CAMPAIGNS: Museum of Glass invites the media to see everything

PR Team: Museum of Glass (Tacoma, WA) and Ruder Finn (New York and Los Angeles) Campaign: "Shattering Expectations" Time Frame: June 2001-present Budget: $80,000

PR Team: Museum of Glass (Tacoma, WA) and Ruder Finn (New York and Los Angeles) Campaign: "Shattering Expectations" Time Frame: June 2001-present Budget: $80,000

Before it opened last July, the Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art faced several challenges, including competition for attention by the construction and expansion of more than 10 other museums nationwide. Another major problem it faced was the need to overcome negative perceptions about its home base, the city of Tacoma itself, that might turn off visitors. The museum brass knew the ambitious institution and its collection had the potential to win not only local and regional attention, but national and international interest as well. It also believed that to reach that goal, it needed to build extraordinary media and public awareness of its opening. Strategy A full year before its doors opened, the museum hired a full-time PR manager and retained Ruder Finn to provide media on both coasts with fast, easy access to information that would sustain long-term awareness and, hopefully, drive visitors to the museum. It was clear that the key to the campaign's success was to gain and build upon the collaboration and partnership of other art and cultural organizations, as well as convention and visitors bureaus. Tactics Along with mass mailings, the museum targeted key editors and writers, including those of The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. "The PR team also cultivated and developed media coverage through briefing events, individual presentations, and one-on-one luncheons in New York, Los Angeles, Tacoma, Portland, OR, and Vancouver, Canada," says PR manager Hillary Gray. "Our objective was to introduce the media to the museum in an intimate setting, to frame future feature coverage, and to generate relationships between media and the museum." To introduce local and regional press and high-profile national publications to the museum and encourage timely coverage, the team held a press preview for some 170 journalists a week before the opening. And to ensure high attendance, it combined the event with press previews of two city-owned public art pieces: the "Chihuly Bridge of Glass" by Dale Chihuly and "Water Forest" by Howard Ben Tr?. Tours and a special lunch in the museum's state-of-the-art glass studio followed a program to explain its features. "The attending media included TV crews from every national news network affiliate and representatives from major-market dailies," says Gray. "We also developed an online press room with images and up-to-date information, and distributed press kits containing a CD-ROM of images and information regarding the museum." Results Besides saturation coverage by regional media of all kinds in the first two months after the opening, the campaign won placements in influential national and international media outlets, including print and wire services, broadcast, and the internet. Hits in national magazines ranged from American Craft and Art in America to Elle Decor and Town & Country. Architecture also included a 12-page, full-color feature. International coverage included magazines in Italy, France, Germany, and Sweden. To date, 375 articles and 96 broadcast segments introduced 161 million readers, listeners, and viewers to the museum. "We had 150,000 visitors in the first five months." says Gray, "making the Museum of Glass an arts destination for visitors from all over the world. One way we look at our appeal is by how many people become members. Currently, we already have 4,700." Future Besides promoting awareness of the museum and its activities, the PR team will continue to support arts organizations and tourism in Tacoma, Seattle, and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.

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