Museum Crisis Communication: Thesis Update

Jasmine Duran, July 2014 — Art museums have a special obligation to communicate with the cultural community. Public relations and museum management professionals help to respectively deliver the message using their best practices and intentions for art affiliations and aficionados. But what happens when there is a third party that delivers this message? Is there sway or opinion? Can readers, viewers, or participants of media understand a museum message, justly, when it is delivered by a third-party source? Does it produce malice to the museum reputation if you never return to the museum again? These are a few questions I am investigating for my graduate thesis.
 
 
I am interested in crisis communication and how media publicity impacts the museum’s relationship with the community.  In order to fully understand this topic, I am scheduling interviews with museum communication and marketing professionals, contacting press, and producing empirical research to support my claim that media impacts the museum brand image.
If the museum is not currently in a crisis, it should consider itself in a ‘pre-crisis situation’ and prepare for the crisis that looms on the horizon.” – Kotler & Kotler, Museum Marketing & Strategy
Currently I have been studying the effects of crises and common crises that arise for a museum. Financial crisis seems to create the most impact and most certainly makes for an alarming Arts column headline. As Stephen Weil once wrote, “In terms of operating funds, we are—for the most part—broke. That is a secret kept largely within the museum world.” Today, the insert ‘for the most part’ has quietly been dropped.
 
Recently, I have refreshed my memory on public relation practices with media. Communication is a key factor in this study and if the museum professionals cannot communicate to the press, then the press cannot communicate to the people. I am studying non-profit public relations as well as looking for case studies of multiple museums. I am not attempting to find media or museum professionals doing anything wrong, but allowing access to tools they possibly never knew they had. I will address a letter to media sources soon, and to writers who frequently covered a specific museum crisis.
 
In the near future I will begin research on studies of public perception. I would like to know how communities are influenced and how well art museums understand their community standards/public priorities. Propaganda will certainly be on my lists of methods to study, as well as defamation, as I should know what constitutes image damage.I will seek resources of measured visitor familiarity and favor-ability with the museum.
 
Rebranding is a subtopic I must settle. How can museums use crisis as a rebranding tool? I will soon learn more about each art museum crisis and the opportunities they had/have with rebranding. Most museums may have already passed their peak crisis headlines, but how can they use their new image to move into the future? 
 
I have had immense progress to plan my way through a museum crisis and hope to create a case study of crisis communication situations. 
 
If you have or know of any successful communication stories between media and the museum, please share! 
I would love to hear from you!
 
Jasmine
Weil, Stephen E. Beauty and the Beasts: On Museums, Art, the Law, and the Market. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Print.

Kotler, Neil G., Philip Kotler, and Wendy I. Kotler. Museum Marketing and Strategy: Designing Missions, Building Audiences, Generating Revenue and Resources. San Francisco Calif: Jossey-Bass, 2008. Print.