People Trust Museums More Than Newspapers. Here Is Why That Matters Right Now (DATA)

Actually, it always matters. But data lend particular insight into an important role that audiences want museums to play Read more

The Top Seven Macro Trends Impacting Cultural Organizations

These seven macro trends are driving the market for visitor-serving organizations. Big data helps spot market trends. The data that Read more

The Three Most Overlooked Marketing Realities For Cultural Organizations

These three marketing realities for cultural organizations may be the most urgent – and also the most overlooked. This Read more

Are Mobile Apps Worth It For Cultural Organizations? (DATA)

The short answer: No. Mobile applications have been a hot topic for a long while within the visitor-serving industry. Read more

Breaking Down Data-Informed Barriers to Visitation for Cultural Organizations (DATA)

Here’s a round-up of the primary reasons why people with an interest in visiting cultural organizations do not actually Read more

Market to Adults (Not Families) to Maximize Attendance to Cultural Organizations (DATA)

Marketing to adults increases visitation even if much of your current visitation comes from people visiting with children. Here’s Read more

Colleen Dilenschneider

A Month In My Life Working With Cultural Organizations

A month in my life working with cultural organizations

Happy Thanksgiving week, folks! I’m interrupting KYOB’s regularly scheduled posts to write this a-tad-more-personal post (and put it up on Tuesday – because hopefully everyone will be busy taking part in delicious meal prep on Wednesday). I’m grateful for many things – chief among them are my regular Know Your Own Bone readers (thank you!), and the awesome work that I get to do every day on behalf of visitor-serving organizations.

I loved reading Linda Norris’s “What AM I doing?” post wherein she shared what her life looks like as a consultant by revealing what she was up to during the previous month. I also get this question rather frequently, and Linda’s post got me thinking…

My birthday is in early October, so, inspired by Linda’s post from the month before, I decided to metaphorically hit start on the “What am I up to this month?” button. As many of you know, I travel nearly every week for work (and often to more than one location).

Here then are the adventures of this cultural-center-loving-fiend during the first month of her life after turning 32:

 

 

WEEK 1: From meditating to marine science

 

Kopan MonasteryMeditating at a Buddhist Monastery (Kathmandu, Nepal)

I kicked off this new year of life by spending two weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal and living in a Buddhist monastery for ten days. It was the best birthday gift that I could have given myself. I got back on Sunday, October 16th and that’s where this monthly recap begins! (Photo: The view from my morning tea spot at the monastery where I celebrated my birthday) 

 

va-aquariumSharing data with the Virginia Aquarium (Virginia Beach, VA)

I got back from Nepal and had two days to adjust to US time zones before I was on my way to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. It was interesting to share data on this organization’s audience and meet (in my case, for the first time) the great folks at this aquarium. You’ll notice that this month had a good number of aquarium trips. Here’s why I work with aquariums and how they play an important role in informing trends that we see for other types of museums and visitor-serving organizations. In sum, aquariums tend to have the smallest endowments, the least government funding, and an added “conservation” mission – making them among the most for-profit (relying on the market) AND nonprofit (mission driven) types of cultural organizations. The trends affecting visitor-serving organizations tend to hit aquariums first.  (Photo: Exploring he Owl’s Creek Path that connects the Virginia Aquarium’s two buildings.) 

 

 

 

WEEK 2: From spooktacular to strategic plans to sea changes

 

ctscExploring the Connecticut Science Center (Hartford, CT)

In preparation for sharing data with the organization in November, I visited the Connecticut Science Center to get a better sense of the visitor experience. There are several terrific benefits of my job, and getting to visit organizations for the first time is one of the most fun. The science center was celebrating their Spooktacular Science event weekend, and the place was filled with dressed-up little tikes taking part in special programming and activities. My first full-time job out of college was coordinating large-scale, public events at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, and one of my favorite events every year was Tricks, Treats, and Science Feats. It was a blast visiting the Connecticut Science Center at this time of year, and it made me a bit nostalgic for my science center staff days! In true museum-nerd fashion, I spent my final two hours in Hartford visiting the Mark Twain House. Overall, it was great experience doubling as a job perk. I’ll take it! (Photo: The Connecticut Science Center packed with costumed science explorers!) 

 

tnaciStrategic planning with the Tennessee Aquarium             (Chattanooga, TN)

I went to Chattanooga to participate in IMPACTS’s facilitation of the Tennessee Aquarium’s strategic planning process. A little over five years ago, the Tennessee Aquarium hosted me during an AZA speaking engagement while I was still in graduate school. That particular conference – and the people at this aquarium – played an important role in my opportunity to work with IMPACTS. My heart gets a bit bigger when I get to see the people at this aquarium. To make things even better, the aquarium opened their brand new, beautiful Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute facility during this visit! The opening was a great success! (Photo: Opening event for the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute’s new facility and some familiar, friendly faces deserving of a big “CONGRATULATIONS!”)

 

nai-board-retreatNational Aquarium board retreat (Baltimore, MD)

I’m honored to be on the board of directors of the National Aquarium. We had a great board retreat over the weekend and discussed some of the meaningful and impactful and community and ecosystem-serving initiatives that this great institution is spearheading. I’m honored and grateful to be on the board of such a forward-facing organization with great leaders. (Photo: Ready for board retreating with great minds at the National Aquarium!)

 

 

 

WEEK 3: From faculty to Facebook to flying elephants

 

shaPresenting for the Developing History Leaders Course            (Indianapolis, IN)

I was honored to be faculty for the Developing History Leaders course for the Seminar for Historical Administration. It was an honor to share data and talk millennial engagement with eager and thoughtful minds from some of the best history organizations in the US. What a rush! (Photo: Outside of the Indiana Historical Society after talking millennials with the SHA course)

 

 

mbaSharing a new engagement metric at Monterey Bay Aquarium             (Monterey, CA)

As some folks who work specifically in digital engagement within cultural organizations know, I am itching to find a better way to measure social media engagement ROI using real-time market data to track how it affects public perceptions. I was joined by my fellow IMPACTS team members to debut a new social media metric at the Monterey Bay Aquarium this week. Stay tuned! We’re slowly bringing the metric to scale, and it is already demonstrating the strong correlation between social media content and changes in an organization’s public perceptions. One of the coolest parts of my job is working with great brains and trying to uncover new ways of doing things to help cultural organizations. This metric is a labor of love for IMPACTS, and I’m eager to share more as we learn and grow this metric. (Photo: These engaged youngsters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are what it’s all about.)

 

disneylandRiding Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland (Anaheim, CA)

Because sometimes a girl’s gotta chill…

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEEK 4: From talking artifacts to aging audiences

 

dum-dumIMPACTS meeting (New York, NY)

I went to New York for an IMPACTS VSO project update with colleagues. The IMPACTS VSO (those of us that work with visitor-serving organizations) team is cellular (i.e. we live all over and meet up on the road), so it’s great to get a moment to spend time with colleagues and put our brains together on behalf of our clients. During my time in NYC, I battled presidential election outcome stress by visiting one of my favorite museum “celebrities.” (Dum Dum give me Gum Gum, anyone? (I’m a huge nerd and I don’t even care.)) (Photo: Hanging with a celebrity at the American Museum of Natural History)

 

 

palo-altoSharing audience research on Baby Boomers (Palo Alto, CA)

IMPACTS is working with a community center for aging adults in Palo Alto, and I traveled there with my colleagues to present data and learn more about this community’s programs and initiatives. In my line of work with cultural organizations, there’s an imperative to better cultivate millennial audiences. For this type of organization, however, it’s the Baby Boomers who represent the more immediate future. It’s exciting to consider the behaviors, perceptions, opportunities, and needs of this generation – especially as they continue to innovate and inform all of our inevitable futures as we age into our tomorrows. (Photo: A typical hotel scene – this one is taken in San Mateo as I prep for conversations the next morning.)

 

 

This is a rather typical month for me. For those following along: My month’s itinerary totaled 28 days, 18 airline flights, and 17 nights in hotels. It involved working with new clients and old ones, and coming up with new ideas to help move the industry forward. I was north, south, east, and west (and in Nepal). I think that it provides accurate insight into the kind of work that I have the opportunity to do and some of the great projects that I am working on. Of course, I did many other things for work, too! This list illustrates where I was and what I was doing or presenting – but in between this time, I wrote and published KYOB articles, had multiple calls with clients and spent a good amount of time preparing and arranging decks, edited KYOB fast fact videos, voted, solidified two keynote speaking engagements for 2017, and we elected a new soon-to-be president of the United States. (Okay, those election-related items are a tad atypical!)

When you next wonder, “What does she do everyday?!” Now you know! I know my own bone – and these are the types of bones that I gnaw, bury, unearth, and gnaw at still.

Colleen Dilenschneider Know Your Own Bone quote - Henry David Thoreau

 

Like this post? Don’t forget to check out my Fast Fact videos on my YouTube channel. Here are a few related posts from Know Your Own Bone that you might also enjoy:

 

Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page. Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Miscellaneous 5 Comments

Cultural Organizations: People (Not Things) Matter Most

This may be the most important sentence for the evolution of visitor-serving organizations.

This post is a short one, but it’s an important one to me – and for cultural organizations, too, I believe. As many have noticed, I took last Wednesday off of posting KYOB. It was the day after the United States presidential election and, needless to say, there were some other things on peoples’ minds…

This video is a plea for cultural organizations to wake up.

This week’s Know Your Own Bone Fast Facts video is my rallying cry I hope that you’ll take a moment to watch the video and think about the message. Regular Know Your Own Bone readers likely have this sentence engrained into their brains. And if I could contribute one sentence to leave as my cultural organization legacy that has the potential to deeply change cultural organizations for the better, this would be it:

Your organization can determine importance, but the market determines relevance.

 

That sentence is so much more meaningful and important than it may sound when you first hear it…

It is the basis of nearly every myth-bust on Know Your Own Bone. Essentially, it’s quite common that cultural organizations will declare that something (some content or issue, for instance) is important. However, if nobody cares about that “important” thing, then it’s difficult – if not impossible – to educate, inspire, or initiate support. As a well-educated and sometimes erudite sector, we’re used to knowing things and being expert about things. And we are experts. But just because we are fascinated by a topic doesn’t mean that the market cares about it – or knows enough to care about it yet.

 

Relevance reigns

It doesn’t matter how loudly an organization shouts that something – an issue or some content, for instance – is important. If the market doesn’t understand the relevance of that issue or content, then that issue or content may as well not matter at all. Nobody hears it. Or they do, but it has no “so what?” to make it meaningful.

Connectivity is king in today’s world. To fulfill our missions, we need to build a bridge. We need to cultivate relevance, and we need to bring value. After all, our organizations cannot exist without the support of visitors and donors. Our task, then, is to help connect people to things. If we think something is important but we haven’t established its relevance, then it is not likely that the market will listen. We haven’t created a reason for them to listen by establishing a connection to that issue.

 

We think we are about things. We are not. We are about people. At our best, we are hubs of human connection.

Data suggest that who people are with is by far and away more important to our audiences than what they see onsite. With > What.  We are connectors and facilitators of shared experiences. It is one of our superpowers, and yet we often throw this away in favor of esoteric, distancing content. Our industry still most values those who specialize in content over those who specialize in connection.  What good is content without connection? 

The idea that the market determines relevance is NOT a “dumbing down” of cultural organizations. The market expects us to be experts. Instead, it means finally realizing that people matter in executing our missions.

It’s our audiences that matter most in our organization’s survival. After all, they pay admission, become members, spread word-of-mouth endorsements, and make donations. On top of that, our missions to educate and inspire revolve around human beings as well. Why, then, do so many cultural organizations believe themselves to be about things rather than human beings?

There are universities that may more willingly employ those leaders who stubbornly insist upon cherishing their own one-way interest in objects or content. Museums, however, have missions to connect people and things… To show how and why things matter. How have we so lost our way that misunderstanding this seems to be the primary barrier within cultural organizations – and is even the basis of layoffs at times?

And when I encourage organizations to consider “human beings,” I mean “human beings” – not solely erudite, cultural gatekeepers that scoff at content that inspires engagement among the not-as-expertly-erudite. These gatekeepers can be helpful influencers to underscore our topic expertise, but are our missions to “educate and inspire the already topic-educated and inspired?”

We can be as loud as we want about scholarly ideas, but if we don’t cultivate connection among people, then there’s nobody to visit, to donate, to educate, or to inspire at all. Again: Organizations may determine importance, but the market determines relevance. We can pitch that something should matter to people, but we don’t decide. They do.

People matter most for both our missions and our solvency.

Let’s start acting that way.

 

Like this post? Don’t forget to check out my Fast Fact videos on my YouTube channel. Here are a few related posts from Know Your Own Bone that you might also enjoy:

 

Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page. Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Fast Facts Video, Myth Busting, Nonprofit Marketing, Sector Evolution, Trends 4 Comments

Local Audiences Have Skewed Perceptions of Cultural Organizations (DATA)

Regardless of region or cultural organization type, local audiences are the hardest to please.

As cultural organizations, we tend to love our local audiences. We provide them with all sorts of benefits, believing that local audiences are our best audiences. But, interestingly, data suggest that some of that love may be unrequited.

This week’s Fast Facts video features data that may be tough for organizations to swallow, but may prove important in improving their respective understanding of their audiences. Knowing how local audiences perceive organizations will help them develop more effective strategies for successfully engaging these visitors. As it turns out, local audiences have a skewed perception of the organizations that are closest to them – and it’s not good.

IMPACTS tracked perceptions among 118 visitor-serving organizations in the United States that charge admission. This study comprised multiple types of cultural organizations, including museums (e.g. art, history, science, children’s), zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, theaters, and symphonies. All organizations were located within the United States, but from different cities and states throughout the country – including both major metro markets and less populated regions. The data ALSO includes both large organizations that are recognized nationally AND more community-based museums that singularly pride themselves on serving locals. In other words, you “This doesn’t apply to me” this data at your organization’s own risk.

For this particular data set, we wanted to know the value for cost perceptions of people attending cultural organizations – or, how good of a value these audiences thought that they received with regard to their visitation experience. (Know Your Own Bone readers have seen this type of perception metric used before.) Take a look at what we found when we cut the data by travel distance.

 IMPACTS value for cost by distance

Local audiences believe that the value of the visitor experience is less worthy of the organization’s admission cost than non-local visitors to the same institution. On average, people living within 25 miles of the organization (or, locals) indicate value for cost perceptions that are 14% lower than those of regional visitors!

But so many organizations offer discounts for locals. Are these folks even paying full admission? No. On average, the locals in this data reported paying 20% less than regional visitors – and they still report that the value wasn’t as worthy of the cost as non-local audiences paying full admission!

Okay. But local audiences are probably more satisfied with their experience, right? After all, the organization is right there strengthening the reputation of their own city, and, again, many are getting in at a reduced cost.

Nope again. Take a look at the data cut for overall satisfaction in regard to distance traveled. Locals report satisfaction levels that are 11% lower than regional visitors who had the same visitor experience.

IMPACTS local satisfaction

This probably seems nuts to many people. What is going on?! Three important things are happening here, and recognizing them may help us create programs for locals that provide a more satisfying and valuable experience.

 

1) People value what they pay for.

These findings support the well-known tenet of pricing psychology that people value what they pay for. Personally disagree in a statement of defense? I didn’t make up this fact – it’s well known by economists and takes place in many situations. And this reality is obvious in the data here. The locals reporting the lowest levels of satisfaction were generally the ones visiting at the most deeply discounted cost basis.

 

2) Folks believe that good things are far away.

We reliably uncover the misconception among locals that if something is that great, it probably isn’t in their backyard. That’s a false premise, but it tends to permeate local perception. Amazingly (to me), this is even true in New York City. But the finding makes sense. Ask someone about the greatest cultural experiences and they are more likely to cite famous entities overseas or across the country than an organization nationally perceived as equally satisfying and successful that is located in the respondent’s community.

 

3) Cultural organizations have created local entitlement

This point is by far the most important: Many organizations have trained locals to feel entitled to free or reduced admission, perpetuating this whole cycle of low satisfaction and low value for cost perceptions. In essence, we created and keep on promulgating this very problem…and we have spread it around like a plague. And it’s a nasty one, lowering our perceived value, devaluing our missions, reducing satisfaction in our experiences, and promulgating not-so-great reviews and word of mouth endorsement.

Locals are obviously incredibly important to our organizations, but there’s an opportunity to design better access programming opportunities for local audiences that are not unintentionally perceived as entitlements. This may mean focusing more on promotional strategies and unique events than everyday discounts.

 

This is the kind of data that I get a chance to share that is likely to make organizations angry. And I can write about it and we can elevate ourselves as a sector and get smarter about our engagement strategies, or this powerful finding could remain private for IMPACTS clients. Keeping it private doesn’t help anyone. The data that makes leaders angry is often the most valuable data. It makes us angry because it challenges something that we thought was “safe.” It makes us think harder. And I believe that thinking harder is always good.

Knowing the true challenges attendant to engaging local audiences means that we are one step closer to overcoming them. Locals may not always be the best audiences for cultural organizations – and it’s largely because of organizations overlooking basic economics and training our audiences into self-sabotaging practices.

 

Like this post? Please check out my YouTube channel for more fast facts! Here are a few related posts from Know Your Own Bone that you might also enjoy:

 

Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page. Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Fast Facts Video, Financial Solvency, IMPACTS Data, Myth Busting 1 Comment