Lessons from the Coronavirus: There Is No “Pivot”

The 2020 pandemic upended most museums' business and engagement strategy for the year. It exposed the foundations underlying our efforts across digital, good and bad, and in many cases, it caught us flat-footed. Digital groups acted quickly to change their mandate entirely. The goal of digital engagement and marketing shifted from driving visitation to a physical place, to creating an equally compelling online museum. Digital teams had to figure out quickly how to engage audiences stuck at home with no chance to visit their institutions. The call for change was quick, often panicked, and came from all leadership levels. This was often referred to as a pivot. Is this an accurate description of how digital teams responded or was the quick response a reflection of the way digital professionals work on a regular basis? Our discussion will explore this topic, among others. In this informal discussion, three digital leaders will talk about the ways that what has been described as a rapid, freewheeling “pivot” was actually doable because of well-laid foundational plans, skills, and teamwork. We will discuss the reasons why our digital teams were positioned to succeed in the quickly changing environment of the COVID-19 closure, how we adapted, and what this reinforces for how we can work in the future. We will also explore lessons learned, and demonstrate the distinction between pivoting versus building on top of groundwork that had been in the planning for years, utilizing existing collaborative structures and systems upon which we had long relied. In this session, we hope a discussion of the lessons learned from this pandemic, and from the ‘pivot’ will help museums plan for a better future, and not get caught flat-footed in the next global crisis.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Should we go ahead and get started? It is two minutes past the hour.

Unknown Speaker 00:04
Let's do it.

Unknown Speaker 00:08
Yes, we can. And I think I'm getting us off today skidding started off today. And wow, that is a lot of people I could not see the I could not see the numbers when I have my screen share. Um, so thank you so much for being with us, everyone. Just a couple of housekeeping things. So the chat is for, Oh, hello, Susan Wagner from Chicago. The chat is for technical issues, if you have them. That's what MCA has reminded us. And we have a support team. So if you do have something come up, do drop a note in there. And then the q&a is for questions. We are going to be keeping an eye on that as we go along. And so we've got questions we're posing to each other. We encourage you to jump in and share. If that inspires anything for you. If you have your own questions, please throw them in there. It's not there is going to be some time at the end. Dana will take us through that. But we do definitely welcome interaction obviously all throughout. We also want to acknowledge Microsoft for the registration Assistance Fund for there's sponsorship there as well as axio for sponsoring Ignite, which I'm so excited about tonight, love to see what that's going to be like, I'm sure it's going to be super cool. As always. My name is Brad Dunn. I'm the Web and Digital engagement director at the Field Museum in Chicago. They use he him his pronouns. My description of me for those who can't see me as I am, will not surprise you to learn white middle aged male with glasses and wearing a sort of a floral shirt. I've been accused of working in a basement. I'm not actually I do have a window off here to the sites and don't worry about vitamin D. And with that, I will hand it off to Susan. Hello, everybody.

Unknown Speaker 01:58
My name is Susan Edwards. I work at the hammer Museum, which is a small mid sized Museum in Los Angeles affiliated with UCLA. We're technically a university Art Museum, which many people don't know. And I am a white woman with glasses. I'm going to describe myself the way Brad did white woman with glasses middle aged, wearing a graphical shirt and there's some paint, there's some photographs and pictures on the wall behind me. I use she her pronouns. I think that's that's me. I'm gonna hand it off to Dana now.

Unknown Speaker 02:35
Everyone, I am Dana Allen greil. I use she her pronouns. I am also a white woman in her early 40s, and I'm wearing a blue shirt that says a healthier ocean starts here, the Monterey Bay Aquarium shirt, where I work as the Director of Digital Strategy. And the aquarium is on the homelands of the aloni coast to know and acelin Nation people's past, present and future. I'm so excited to interact with you all today. I'm Santa so near and dear to my heart and has been for a long time. I really feel like this community is amazing. So thank you for joining us. This is really going to be a conversation. We want to hear from you jump in at any point. As Brad said, I think we want to use the q&a for sort of questions you want to pose to the panelists in the chat. For technical, I'm just so you can have a rough idea of the outline of this session, we have three questions we're going to pose to one another and to all of you. So I will put them into the chat as we talk about them. We're going to talk about each of those for roughly 15 minutes. And then we'll leave kind of 10 minutes at the end for just open dialogue. So that's where we hope this will go. It can be kind of freewheeling. Um, and I think we were also going to share a little bit in our interest of why we wanted to do this session. So I'll start that and then kick it around and put the first question in the chat. So for me, the idea of a pivot has been something that hasn't sat well with me, it's a word I've heard over and over. And it just didn't feel right. And I was trying to understand why. And I think for me, it really just undervalues the work that so many of us have been doing for a really long time. In my case, I've been working in digital for about 20 years in museums, archives, and now an aquarium for about 17. And we've really laid the groundwork for where we are this year this year has been so tough. But also we've we've been setting the stage to really shine digitally for a long time. And so the idea of a pivot I think, again, just for me, I wanted to just unpack what that means and what and where it doesn't ring true for me. So that's why I wanted to do it. And I just love Susan and Brandon. It's fun to talk with them.

Unknown Speaker 05:00
So Susan, yeah. So

Unknown Speaker 05:02
you just you just said that beautifully. Dana, you echoed exactly what I, what I would was going to say. I mean, for me, I also was a little uncomfortable with this idea of a pivot. And I know that a lot of museums we're talking about right after the Coronavirus, quarantine began that everything has changed, oh, my God, the world has changed. And I was sitting here in my digital seat thinking, no, no, it's, I'm still doing my job, the way I was before, it might be a little more crazy. And the pace might be faster. But the sort of digital first mindset and the way the digital world works really actually didn't change. So again, as Dana said, I agree we I would, I'm really interested in unpacking what that means and how we can also focus on the strengths of working in a digital world and how that actually did prepare our museums for the craziness that is 2020. Brad, did

Unknown Speaker 05:58
you have anything to add?

Unknown Speaker 06:01
Yeah, I mean, I want to be thoughtful and only add something new, because I agree with both of you. And it did. It felt like this moment where a lot of people in the building began talking like us all of a sudden. And there was there was a lot of sense of like, But wait, we've been doing this stuff forever. I think the early things were not a not a pivot. And I fought back hard against that the early initiatives and things that we did were more leaning, I like to say like leaning into things that we were already doing, but pressing the gas on those things to to go further. I think the organization now is actually beginning to pivot or to design things in a more meaningful way. And it's not just my team, there's a lot of great programs coming out of our learning group. One of them's actually just started a half hour ago, actually. And so I think there's some innovation happening, but it took us a while to get there. So I was very resistant and remained to this idea of the pivot. I actually don't mind it. And it's like part and parcel with this idea of being agile, which we've all been talking about for years, literally in terms of adopting those practices. But it's not, it's not a fair description to describe, I think what the vast majority actually started doing in March.

Unknown Speaker 07:13
Alright, so with that, I'm going to put the first question in the chat that we're going to discuss. And it is basically in what ways did your institution panic. And if your institution did not panic, I think we'd love to hear that, too. All stories are welcome here. So I think Susan, you might want to kick us off with in what ways did your institution panic?

Unknown Speaker 07:36
Yeah. So Ah, I'm really our institution is very lucky that we are a freedom museum. So admission is not part of the part of the calculation in our budget. So we were super, super lucky that we did not have the immediate income Panic of no visitors coming to the museum. That was super, that was a blessing. But we were very, very concerned about our audiences disappearing. And we wanted the main, the main panic was we need to get everything online so that the audiences are there, when we do open again, we don't want to lose people. So that was a a full on push to put everything I mean, I think every museum saw this at the beginning, all these museums and institutions and archives, and zoos and aquaria were loading tons of their content, or educational content, whatever they had putting it online, pushing it to press, putting it on their home pages, to sort of maintain to like, be relevant still, like we're still here, even though we don't have a building. The other the one other really big way that our Xion panicked a little bit was the curators became very, very interested in social media, all of a sudden, that was the most visible aspect of the museum. Instantly, it wasn't the galleries. And they, they became laser focused on that. And we've had a lot of really interesting conversations around how social plays in with the curatorial role of the acts of the institution. And it's been interesting, because we've had more attention from them than we ever have. And it's been there's been some great conversations. pass it on to

Unknown Speaker 09:18
Susan, can I ask you a question about that? So did they do you do you feel you have a better relationship with your curators now with has this been a relationship building? opportunity or

Unknown Speaker 09:33
are? Yes, absolutely. It's an opportunity. We're still working on it. It's, it's an opportunity for sure. And we're working on figuring out how to work better together. I think. I think our I think the digital and the communications team was able to not pivot but to lean in. doing digital very quickly and shift gears and figure out what our goals needed. To be in how we needed to foot what we needed to focus on. And for the curators, I think there it's a little slower for them there, the pace of an art museum curatorial team is a little slower, even at the hammer where we do things very quickly, compared to other museums are paid, the pace is slower. So it's been an ongoing conversation since March. And we're still we're still working on it. But yes, it's a total opportunity to get other teams in the institution. Understanding more clearly how digital can work for them, and how the digital experience of the museum can can be a key experience. Cool.

Unknown Speaker 10:43
There's like some incredible conversation going on. We wish I could just talk to people that much more. Dana, do you want to do you want to jump into the store next?

Unknown Speaker 10:52
Yeah, I mean, I want to give some context about my organization, which is we are still closed, we've been closed since March 13. And by the way, on March 11, we launched a two year web redesign all new ticketing platform with tessitore, a new email marketing system, like we were exhausted. And then the next day, we closed our institution, and we've been closed ever since. And in that time, we've laid off about a third of our staff, we're pretty large organization, we were about 550 staff, we're down to 360. That's been really devastating. And we've also lost more than $50 million in admissions already. And this for me, I've worked in museums in mostly in DC, for most of my career, so coming to an aquarium and realizing how actually incredibly expensive it is to keep an aquarium going, even when the doors are closed, between caring and feeding for the animals and the utilities that really doesn't go down at all, with us being closed. And anyway. So I think in some sense, there was panic kind of from everyone about revenue, and what this is going to mean for our institution for our team members. laughs has been on people's minds from the beginning. And I think everyone really wanted to chip in and help out, which is amazing, that sense of community of every bit, we're all in this together has definitely been a warm spot of this really hard time. Um, but revenue was definitely a focus from a lot of staff and from leadership. And I got a lot of questions about how can we monetize all these great things we're already doing? How can we monetize what we're doing on social? Or how can we get people to pay for our online content? And we have a fairly large digital team. So I think the I saw Liz Neely commented in here, and I really love this idea of what can we do that's meaningful and important. I said, she she said, How do we make an impact in this difficult time. And so I think panics probably not the right word for this, but the soul searching that my team did was really around. What's important right now, what can we give to our community that's in pain. Our team is very driven by empathy, and love for our community, especially on social as well as our education team and the communities they serve. And so there was a lot of like, what's the right way to approach our content in the past, there was maybe more of a a lot of memes, a lot of joking. And that didn't feel right in March. And we really leaned into things that make people feel calm ways to encourage people to breathe and focus and take time for themselves. So those feel like two very different things. How do we make money off of this? And how do we give other people when they need them? Because they've supported us for so long. So that was my experience.

Unknown Speaker 14:02
Um, so yeah, our experiences the Field Museum i think that's that's actually really great if you Dana to and I'll do the same recognize that. I mean, this wasn't it's not just for those of us who remain but there were a lot of people that were let go, I think at the Field Museum, we lost 20 ish percent of our staff, some folks very close to my team as well. So that was that was something that was on people's minds from the beginning. And we should acknowledge that people produced all this amazing work on top of the anxiety of wondering if they were going to lose their job. For for the Field Museum revenue is a huge we've had a huge revenue hit and it is an individual ticket sales are a huge part of our, of our take every year of our overall revenue. But for us, the the what we were hearing from our executive teams were that it's about retaining and keeping audiences engaged. On the one hand, it was through institutional advancement, membership and donors, lots of donor events sprung up online out of nowhere things that actually we wouldn't even be doing in the past, but just things to keep them engaged, which we're not run by my team, but we're actually run by institutional advancement, although we end up supporting a number of them, but keeping them engaged, and then thinking about fundraising. We were closed from March 13. to July, I think we started letting members in July 17th. And then we open to the public, I think about July 24. And, yeah, in terms of the panic, I actually caught something interesting that COVID said, about the patterns of layoffs. And it got me thinking here about something I honestly hadn't thought about before that obviously, there the curatorial and executive teams tend to be at the sort of the last that might ever get touched in these layoffs, that at least seems to be the pattern. And, and yet, we're trying to figure out how to be how to live and be sustainable as institutions in this COVID world going forward. I think that is an excellent point. And it is true, I have noticed a number of things. A number of layoffs around the industry that seemed to fly in the face of the sort of mission based objectives that we have most of our institutions, I have to say the Field Museum had some losses in in some really critical areas that we are trying to figure out how to move forward without some of those those stuff. But I think it's a good question, because we do have to get you know, we've I think we have to continue to make sure it's not panic to move past that. Because now we're looking at 2021. And what does 2021 mean, with COVID? Knowing that we're going to be planning much of the year and the same way we have been? So how can we begin to change our working and actually make a pivot to ways that are sustainable. And I do think that, that, really, we've got to think about what staff we need to obtain, to hit the goals that we're actually outlining. And I also think that there needs to be a moment to pause and understand what those goals might be for not selling tickets, or in our case, we are at least with time being still able to sell tickets, but we're at a fraction of our overall attendance. So we do need to channel our energy into identifying what are those long term goals that are both revenue based? Where will that money come from, as well as just the mission based objectives? And how will those be funded? And I think it's something a lot of institutions are still struggling with?

Unknown Speaker 17:46
Wow, there's a lot going on in the chat, which is awesome. I'm gonna segue to the next question, and I think it touches on a lot of what people are asking things like, have you? Have you figured out ways to show the invisible labor that goes into digital? And did you develop new protocols or expectations with your curators? was a question for Susan. Um, and has it has the increased pressure to grow digital, everything collided with the hiring freezes and shrinking revenues? And so our question is, if there was no pivot, what is enabled you to be successful? And I think that's really about if it's not a pivot, what is it? And what what did you have before that has helped you? And maybe also What? What are what remain challenges, right, which challenges remain? Let's put them in the right order. I'm gonna put that in the chat. And that's what we'll be talking about next.

Unknown Speaker 18:47
Should I kick this off again?

Unknown Speaker 18:49
Yeah. Oh,

Unknown Speaker 18:50
yeah. So, um, for us, I would like to say, and I think I've said this before, that if there really was a pivot, and we were reinventing everything that would be disastrous, like if we, if we really were reinventing our museums, that would be insane. So what we did at the hammer is we leaned into our mission and our audience awareness goals, or goals of creating awareness of the hammer out in the digital space that we already had. So we looked at the things that we knew were successful, and we leaned into those and we amp them up. One of the things that we were doing on HGTV, we had started taking small one minute clips from of like very needy quotes by people like Al Gore and Roxane Gay, and putting them on HGTV, and had huge views like 10s of 1000s of views. And we just started doing those three times a week instead of just one time a week and sort of trying to drum up awareness and sort of expand the reach that we had on our digital platforms. We also started putting our programs online like so. So the hammer had already been live streaming, most of our programs that have And in our theater for over five years. And we did two to three programs a week plus tours every week. So we had more than 300 programs we were doing every year. And like 150 of them are. So we're being live streamed simultaneously with the live program. So we already had a lot of the infrastructure there to just shift and put our programs online, it did require. So there was like a pivot in or not pivot. The pivot was that our AV team who normally are dealing with tech in a theater, they're dealing with lighting and cameras and running the video and making sure the speakers the mic works. And in, in the theater, they their theater, the stage changed from our theater to zoom. And they had to learn everything about zoom and figure out everything about showing videos on zoom and having multiple speakers and all sorts of technical details. But the idea of streaming our programs live and the having the audience that we are, we already had an audience there for our live programs. And that just only grew once we started putting our stuff online. So all of this in my mind is really just a digital mindset. The idea that we test, we learn from what we test, we iterate, we try again. And we repeat that cycle over and over again. It's something that our, the team at the hammer that works in digital is very used to and I would say that the hammer is an is an institution that is very flexible and agile in this way. And we are used to experimentation. So that mindset served us very well when we shifted into into the building being closed down. I'm going to stop there and let you guys I want to hear your your experience.

Unknown Speaker 21:47
Yeah, so I've been at the aquarium for about two years. And I was so excited to join the aquarium because I had started social media. When I was at the Smithsonian at the American History Museum. I've been that champion, that one person show doing the email newsletter on the website and the social and all the things. And now however many years leader joining the aquarium was such a eye opening experience because they already had a social media team of three, a really strong digital department. A leadership team, that's very data driven. And I know many of you probably recall him Dylan Schneider's blog, no your own bone and that in the data showing how social and it drives visitation, how it's important to how people rate their experience when they do visit how its mission supporting. And so coming into an organization that I felt like really valued digital in a way I had not experienced at the previous institutions

Unknown Speaker 22:48
I've been up.

Unknown Speaker 22:51
I still think what what we leaned into this year, is recognizing that the 3 million followers on social was not just an opportunity to engage people in our mission, but it was also an opportunity to let them know we are nonprofit. And if you love us, we need your support, which is something that we really didn't do a whole lot of on social previously. And I love that it's education focused and interpretation focused. But there was that piece of like we we need support to, and that we did very like infrequently during like fall or end of year campaigns. And where we kind of leaned in, was to just be more transparent to say, if you love seeing these animals, you love seeing the experts we have on talking about their knowledge, you can support us. And that's been really successful for us. And I think we feel better about leaving with that, like, here's the content, and then an ask for money rather than gating our content. We're used to pay first to access it. So I've been really pleased to see that that has been successful for us. I'm kind of another way that we leaned in as we have an amazing group of members. I think we have 70,000 memberships board member households around the country, which I understand is very strong. And we used to host just really fun member nights in the space. And so that went digital pretty early on. And we took that opportunity to say hey, how can we make these what's unique about this opportunity this year? And one of the things is we could go into kind of these little nooks and crannies of the institution for behind the scenes programming where we could never have fit 1000 members in our jelly lab or to show how we cultivate cephalopods. We even had One of our jelly aquarist is a musician, and he just jammed out with the jellies, which is not it was a very intimate experience, it's not something that would have like translated well, to a physical event. And so those we've streamed live on youtube only, you know, giving the link only to members. And we've had really great participation in that. And now we're starting to think about, these have been so successful, our members love them, they want us to keep doing them even when we reopen. So we've been able to get leadership to say, yes, we're going to give you the resources needed to continue producing these videos. And now, kind of with securing that support, now we can actually go out and sell essentially virtual memberships, to say, we're gonna have six of these events a year, you can be a member, it's not just about visiting. So kind of already having that strength of a great member program of having people on our team who are incredible on camera. One, one thing I think is so strong about our team at the aquarium is our social team all came from guest experience, which I think is pretty rare. So all of them worked on the floor interacting with guests for at least five years. And they have marine biology degrees. So they're not only incredible subject matter experts, but they're just really fantastic performers and great at engaging people. And that means we can do live streaming. So well. They're perfect at it. They're so fun to watch. And so we just do a lot more of that than we did before. We were doing it before maybe once a week. Now we're doing it multiple times a week, and they had ideas. But they pitched to me in January, February about gaming on Twitch. And I was like, that's great. Like, let's do that sometime. And then we were really lucky that Animal Crossing kind of released, I think early March.

Unknown Speaker 27:01
And our team has just had a blast playing Animal Crossing building islands, inviting other folks from other institutions. We had someone from the field, someone from the Smithsonian, someone from another aquarium, someone from the Getty come play on our island and just like nerd out and have fun. And I think people really respond to like seeing humans have fun right now, that's really, we all want to be part of that. And so that was something that was an idea that that we just accelerated. And same with our distance learning that was something that was in the works to do online courses. It was supposed to launch two years from now. So we just very rapidly and I want to say just it was a huge effort. But it was something that we've been laying the groundwork for. And we just really accelerated that. And that's also been incredibly successful for us. We've had 30,000 students enrolled in our courses since May. So that's huge. And really, I think, for us success has been about that staff like that incredibly talented staff, and their ability to have their finger on the pulse of what people need right now. And so what we've done is very human, I'm sure maybe talk about some of the things we've done, we released a series of meditations, they were 10 minute, guided meditations back in March one a day, right after we closed. And that's something that now has had, I think 5 million views of the six videos have gotten like 5 million views over time, and we actually rereleased them last week, since last week was a very stressful week. For our community. I'm sure you can all understand that. Um,

Unknown Speaker 28:49
and yeah,

Unknown Speaker 28:51
someone Someone asked what platform The courses are on.

Unknown Speaker 28:55
They're on Thinkific happy to chat about that, or put you in touch with the folks who are running that? Um, yeah, so Oh, shut up. But I think I think a lot of what we've done has been like inside of us. And I'm really glad we've been able to retain our digital team intact. Despite all the layoffs, we actually even added a person. Despite the hiring freeze, we kind of moved someone over from guest experience. She was working with volunteers, and now she does social care and email marketing for us because there was recognition. We're doing more or less than ever than ever before. We're the face of the institution right now. And we need support.

Unknown Speaker 29:42
Yeah, so, so much to dive into here, I think. So at the Field Museum, we like I said early on, I like to think of what we did was we lean so the first thing sort of leaning into the staff. I mean, the thing that was great as I am super fortunate that I have such a high performing team That, who we've a lot of processes on our team. There's not a lot of museum wide processes. We've worked on that. But the one that we have that was huge was a thing that we have called the field content plan, which was borrowed a couple of years ago, from our colleagues at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, they have this brand content plan, we adapted it for our needs. And that is co owned by Caitlin Carney, who I know many of, you know, on our team, as well as Maggie Holcomb, teammate of ours and marketing, they that that is a framework that provides criteria for assessing the massive amounts of content that come to us from all around the museum, and, and helps us understand like, where it should live within our distribution channels, and how and what the end and what goals it serves. So there's very specific criteria that something has to meet to go in there. And so provides this framework that helps us bring content creators from across the museum together. That was, that was, that was a very, it's been a very strong program the past year, it's really, that's one of the big success stories of the field museums, collaboration across departments. And if we hadn't had that I'm not, I think it would have been even more chaos. So something that wasn't working is events, for example. And still, the museum is now starting to think through who specifically own events, there's a lot of freedom, shall we say, to initiate events that come out of different departments could be science, different divisions within science could be learning. I mean, in fact, learning actually does have a mandate to for for much of the programming, but there is freedom for others to do things. And so we're trying to bring that process around that right now. But I saw David Nunez had asked in the chat, you know what's working well or better. And I would say this field content plan has been huge for us. It really provides a content strategy and a framework for assessing that museum wide if we hadn't had that. I don't know. Again, I don't know what we would have done in that moment, or what the museum would have done. To get like more tactical is an example of something we had built. And it actually been around for a while. And I gave I gave this credit last year. And I'm going to end up doing it again right now, which was that Susan Gardner who at the time was on our team at the museum, she's at the Obama foundation now. But But when there was a moment over well over like a year and a half ago, when our we had had lost our budget, and in the middle of the web redesign, we were maybe in the back third of it. And she came to me and just said that, if I'm looking at all the things we have to build, one thing that I think could have huge impact is moving up the learning centers. Some of their initiatives, including this learning how we should get that built right now. And because of that insight she had, that was the thing we had built and had been sitting on and promoting to some degree for four months, and it didn't get that much traffic. And almost overnight, it became one of the most visited things. Now we also reworked the homepage and created a takeover that was all learning and at home resources that people could use. And then Andrea Ledesma, who everyone here knows really led the charge with with the rest of our digital team, and we suitor Roger Swan, just to build out new to actually rework it to include like new personas and new contexts. So it's not just grade level and topic now. But there's

Unknown Speaker 33:30
there what kind Are you a parent teacher, you know, your parent or caregiver, there's all these different criteria that people can lock in to find things that resources they're useful for specifically where you are so literally at home or in the museum or outside things you can do with your kids while the weather's nice outside, all these parents stuck at home. So you know, there was some pivoting there. But the truth is, if we hadn't built that thing once before, we wouldn't have had that and it became one of the most valuable things during our during that closure. Someone else I might not say her name, right. So I apologize. But Audrina Castillo asked, you know, did you find our online audience has changed in terms of demographics or use of online content? And yes, I mean, like, as you would expect, like clockwork, we went from being majority mobile, visitors to the website to desktop. And whereas we had like 65 to 70% of site, visitors were planning a visit and visiting those related pages that facilitate visit, exhibitions and things like that. It completely flipped so that it was all like our resources. And the other interesting thing that happened and I think something that we had been preaching on our team for a while, but it really came together organically without us having to do much, to be honest, is that we're able to get different departments to work together to think in terms of audiences rather than the siloed departments in which they exist. So we have a science action division, which produces all this amazing content that's conservation related, and they've really been single, you know, very focused. On a specific set of audiences in Chicago, we have the Brain Scoop, which we've always promoted. And then there's content coming out of the Learning Center. And the institution hasn't traditionally thought of audiences. First they thought of sort of departments. And so like I always say, we're organizations, not org charts. So it doesn't matter where these things come from, we were able to sort of bring together like rapid, rapid color guides for a science action division, and again, the Learning Center bill, as well as their learning resources and the Brain Scoop and some outside resources, access to pointing people to the biodiversity heritage library, online application and bringing these things together in a way that we'd always preach that we're about audiences first. So doesn't matter where it lives on the website terms of the org chart, but it matters that it reaches audiences. And so that was a quick change we made but we were able to do that because of the investment in the in the CMS that we use and and in the frameworks for looking at content and having a content strategy. If we hadn't done that, then if we hadn't had that, this would have been a much, much different year, I think,

Unknown Speaker 36:05
can I make I want to make a comment, they want to tell a failure story based on that, that reminded them from what you said bread, and the hammer Museum, our website has always been very focused on visiting the physical museum. So like all of the content is around come to the museum, see the exhibitions come to our programs. And we haven't had historically a lot of resources online for teaching or for scholars. And it's hard to find if it's there, and when our traffic has, like, fell off a cliff, March when we close. And that was largely because it just wasn't there. And we we actually are in the process of creating a new resource, which is a, it's going to be an online video archive with recordings of our public programs. And for like a hot second, which was about like 10 days, we were like, Can we just get this up now because it wasn't completed yet. And then we'll have content and people will come to us. And and thankfully, I think my stars are leadership realized that that was going to be a ridiculously heavy lift. And we decided not to do it. But our our web traffic has fallen dramatically, because we don't have this, this content and we didn't have it set. So kudos to you, Brad that you guys, you had set that stuff up in advance, and it was there and it was a place that people could go. The one other point I want to make that is come up without with everybody, all of your guys's comments and a lot of in the chat around working cross departmentally with other teams and getting people to sort of be more audience focused at that, at the hammer, we've had this very interesting thing happened where there is a raised awareness of all the people that are able to view our programs now from all these different countries. So people from Pakistan and Nigeria and all over Europe and who are watching our programs. And I have to hold my tongue because I'm like, you know what people have from those countries have been watching our programs for like, you're just you're just excited about it. Now there, there's a renewed openness to like seeing the positive in the digital space now and to try and to see that outreach. Whereas before the curatorial team didn't just didn't see it. They didn't want to, they didn't want to know about all the people in Nigeria who are watching our programs online. Interesting.

Unknown Speaker 38:29
And to be clear, we that that is super interesting, Susan, and I think that I've heard that story a lot, that the recognition that there's these things are going on, they're not actually new, but there's been a lot that we've been doing for a long time. I mean, our traffic also fell off a cliff. So it's it's definitely not all been roses. But what was interesting to me was that the traffic and there was no need for most of the traffic because most of them are planning to visit and so that we're able to get some traffic back, you know, I think it was it's been roughly a half of what we normally get. And and and during the closure, it was all focused on the sort of like learning and Museum at home type activities. And but yes, plenty, plenty of failures along the way this year for sure.

Unknown Speaker 39:12
So let's talk I think there's a lot of interest in this, like what happened to your stats and how did your demographics change? So let's talk about that. While we also transition into how should we invest in digital, which is our last question. Before we open it up to just the looks like 1000s of chats we have going on here. I can't keep track obviously a lot to talk about here. I will say we had a massive spike in March and April like five times our normal traffic and a huge increase in social followers. And we've seen just like bananas, growth on YouTube, twitch and even on Facebook because we do a ton of live video so video, play forms for us. tic toc is the other we don't do a ton on Tick tock, but we've got lots of fans there. So for us video has been a huge and live video, specifically live video where people can interact with us. And again, as I've mentioned, our team is so good at that. So think we're very lucky in that way. I think our web traffic spiked so dramatically for two reasons. One, our live webcams, which apparently have been around since the early 2000s. And thank goodness, because, you know, people can see jellies and sharks and the kelp forest. And it's literally the same thing we've been offering of sea otters Don't forget the sea otters for decades, but all of a sudden, people wanted kind of this counter programming to what's going on in the world. They want you know, the The news is scary, the world is scary and want to watch some jellyfish pollute. And, and that got really picked up by the media. It's been picked up by wired. Last week, Ted, on Election Day streamed on all of their platforms, just calming ocean live stream content. So that again, you know, I keep hammering that home. But for us, it's really that like, how does our content connect to how people are feeling emotionally? And what can it do for your audience. And so we've, we definitely saw a huge spike, big day. Oh, sorry, the second piece was our educational content. So we really quickly put out content for learning at home. And it was a really what we originally put out was to help parents, especially with younger kids, like, and maybe this, I especially love this, because I have preschooler, and there's really nothing, I was kind of left with no resources, and had to figure out what to do with him in a self directed way, which is challenging for four year old. Um, and then I think we've seen more teachers starting to pick up on the online courses I mentioned before, and start assigning them to their students, but they were really designed to be for kids to do on their own. So those two things have kind of generated media attention. And we are seeing for us, our numbers are double what they were last year still, even though we've come down from that five times growth. And our social audience that we've gained, is super engaged, like twice as engaged as they were last year. So for us that has sustained, but I want to be real about what that means. My team is exhausted and stressed, which they probably always were, they're overachievers. They're very sensitive people. They're amazing. But now they have this added pressure of feeling like I have to save the aquarium and save the world and save the ocean, you know, politically. And so in terms of how should we invest in digital, for me, that answer is absolutely like caring for our team. Giving them grace, being really clear with them about what's not expected of them, I do not expect them to save the aquarium. I expect them to do their jobs and take care of themselves. And I expect other people to respect that as well and not keep asking them for more and more and more. And the other thing for me is, I was asked to do the claims first ever digital strategy this year, and it's a institution wide strategy at three weeks to do it. For those of you that work not have worked on a strategy, it would be nice to have like, three months and like lots of posted, so I didn't have that luxury. So I just kept it really simple and said, Hey, I need to continue invest in live video programming, and have more staff who can help support that. And then the other is we have the super engaged audience.

Unknown Speaker 43:55
How do we turn them into supporters? Whether that's Subscribe for email, and then when we ask you to take action to to contact your representatives, you're ready to do that? Or how do we turn someone who loves our live webcam into a member or a donor? And really focusing not on like, continuing audience growth in terms of wider, wider, wider, more? And instead, how do we deepen the relationships we've started and turn that into more substantial support. So the the money I've been allocated for next year is really focused it focused on things like marketing automation, how do you move people along your journey? You know, not like super sexy stuff, but it's it's a piece of infrastructure we don't have right now to do all of that very manually, and it's really critical for us to sustain this going forward. So what about the rest of you? How are you thinking about investing in digital?

Unknown Speaker 44:58
I just want to double down real quick and on I'll keep this brief. Susan, if you're if you want to jump into but Pete, like people has been the key like without our people, because they made things work where there was processor where there wasn't. And I, you know, I think I mean, you're talking about your social team, I'm thinking of, you know, we, we've never had like audience growth as a as a as a metric, actually, it's always been about engagement. And we used to actually do a deeper sort of sentiment analysis of, sort of how do we suss out curiosity? And that engagement, how do we know that that's the thing that's happening. But in spite of that, I mean, Katharine Uhrich, who's our social media manager is a one person show with some assistance from a couple people here and there. But I think in our first two months, we also had like a 17% spike in our, like, growth in our audience, which is, you know, normally we're, we're doing 346 percent growth a month. So this, this really big spike, I think, speaks toward the public's it. I mean, this is there's no data behind this, right. But it definitely felt to me like, oh, people are turning to us for something during this time. And they're turning to museums in general during this time. And one of the choices that Catherine made was, as you said, to like, bring some joy. Like, how can we have fun? How can we keep sharing science, but how can we really have fun, which has been the the inflatable T rex costume series, which every time we do it is just we sort of joked we're like, oh, that's way more popular than the science. But you know, that's obviously it's easier to have a moment of joy with that all the work we do is important. But she brought that joy to it. And then like there was there was things we did with the penguins at the shed next door that also did really well. So people were really looking for that joy. And that was probably one of the most valuable things we we brought to people and I and you know, there's no the investment there is the people. In this case, it was Katherine. And so it is. And Caitlin helps her a lot with with some of that work Caitlin's often sometimes the person in the suit them. And so you know, so there's the people, I think, the most important thing to invest in and and I do think processes and cloud collaboration, right? And so I had to get my mind out of the fruit. As we were coming up with these questions for the panel, I was like, What are the things we invest in Besides, that don't involve like dollars, because because those can be rare. And so for us, it's really been, again, processes and relationships where things haven't worked, what as well, in the museum, it's been because there hasn't been like long term relationship development there. And areas where it has worked better even where there's not a process, it's been a relationship. So it is about continuing to build those relationships with people across the institution. Susan, what, what, for you what is investment look like?

Unknown Speaker 47:51
Um, well, I want to also tip my hat to the labor of staff and I saw several people in the chat and in the q&a mentioned, the invisible labor of digital in it can be very invisible, I think it's become more visible because of this situation in 2020. With the increased collaboration with other departments, for example, our curatorial team, we have the opportunity of making our work visible and showing them exactly what is involved in doing this work and how labor intensive it is. So I think one way to invest is to invest in the in the CO education of our peers, and helping make our work more visible. But I'm gonna I always quote Nik Honeysett, when you when you ask, Where should I invest in this in digital? Well, it depends on what you want to do. Right is your goal audience engagement, then you need to look at your social team and your web team is your goal, scholarship and getting your collection online, you need to look at your digital asset management, your collections management, team photography. So it depends on where where you want to grow and what what you need to do and what your mission and that's based on your mission and what your institution is trying to achieve. If you have a digital strategy, that's awesome. Yay, Dana, for doing that in three weeks, or three days, or whatever, whatever you had for it. Wait. So one thing that one thing that I think is clear, though, is that these digital, the digital world of our museums is here to stay. So this appointment based online event is not I don't think it's going away. Someone mentioned that you have your audiences are asking you to keep doing it. And we have the same thing happening at the hammer. We have a weekly mindful awareness meditation session that we've been doing for over 10 years, that we quickly shifted online. The day the week after we we closed and we're a program that used to get the theater or theater on site had a max of 295 people that we could fit and sometimes it was kind of fall. We're in an area at the university where there's lots of office buildings and people would come from office buildings and now we are regularly getting over 300 people Last week, the week of the election, we had over 1000 people RSVP and unfortunately had a 500 person cap on the zoom, or zoom account. So and these people have been asking us for months to keep doing it online, even after the museum open. So I don't think this is going away. staff is starting to realize how many more people we can reach and how much more we can serve our audience by being online as well. However, we have staff who have shifted their work from the on site world into the online world for the Coronavirus closure, and they actually have other jobs. And when the museum opens again, they they need to go back to those jobs. So not only is the work incredibly, we've been we've been working in like more than 100% capacity, a lot of our stuff and we're all exhausted. The two examples, we have our audio visual, our AV team who run the back end of all of our zoos. If we open our theater, we open again and we have to go back to the theater. They can't be in two places, they can't do both of those things. And our visitor experience team has also been the champions behind that. They moderate the chat, and they they're the ones in the chat and helping people with technical issues, they can't get into zoom. So our frontline staff that normally are helping visitors in our in our galleries and on site have moved into the zoom world. And again, we actually had this challenge last week, because we were a vote center, we were an 11 day vote center. And our visitor experience team that is normally working in our zoom programs had to work on site. And it was a challenge the scheduling of like, because these people can't be in two places at once. So when we reopen, we have to if we're going to continue doing this, we have to contend with this and figure out how we're going to manage the stuffing.

Unknown Speaker 51:50
Yeah, I we're not open yet. But but I think this is a I would love to hear from organizations that are open how you're tackling this issue. I know for us when we reopen, we will likely be closed two days a week as opposed to being open all seven. And so we've talked about those two days a week that were closed as an opportunity to do filming and live streaming from the aquarium. So people would essentially shift from interacting with the public, physically to using those two days for that. I also that shift is

Unknown Speaker 52:23
hard to, like mentally.

Unknown Speaker 52:27
Um, I do also want to share something that I think attracted some attention, um, in terms of preventing burnout, our social team, this, I cannot take credit for this. My cmo who's my boss is a big fan of King Arthur flour, which I think is now King Arthur baking. And their social team, I guess she said frequently will say, Hey, we're taking the weekend off like we need to go. I don't know, bake. And she said, Hey, it was a particularly stressful time for us. We hit we thought we were going to be reopening and we put tickets on sale on our website crashed and lots of awfulness ensued and our social team was just really like hanging by a thread. And my cmo said, Why don't you take like, just stop posting for a week. And it actually didn't take a whole lot of convincing. I thought they were really gonna fight me over. But they were so ready. And we just were really transparent. We posted online, hey, we are exhausted, and we're taking a break. And like, here's some live camps you can watch while we're out. And our audiences really responded to that. And I know some I think Brad and some others have reached out to ask like, how did we get permission for that? And I think this, again, is a testament to how much our leadership, our users, our digital team that it was actually their idea.

Unknown Speaker 53:50
Yeah, I just floated it Dana yesterday to our cmo. So I'm trying

Unknown Speaker 53:55
so I think that's think about things that you can do that may seem like I don't know. I don't know why that seems so impossible, but just you need to take time and like recover and rest.

Unknown Speaker 54:09
Yeah, yeah, super important. And just doing a check here we've been kindly reminded that we have a very hard out here in four minutes. And man, there are so many great comments and questions someone asked if we if I can share the feel content plan. Yes, I will reach out to me on Twitter and I will also and I'm and I know that we're all very open to sharing resources that we can I can put together a version of that that can be that could be utilized. I don't see the I don't know the person's name, but I will Um, I'll make sure that that's available on Twitter here shortly. Yeah, and so any closing thoughts? Any closing thoughts Susan or Regina on this year? We've had

Unknown Speaker 54:57

Unknown Speaker 54:59
the burnout question. And I am seeing the word everywhere. Yeah, I don't have an answer. I'm burned out. I'm going to fess up to that

Unknown Speaker 55:07
number out.

Unknown Speaker 55:09
And we've been talking about that for years. Right. This is not new. It's just incredibly exacerbated, just like everything else is this year. Yeah, I mean, I'll just say I'm, as I, as I said, when we open this session, this community is incredible. I'm so grateful to all of you, humans, for sharing your experiences and supporting one another. And I think that's really important going forward that we figure out how to continue doing that. Because this is a tough, this is a really tough time. This is a tough job. And, and we need to just help each other out. Whenever we learned something that works, share it, you learn something that doesn't work, share it. Reach out. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 55:55
yeah, I want to say in preparing for this panel, we had several, the three of us met several times. Like at the end of the day, and it was, at least for me, it would start to go into the nighttime. And we we all admitted, like it was really cathartic to share that very openly. And so we talked about, you know, keep, you know, continuing to do that. And, in fact, some of the conversations got so robust that we would stop each other like we should say this for the panel. We're like starting to do the panel right now. So we should stop. And and so I guess what I would say is, people should be doing this more often. And I'm probably speaking for myself, I got zoomed out, and I stopped doing happy hours and cocktail things a number of months ago, but connecting with colleagues has been rejuvenating. There's obviously a little bit of venting that happens. But then there's lots of support and brainstorming about ideas and just sharing experiences. And like I said, we're working right now to do a social media week off from that idea came directly from Dana. So reach out to your colleagues. I mean, maybe this is the spirit of MTN and maybe this this week and next week are the times to start making sure we're leaning into each other and supporting each other again, whether it's just listening or helping solve problems and share ideas and again more people ask about the content plan. I will make sure the next couple days I have something on Twitter

Unknown Speaker 57:13
and feel free to reach out to me I'm sure the bran and Dana also online on social media. Let's let's chat