Struggling to be heard? Create a museum-wide content plan.

How can you convince apathetic audiences that your museum is worth a visit? Begin by creating a single content plan for your entire museum.

Have you ever been frustrated to learn that your volunteers weren’t invited to a relevant donor event? Or members didn’t know about that big program? Or, the last email your museum sent didn’t include anything about the big sale in the store next week?

These problems cost your museum money and probably result in increased call volume, confusion and poor customer service experiences. They also make it difficult for your audiences to stay informed about what’s happening at your museum.

Looking at it from the audience perspective, they receive disjointed communications that are written in different voices, not tailored to their needs and require them to do the legwork to connect the dots to the missing or incomplete info. And, they just don’t have time for that.

A unified content plan will help your organization focus on the most important messages for each of your audiences. Every time they hear from you, they will hear consistent ideas, instructions and values. (Not the same, but consistent – an important distinction.)

The content plan will have some ancillary benefits, too, like breaking down internal silos, improving internal communication, boosting collaboration and identifying cost savings.

Your plan should include things like:

  • Exhibit schedules
  • Marketing messages (print, email, TV, digital, outdoor – the works!)
  • Way-finding signage
  • Visit guides
  • Social media content
  • Website content
  • Fundraising campaigns
  • Membership registration and renewal materials
  • Programs
  • Special events and galas
  • Automated voice messages for incoming calls
  • Customer service scripts
  • Volunteer communications
  • Internal communication plan

Maybe you can think of more? If so, good! The goal is to create a comprehensive list of all the information audiences encounter when they do interact with you. Once you’ve compiled the list, the real fun begins. Use your list to build a content planning team. Actually, you need two teams.

To actually create and implement a museum-wide content plan, you need an executive team to make decisions and support the plan and you need a planning and implementation team to make it happen.

Team Building

The executive team should include department heads or VPs (whatever you’ve got) and your director or CEO. Include the lead of every affected department or you’re doomed to fail. If you can’t get the support of this group, it will be impossible to implement the plan.

The planning and implementation team should include the owners of all the various pieces of content – within reason. Your team really shouldn’t exceed more than 10 people to be functional. If you end up with more than 10 owners, figure out how to appoint representatives that can speak to 2 or 3 areas. The key here is to get people on the team who are excited about the project and willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work. If you have to choose between an enthusiastic advocate that might need to circle back with subject matter experts (SMEs) and a super-smart, but reluctant SME, choose the advocate. Every time. You’ll spend too much time convincing the un-convincible SME that the project is actually worthwhile.


The key to success here is communication. Early and often. Keep everyone on the same page. Squash territory battles by leveling the playing field and make sure everyone is in the know. Appoint a project lead and make sure that person schedules meetings, takes notes and distributes updates.

Building the Plan

  1. Begin by compiling types of communications to flesh out the list above. What is already going out? Can anything be consolidated? Are any new communications needed? Make assignments and set deadlines for follow up to make sure these projects happen.
  2. Build a content calendar using Google docs, or some other tool (preferably one your org already uses), to help you build a sharable plan that can be maintained easily.
  3. Remember that the goal is to increase collaboration and improve communication, not document every little detail. Trying to micro-manage all the information in one place will end up failing. Keep it high-level and delegate content writing to the appropriate people.
  4. Create a reasonable review process to keep everyone in the loop. Reasonable in this case is lightweight and scalable. Empower as few people as possible to approve the plan and the communications that come out of it. This might take some trial and error to find the right balance, but it’s worth it.

The Result

If you can manage this massive, but worthwhile, feat you’ll end up with a more focused voice for your museum and audiences that are happy to hear from you – and if you stick to it, those audiences will come more often, be more engaged and even spend more money.