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AAUW – Reaching a Broader Audience through an Online Museum (Case Study)

Last March, after months of creative effort, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) launched the organization’s first ever online museum. The online exhibits, organized in four main wings, feature the history and accomplishments of the organization, which for over 123 years has promoted equal rights and access to education for women and girls.

In this Getting Attention exclusive interview, AAUW Director of Communications Ashley Carr outlines why the online museum was crafted and the marketing and communications benefits it brings to AAUW.

Getting Attention: Why did you launch an online museum and why now? What marketing challenge were you trying to solve?

Carr: We faced two marketing challenges: To inspire and retain our members and supporters and to attract others (particularly those in their 20s and 30s) who have an interest in AAUW’s issues but know little about the organization.

Getting Attention: How did you land on an online museum?

Carr: I came to AAUW with a desire to help share history in a way that would be accessible to more people. We wanted to reach additional audiences, in a way we hadn’t before. What could be more relevant than bringing the AAUW to life online, where our prospective members and supporters are all the time?

Getting Attention: Was the idea readily approved by your colleagues or were there concerns about trying something this innovative?

Carr: AAUW leaders supported the concept of memorializing our history and were intrigued by the novelty of an online museum. Though the museum was labor intensive to develop, it was inexpensive to produce, which contributed to a “win-win” scenario.

Once the museum was launched, members, staff, and others responded immediately and enthusiastically.

Getting Attention: What was the development process and approximate cost?

Carr: Production was done entirely by an in-house team, which was a tremendous cost savings. Staff time was the primary direct expense. The project manager – assisted by an editor, archivist /historian and web engineer – conducted extensive research and designed and executed the concept.

Here are some thoughts about the museum development process from project manager Jean-Marie Navetta, senior associate for communications and media relations at AAUW.

“The most difficult part, in many ways, was how to tell the story. Because of the dynamic, non-linear nature of the web, deciding what to include – and how to do it – was key. Ultimately, we focused on a few areas or wings (general history, advocacy, scholarship, research) and added two galleries (people and the AAUW buildings) from which we could tell the story.

“We get constant positive feedback that validates our hard work. I was at the National Education Association convention a few weeks ago and an NEA member said, ‘I know that this might sound silly, but whenever I’m having a bad day or feeling down about life, I visit the AAUW Online Museum. It makes me feel so good about what we do.’ That’s so rewarding to hear.”

Getting Attention: Sounds like the museum is a hit. How do you promote it?

Carr: We promote the online museum through search engines, print and electronic member communications, announcements to the press and related organizations. We are also aggressively seeking listings and links for the online museum in other online museums and women’s history, education and American history sites.

We also encourage members and others to help by providing them with easy-to-use, eye-catching e-postcards with a link to the museum that they can send to others. We’ve also found that AAUW members have been promoting the museum in their branch newsletters, and member-leaders are beginning to give virtual tours of the online museum in presentations on AAUW in their communities. They tell us that the online museum is a great way to “show and tell” AAUW’s story.

Getting Attention: Well that’s a great benefit – the fact that your branch leaders have gotten really excited about the museum, and find it invaluable in telling the AAUW story. What are some of the other benefits the online museum is generating for AAUW?

Carr: We are still in the early stages in terms of results, but based on the strong number of visits to the museum – more than 40,000 visitors in its first few months – and the positive responses we have received from members and nonmembers, we know that we are on the right track. Now the challenge is to keep interest going and growing.

Getting Attention: What’s next?

Carr: Keeping the museum fresh is vital. We plan to operate our online museum much like a traditional museum, with periodic new exhibits that tap into topics of member and donor interest using AAUW historical material.

Well done AAUW! Setting out to broaden audiences by reaching targets where they are (online), the AAUW launch of its online museum has also motivated existing member excitement and loyalty.

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Nancy Schwartz in Strategies and Campaigns, Websites | 0 comments


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