Suzanne has been busy creating over the past several months–not only in her role at VMFA, but also as part of the core organizing team of Richmond’s inaugural TEDx event. On March 22, 2013 (less than one week from today), the open forum explores the concept CREATE with 30 talks on the symbiotic process of inspiration and creation. While tickets to the full day event are sold out, Live Stream will bring all 30 talks to you. Links will be available at TEDxRVA.com.
Erin Wilhelm, friend and project director at the Collaborating Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI) at Georgetown University, recently reached out to a mentor. Today she guest posts about her bicoastal experience with Carol and wonders if “mentorship” is the best term for their ongoing, mutual support system.
Inspired by the creativity of this blog and its authors, I sought my own professional mentor early this year. I even borrowed some of the language Cecilia wrote in her invitation e-mail (seriously . . . inspired!)
In previous jobs, I’ve had assigned mentors and found these forced relationships dissatisfying for various reasons, and mostly because the interactions felt as compulsory as the relationship. There was no motivation to talk other than a company policy that said we should.
Recently, I began a new job at a new organization in a new field. I welcomed the challenge and opportunity to learn from all the newness. After the first months’ intense learning curve, I gained a working stride but realized there was still a lot I didn’t know. So I had motivation. Finding a mentor could help me structure the next phase of my learning. But I was skeptical . . . there were those prior bad experiences, and my new organization didn’t have a formal structure. It never occurred to me, until I read Cecilia and Suzanne’s blog, that I could just pick someone who I admired and ask!
So I did. I asked Carol, a woman I worked with only a little, but with whom I exchanged many an e-mail and “met” on occasion via Skype. (She lives and works in San Francisco, and I live and work in D.C.) Carol has great energy, humor, and brains. And we both love yoga and our dogs, so I knew there would always be something to talk about. Plus, she has worked in my new industry, for nearly 30 years, loves her career, and is successful. When I reached out to her, I was neither so in love with my work nor feeling successful, and I thought it could help to talk and work with her. Hoping her passion would rub off . . .
We structured our talks formally at first – with e-mailed agendas and “assigned” reading material. But over the weeks and months, we gradually found a rhythm of hour-long chats every week or so, discussing process and people skills, new or difficult concepts in our field, and how to maintain sanity – and a life – in the midst of a 21st century career. These talks gave me reassurance, direction, and new tricks to try.
In all, this relationship has been satisfying, and we’ve achieved many of the goals we set for ourselves. But I’m not sure that ours were typical of mentor-mentee conversations and so, when I refer to Carol, I usually say “colleague,” “coworker,” “coach,” or even “friend.”
I wasn’t the student diligently taking notes from the teacher. We’ve had the opportunity to exchange ideas in deep and meaningful dialogue. As a result, we both feel the time invested has been worth it.Of course, if I were to formally describe this relationship, I would still call Carol my mentor – because it describes our interaction with a term other people readily understand (and isn’t that what a word is for?). But to both of us, the relationship has been more. The word that best captures Carol’s role in my life is “collaborator,” but that word has been overused in popular professional literature to the point of meaninglessness and this mentor-coach-colleague-friend of mine definitely has meaning to me.
Erin Wilhelm, Georgetown University
In our last official Talking About Talking exchange, Suzanne and I queried the word mentorship. Does it capture the reciprocal, open-ended network of relationships our project seeks to engage? An article in the Harvard Management newsletter–360 Degree Mentoring–explores this concept without proposing new terminology.
What does and does not work for you about mentorship, the word and the concept? What alternative terms, if any, might apply to relationships that have catalyzed your professional growth? We would like to hear your stories, of mentors, muses, peer teachers, protégés, social networks, et al. Please post comments or e-mail to cwichmann (at) phillipscollection (dot) org for consideration as a guest post.
May was a busy month for both mentor and mentee. Suzanne opened Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings (on view through August 19), and I prepared to open Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme and Antony Gormley: Drawing Space (both through September 9), as well as a new museum cafe, Tryst at the Phillips. To manage the sheer volume, we gave our May mentorship exchange a miss and took a little break from blogging. But silence can be deceptive. Throughout the month, mentorship was especially on my mind as I noticed changes in my work, evidence of Suzanne’s guidance and ideas sparked by our conversations. Some highlights:
- I packed my latest press release with hyperlinks, program highlights, and relevant citywide events
- Accessibility and welcome is the core of a summer ad campaign I’ve been involved in, which positions the Phillips as the “place to be” and features extended hours every Thursday night (social networks are fully integrated)
- We paid it forward with a guest post about mentorship on the Emerging Museum Professionals blog
- I now augment press releases with timely blog posts (coordinated through a new layer on Google calendar)
- Plus, spring yielded a flourishing first vegetable garden for the Wichmann family. I’d be remiss not to note Suzanne’s encouragement on the work-life-balance front.
The webinar focused on PR crises, like news of an institution’s financial mismanagement, corrupt leadership, endangered visitors, or perceived betrayal of the public trust.
Our hangout explored crisis planning and management more broadly–the structures an institution puts in place to ensure operations continue in the event of disaster, from snowstorm to pandemic to act of terror.
Both approaches were valuable, and takeaways overlapped:
- know your crisis team–enfranchise senior officials responsible for leadership, personnel, finances, facility, security, information systems, legal, and collections
- inventory communications tools/anticipate disruptions–run scenarios in which all platforms function (e-blasts, media calls, press releases, tweets, status updates, homepage alerts), but plan for a world without internet or phone service
- create an information release grid–chart your constituent groups (gov. officials, trustees, members, staff, media, general public, etc.), identify the communications channels that best connect with each, and sequence your message(s)
- site-proof your plan–keep all components (key contacts, release grid, etc.) in a secure, digital space (e.g. Google docs) and maintain strategic hard-copies off-site
- stay on guard–anticipate, plan, and monitor potential issues all the time, while crises can still be averted or managed
- keep track–craft a situation analysis and refine it as new information emerges; log (and respond to) all media inquiries and document posts to your social networks
In this guest post, we head south from Emily’s wine country experience down the California coast to San Francisco. James McNamara, president of New York-based Arts Branding, shares his notes on our brand management exchange along with a fascinating case study he has recently put together on comprehensive brand strategy at the Asian Art Museum.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting in on Suzanne and Cecilia’s conversation about brand management in the museum field. In the course of that exchange, Cecilia asked if we knew of any best practices in the museum field for branding.
I said, yes, in fact, I had just been doing some research on one just launched in October 2011: the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. As a brand strategist, I too am always looking for best practices, even if it takes me away from my own firm‘s clients.
The Asian’s brand strategy project, headed by Tim Hallman and his talented team at the museum, and with the help of Wolff Olins, a brand strategy consulting firm, provides a comprehensive example of not only a successful launch of a new visual identity, but a positioning and message platform that informs the identity.
I put together a case study from public documents in an effort to see if I could recreate the brand strategy from the components I found. That I was able to do so successfully is a testament to the Asian’s thorough launch.
The case study is a work in progress as questions remain: How much will the new brand strategy affect exhibitions and programming? How will the brand strategy affect the experience of visiting the museum? What will be the measures of success?
Click through to download a PDF of the Asian Art Museum case study (2.4 MB).
James McNamara, Arts Branding
The April conversation has arrived! This Thursday, April 26, we’ll address crisis communications on several levels, from standard, institutional crisis planning to a more social media-focused crisis management case study. We’ll test a new hangout time–5 pm EST–on Google hangout. To join the conversation, visit gplus.to/TalkingAboutTalking where you’ll find a hangout underway. Participate between now and then by posting questions and links here and/or on our Google + page. To get started, some resources (many from AAM’s excellent information center):
- Planning for Crisis Communications, AAM webinar (90 min.)
- Mission Controls Fact Sheets on Crisis Management, Nonprofit Risk Management Center
- What Reporters are Likely to Ask: Questions Relating to a Crisis, TMT Worldwide
- 10 Steps of Crisis Communications, Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.
- Do’s and Don’ts (but mostly Don’ts) of Crisis Communications Management, PRSA prnewspros blog
- Crisis Communications Plan: A PR Blueprint, Northern Illinois University
- LinkedIn Crisis Communication group and related discussions in the PR and Communications Professionals group
A friendly, welcoming approach to wine branding is explored in this guest post by Emily Valentine, a fellow communications professional benefiting from the mentorship of Suzanne. Emily is a senior account executive in Richmond, VA, at award-winning public relations and marketing firm CRT/tanaka. She originally published “3 Case Studies from California Wine Country: A Whiff of Brand in the Tasting Room” on the firm’s Buzz Bin blog on March 14, 2012.
I tend to view the world through brand-colored glasses, so, on a recent trip to California wine country, I wasn’t surprised to find my mind wander to the realm of customer experience.
A positive tasting room experience will clearly lead to repeat purchases, but beyond that, a purposeful on-site tasting is the ideal opportunity for a wine brand to make its mark in the minds of consumers.
To me, the emotional and sensory experience a winery manages to deliver to customers on site – and then re-create online or at the point of sale – lays the groundwork for effective wine branding.
I’ve witnessed several good examples of this principle at work in my home state of Virginia (see 5 Reasons to Try #VaWine), but here are a few highlights from the golden state:
- Scribe is an artisanal Sonoma winery that won my heart on this trip. The love affair began when I stumbled on a handsome bottle of Scribe cabernet sauvignon before heading to Sonoma. Its thick glass body and wax-dipped neck spoke of candlelit dinners and intimate conversation, creating an allure that only grew stronger when I arrived on site at the winery. Perhaps I was seduced by the fresh-cut wildflowers adorning the outdoor table where I sat, the buttery shortbread baked with rosemary from their garden, and the relaxed attitude of the woman who led our tasting. It was as if she – and every employee – had been hand-picked as an embodiment of the Scribe brand … effortlessly cool and open-minded. I left feeling like I’d just visited a new friend at home for the first time, suddenly comprehending all the intangible factors that make her who she is. Needless to say, I’ll buy Scribe wine again whenever I’m able (the limited availability only adds to its intrigue). In the meantime, I’ll keep up with the winery via its website, blog and Facebook page, and spread the word to friends through my own social networks.
- Flora Springs Winery prides itself on being family owned and operated. It’s one of the first things I learned when I arrived at the estate, and the idea of family pervaded my experience with the Flora Springs brand. A twinkle-eyed man full of mischievous jokes led our tasting, putting everyone at ease in what could have been a stuffy setting. He invited us to experience the brand’s “legacy” with wines that reflect the spirit of its matriarch. Scanning a QR code on the wine club brochure took me to a webpage celebrating Flora’s 100th birthday with eight webisodes on the family-based history of the winery. Flora Springs seems like a brand that’s never met a stranger … tweet @florasprings and expect to get an enthusiastic response.
- Kuleto Estate Vineyards boasts an idyllic mountaintop setting shaded by Spanish oak trees and luminous views (see above). For the scenery, I’d go back in a heartbeat … to make a purchase, I’m not so sure. The wines might have been good, but the brand experience was so watered down that it diluted their taste. Why didn’t Kuleto’s personality shine through? Maybe it needs further aging to reach its full potential … or maybe it was just muffled by the 80s rock blaring in the tasting room. What I’d love to have gotten from this brand is a better feel for the face behind the name and how his creative viewpoint is expressed through his wines. Videos, photos, even one great story would have gone a long way in making the wines less forgettable.
So, here’s my “glass half empty” marketing insight: Wine brands hoping to succeed in today’s marketing environment can’t afford to neglect their customer experience offering – in the tasting room, online or elsewhere. There are too many other options for consumers to choose from, and too many ways for consumers to broadcast less-than-positive brand reviews.
And, for the more drinkable “glass half full” version: The emotional and sensory nature of the tasting room experience poses tremendous opportunity for wine brands, big and small. Boutique wineries with limited marketing budgets should orchestrate cost-effective experiences to differentiate themselves and galvanize brand advocates.
Emily Valentine, CRT/tanaka
Lucky break – a few weeks back, James McNamara, president of Arts Branding, joined our Google+ breakfast hangout on brand management. A couple of years ago in his former capacity at LaPlaca Cohen, James worked with Suzanne on rebranding the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in anticipation of its transformative expansion. Through interviews with leadership and staff and extensive audience research, both qualitative and quantitative, they embraced three pillars for VMFA’s brand: friendly, accessible, and excellence-driven.
In the Hangout, James was eager for a progress report – Do Suzanne and her team still turn to the resources he helped to craft? Are her colleagues on board with brand strategy? Has her director turned out to be a champion of VMFA’s image of accessibility? On all fronts, yes.
In our exchange, it came through how meaningful an accessible brand can be. It forges a lifeline straight to the visitor. James argues that the first message organizations should get out to their audiences is that they’re welcome. During the conversation, Suzanne realized that a synopsis of the brand should be a part of all new staff orientations.
Coming up on the blog–we’ll share stories about the value of friendly, welcoming, accessible brands. Do you have a story to share? Let us know via the comments, and we’ll invite you to be a guest contributor.
Next Wednesday morning, Suzanne and I will pour coffees, sit down at our respective breakfast tables in Richmond, VA, and Takoma Park, MD, open laptops, and talk about brand management. We hope you’ll join us!
Wednesday, March 28 – 8 am
Google Hangout: gplus.to/TalkingAboutTalking
Some tech tips to prepare: you’ll need a Google+ account and Google hangout capabilities active. Luckily, Google makes it easy. Check out everything you need to know before you hangout, getting started, and settings and requirements. You’ll need to make sure your webcam is up and running, and you’ll be required to download one new plugin.