Sarah Reck is the Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Sarah about her work at The History Center. The History Center, as it is commonly known, has been a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate since 2000 and includes the Heinz History Center, Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Fort Pitt Museum, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, Detre Library and Archives and Museum Conservation Center. Sarah is involved with email marketing, digital advertising and video production. While she wears many hats, her primary responsibility is overseeing all digital aspects of the Museum across all social media platforms including the Museum’s website, www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
I was curious to learn how she identified and addressed the Museum’s audiences. Sarah stated, “one thing that I like to keep in mind is that each platform is different; you know, the audience is different on each platform, kinda the way you want to write , the content you wanna create; everything needs to go for the platform itself” (mins 1:41-1:57). One of the projects of which she’s most proud is her work on the redesign of the website. She collaborated with various departments to create the new site ensuring and continues collaborating with her subject matter experts like the curators, etc. when she’s presenting new and interesting information. She uses analytics to determine the effectiveness of online content; for example, by looking at the length of time users remain on specific pages/blogs/articles.
The main lesson I took away from my conversation with Sarah is that we as students are recommended to remember that content presentation is determined by the audiences we are trying to reach. We want to make sure that we’re addressing our audiences’ needs and wants as we fulfill our organizations’ missions.
Excellent interview. I agree with Sarah´s assessment of social media channel´s effectiveness: Facebook is good for baby boomers, Instagram is growing fast and it particularly good for museums; and Twitter is problematic due to its feed nature. I agree with her that having an editorial calendar is a great idea to manage social media content; and also that this content should be decided taking into consideration both audiences and what works best for each channel. I appreciated her candor when discussing how she benchmarks with other museums and her success/lack of thereof in some social media campaigns she supervised. I do wish she had talked a bit more about her website redesign, specially the role of integrating users as part of the process.
Great interview! I agree with Wendy that I appreciated your question to Sarah regarding the museum’s success and effectiveness on social media platforms and I enjoyed listening to her response that each platform is engaging a different audience (i.e. Facebook is engaging the museum’s baby boomer generation and their Instagram platform has seen growth in the past four years and is reaching a younger audience). I also enjoyed hearing how Sarah measures the success of their social media platforms by comparing their museum with other museums in Pittsburgh and similar sized museums around America. I liked that she said success should be measured by the number of people engaged, not the number of followers. I also enjoyed her candor regarding project failures and stating that failure doesn’t always happen because it wasn’t a good idea, but most likely because it wasn’t executed properly. I’m glad to hear that she actively writes for the museum’s blog and shares some fun facts along with accurate information. I’m interested to know how heavily involved the curators or registrars are in this blog since it sounds like a lot of this information would come from them. Could the curatorial staff create their own blog? Lastly, I appreciated Sarah’s answer regarding professional advice and her recommendation to those interested in this type of work should be willing to learn a new platform or program and to not be afraid of how fast technology moves.
I appreciate that she points out the need for content and voice/tone to be appropriate to the platform. I feel like a lot of museum professionals (at least a few that I have met) think social media is social media and do not understand the nuances in the types of audiences each platform draws. I also appreciate that she understands the importance of collaborating with other departments in the museum.
She makes a great point about social media being used for content more so than for advertising. I think years ago when the internet was a new thing, using the web primarily for advertising, events, and promotions worked. With the web, social media, and technology evolving as fast as it does today, however, we have to give the visitor/user more. If there is great content on a museum website, it will entice me to go in person to that new exhibit.
I love Ms. Reck’s views that websites can be both advertising (price of admission) and content rich (information about an exhibit). There are so many missed opportunities to connect with our audiences when we concentrate on one over the other. I really like the idea of posting content that people may not see in the museum, but will whet their appetite to visit the physical space. A blog post or social media connection can be a great way to entice audiences to discover the rest of the museum/exhibit.
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