It was to have it all. Behind the scenes reports from curators. Advance notice of exclusive events. Insight into the Renaissance ROM project. Inside scoop on visiting exhibits. Kept up to date and written, not by a PR or a marketing firm, but by enthusiastic employees and volunteers who want to share their passion for the collection and the institution that is the ROM (the Royal Ontario Museum - for you non-Canadians - our equivalent of the Met in NYC).
The idea was germinated by two young enterprising professionals in the ROM Foundation. And these gals did their homework. They researched current museum, gallery and other cultural institution offerings in social media (there aren't many). They consulted experts on building online community.
They talked with peers and other potential content creators in the ROM. They created a publishing schedule and arranged to have a library equal to 2 months of postings pre-launch so that the blog would never be stale. They developed a coherent strategy on how to be a leader in using social media to further the Canadian arts community.
They investigated the technical aspects of the blog: how would it integrate into current IT architecture, what questions might IT have, how much technical maintenance would it take.
Then they crafted all this into a presentation and walked it up the chain of command: boss, boss's boss, boss's boss's boss.
And it was welcomed and praised and blessed.
Infrastructure was put in place. Blog software was configured. Content was queued up. A launch date was set!
And then .... old-school marketing struck.
Old-school marketing called an emergency meeting two days prior to launch. (I would like to point out that marketing had been included as a stakeholder from the beginning.)
And the decision came down. No blog. Why?
Because "we want to ensure that there is a solid strategic angle for our entire audience development strategy."
Which I translate to mean ... "I don't understand this medium", "this could fail and my ass could be on the line", "this could be hugely successful and it wasn't my idea", "you're not using my agency", "you're not a marketer, what can you possibly know about our customers", "what if our customers post something I don't like" or "I'm scared to try anything new".
All of which are terrible excuses for a marketer to make in the 21st century.
So, in the meantime, the blog is quashed as is employee morale. The ROM's customers (and potential donors) have lost a potentially rich and vibrant community of unique content. The Canadian arts community has lost a potentially shining example that would raise its overall profile and its relevancy to the every day Canadian. And the ROM has lost an opportunity to be a leader in the global arts community.
Surviving the ROM blog is the Art Gallery of Ontario blog ... artmatters.ca.
Disclaimers ... I had some very unofficial (read "chatting over martinis") involvement in this initiative but was not directly involved.
Also .. if you are a looking for some very savvy 21st century PR/marketing/development folks who specialise in non-profits, I know a couple who would do any agency or client proud.
Finally, because I really believed in this project and the kind of exposure it could have brought to lesser-known exhibits at the ROM, I'm posting what would have been the inaugural post on the ROM blog on my personal site (I have permission from the author to do so). Please check it out. It's a little dated as it was about the ROM's support of the "General Idea" AIDS Sculpture through September, but still a passionate and relevant piece by Len Milley.