Telling and Marketing Your Local Story

Admittedly, this is often one of the hardest ones for humble children’s museum folks to embrace. Without patting yourself on the back, you do have to communicate to the larger public about how and why your project is unique, how it will be transformative, and why it matters to the community. Of course you’ve got lots of venues to tell your story, locally, regionally, nationally—and through a huge array of tools, from print media to social media to talks at local service clubs. It is important to develop a multilayered strategy that gets your message out to a variety of audiences in new ways. By partnering with a local school, university, business, or nonprofit, you’ll have opportunities to tell your story through their media outlets.  These will likely be avenues of publicity that you may never have imagined approaching on your own. Many of these outlets have not only local, but national and international reach.

Punch buggy

At MCM, we told our story in lots of different ways, all grounded in our underlying values of creative community involvement, sustainability and the power of place. Most everyone in our community could buy into those larger ideas, even if they didn’t have children, because the ideas stem from community help ideals.

Each exhibit exemplified that triple commitment: The Wildernest exhibit was handcrafted with natural, sustainably harvested materials from within 100 miles of Madison, while Possible-opolis was created by the community using all reclaimed parts and materials.  An overarching goal for the whole Only Local initiative was to work with only local people, products and processes; our overarching community involvement story was to involve every school child in Madison in the making of the museum, along with as many local artists, craftspeople and contractors.

These stories of partnership and collaboration and innovation wound up appearing in unlikely sources.  Our reclaimed gym flooring that was used in Possible-opolis appeared on the cover of Hardwood Floors magazine, along with a story of our inventive reuse of materials. The American Galvanizers Association gave MCM an award for inventive use of material in our Wonderful Water Machine exhibit and highlighted our museum in its trade publication. Likewise, our collaboration with UW-Madison woodworking students made big news in the Art Department biannual magazine. Most recently, StoryCorps came to our museum as part of our winning the National Medal, which allowed us the chance to tell our stories in an audio format. And of course our local media found plenty to talk about too.