Listen and Tell

Kathryn Box, Marketing Officer at Manchester Museum, explores the museum‘s all-important communication channels.

I like to think of marketing for museums as developing a conversation between the institution and the visitor, thinking of their wants and needs and delivering what the museum has to offer at the highest quality. Ultimately we aren’t talking about a product, but an experience, its aim: to maximise the performance of the museum and its assets.

Marketing can create invaluable links between internal departments and usually involves complex activity, including planning, creativity and organisation. We act as the ‘big mouth’ and more importantly, the ‘big ear’ of the museum. This means that as well as broadcasting key messages about what the museum has to offer, we take listening seriously, highly valuing visitor feedback and comments. Without this information from our audiences we cannot improve or maintain our successful activities.

When thinking holistically about marketing in museums, most marketers would now be rolling their eyes as I mention the basics: print and distribution, listings (both online and off) and social media platforms. Of course, once these have been covered at the minimum, your general audiences can be obtained. However, the desired sophisticated creative endeavour needs secret weapons for it to be truly successful. Manchester Museum is lucky enough to have a strong digital identity and is a part of the marketing collective, Creative Tourist (possibly one of the most important players in the collective success of Manchester’s ever-growing cultural scene). This has accumulated in a supported cultural hive of activity, including cross marketing in monthly What’s On guides and partnership marketing in popular publications.


We aim to create a marketing strategy focused around a gradual build-up through the launch and pre-opening phase, with a strong media emphasis in the opening month. Sustained activity should then remind audiences about the exhibition and the public programme which runs alongside.

Thinking about the dynamics of implementing a holistic marketing approach, key colleagues in different departments must be engaged. From working with curators to educators, once colleagues are happy to talk about their knowledge, you can open up a useful and exciting dialogue between the museum and the public. Truly appreciating this effort from colleagues to engage in the public realm eases transfer of messages to the visitor and reaps the benefits of any positive relationship.