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Outdoor museum signage is not a communication plan

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

By Maryke Benadé



If the "Visit the museum" sign is not bringing in visitors, it might be time for a communications plan to communicate the museum's mission, vision and purpose to people. Though communication is not just for engaging with museum visitors. It is also an important element in how we communicate internally with staff, volunteers and a governance board. It can also help the museum gain funding by creating a compelling grant application.


What is a communication plan?


A communication plan details how to :

  • communicate the right messages to the right people at the right time

  • use the appropriate communication channels

  • measure the effectiveness of communication activities to meet the project's objectives.

Once you have a communication plan in place that focuses on the key messages the museum needs to share with audiences to reach its goals, you can create a more detailed communications plan for specific projects or to formalise internal communication.


Types of communication plans


  1. External museum communication - Used when communicating with external audiences, for example museum visitors or local community groups. They are not formally affiliated with the museum in terms of employment, volunteering or governance.

  2. Internal museum communication - Formalising internal communication can help avoid misunderstanding and miscommunication between staff, volunteers and a governance group.


You might also find that you have to communicate with a third group of people, those who are affiliated with the museum and may be involved in some internal projects. These may include business sponsors or contractors. While these groups might have access to confidential internal information and processes, these groups are not employees, volunteers or part of the governance group. So instead of using your internal communication plan, you can create a museum projects communications plan template that you can alter to suit different projects.


Each museum project communication plan will be focused on communication activities that will help reach specific project goals. For example, you will use a different style of writing and communication channel when promoting a new museum hunt compared to applying for a grant.





Let's look at the key components of a communication plan using external communications as an example.


Project Overview


The project overview acts as a starting point and guide to create the communication plan. The project team will often provide this overview that includes key project goals.


Goals


What communication goals do you need to set to help reach the project's goal? Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) that will lead to more impactful communications.


​Smart

​The goal should be specific in its intention to create clear and focused communication. For example, instead of saying “To create a call-to-action communication plan to raise money”, you would say “Create a communication plan to raise $100,000 for a new museum roof

Measurable

Communication activities should be measurable and directly linked to the outcome of the goal. For example “Receive 5000 $20 donations through our website that will help us reach the museum’s goal of raising $100,000."

Achievable

​Do you have the resources to achieve this goal? This includes staff, technology and time.

Relevant

Is this goal relevant to the project and does it align with the museum’s overall purpose, mission, vision and values?

Timely

Can you reach the goal within the project’s timeline and within the time staff and volunteers have available?


Audience


If you try to reach everyone, you run the risk of reaching and engaging with no one. Be clear about who you need to mainly communicate with and they need to know. Focus on what problem your message will solve for them and how it will benefit their lives. How and when you communicate your message is important as it will affect how they receive, interpret and react to your message. Research where your audience normally finds their information.


Content


What messages do you need to share with the specific audience and what actions do they need to take? Conduct a content audit to see what content you can reuse or repurpose if you don't have the resources to create new content.







Content Format


Are you writing a blog, filming a video, presenting at a workshop or creating a podcast? The format you decide to use can influence how your audience interprets your message. Make sure any formats you use are accessible and inclusive for all users. Using plain language and being clear and succinct in your communication are good guidelines to follow.


Channels


Where are you going to communicate your message? Research which channels your specific audience use to find information. The content format you choose will also influence the channels you use to share your message.


  • Social Media Platforms

  • Website

  • Email

  • Print/Digital Publishing platforms

  • Conferences/Workshops

  • Podcasting Streaming Service



Timing and Frequency


When are you going to communicate your messages, and how frequent? Make note of the museum's project's key deadlines and work out when it would be best to communicate messages.



Team and task allocation


Having a clear plan of what role everyone plays in the creation, implementation and reviewing of the communication plan plays an important part to ensure that the project is successful. You can go one step further and create a RACI table for clear communication among the team:

Responsible

Accountable

Consulted

Informed

Who will be responsible for the work?

Who will review and approve the work?

Who can bring ideas and insights to the work?

Who needs to be informed about the work?


Budget


If you have a budget, allocate money to elements of the communication plan that will give you the best value. Consider your audience, content and communication channel when researching how you want to spend money and make sure it aligns with your SMART goals. While digital channels like social media are free to use, ensuring that your target audience gets the message might end up costing more once you have to start paying for social media advertising.



Measure and Review


Measure and review your communication plan to see if it is reaching the project's goals. You can adjust some tasks once the communication plan is implemented to ensure that you can reach the communication and museum project's goals.



Over to you


Write down the ways the museum currently communicates messages to people. Understanding how you are currently communicating and evaluating what works and what doesn't. This will be a great place to start when you create the communication plan for the museum.




Image reference


Photo 1 by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash | 'Galaxies Forming along Filaments, like Droplets along the Strands of a Spider’s Web' by Tomás Saraceno. Displayed in 2009 at the 53rd Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy · Curated by Daniel Birnbaum


Photo 2 by Ståle Grut on Unsplash



 

Huberta Consulting blogs covers communications strategy, museum communications, content strategy and a range of other museum-centered topics.


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