Institutional Voice

The first social media platforms were designed for individuals to communicate with other individuals, before businesses and organizations got involved. Now that every platform contains millions of competing voices, ranging from our grandmothers to multi-national corporations, how do museums bridge the gap between representing themselves as exciting, diverse institutions and interacting with audiences on a personal level? How can we talk to people in useful ways without trying to shout louder than everyone else? The answer is by creating a unique and effective institutional voice. But is this voice meant to be friendly, irreverent, hilarious, inviting, educational—or all of this at once? Should we try to teach people or make friends? Can we do both? Short answer: yes! But then how do we navigate sharing high-level curatorial writing, marketing and promotional posts, community-oriented posts that engage our local audiences, and participating in cross-museum campaigns, while also factoring in administrative requests to “be funny” and “go viral”? Will trying to do all of this at once make us seem dangerously unhinged? Just as museums are (and must be) many things to many people, all different types of content are related, regardless of what voice is used, because all voices represent the institution. I will explore the concept of institutional voice as a multitude of related voices and examine if it’s possible (or desirable) to maintain consistency across platforms when multiple people manage social accounts. I’ll also explore the relationship between digital institutional voice and the voice represented in signage and curatorial labels. Much of our energy is spent trying to get people in the museums doors, but how does digital institutional voice carry over when they get there? Like a bad Tinder date, is there a danger of museums not living up to the promise of their online personas? Speaker(s) Session Leader : Stephen Boyd, Assistant Editor, Albright-Knox Art Gallery MCN 2016 Presenting Sponsor: Piction New Orleans, LA