After a year of investigative journalism, WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, launched its first true-crime podcast, Last Seen, in collaboration with the Boston Globe. A 10-episode, true crime podcast, Last Seen examines the most valuable and confounding art heist in history: the theft of 13 artworks, including Rembrandt’s only seascape, from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Hosted by WBUR’s award-winning producers and reporters Kelly Horan and Jack Rodolico, the series includes exclusive contributions from Boston Globe’s Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Stephen Kurkjian, author of “Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World’s Greatest Art Heist.”
On the occasion of its 150th anniversary, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History sought to do two things: 1) To change the perception that natural history museums have remained unchanged and stuck in the past since their founding; and 2) To present itself as the preeminent museum for gems and minerals with the opening of a new, state-of-the-art gem and mineral gallery, David Friend Hall.
Greenough saw this as a perfect opportunity to increase institutional awareness and reposition the organization as an innovative, forward-thinking natural history museum. We developed a long-lead, national media strategy to enhance the institution’s reputation, increase visibility, and reposition the Museum to shift public perception.
To do this, we conducted in-depth research in the natural history museum field and held input meetings with Peabody leadership to gain a better understanding of their vision and goals. We then developed a comprehensive media strategy founded on proactive, long-lead outreach to priority media to meet the Peabody’s objectives.
We began executing this strategy by crafting a core set of key messages that conveyed the Peabody’s vision for the sesquicentennial and beyond, and the importance of David Friend Hall to the Peabody, the natural history museum and science community, and the greater public. We then created an inventory of possible story angles to reach the broadest audiences across varying outlets such as science, mineral and gem, art, museum, philanthropy and lifestyle trades as well as national and local cultural coverage.
Once those initial pieces were in place, Greenough conducted a national media campaign, securing more than 75 pieces of coverage spanning national top tier daily news outlets, local Connecticut publications, science and mineral trades, and philanthropy and cultural trade publications. The Wall Street Journal wrote a stunning review of the institution, USA Today named David Friend Hall one of the “12 best U.S. museum exhibits to see this fall,” Rock & Gem featured David Friend Hall as the cover story of the October issue, and Connecticut Magazine developed a 2,000-word, 9-page spread, feature article. Our resulting coverage had the potential to reach a print circulation of more than 2.1 million readers, and our online coverage had the potential to garner a total of nearly 153 million monthly unique impressions.
So we were able to increase institutional awareness and raise visibility, but did we shift perceptions and highlight the Peabody’s stellar collection? The answer is yes. In each piece of coverage, each author makes a note of the institution’s innovations and underscores its relevancy now more than ever.
For example, Wall Street Journal critic at large, Ed Rothstein wrote,
“The museum is remarkably free of commercial clamor and condescension, and free too of the political posturing that can make it feel as if curators were wagging fingers through display cases. The Peabody re-establishes the natural history museum as the domain of impassioned collectors and teachers.”
As a result of this strategic public relations campaign, the Peabody has seen a steady and consistent increase in the number of visitors to the Museum. During the opening month, attendance increased 45% from the previous October, and November and December continued with a 17% and 10% increase, respectively.
We are pleased to see our efforts directly impact attendance numbers and shape the public’s perception of the Peabody. And, as an added bonus, Greenough was awarded honorable mention for the 2017 PR News Nonprofit PR Awards.
So, just as a diamond needs to be polished to find its inherent brilliance, so too, do institutions need to revamp their messaging and have a strong, strategic PR program to ensure they stand out and shine.
To conform to shifting reader habits and the quickening news cycle, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have both recently reorganized their publishing formats—most notably impacting the arts sections—and the Boston Globe is undergoing an audit of its editorial department.
The New York Times cut its local tri-state culture coverage in August and redesigned its arts section in December, concentrating on consumer-focused pieces such as “Show Us Your Wall” and cutting the weekly column, “Inside Art,” which had served as a “must-read” for everyone in the art market.
The Wall Street Journal launched a new print format with fewer sections in November. The publication introduced a new “Business & Finance” section which combined “Business & Tech” and “Money & Investing” and a new “Life & Arts” section which combined “Personal Journal” and “Arena.” Like the Times, the Journal also reduced its regional “Greater New York” coverage.
The Boston Globe is rethinking how the editorial department should function with today’s shortened news cycle. Rather than adhering to the deadlines demanded by the print schedule, the Globe will publish stories online throughout the day and night. To meet this end, they are creating an “Express Desk” to post breaking news and jump on trending stories.
The overarching result of these changes is reduced print coverage.
With limited space to work with, editors must decide which stories are selected for print. And not all make the cut. For example, although a recent review of the Museum of World War II’s anti-Semitism exhibition was featured in full in the Wall Street Journal’s print edition, a WSJ article on recreational marijuana in the workplace featuring Mirick O’Connell was shortened for print. In some cases, a story slated for publication gets bumped for a breaking news story, which was the case with a WSJ review of the Yale Peabody Museum when a Christie’s executive announced he was stepping down the same day. Or it may be delegated as an online only story, such as the WSJ review of the Museum of World War II’s exhibition on Pearl Harbor, which was never slated for the print edition in the first place.
In the digital age, where social media reigns, the idea that a story may only be published online is not necessarily a negative. It simply reflects our shifting news consumption habits.
With online stories, we can share content with a broader audience and bolster the reach of the coverage. As we have seen with the rise of Buzzfeed, the ability to share and “like” has a tangible, measurable and significant impact on the reach of digital media coverage.
Additionally, we are also in a golden age of video and audio reports shared through digital platforms. Boston’s own NPR station, WBUR, continues to see strong support from its listeners and donors to expand its offerings and to report through new digital platforms. This year alone, WBUR launched a new website and mobile app which focus on the user experience of listening. They also launched the new education vertical, Edify, and received a $3 million grant from the Barr Foundation to bolster its arts and culture reporting, The ARTery. This is just one example of the kind of shift and dispersion occurring in the media landscape.
As we continue to witness the evolution of media, it’s important to understand the new limitations in print coverage, to manage the expectations of our clients and to be prepared to capitalize on the next trend in media.
– Maria Kucinski, Account Supervisor. Follow on LinkedIn