Unknown Speaker 00:00
Okay, hi guys. Thanks for staying today before running off at the end of the conference. My name is Miriam newcomer. I'm the Director of Communications at the fine arts museums of San Francisco. And this is Jesse Ayala, our digital engagement manager. Just to give you a quick background, the fine arts museums of San Francisco are an encyclopedic collection. We actually oversee two museums the young and Legion of Honor, we see about a little under 2 million visitors a year and put on 30 exhibitions annually. So we're a pretty big one. And we're used to running a lot of exhibitions that range from fashion exhibitions to Monet exhibitions, and then we just open actually tomorrow the soul of a nation show that's been traveling around the states. So we're here to talk about a show we opened last year actually, which is called contemporary Muslim fashions. So in September 2018, the Young Museum premiered the first major exhibition to explore the global museum dress codes, contemporary Muslim, excuse me to explore global Muslim dress codes. Contemporary Muslim fashions, was the first major exhibition of its kind, drawing global attention media coverage and was ultimately heralded as a turning point in American history. I'm going to read our slides because this room this projector is a little bit small, but 10 years from now, we may look at contemporary Muslim fashions at the de Young Museum as a turning point in American history, where mainstream America despite an angry minority embraced its others at its highest institutions. This is a direct quote from The Hollywood Reporter that came out just after the exhibition opened. So this might sound like a slam dunk for us as an institution's but by no means was this how the exhibition started out. When we originally announced the exhibition back in 2016, the exhibition was titled the fashion of Islam which we broke in the New York Times. This then led to an article in Breitbart News, and a podcast which then led to some of the most aggressive and racist common cards that we as a museum has ever received. Just to read this aloud the says, Why don't you worry about the artistic gifts of the West and Western culture in general, leave the tent bag overhead and mutilated female genitalia as to the Islamic world. As soon as they can. The Islamic Assist will tell all the Western art out of your fine museums and throw it out the windows and burn it. I'm all for freedom of expression. But in most Arab hellholes, you would get a sword shoved in your stomach for suggesting such a sacrilege. This multiculturalism is a crock. It's just a way to undermine our American values. The fashion of Islam really women who are forced to wear burgers and who jobs are not trying to make a fashion statement. They are oppressed. This is shameful and an insult to women everywhere. Do any of your liberals have a conscience? Islam is a sadistic Nazism. Obama is a Muslim, a Nazi and a trader. Israel is blameless. The entire problem in the Middle East is Islam. Islam cannot coexist without other religions. Islam brings rape, animal torture, pedophilia, wholesale Carnage and blind adherence to psychopathic slaughter named Mohamed. The only answer to the security of the USA is to ban Islam entirely. It's true, it's obvious five countries on earth now ban Islam and the number keeps growing.
Unknown Speaker 03:14
And I'll just point out please note this is in 2016. So people feel strongly
Unknown Speaker 03:19
December 2016, as well. So what do we do as a museum, I can tell you that this is the first time I've ever encountered something to this degree that we as an institution have put on before, we have an exhibition opening 18 months. And it's pretty clear now that this is not going to be business as usual in promoting a museum exhibition. So what did we do? We made a game plan. First and foremost, we laid out the questions that we needed to answer quickly. Obviously, we're up against a huge amount of prejudice and Islamophobia. So the questions became, how do we as an institution educate our visitors on this subject? pretty clearly, there's a lot of nuance and education that had to go into this exhibition, very basic terms in the world of Muslim fashion are virtually unknown to many audiences. How do we as an institution have the authority to speak on a subject that's this polarizing and personal? It's worth noting here that we do not have a single curator that is Muslim on our staff. So we were by no means authorities on this subject. How do we help our members collect to connect to this topic in a meaningful way? Our core membership based in the Bay Area is 55 plus and overwhelmingly white, white while they're very eager to learn, we knew this was a subject which which they would not start with a very large base knowledge. And then how do we and as an inch, that, how do we as a museum, ensure that it's a welcoming environment to the Muslim community, specifically the community that knows about this topic better than we ever will? And then how do we become a safe space for discussion on this topic? At the fine arts museums, we really believe that one of the core functions of a museum is to act as a meeting place. is where conflicting ideas can come together and unsafe environment for constructive discussion so this is a 30 minute video. Oh, sorry, good.
Unknown Speaker 05:15
I'm just trying to click to play your video no, sorry, guys. Well, it's a good video. Um,
Unknown Speaker 05:32
so yeah, as this is a 30 minute session, I'm not going to go into all the ways we address these subjects because while we will be talking for three hours of these questions, Jesse and I are happy to go into all the various strategies we use to address this across the board. They range from media strategies, communication strategies, internal strategies, a lot of educational strategies for our frontline staff. We wanted to play this promotional video for you to kind of show you where we actually netted out with the exhibition. What actually happened was that we changed the name to contemporary Muslim fashions. We brought on a community group of local Muslim leaders in the Bay Area and that name change was on their advice. What we kept hearing from them was one Islam, many Muslims and honestly, the term Islam was incredibly polarizing. And by pulling it back to talk about the practitioners of Islam, not Islam itself, that got us some lead way to start having people listen to us long enough to talk to them without instantly tuning us out. And then our marketing team actually brought in the Muslim model Halima Dean, to to model the outfits in the show. So all of our promotional images was with a model wearing the garments, and this video shows her kind of dancing around in them and again, kind of showing the power of the garments. Anyone you know that working at an art museum knows or fashion exhibition, we're often stuck with garments on mannequins, right? So you have low lit kind of badly shot images on mannequins that often don't match, which really don't do a good job telling the story of the fashion garments that we're trying to explain. What we knew we had to do here was take charge of the story, evoke folks that only heard of a burqa when we talked about Islamic fashion, we had to show them that this was an is a thriving modern same globally.
Unknown Speaker 07:44
So what we're doing with this video is we're trying to take charge of the story, right? So if people only hear the idea of burqa, and they think of a giant black bag over your head, they're not really seeing what our exhibition was about. Modest fashion is actually a huge industry, that the stats have all escaped me now on the exact numbers. But well, we want to show them that this is and is continuing to be a very thriving scene globally.
Unknown Speaker 08:14
So forgive us, we're having a little trouble with our slides. But then returning to our original questions, we knew that to answer the first question is about educating visitors on the subject, that video is cool, but it doesn't really tell you much about the show, you know, it gets your attention long enough to hopefully listen to what we have to say next. Like that's all we were trying to do with the video. So we knew that to actually educate our visitors, some sort of digital component would be key. Obviously, as everyone here knows, digital is the most effective way to reach the largest audience, but it's also the most dynamic and nimble platform. At 18 months ahead of the exhibition, we needed something easily digestible, that could adapt and grow along with developing conversations. The Fine Arts museums of San Francisco actually have been producing digital pre exhibition guides for a long time now called insights. We have free online guides that live on our website and serve to break down information so visitors can be prepared for the exhibitions they're about to see. I like to describe them a lot as cliffnotes. So if you want to go to an exhibition, do some early research, you can then bring your date and really impressed them on your knowledge on the exhibition you're coming in with. The screenshot really doesn't do justice to these guys. If you want to see them in action. They move around a lot. They're really beautiful. Go to that, that URL right there. But again, the problem with these guides is that as an institution, we're still talking to you. We're talking to our audiences or at our audiences, we're not really talking with them in this form of information. So again, we're back to the same questions. You're sensing a theme, right? We kept kind of coming up with ideas and kind of hitting the roadblocks to why these ideas weren't going to work. So how do we as an institution have the authority to speak on this topic? reminder that we're not an expert on this topic. And as an institution, that's a really scary territory for a museum and Specifically our curatorial team is not being an expert in something when they've been training their whole lives to be an expert. Also, again, our two audiences, we have the Muslim visitors that are gonna come and we have the ones that know nothing about the subject, how are we able able to talk about educating one audience without speaking down to another? How do we create a space for someone with no knowledge of the subject that generally wants to know about it to ask questions, and not be judged for their ignorance? And very importantly, given the political climate at the time? How do we make sure that these spaces are safe and secure? We know that authentic representation is key. Especially when as an institution, again, we're not on the most secure footing to discuss this topic. This is a video of one of our community advisors that actually did the headscarf styling for the exhibition, showing this. So what do we have, we don't have the institutional knowledge in house, but we have 60 plus fashion designers that couldn't wait to tell their stories and help us we had a community advisory group who genuinely wanted to help make this exhibition the best it possibly could be. This woman's name is Saba Ali, and she actually became a major spokesperson for the exhibition. And we used her in many press interviews as well, that came out. What we realized what we had to do is we had to amplify the voices of the community rather than speak for them, while enduring, ensuring as well that we were standing up for them when we're facing, let's just call them unaware audiences.
Unknown Speaker 11:31
So hi, that's where I come in. As you may know, on digital platforms, everything is more polarizing. You talk about something in real life, it's never gonna get as heated as when you talk about it on Twitter. So that was the case for all of our channels. And when they're public facing, speaking on behalf of a traditionally underrepresented community. That meant we were in constant education mode. So being on the defensive meant, we're speaking about this community rather than letting them speak for themselves. We were constantly responding to comments like the one here. And again, we're not authorities on this subject. So we posted this feminist headscarf, and someone commented and wrote oxymoron. We could ignore the comment. But we felt like it was really important to stand up for the community and show that we're not fairweather supporters, we're going to stand by them. And if we're going to put them out there, we're going to defend them. But writing a paragraph like this, when you're not Muslim yourself, takes a lot of work. So we needed a way of offering a space where the members of the community could speak peer to peer about the nuance. They could give opinions, feedback thoughts, their favorite pieces, because we and people like this commenting oxymoron, nobody's saying, oh, I want this, where can I buy it? I love this. They are spoken over, there's no space. So we wanted people to be able to discuss the content for the exhibition rather than they see something like this. They constantly have to abandon hope have an on topic comment section, they can't speak to each other about it. There are no threads developing that we don't have to jump in and shut down. And you'll see this guy that commented, when we responded, We got 54 likes on our response. So people were grateful, they were acknowledging that we responded, but it was a problem to us that we were louder than they were.
Unknown Speaker 13:38
So, um, oops. Sorry, our struggle continues. Okay, so this led us to really realize that what we needed was an affinity group.
Unknown Speaker 13:52
Given the size of our team we needed to, we basically needed to find a solution to us, staying up late every night, researching and commenting to all these people who sent in some 10pm, cranky, angry Islamophobic comment. So great. Lots of people have started affinity groups, but we needed to make one on social which is much harder. We decided to create a Facebook group with in the official de Yong Facebook page. So it was visible from our main Facebook page, but to participate you had to request access. And it was a private group that we very heavily monitored. Once people were accepted in and we didn't filter members, everyone was welcome. members could share discussions on Muslim fashion what it's like to be Muslim in America how the exhibition made them feel it was a total free for all. We were not contributing content. We were just facilitating conversation. They weren't topics the community would have felt comfortable discussing in one of our public digital spaces. So when we carved out a platform within our brands ecosystem, it really fostered a discussion that was much more productive than it would have been otherwise. This was the first time we had done anything remotely like this. And after a year, so the exhibition closed almost a year ago, the group is still growing. I'm not doing anything to maintain it, people are just happily talking amongst themselves, which is great.
Unknown Speaker 15:19
And actually, the exhibition is going to open at the Cooper Hewitt in New York quite soon. So we're hoping that they take over the reins of the community group and so the community becomes bicoastal as well.
Unknown Speaker 15:29
So, the content within the group really ranged from videos and articles people had stumbled across to reviews of the exhibition to people sharing a link to an article about the exhibition, some people were commenting and saying, I don't live in the Bay Area, but this is helping me follow along, which was really endearing. So it really proved successful beyond the scope of the exhibition, it showed us how much there's a need for that representation on our digital channels. We learned that the community will show up for us when we show up for them, which is really validating when you might personally believe that but to be able to make a business case for it was important. So we really used it as a stepping stone tried to keep building on making a more authentic experience on our channels that led us to sharing this on Instagram.
Unknown Speaker 16:50
So really realizing there's always an excuse, but we need to start realizing that a lot of people in these underrepresented communities shouldn't have to ask us to do something, we need to realize that we haven't created a space for them to speak out. And when we're only focusing on rotating exhibitions saying, Oh, great, the subject matter that relates to you popped up, you can go over here and talk about it. Instead, we're trying to take what we learned from that special exhibition and apply it to our practices year round. So that, you know, it was really the test case of that group that led us to be able to do things like this, because we could prove that it went as well as it did. Since implementing this, we've seen our engagement increased by 21%. The year before it had increased by like 4%. So 21% is a really big deal for us. And what we really learned from there is that consumed, we weren't special, we didn't discover something groundbreaking. It was just that bringing it into a museum was groundbreaking for us. So you know, consumers expect brands to declare their values and stand by them. We know that to stay relevant. To connect with our community, we have to show up for them. So we baked that representation and community outreach into our digital strategies rather than layering it on top for show. Because what we're really trying to do is build spaces that amplify the voices of our communities and build actual connections. We're not just trying to do it to say, Okay, we featured you next. And this isn't just a values based shift, we know that when we show up for our community, it makes a difference in our ability to hit our goals. So that kind of gave us the airtight argument to anyone that was like, Well, I don't know that we have the resources for this Well, no, it's tied to every single goal we could possibly have. Okay, so our advice is to be more authentic on every social platform. I know that's really intimidating and broad. So I'll kind of give you some insight into what we did on our team. With so many platforms, we know, you have to make sure that we're crafting our content or messages to be directed to the audience that we think is listening. We have so many options of what to post. So where do we start? For us? It started with creating this channel blueprint. We're a three person team. So this took a very long time. But we reviewed the content we had and we compared that against the content we wanted. So, you know, if we're being so reactive, and only talking about special exhibitions that come up, we're only going to feature the communities that are represented in that special exhibition. So instead of looking at, okay, these are the stories that are just kind of floating across our desks. We went back and said, in a perfect world, what would we talk about? And then we reviewed the audiences we had. And we compare that against the audiences we wanted, because you can look at all the data you want. But if it represents an older, primarily white member audience, you're never going to grow your audience because all of your data is just reaffirming the problem, instead of pointing you towards what you need to do to become sustainable. So, we learned that like most brands, our youngest audiences were on Instagram. That's not a surprise to a lot of people. So okay, What content do young people mostly care about? And how can we shape our content to serve them better? For us, that was breaking things down on Instagram Stories, it was sharing more unexpected things like how we clean our objects, to seemingly obvious things like where to start your first time visiting, because we can talk about the nuance of this ancient artifact. But if they don't even know where to go when they walk in,
Unknown Speaker 21:08
we can't help them be as passionate as we are. So we didn't assume they were regular visitors, we didn't assume they had an inherent interest in art at all. It was our job to create a space for them so that they could feel welcomed, step back and learn. So it went from on Instagram Stories, it went from this channel, we use for fun, we would kind of use it as like almost a throwaway, we have an event to promote, we have this cool thing coming up. Now it's our highest traffic driver. So young people watch Instagram stories more than they scroll through their feed on Instagram. So if they're going to watch it like TV, then we're going to set it up to be as interesting as watching TV. We typically these are the first slides of four different stories, we try and keep it short, sweet, interesting. It needs to stop them in their tracks, which that means that we have to make sacrifices of we can't tell the long winded story, we have to know we're just here to hook them. Make them interested so that they come to the museum to learn more. So on the opposite end, we learned that our oldest audiences were on Facebook. Okay, how do we speak to them while also growing our audience to be younger and more diverse, because we can't just jump ship and all of a sudden be like, No, we're onto something more exciting. So we had to find that balance. Sometimes that meant creating an affinity group like the one we did on Facebook, saying, We can't serve you the way you need to be served in this public forum. And then other times, it meant just ensuring our channel strategy includes something for everyone. So you'll note that we have things like who our audiences on some I know, it seems obvious that we said visitors here but on some channels, it was like people who live in a city that doesn't even have a museum. So we put the purpose, Facebook is the most promotional social platform, meaning we're not telling the you know, here's how we cleaned a statue outside stories, because we're just trying to get them to take an action and what content should be so instead of saying content should be event postings content should be ticket links. What should the content do? It should be interesting, it should add value, it should always link to more info. So we really broke it down for ourselves so that we use this as a constitution, we want to make sure that we're not following our gut, we want to make sure that we have this so that when someone says, I have this fascinating symposium that you just have to promote on Facebook. Okay, is it interesting? Does it add value? Is it informative? Is it accompanied by an image? And then we can say, No, I'm sorry, we'll promote that on Twitter. So everything has its place, and we're just organizing ourselves so that it's not us sitting down? Does this feel right? Is this interesting? Because then what we're doing is creating stories that are interesting to me personally, interesting to Miriam personally. But we work in a museum, we know a lot about the museum. So we have a different baseline of interest than a lot of people do.
Unknown Speaker 24:20
And one of the beauties about this strategy is now we have the data to back this up. So when someone comes to us with that, one of the kind of follows from that is we stopped promoting a lot of our smaller exhibitions on all channels, because we knew that it absolutely bombed on some channels, we would promote this small little gallery rotation of books, which is it's fascinating once you're there, but it doesn't really visually translate very well to Instagram. And so we went to the carriers were like, Hey, we're not promoting this hair. We're moving this over this other channel where we can actually storytel and get into it more. And that also was a huge difference in our engagement spikes. Because what was happening is people would follow us because they love Monet or Pete But what follows because they love to fashion exhibition. And then they would sit there and do nothing on our channels until the next fashion exhibition came, or the next exhibition on Monet, we had a ton of brand equity built around the individual exhibitions and designer, and no one knew who we as a museum were or what we stood for. So we really pulled that back. So now on feed on Instagram, we only even promote our major exhibitions, about three times in a four month run a ton on Instagram Stories, a ton on Facebook. And that's been a huge internal battle. But we now have the data behind us to say, Hey, this is really working. Our social channels are now responsible for about 70, I want to say 65% of all online ticket sales. And we only have about 10% of the budget. So it's really working. And by kind of organizing ourselves with this structured framework, we really have been allowed to do a lot of the things that our guts told us we were true. And then we went out and got the data to back it up.
Unknown Speaker 25:54
It's really about asking yourself, okay, who isn't represented here? And do I have a justifiable reason for that? Or is it because, oh, well, we don't have any content that features those stories? Well, if you're not going out and finding it, then those people aren't going to come. And then your programming that's based on your audience won't feature them. And it's just this cyclical problem. So what we learned is, authenticity is the single most important thing that you can do in any content you have. It has to be priority, because we can't grow audiences, if we don't create spaces for newcomers to feel safe and welcomed, without patronizing them, which is really important. We don't need to teach people about their own identity, we don't need to teach people about their own culture, we need to listen to them. So I hope seeing the way we did it is helpful to you in some way, I know, we covered a lot of content, we're happy to take questions, if you guys have a couple minutes to stick around. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 27:04
I'm kind of so we let anyone into the group, there were a lot of people who were in that Facebook group that were not Muslim. Um, so it's not like we said, you're not allowed, we're gonna run away and create our own private space. But I think it was just like a happy after effect of the group, instead of looking for a place to hide, we're looking for a place where people could thrive.
Unknown Speaker 27:31
And we did have pretty clear community guidelines, we're in about that group. So if you wanted to join you kind of I think the very first post was a community guidelines about everything that would not be tolerated in that group. That was us building the framework. So we could cut people out of it, should they start to talk in the way they were talking on our normal channels, because as we know, on social media, people are empowered to say really hurtful things, because they feel like there's no repercussions.
Unknown Speaker 27:56
So because we had those community guidelines, if if you're not being actively kind and supportive, you get the boot. But luckily, we didn't have to do that to anything. And we prepped
Unknown Speaker 28:06
that group with, we had a content strategy to start to get the conversation rolling. And I think we only needed like two posts before the community took over. And we were planning to pepper in content for a couple months. But we were thrilled, frankly, not to have to build more content for another channel and just let it naturally evolve.
Unknown Speaker 28:22
I think I'll say maybe more a direct answer to your question is, we didn't need to kick people out. We didn't need to create a safe space. Specifically for Islamophobic people. We needed to make sure that Muslim people could be the majority. Because by existing on our more public platforms, they're not powerless. We created the platform so that they wouldn't be powerless. Not intentionally, but that's just the way it was.
Unknown Speaker 28:58
Any other questions? Yeah. Have you ever had a situation where a small or minor exhibition contract is actually your larger goal in terms of how do you navigate your strategy? Um, that's a good question.
Unknown Speaker 29:28
Yeah, I mean, we definitely have to allow for such exceptions. I mean, because overall we're trying to do is create an inclusive view of the museum. And so we actually have a couple of a couple exhibitions coming up that don't technically fit into this, like we have an exhibition coming up on Frida Kahlo, that's not actually in our major exhibition space. It's in a secondary space. But obviously, Frida Kahlo is going to do incredibly well on social media. So we're certainly going to promote that.
Unknown Speaker 29:56
I'll say also, I constantly liked her remind people that this is our Constitution, which means it's up for interpretation. It's not a law, it's not something we're following verbatim. This is meant to guide us to interpret as we see fit. So if authenticity is our priority, this is our map to get there. You know, if there's a shortcut, and we can feature a smaller exhibition that gets us there faster, we're gonna do it. Yeah, I'll
Unknown Speaker 30:24
also say we take the exhibition schedule a year out, when it's ready a year out, and go through and rank our exhibitions coming up. And that's just basically a conversation between the comms team in the marketing team. And it's, you know, really often we have different values of what's an A and B exhibition between communications, marketing, social media. So for example, communications might put an exhibition we have an exhibition coming up. That's basically a contemporary artists reflecting on technology and the good of it or the bad of it, which is really valuable to us, because we're based in Silicon Valley in San Francisco. And it's very top of mind. So the comms team is pushing that really hard for the next year. But the social team, let's talk about Frida. Yeah, the social team is barely touching it. And part of that is because, you know, the the the images aren't really compelling. Because it's such a heavy exhibition, the we're going to talk about it some, but it's not going to get like the same blink and amount of space. Do you know so we just kind of go through and rank them and things that do hit those tenants of diversity or acquisitions, we have a big acquisition up right now. That's by a New Zealand Artists that's basically reinterpreting, colonialism, colonialism, and shop showing the conquests of William cook as this wonderful thing that happened and more like him terrorizing the locals. And so that is a one, a one room show, it's a single piece of it's three pieces of work upstairs, there's no ticket price attached to that. But you better believe we've been promoting that everywhere, because it's a female artist of color. And according to our larger strategy about telling two thirds, we can fit that in. So when we actually build exhibition, social media, promotional plans now around exhibitions, we do paid campaigns that are completely separate with a separate strategy, because we can target audiences on that. But where they fall into the general campaign, it has to fit into these strategies and blueprints and the two thirds rule. I don't we had a Monet exhibition up. And we only posted on fit on Instagram, I think three times.
Unknown Speaker 32:21
The big thing about that two thirds rule two was posting it so that no one internally could, you know, take it away from us, because we're like, Oops, we already said it out loud, have to do it can't go back. So giving yourself that, like, you know, obviously not every institution, you have the equity to be able to be like, I'm gonna post this, ours was really supportive about it. But it's being able to back it up with data. So if we wouldn't have done that small Facebook group, we wouldn't have been able to say, look how well this did and how hungry people are for us to be better.
Unknown Speaker 32:53
I'll also add that we walked our director through this whole thing when it started. So it wasn't just like, Oh, you didn't post about Monday, it's, Oh, we did here. It's on Instagram Stories. Here. It's on Twitter. Here's it on this. And here's the data behind those that shows that X, Y and Z, paid social was really helpful for us, because so while we weren't promoting Monet, the Mobic Monet show on our Instagram channels, we did have paid ads running, and those paid ads were responsible for X percent of ticket sales. So I could very confidently say, Hey, we're already selling more ticket sales than any other marketing channel. Let us run the organic strategy separately, because we're trying to do different things. We have different metrics for success. Tickets can't be our only metric for success, as I'm sure everyone in this room feels certain shows or blockbusters, certain shows do things to elevate brand sentiment. And very often the same show just can't do both, like contemporary Muslim fashions. Actually, we consider it a runaway success. In terms of brand sentiment, we had something like 2500 placed organic media stories. globally. We were in September vote, we are in Harper's Bazaar, we actually just won an award for nonprofit campaign of the year for the PR campaign. attendance was terrible. It didn't do well. People didn't come into the door. We actually think we messed up by putting the word Muslim in the title. We think that people saw the word Muslim and thought like, oh, cool, that's cool. You're doing it, but it's not for me, like I don't need to. And it's
Unknown Speaker 34:15
again, like think of the audience we had built before that. So we hadn't been building our community slowly towards what we wanted to believe in. So they didn't show up. So if we keep doing things like that, we can slowly use it as building blocks to get that equity back.
Unknown Speaker 34:34
But yeah, I think we're at time. So thank you all so much, really appreciate it. And yeah, we're here for questions. If you have any other questions