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From August 2010

For those of you who have been following along – we are reaching the conclusion of our Experience Audit for the Morris Museum and heading into Roadmap time.  Last night was our presentation to the Executive Board reviewing the key themes of our recommendations and the key data points that will be needed as we begin our prioritization and trade off decision for how we are going to address the  areas of opportunity identified. But before I dive into the key themes, a quick recap on our mission and approach:

Our Mission for this SEA endeavor is to ultimately increase awareness and cross-pollination of the Morris Museum and Bickford Theater via a clear and engaging brand strategy and via an audience focused multi-touch communication strategy.  Additionally, we plan to increase active participation in both the Museum and Theater focusing on attendance/enjoyment, membership/ donation, and volunteerism/ engagement.  To achieve these goals, we embarked on a multi-phase pro-bono engagement with the Museum to first- better understand their audiences, experiences, and objectives; second- define what the ideal end=state (and success) looks like and how we get there; and third- start address the action items that actually get us to that end vision.  This journal entry is about the conclusion of step 1 (understanding the current state) with an eye towards step 2.

Theme 1: This is Not Your Parents’ Morris Museum
Regardless of who we spoke to, if they knew the Morris Museum and Bickford Theater, they knew it was an eclectic and unique experience that included high quality exhibits and performances for next door prices.  It was consistently referred to as a best kept secret.  That said, folks also mentioned perceptions of the museum and theater as not really changing.  To them, it is something they remember from their childhood and see huge value for their own children, but not necessarily something they immediately think of when developing their own weekend plans.  ”Forget what you know about your local museum.  This is the Morris Museum” challenges visitors to go beyond those preconceived notions and give the MM a fresh look.  There is something always changing at the museum – and it isn’t by accident that a lot of those changes are unexpected – juxtaposed exhibits and performances.  This first theme was about being proud and deliberate in their identity – it is all there, they just need to embrace and own it.

Theme 2: Broad-Reaching Marketing Will Be Key
Even with a limited marketing budget, there are a lot of ways the MM can achieve a further reach than it is at present.  Based on our research, word of mouth was the #1 people found out about events or exhibits they were interested in seeing.  This theme is about how the MM can get beyond word of mouth to true growth in awareness (let’s face it, Mom is a powerful force when it comes to great ideas – but she can only reach so far and this is about reaching those who don’t know about the “best kept secret in NJ”!).  Our ideas ranged from train station posters and community partnerships to more active participation in community blogs and forums.  We also spent time looking at ways to get more out of the marketing they were currently doing such as website updates, flyers, and emails.  Making their communications more tight, catchy, and call-to-action focused will go a long way in ensuring that the reader’s next action isn’t filing the communication away, but in actually doing something such as picking up a phone and purchasing a ticket.

Theme 3: Once You Have Got Them There
Probably one of the biggest missed opportunities our research uncovered was with the physical space of the museum lobby and “main artery” that connects the theater and galleries.  A huge open and beautiful space that to date has virtually nothing in it to engage and embrace visitors as they walk in.  Our recommendations ranged from improved signage and banners to an improved floor plan and stronger tie between exhibits and theater productions/ speaker nights.  Another area we tackled in this space was around the volunteers.  While MM/BT volunteers are clearly dedicated and generous with their time, it may not always be clear to them what exactly their role is and, more important, how they can best engage those who are visiting an event or exhibit.  Volunteers are one of the most powerful representations of the brand and as such – they need to be ready to make those they are helping feel welcomed, excited, and ready to plan their next trip back.  Recommendations for the volunteers encompassed essentially a business transformation approach – a wider range of volunteers (right people, right roles), clearly defined roles and responsibilities (with periodic check-ins to see how things are going), and lastly – some brand emersion sessions to ensure that volunteers really understand this organization that they are representing (change management and communication strategy).

So – you may be wondering, what’s next?  Our read out to the executive board, which was very well received, brought us to the conclusion of SEA Phase 1 – the Experience Audit.  With these recommendations in hand, we are shifting gears and moving into delivery.  Our first set of deliverables will be around finalizing the name/ branding and developing a new logo, creative and communication style guide, social media strategy, and kicking off the design activities for a new website.  Along side us, our Morris Museum partners will be working on tackling the lobby recommendations, marketing programs, and volunteer recommendations.  Keep checking back to see how things are progressing!