Interviewing April Kirk was an interesting experience. April Kirk is the Executive Director at the Historic Stranahan House Museum but that’s not the only hat she wears. The Historic Stranahan House Museum is a non-profit that employs 7 employees, three of which are full time and four of which are part time. The employees range in age from 27 to age 88, with the youngest employees having come in in the recent three years.
April came onboard as the Executive Director about 5 years ago and in that time she has taken on the social media accounts and the website as her project. Due to the museum being a non-profit and working with a very small budget, one of her many functions is to handle all the social media accounts. Besides also being the Executive Director, April also is an artist and has her own online shop as well as her own social media accounts for her art. April is incredibly involved in the community and as a community leader, she has recently finished her turn as the president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in the Broward county chapter.
In terms of her personal endeavors, such as her artists websites and as president o f AFP Broward, April agrees that neither would be as successful without the use of social media.
In terms of the museum, April pointed out a lot of positive things that have come of being more social media savvy as well as the downsides to not having a dedicated person to handle all of the social media account. For example, because of the different functions that she has to do, it is impossible for April to be at every single event that occurs at the museum, therefore she notices that there is some missed opportunities in terms of having more photos or engagement with special events and social media.
While she admits that a small museum would benefit from having a dedicated social media person, she also admits that she likes to have control over the accounts because she feels very protective of the voice that she has built for the museum throughout her years there. April sees the social media responsibilities being shared more in the near future, for example she sees the benefits of having the collections manager or education coordinator taking over for a day.
The biggest thing that I learned from my interview from April was that having a “try it once and see what happens” attitude is very beneficial to a small museum like ours. She’s attempted to participate in Smithsonian Museum Day Live and International Museum Day an she’s learned what works and what doesn’t for a museum of our size.
I am always amazed by how many museum professionals seem to fall into museum work by chance.
I can understand why April wants to field social media issues personally (2am!), and feels that there should be one point person managing social media platforms. Her comments regarding recognizing that she doesn’t have to always participate in events that bring in lots of people, due to a variety of issues is interesting, citing it’s OK to take a break (Smithsonian Day). Repetitive participation can dilute the marketing effectiveness of the event. Keeping it fresh by taking a break is wise.
When we decided to participate Smithsonian Museum Day Live, we were the first museum in the county to participate in this. While the staff was surprised that we weren’t joining in this year, once the day went by we realized that while we could have received great publicity from our participation again, it just wasn’t beneficial to the museum anymore. The stress of pushing that many people through our small structure outweighed the benefits we would have gotten from the free publicity.
It was great to hear how April is so involved in the local non-profit community. It seems that her connections have really educated her about how to use social media for her organization. I know that I learn a lot from watching other organization and seeing how they use each platform to express their mission to their audience.
I admire April a lot because she didn’t come from a museum background but she has done everything within her reach to really educate herself so that the museum can continue to thrive and grow.
It’s crazy to think of how smaller organizations have to share rolls, especially when considering how demanding social media can be. I think her idea of passing the roll over to someone else for the day could be mutually beneficial. Have you seen the Hopkins student/alumni account that does that?
Hi Nicole, yes I have! And some of my interview cut off I’m noticing, I had some technical difficulties with her because she was speaking from a hospital and I from a cell phone since our phones were down. She’s hoping to someday pass the reigns over to me because she feels like our social media pages could use a fresh pair of eyes. The dynamic that she’s created on social media is amazing because we went from having a couple hundred followers to a couple thousand now. We’re hoping to have take over days for our holiday events and see what’s very well accepted.
I am impressed with all of the work that April accomplishes! Truly she is a woman of many talents. It seems to me that it would be great if she got a few volunteers to do the social media… then social media could have the attention that she wants it to have to really help her museum flourish even farther. It’s great that she treats the museum with love and care.
April is a character she really overworks herself sometimes and it’s because of the love she has for the museum. I love the volunteer idea, we’re also going to try and see if we could get some interns from the local colleges to help with our social media and marketing efforts.
I feel for April and not being able to photograph and attend every event so that she cant post to social media. However, couldn’t she get co-workers to document what occurs at these events and then send her the material so that way she can craft social media posts? Personally, I’ve had to ask for co-workers to send me photos in order to post on my off days.
Hi Caroline! Some of my interview cut off and picked up I’m noticing now, my apologies for that.
She stated during the interview that she’s been encouraging coworkers to take photos and send them to her when they’re in the middle of the event. It’s getting the coworkers to remember to take a photo that has been a challenge but hopefully we’ll be better at that! The staff is slowly starting to see the importance of maintaining our social media presence.
I thought April made a great point about “brand” and “voice” and the work that goes into creating something that people can recognize and identify with. She is fiercely protective of keeping their voice unified and seems to only deviate with caution, both internally and externally. She said she was crafting a plan to spread out collaboration on social media, but I wonder how difficult it will be to maintain the voice, whether through “unofficial” takeovers from outside personalities or just added internal contributors?
The great thing about April is that she’s always willing to try something new out and see how it unrolls. I know that she is incredibly interested in having more takeovers on our Facebook but I also know that she’s fiercely protective of the social media and that the first takeover would be someone within the staff so that she could be at ease that our voice is being maintained.
Melanie: It was a nice change to hear from someone in a small museum setting. It always amazes me what those of us in small museums have to do in order to get our organizations up and running– and it sounds like April does all of that and more! While I can appreciate being very protective of the museum voice (I have a similar issue with my museum’s accounts– you create something and are so proud of it that putting it in someone else’s hands is scary!) I wonder if, because they are so small, it might be beneficial for the staff to have more of a hands-on role in the content creation. April might not have to completely give up the reigns but by including other staffers might expand the views and make the content even better!
Hi Lauren! Could you tell that April likes to have the reigns of the social media pages? 🙂 April is slowly starting to realize that she can’t do everything and this year I finally got access to the social media accounts. Some of the posts have been by her and some by me and so far, no one has noticed and she’s seeing that perhaps handing those reigns over isn’t the end of the world.
I thought this interview was really interesting to listen to. It can be very easy to become protective of the brand, especially if you were the one to create it. When I was an intern at the Museum of Tolerance, I was taught about what was appropriate to post and what was not appropriate to post. While the manager at the time did most of the posts, I was able to do some initial leg work for her and identify some articles that would be appropriate for her to post. While she did not use all of them, she did end up posting some of them to Facebook. I was eventually able to post directly to Pinterest without getting prior approval. Collaborating with other departments (whether it is staff sending a photo or posting directly to Facebook), can be very helpful to help navigate of the posting.
Hi Katie! I think that when you start the voice and have it for so long, it has to feel really difficult to trust someone else to stay true to the brand. Getting a social media intern is something that we’ve looked into and hope to have someday. We recently had a marketing intern and she was very helpful in refreshing our Pinterest boards so I can just imagine how refreshing it would be to have a social media intern come and give us some great ideas!
I thought is was funny that early in April’s career she wanted to run a museum without really knowing what that meant. I guess this speaks to setting your intentions! I also thought April has a wise way of self educating, by watching people who do it well. The nature of small organizations, such as the Stranahan, creates a diverse workload for staff, but waking up at 2am to deal with negative posts is a serious commitment! April’s protectiveness of their brand is legitimate, but I think allowing other people some voice in their social media could make for interesting content. Also, April reminded me about an important issue: to gauge what is best for a museum in relation to taking part in marketing campaigns, like Smithsonian Day Live– the ROI.
April mentions being an early adopter of technology, which is very interesting. Her anecdote about using LinkedIn was illuminating. I do think it is a good idea to observe the people using new technology very well and trying to emulate them. It’s especially interesting considering the risks of ever changing technology. Just this past week, the social media platform Vine shut down. If a museum was an early adopter of Vine, they might be losing a lot of work! There is a risk involved.
I liked hearing an interview from someone at a smaller museum, and someone who really makes mention of the fact. Only have a total of about 7 employees certainly means that people need to wear many hats. It was interesting to hear her talk about how protective she has been of the social media platforms. To me it sounds like she has just recently began to let others have an impact on the social media offerings at the museum. It is good to hear that she is trying to create a plan to make it more robust and to allow other people to become more involved in social media. She ends that question by saying that she will always remain to be the one to receive all of the notifications as long as she is sitting in that seat. Do we all think that is a great idea? Or would they benefit from having someone, more experience with social media, taking over the sites?
This is a prime example of a small site where the ED has to wear many hats, including social media manager. This presents real challenges as the ED has to juggle their valuable time from other important duties, such as grant writing, or site oversight, to creating content and a social media plan. She has done a great job building their social media for her site. She is also correct in that just because you build a Facebook site does not mean they will come. Only 200 followers from when she started to now more than 2500 followers, which speaks strongly to how it has improved, not including the other platforms they use as well. I also like her attitude that she is very protective of their brand.
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