Staying Connected with your Community in a Time of Shelter in Place
The COVID-19 Cornonavirus is one of the biggest challenges we are facing in our time and it’s affecting more than just people’s health. As new and extended shelter in place orders pop up all over the country it’s increasingly hard for institutions, museums, and organizations doing powerful community work to stay in touch with their communities. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to talk to the associate director of marketing at OMCA about some inspiring tactics on how to engage customers with the services you may still be offering during a time of quarantine and shelter in place.
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Erin Lim has lived in San Francisco for 16 years and has worked in the film, sports, hospitality, Television, radio, and communication industries. Since February 2018, Erin has worked at the Oakland Museum of California - first as a contracted Marketing Manager, then moved into the role of Associate Director of Marketing in July 2018.
In addition to her work at the Museum, Erin hosts and produces a podcast and is wrapping up a travel documentary about a nomadic family from Israel.
Since many areas of the world are practicing and enforcing social distancing more people than usual are working from home and many museums and cultural institutions are strategizing ways to stay in touch with their visitors. There are obvious drawbacks to institutions being closed, but some have been inspired by the new challenges. In what ways has Coronavisus affected the way museums operate? What challenges has it created? What innovations has it inspired?
The Oakland Museum of California is a Museum, garden, and gathering place. Under the shelter-in-place order, we have had to take the community the Museum has built up over 50 years and engage with them through our digital channels. Since the Museum has had to go 100% digital in a short time, this has proved challenging as the Museum hasn’t operated like this in its history. In this challenge, the Marketing and Communications department has worked cross functionally within the institution to create strategies to keep our community engaged on our website, social media platforms, and e-News letters. I believe the big innovation has been within the Museum. For all of the departments to work together to help support the digital vision of the institution has been a big lift. We’re learning to work within new work flows and to give audiences the content that they’ve asked for during the pandemic.
Because people are staying at home so much more during these times, social media engagement has increased. How does social media play a role in connecting museums with their audiences?
OMCA is lucky to have three major public facing social media channels, plus a couple of others that are directed towards very distinct audiences. Our channels help connect us with the public as well as community partners that we’ve built relationships with over the years. It’s been rewarding to lift up our community over social media in this time and help cross promote not only the work we’re doing but to also shine a light on the work that others are doing in this time. The OMCA social channels are not only a connector, but also a place where people can just look at art, images of their favorite parts of the Museum, or listen to a DJ from the Friday Nights at OMCA community - meaning our channels can just let people connect and essentially disconnect from the reality of our world right now and that’s a good thing.
Many museums, attractions, monuments, and cultural institutions worldwide can and are destinations for creating communities. How can we foster communities during a time of social and digital distance?
I think the number one answer to this is to not just post images, videos, photographs from our collections but to ask the community how they are doing? And ask that consistently across social channels and through our e-News letter outreach. The connection has to be a two way street and it’s up to the people running these channels to be thoughtful about that interaction.
Coronavirus and social distancing orders have forced us all to get creative in how we live our daily lives and conduct our business. What are some exciting things you’ve seen other museums doing during social distancing?
The most exciting thing I’ve seen museums do across their engagement is to take risks and let their hair down. I didn’t come from a museum background, and learned quickly that museums can take themselves and their work very seriously because the work is demanding and changing. To see museums experiment because they’ve had to has been the most exciting thing to see while SIP and I hope it’s a course change that continues past this time in our history.
Businesses and institutions all around the world have been forced to close temporarily and are losing earned revenue. Many of them are in danger of closing forever. Are there ways people can help organizations like museums continue operations during the Coronavirus outbreak?
Yes! Donate whatever you can. Become a member now if you’ve been thinking about it. Some local institutions are offering special discounted memberships that can get you exclusive “members only” access to online events. If you can’t afford to donate, follow these museums/institutions on their social media channels. Sign up for their email newsletters. These backend numbers matter to donors who may be thinking of contributing money to institutions and they want to know audience reach as this reflects in their marketing/community relations work.
There are many digital tools that people are utilizing for working from home, but perhaps not as many for servicing their communities. What kinds of digital tools can be used to help museums and other organizations and monuments continue to meet their institutional goals?
A social media management tool is essential for any large institution. Hootsuite, zoho social, etc. can help any organization calendar out their posts over multiple social media channels. Those tools also give you data on how your socials posts perform, what audiences are looking at your posts, and help evaluate how your social media strategies are working. Populating an email newsletter list is also essential in this work. Some people are not on social media (cheers to them!) so reaching them through their email is a great way to keep them connected with your institution. Mailchimp is probably the heavyweight when it comes to an email marketing platform but there are others that orgs or institutions can look to help them manage an email database.
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