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.


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

Our communications plans live in master calendars – both external (we looked at VMFA’s long-range exhibitions and programs schedules) and internal (we looked at a departmental planning calendars).To be effective, calendars must be integrated and dynamic (aka subject to change).

A giant white board in Cecilia's office keeps exhibition dates and deadlines for media, promotions, and events top of mind. Coffee helps too.

Suzanne agreed that the optimal internal calendar layers working schedules across channels, such as press announcements, story arcs for social media, drop dates for major elements of ad campaigns, and promotions roll-outs. It goes without saying that communications timelines are all always subject to change. Being (appropriately) responsive trumps sticking to the plan.

Electronic calendars (I use Google’s) are free and sharable. Each channel can be color-coded and easily hidden or expanded for a focused or comprehensive view. So far, my team mostly has used our shared Google calendar to coordinate and track meetings and programs, a more informal and dynamic counterpart to our institution-wide Outlook calendar. Since The Communications Plan session, I’ve started to experiment with additional layers. In my calendar at left below, orange indicates meetings/programs and blue is a revamped news release timeline. In the coming weeks, I’ll play with three additional layers: social media, advertising, and marketing promotions/events. 

(left) Cecilia's shared Google calendar has become overwhelmed with meeting planning so will evolve to include additional layers (right) Suzanne's calendar captures a month of exhibition, program, and release dates.

Potential challenges:

*Organizational structures can make integration tricky –> as a result calendars don’t tell the whole story and can reinforce institutional silos.

*We often need to respond to trends and issues faster than we can document a plan –> calendars fall out of date. Digital tools make staying on track easier than ever before, but coordinating and sharing updates requires finesse. I predict (based on previous personal experience and Suzanne’s evolving practices) that the social media layer will be the most challenging on this front.

What do(es) your communications calendar(s) look like? What kinds of procedures do you have in place to integrate and share updates? To stay on track?