Public Relations and Outreach Resources
- 1 About
- 2 What is PR and why is it important for the field of conservation?
- 3 Understanding PR formats
- 3.1 Traditional media
- 3.2 Getting started: PR and Outreach
- 3.3 Mini toolkits
- 3.4 Speaking and Writing about Conservation and AIC
- 3.5 Preparing for interviews
- 3.6 Responsible PR practices
The American Institute for Conservation Board has asked the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network(ECPN) to assist in the development of a Public Relations (PR) Toolkit. The purpose of this toolkit is to provide tangible tools and resources for AIC members to use in speaking about and promoting conservation by direct communication with the public and the press, using traditional and web-based media outlets. These resources will assist AIC members in continually advancing the cause of conservation and in bringing awareness to our field by promoting conservation projects and outreach efforts and by planning and marketing activities and events. This toolkit will also contain useful information about PR, tips and information about media etiquette, and legalities/ethics involved in promotional activities.
A working group has been assembled for this project and in consultation with AIC Specialty Groups and committees they will use this location on the AIC WIKI to develop the toolkit outline and content. Once content is complete, some sections may be migrated to the AIC website.
Working group members
What is PR and why is it important for the field of conservation?
Public Relations (PR) is a term used to describe a variety of activities, and it has been defined in many different ways, but it essentially describes the practice of communication between an individual or organization and its various "publics" in an effort to create and maintain an image and/or a relationship. "Publics" can refer to anyone who ever has or will come into contact with the individual or organization, but may often be referring to past, current or future stakeholders, clients and professional contacts.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently redefined the definition through a public vote, which can be found on their website as follows: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Common PR activities include public speaking and working with the press. Traditional public relations tools include press releases and press kits which are written for and distributed to the media to generate interest from the press in a particular story. Increasingly, web-based media outlets, including social media platforms, are being used for PR. Explanations and examples of different types of traditional and web-based media PR formats, as well as their pros and cons will be described further in the sections below.
To better understand PR, it may be useful to compare it to other practices, including marketing and advertising. PR, Marketing and Advertising all work to promote, but Marketing and Advertising deal more with product/service promotion while PR deals more with promoting the organization and is more concerned with establishing and building relations. In addition, PR generally describes free activities that may be less controlled (such as in the case of newspaper articles and news segments) while Advertising is generally paid and more controlled. Both PR and Advertising can be considered part of Marketing as well, but for the purposes of this toolkit we are considering PR as an independent practice.
Why should conservators care about PR?
PR is an important practice for all conservation professionals to be aware of. Effective PR allows for free promotion of a cause or organization and will help to generate awareness, interest and support support for institutions, jobs and projects. Also, with the increasing use of social media by institutions and individuals, it is anticipated that most people will benefit from the information provided in this PR toolkit.
Many large institutions have staff member(s) devoted to PR and Marketing, and many are seeing the value of conservation as a hook to entice those who might not normally be interested in visiting museums. For conservation professionals working in institutions with this sort of support, it may be useful to get to know the individuals in these departments and those who run the social media accounts, and offer to create content; its likely they’re looking for some help.
Some institutions' websites have a page devoted to providing information for the press, including access to press releases about exhibitions and images that are permissible to reproduce in print and online. Examples of these press pages can be found on the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the The Huntington's websites.
Press kits provide robust support for media outreach efforts. For example, the American Library Association has developed a variety of valuable press kits, including this Preservation Week @ Your Library Press Kit, for institutions to use during Preservation Week. For conservators looking to build up their outreach capabilities, wide-ranging examples from within and outside the cultural heritage preservation community can provide valuable ideas.
Understanding PR formats
Types of formats
Traditional media includes newspapers, magazines, radio, television and film. Since the advent of the internet, many traditional media sources have been reshaped or reinvigorated, and the lines between traditional media and new media found on the internet are often blurred. Traditional media is sometimes also referred to as "old", "broadcast", or "mass" media, and more recently, "industrial" media. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media#Distinction_from_industrial_media)
For the purposes of this toolkit, the term traditional media is defined as any type of format that is not primarily internet-based and that allows for one-way communication only.
Pros and cons
- Traditional media outlets have been around for a long time and therefore, they have often gained a certain amount of trust from the public, as well as more visibility
- The audience does not need any special skills to access your message, whereas web-based media require a web-savvy audience
- Once you get the attention of a media outlet, you often just need to provide the information, and then you can rely on them to do the work of getting the information out to your audience
- Using traditional media to distribute a message often requires more work and money
- Communicating via traditional media outlets often requires more lead time, whereas the use of social media is much more immediate
Is traditional media worth using anymore? Check out this article Do You Still Need Traditional Media for PR for the top 5 reasons to continue to use these media outlets. Social Media Complements Traditional Media is another article that may persuade you to not completely rule out using traditional media. Moreover, consideration of your audience is paramount. If your audience is not web-savvy, or simply prefer to be contacted in the off-line world, traditional media may be essential to your strategy.
Types of formats
Web-based media refers to communication accessible via the web on digital devices, such as computers and smartphones. The Internet is the most prominent example; other examples include websites and podcasts. Social media is a type of web-based media, and refers to platforms that allow for two-way, interactive communication. Examples of different types of social media platforms include blogs, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest.
Pros and cons
- Using web-based media gives the user more control over how content is communicated, and changes and updates can be made at any time
- It is possible to communicate messages immediately and to also receive immediate feedback
- Social media platforms allow for 2-way communication and interaction
- Often free or very low cost
- Web-based media may be seen as having less credibility
- Takes some investment of time to learn applications and actively manage them
- Your audience must be web-savvy to access your message
Getting started: PR and Outreach
There are a variety of ways to use PR practices to promote your work, your business, a project, etc. The purpose of this section is to provide a general overview of tactics you may use in a comprehensive outreach strategy. The strategy you ultimately develop will depend on the needs and preferences of your audience, and on the time and resources you can devote to outreach and PR.
Objectives & Audience
There is no single "right" way to do PR and outreach. Every objective and audience is different, but if you make your decisions with your audience in mind, you're on the right track. Start out by making a list of the groups you want to reach, and why. The "why" is important - what is your communications objective? Do you want to increase awareness? Or do you have a concrete goal, like a fund-raising goal, or a target number of attendees for an event? Then list what you know about your intended audience. You may want to do some research, from informal polling to looking at demographics or psychographics to identify what defining characteristics are shared by each of your target groups. This can help you determine how best to reach them, and how to "speak" to them. It can help you determine the emphasis you should place on traditional vs. web-based media, for example. Finally, think about your message. Create a message that's suitable for your audience, and will achieve your communications objective. As you send out your messages, whether through blog posts, Tweets, letters, emails, or press releases (or all of the above), always stay focused on your audience and your objective. Strive for alignment between your objective, message, and audience, and after you send your message, look for ways to measure its effectiveness. Use what you learned to inform your next effort.
Virtual outreach is important, but there's no substitute for face-to-face outreach in the off-line world. Hold/host an event or public lecture. Institutions hold a variety of events which can be crafted to highlight collections and conservation activities. Individuals can also partner with institutions to create events. ALA has started a Speakers Bureau where conservation professionals of all specialties (not just book and paper) can register as potential speakers on their website, and they welcome participation from AIC members. Once registered, your contact information will be made available for interested organizations, including local schools and collections, to contact for presentations on preservation topics.
Another popular type of event used to give more exposure to conservators and conservation is a conservation "clinic", where members of the public are invited bring objects from their personal collections, including family heirlooms, to an event where conservators will offer information about what the objects are made of, their condition, and advice about care and preservation. ALA's Planning for a Special Event worksheet may be a useful starting point when thinking about how to organize and promote events.
The PR and Outreach-Conservation Clinics toolkit has some practical tips on organizing this type of event.
The American Library Association has developed some terrific resources related to Preservation Week, including a list of Easy, Low-Cost Ideas to Celebrate Preservation Week. ALA also offers this list of preservation programming ideas for holding events throughout the year. Also, take advantage of participating in and promoting national events such as Heritage Preservation's May Day. Their website provides ideas and Press Materials including a press release and flyer.
Examples in Conservation
Because of the production cost, lead times, and high revision costs associated with printed media, most small organizations prefer to place the most emphasis on internet-based outreach and PR. However, in any outreach strategy, the audience is key. If you know that your audience prefers to be contacted in the off-line world, traditional media will, by necessity, play a larger role in your outreach strategy. Even for those who focus on web-based media, sometimes a brochure or flyer is needed, or affordable business cards. Below is a list of online resources for designing and producing printed pieces you may need for your institution or business:
This is just an overview of ways to get started promoting your business or institution. The best way to develop your own tools is to study examples and follow those that you feel are most relevant to you and your needs.
Media Relations & Press Releases
Develop a media relations strategy to raise awareness of your work. First, look for news stories that appear in your area that are related in either topic or audience to the work you would like to publicize. Note the names of writers and journalists in your area who produce those stories. Actively expand and update your list. When you have a newsworthy topic to send, develop a press release and send it to your contacts with a cover note about who you are and what you do. Producing brochures and newsletters provide other outlets for communiciation of information. As you might expect, relationships are key. Your press releases are more likely to be well received if your media contacts are familiar with you and your work. It might take a series of contacts over time to build a relationship.
It is not difficult to format a press release properly, but it is challenging to write a good press release. A press release is essentially a "pitch" for a news story. Look at many examples from your field to see how various topics are treated. The Indianapolis Museum of Art's website has some examples of recent press releases.
A successful press release is attention-grabbing, concise, and timely. Once you write your press release, distribute it to various media outlets, including local newspapers and news stations. With any luck, your story will be picked up and someone will contact you so that you can provide more information, which will hopefully result in an article in the newspaper or a brief story on the news.
If you send out a press release and are contacted for an interview, be sure that you are prepared (and see "Preparing for interviews" below). If there are technical aspects to explain, practice those explanations in advance. Create a "worksheet" of notes to have on hand in case you are interviewed. Try to give clear and concise answers. If there are any controversial issues that might arise, practice your response to those as well. It's always better to say, "I can't comment on that at this time" that to answer anything outside of your comfort zone. The printed word can be immortal. Finally, be sure to review your press release and potential interview response worksheet with any other parties you've mentioned in the release, and get their approval. You don't want a news story to be a surprise to your institution, partners, or clients.
For more tips on writing press releases, see the American Library Association's Preservation Week document 10 Essential Tips for Writing Press Releases.
The Wellcome Trust also has a useful Guide to Working With the Media to assist scientists and researchers in communicating with the media.
Examples in Conservation
- Rose Daly (Cull) on 41 Action News, Kansas City for her work at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on the Louise Nevelson work "End of Day Nightscape IV" (read more on Rose Cull's blog)
Main article: Web-based media for PR and Outreach
In terms of web-based media, conservators may choose a toe-in-the-water approach, or take the plunge. A few years ago, David Klevan (US Holocaust Memorial Museum) and Nina Simon (Executive Director, MAH, The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center and designer of participatory museum experiences) developed a wonderful overview of ways to use the web, based on your desired time investment. Posted in 2008, it's missing some of the latest online media tools, but it's a good general orientation to internet-based PR and outreach tools, and the role that each plays in a PR and outreach strategy.
Another great resource is this 75-minute Connecting to Collections Program Using Social Media to Tell Your Collections' Stories, which focuses on providing guidance and tips on using social media to highlight collections care.
Tips and resources for organizing Conservation Clinics
Tips and resources for organizing exhibits on conservation processes and technical art history. Visit the AIC Wiki Exhibiting Conservation page for a list of exhibitions at various institutions that include a conservation or conservation science component
Tips and resources for organizing an Angels Project
Tips and resources to assist in outreach at an allied professionals meeting
Speaking and Writing about Conservation and AIC
The American Institute for Conservation (AIC)
AIC’s Mission Statement:
The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) is the national membership organization supporting conservation professionals in preserving cultural heritage by establishing and upholding professional standards, promoting research and publications, providing educational opportunities, and fostering the exchange of knowledge among conservators, allied professionals, and the public.
AIC is governed by the board of directors. Various committees, networks and task forces have been created to help serve the needs of its members. Specialty groupsare subgroups within AIC that focus on a particular area of expertise or professional interest.
The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC)was incorporated in 1972 to support the charitable, scientific, and educational activities of the AIC. FAIC primarily manages and provides funds for educational and professional development for the betterment of the conservation profession. FAIC is a 501(c)3 corporation whose only member is AIC.
AIC has also created a number of core documentsto help guide conservation professionals, including:
- Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice: Sets forth the principles that guide conservation professionals and others who are involved in the care of cultural property.
- Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice: Amplifies the Guidelines for Practice so that they serve the needs of the different areas of specialization in the profession and accommodate growth and change in the field.
AIC offers a broad range of resources for both conservation professionals and the general public.
Packaged Programs available through AIC
The AIC Outreach webpage contains information that is useful to the public including:
- The AIC Conservation PowerPoint which is available to AIC members to use and modify in talks about conservation
- K-12 Education Outreach - Links and downloads for either conservators or educators to use with students
- Caring For Your Treasures - Short brochures on basic preservation techniques for material commonly collected by individuals.
Preparing for interviews
Erickson Blakney, a freelance writer/editor/reporter who was also a Media Trainer at the University of Delaware Public Engagement/Material Culture Institute (PEMCI), provided the following tips for interview preparation:
Mastering a Media Interview
- When a reporter requests an interview, it is imperative that YOU become the reporter. Exercise due diligence and ask: ‘Who? What? When? Where? How and WHY (…me)?
- When setting a date, unless it’s a day-of request, try give yourself some time to prepare.
- Preview any shows or publications as a way to understand who the audience will be.
- During your preparation, make a list of points you could or would like to make regardless of their importance.
- Distill your message to three (3) core messages.
- Prepare positive and concise answers, about 20 to 30 seconds in length. If you ramble, you risk being misquoted.
- Consider the significance of soundbites.
- Use simple, straight-forward language. You don’t want to ‘dumb it down’ however you don’t want to be too complex.
- Practice turning an abstract or complex message into a soundbite.
The Tape Is Rolling - The Interview
- Before a radio or television interview begins, the reporter, engineer or sound technician will do a ‘mic’ check to test voice levels and make certain the equipment is working. The reporter will ask dummy questions while the tape or camera is rolling.
- It’s okay to have notes however try not to look at them especially for a TV interview.
- Ask questions for clarification.
- Beware of the reporter’s body language. He or she may be trying to interrupt if you are giving a gusty or confusing answer.
- Don’t change the subject without warning. Use transition phrases.
- If you don’t have the answer to a question, it is okay to say ‘I don’t know.’ This however is a prime opportunity to become a reporter’s ‘best’ friend or at the very least, develop an on-going relationship by making yourself an invaluable resource.
- Correct reporters if they are wrong. Remember, you’re the expert. The reporter is there to learn - ideally.
- ...answer positive questions and follow up with another one of your key messages.
- If asked negative questions: Don’t fight fire with fire.
- If there’s a long pause or silence, keep quiet.
When interviews go badly – Look forward not back.
- Be careful of attacking the reporter. You don’t want to get into a grudge match.
- If the reporter went in one direction and you were advocating another, find an opportunity to move the conversation into a new direction.
- Remember, don’t yell into the microphone!
Responsible PR practices
- PR Etiquette-Tips from a Former Producer includes etiquette tips to keep in mind when working with the media.
- Haters Gonna Hate - Dealing with Negative Feedback in the Social World blog post contains useful information on how non-profits can respond constructively to negative feedback on their social media platforms.
- 5 Blogging Etiquette Tips for Beginning Bloggers
Copyright and Permissions
Most original work is protected by copyright, including photographs, and all rights are reserved by the creator. However, when it comes to photographs taken of items owned by others, you may take the photographs yourself, but you will not necessarily have the rights to use them in any way that you'd like. For instance, institutions may allow visitors to take photographs of collection items for personal use but not for commercial purposes or for the purposes of promoting a business. Before using such images for any PR-related activity, it is always critical to investigate the institutional policies or to check with the owner(s) to ensure that you have obtained the appropriate permissions.
For an overview of copyright, refer to Copyright Basics.
Creative Commons is a more liberal alternative to copyright, because it allows creators to share work, with different types of licenses and stipulations, as long as the original creator is credited. Flickr's Creative Commons currently has over 200 Million public Creative Commons licensed photos available for browsing and use. You can browse the images by license type to find those that can be used commercially or on your website or blog.
Cultural issues and sensitivities
Legalities aside, not all images are appropriate to take or to use in a public forum-for instance images of culturally-sensitive objects in collections or images that include people who would prefer to maintain their privacy.
- Obtain permission to include images of children and minors in any media format-see The Use of Images of Children in the Media.
- Ethics of Exhibiting Culturally Sensitive Materials Online, compiled by the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives, is a bibliography of articles regarding how cultural heritage organizations decide which portions of their collections to exhibit or otherwise make available online, their policies regarding consultation with native peoples, and the effect of their policies on virtual archives and museums. It also includes key articles dealing with the more general issue of intangible cultural property.
- Protocols for Native American Archival Materials is a document that identifies the best professional practices for culturally responsive care and use of American Indian archival material held by non-tribal organizations.
- How to Take Culturally Sensitive Photos lists a few good tips for being respectful and responsible when taking photos.
The Library of Congress's site about Digital Preservation includes a page on Personal Archiving . It provides tips on how to preserve your "born digital" materials, such as the materials you might use in your web-based outreach efforts: websites, emails, photos, audio, and video. But that's only part of the picture: what about your tweets, blog posts, contacts, networks, and your online social networking assets in general?
At the 2011 "Artists' Records in the Archives" symposium presented by the Archivists Roundtable of Metropolitan New York, Inc., speaker Heather Saunders provided the following tips for artists who want to archive their web-based and social media “papers”, and these also apply to conservators:
- Save your Google Analytics and StatCounter to show how much traffic your website generates
- Keep copies (PDF or printout) of websites that you link to, or that link to you
- Keep copies of comments, @replies, and retweets
- Save your blog posts
- Keep the contact information for your online connections offline – names, addresses, email addresses, pseudonyms – anyone who follows or interacts with you online
- Keep paper as well as digital records
A 2010 article in Fast Company has a few tips for How to Backup Your Social Media Life. Although somewhat outdated, it will point you in the direction of possible solutions and provide a springboard to further exploration of the topic. The most important thing is to organize your "archive" as you go, and simply build a personal archiving process into your outreach activities.