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PR in the cultural sector: Combining traditional & new methods

How can technology help to engage new and diverse audiences for the cultural sector?


Within PR nobody stands still. It is an industry where people are always on the lookout for interesting new stories to cover, and then whether their story is being covered by the press. The dynamic nature of PR ensures that all professionals have several challenges to deal with. The same goes for PR professionals in the cultural sector. How do you cope with these challenges? Does technology only bring you more worries or can it also help you to engage with your audiences?

“The changing PR landscape”

The first official press release was sent out in 1906, but now more than 100 years later both time and technology have changed the way we do PR. However, a traditional press release is still an important element of the majority of PR campaigns. One of the biggest differences we do see is in the audience. Previously, it was the press covering their stories for the newspapers, radio and later, television. A wider range of channels are now used for distributing news, with the website playing a more important role, in addition to the towering impact of social media.

These changes have had a big impact on how PR professionals did their job in the past and how they are doing it right now. Where they focused on just reaching the right journalists they knew before, now they try to push their message to a wider audience on more channels. It is not just about the media anymore, but bloggers, vloggers and other influencers. For the cultural sector these changes have created lots of opportunities, but it also means a shift in how they do PR.

Reaching audiences with your resources

Perhaps a no-brainer, but one of the biggest challenges for museums and other organizations in the cultural sector is to get more visitors with limited resources. So how do you reach new audiences and more importantly, how do you make sure you engage with them? Where do you start?

It is important to create and share content to reach your audience. However if content is king, technology is queen. Having a central place where people can find both information about the location and find inspiring content in all shapes and sizes, is essential. By sending out your news via email, social media (paid & organic), you reach the media, such as newspapers, authority sites or review sites, and your target audience. However when interested in the content, journalists shared it within their networks as well which allows you to reach an even bigger audience. So it allows you to also reach the people that you don’t know yet, but are interested in you.

The influence of others spreading your story

Having others to tell and spread your story can have a big effect. Think about influencers such as bloggers and vloggers. They are seen as experts or leaders for their own group of followers– connecting with influencers can help to reach a bigger audience because they create content themselves about you. You do need to put effort in getting the most out of influencer marketing. Find out how the Museum of Contemporary Art in Australia set up their social media influencer campaign and how that worked out. Or check out these other cases in the article “The art of influencer marketing: influencers in museums”.

Tips to get more out of PR for the cultural sector

PR can be done in many different ways. For each sector there are specific elements to point out. According to the PR experts the Guardian spoke to, here are some tips for those working in Arts or cultural PR:

  • Think beyond the role: PR is intended to mean ‘the person who is responsible for press’, when in reality the term ‘public relations’ implies something much wider than that. Try to play a more central role in the organization.

  • Use a press release as the start of the process, not the end: It is not just about sending out information– you need good relationships with journalists. It’s all about building communication in from the start of any project.

  • Use social media and encourage others to pass on the message for you: PR companies that recognise the power of word of mouth are doing their clients a big favor. Twitter hashtags used to aggregate tweets about a specific event or show can be a great way of showing people who else is talking about something they're interested in, and building a mini-community around it.

Include the right images with any press release: If it is a gallery of a museum, include a wide-angle photo of the venue itself next to a selection of images of the objects and people that are involved. It will generate more publication needs.

Technology is queen

As indicated before, having the technology in place is beneficial if not even essential to ensure your PR efforts to be optimal. Step away from just sending out the PDF press release, but create an online environment where your audience can find all the information they want. One place where the journalists can find details and images for their story, but also where your visitors can find out more about the new expo that is coming up.


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