Taking Stock

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 Social Hub: Facebook vs Blog

Part of a series on key takeaways from The Communications Plan session

An organization’s website is a source for reliable information, brand identity, mission, expertise. Hopefully it’s also a forum for visitors to engage with each other, rate experiences, share recommendations, stream videos and podcasts. But unless you work for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc, your website is not a social network.

So organizations have learned to go out and meet people where they are. We set up pages (or, shortly, timelines) and work hard to engage fans. We join conversations (and #followtrends). We offer incentives to check in. And we try to make sure all of these activities are easily associated with our organizations and drive traffic home.

Suzanne and I discussed Facebook as a hub for our many scattered profiles, a digital 3rd place. Pages are highly customizable–this recent New York Times piece gives a how-to on 12 less-known functions from polling to blocking abusive comments. I wonder how the shift to timeline will affect our organizations’ Facebook identities.

In my experience, an organization’s blog can also be a social hub, and maybe a more useful one. Its content and style can be carefully vetted yet remain spontaneous, responsive, personal, collaborative, authentic, and out just a little ahead of the “institutional voice” represented by your website and press releases. A blog may seem as if it would share your website’s issues–it’s not a well-known digital gathering place, at least not yet. But as readers become engaged, it can steadily infiltrate RSS feeds, Google+, reddit, delicious, FB social reader, and help you jump to the top of search results. Why not use it as your daily newspapers and glossy magazines use their blogs?

Facebook, blog, or something else? Will Google+ play a roll, especially with the hangout function? Take the poll, comment, and tell us about your efforts to build a hub online.

An Idea that Sparks

From: Hall, Suzanne (VMFA)
To: Cecilia Wichmann
Subject: Mentoring in Public Relations and Marketing

I have an idea – see what you think. What if our process is transparent (to a large degree) and conducted via Linked In dialogue and post meeting summaries? This is my version of a museum PRAM reality show. If we are bold and committed, it could become a bit of topic in the profession. We’d be inventing as we go, but frankly, we all do that ;-). Plus it could have the benefit of “crowd sourcing” for some best practices.

I took the AAM guidelines and began some customization of that doc. I like this idea but it will be occasionally consuming. It will also require learning more about Linked In than I know currently. It seems like a good potential place for this to occur but we could also consider a blog. I want to learn Word Press. We currently use blogger and I find it buggy and problematic. Where is your comfort zone on this? We are going to have to work hard to produce visuals, which as we know are key to communications these days.


Suzanne Hall
Chief Communications Officer