Hey Ms. 2.0, what's your take on museums that keep blogs? Worthwhile? Any good ones out there? Or do they just become boring PR vehicles, due to administrative fears over message control?And the answer is... it depends. In general, yes, I think that museums maintaining blogs is an effective, cheap way to get changing content out to the public frequently. However, there are many different approaches to take--as there are with blogs in general.
Do I have a personal preference among these approaches? That's not the point. The point is that you have to decide WHY your institution is starting a blog (and no, "all my friends are doing it" is not enough) and then find the approach that works for you.
With a nod to Seventeen magazine, here's a flowquiz to help you figure out what kind of blog might be right for your museum... (and here's a link to a downloadable version of this graphic)
And here's what those results mean...
Approach #2: Aggregate Content Blog (star example: Food Museum blog)
These blogs distribute news related to the content of the museum. This is the 2.0 version of the news clippings tackboard on “Current Events” in hallways of some museums. They can serve as a “living” version of the museum collection, and are usually populated by short posts that link to other content sources for the full story. How to maximize this type? Provide content that no one else does--and lots of it.
Approach #2a: Community Content Blog (star example: Science Buzz at SMM)
Approach #3: Specialized Content Blog (star examples: Voices of Genocide from USHMM, Free Radicals from the Powerhouse Museum)
These blogs are typically linked to an exhibition or sub-specialty of the museum, presenting news about that content. These blogs occasionally showcase some institutional info, but primarily serve as a highly tuned news source on a particular issue. How to maximize this type? Bring in awesome experts to blog for a limited time period, and treat it like special public programming.
Approach #4: Personal Voice Blog (star example: Director's Blog at the Walters Art Museum)
Though this approach is the gold standard for personal blogs, it's incredibly unusual for institutional blogs. These are blogs in which individuals or a small panel of staff offer personal commentary about their museums. What more dangerous--or appealing--way to represent your institution? How to maximize this type? Hold a contest and select several bloggers from across the institution. This is my dream (and I haven't seen it yet): an aggregate blog of individuals, one from the floor staff, one from the store, one from security, one from marketing...
Maybe you come out of this thinking you can cobble together the best of each of these approaches to create a superblog. Bad idea. The best blogs aren't newspapers; they are more like specialty magazines with a distinctive topic, audience, and voice. If you want multiple approaches, follow the Powerhouse Museum's lead and create multiple blogs.
Want more on this topic? Take an armchair tour on museumblogs.org. And if you run a museum blog, get in touch with Lynn Bethke, who is doing her master's thesis on museum blogs and needs your help with a survey.