One thing the Whaley House struggles with is marketing. All organizations have similar marketing needs, but they don’t all have the same budgets. It could, actually, be argued that those with the smaller budgets need the marketing the most in order to get their name out and ultimately, grow their budget. But, it’s not always possible.
Since taking over as fearless leader of the Whaley House I made a tough decision. I opted to cut our everyday advertising. This refers to small ads that run urging people to come for a tour. General tours aren’t our most popular attraction at the Whaley House, but our special events are. So, I cut there to add to our special events advertising. So far, it seems to be working.
There’s another side of advertising, though, and that involves brochures and rack cards. These items provide more images, text, and appeal to visitors to the area or local folks who receive a rack card as a handout at a community event, so they really need to sing. Larger museums can pay more money for high impact brochures, but here I sit, armed with Microsoft Publisher and a few professional photos of the museum. So I really need to think about how we are going to stand out. In a sea of marketing materials produced by organizations with larger budgets, how can we shine?
Well, I think I’ve figured it out.
An historic house museum has something larger museums don’t. The house is our largest artifact. People are walking into an artifact! And not just one artifact, but an artifact filled with artifacts. You get to experience a piece of history in a way you can’t at any other museum. And the story told by a house is a story to which everyone can relate. People still live in houses. People still sleep in beds. People still eat at tables. All of these things people have experiences with, so showing them how it was done 100+ years ago makes an impact. You get to feel what it was like to live in a different world. It’s not like listening to a lecture in a classroom about trench warfare or forming a new government. People who aren’t interested in history don’t even care to process what that might be like. It can’t be ignored in an historic house, though.
So, that’s what I am honing in on. I want to explain what it’s like to be “transported” to “step into history” to “experience a new way of life.” That’s what the Whaley House offers that others cannot. That’s the magic and awe of an historic house.