an easy way to draw positive attention to your museum that will ultimately attract support for all of those amazing projects you have lined up.
Next week, you’ll read about the fourth and final sector, assessment and planning, and we’ll see you at the American Alliance of Museums annual meeting in Baltimore!
Working in museums for nearly 20 years, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko has been a museum director since 2001. Cinnamon became CEO of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine in 2009. Before that, she was the director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where she led the organization to the National Medal for Museum Service.