Miller Center

Community outreach ideas

In getting to know many of you who work at libraries and museums, we've heard some really great outreach ideas! Whether the purpose is increased visibility, fundraising, or something totally different, we hope these ideas will help you get the word out and connect with your community!

Recurring local (free!) publicity
Local publications sometimes struggle to fill their pages with new and novel content. Is someone in your organization willing to do a monthly column for a local publication? The column could be attributed with your name and close with a paragraph inviting locals to visit your site. As a bonus, it establishes your credentials and encourages interest in your subject area!

Social media: the best, cheapest modern platform
It's no secret that contemporary publicity materials often center around social media. But with so many options, where to start?

Facebook is still the most broadly used social network, across various ages, educational levels, and geographic areas (read more about this from the Pew Research Center). Whatever else you may decide to do on the web, you may want to use Facebook as a central "hub" for your social media presence—many orgs even go so far as to cross-promote all posts from other social networks there.

What might you use these networks for?

  • Pinterest: style-focused, great for images, costumes, novel photos that relate to design or creativity.
  • Instagram: casual, great for fun images.
  • Flickr: great for photo albums, larger collections. Could use for historical or general use images. Note that Wikipedia combs Flickr for Creative Commons images (that is, images cleared for distribution) and posts those images (with attribution) on its sites. This means that your organization's name travels with any Creative Commons images you post, which is great PR!
  • YouTube: used for videos, provides easy “share” or “embed” features that encourage more social media sharing.
  • SnapChat: temporary messages are great for story-telling.
  • Blogger/Blogspot/Wordpress: these are free blogs, allowing you to post images, text, and video at your leisure. Those posts can then be shared on social media or even cross-post in other publications.
  • Twitter: quick, informal “tidbits”. Use it to jump on a news topic or conduct informal quizzes and polls.
  • Facebook: to send it all out!

What kinds of content succeed on social media?

Quizzes/trivia! “Which president made speech famously referencing his dog, Checkers?”
Raffle/giveaways: “Tell us your favorite historical site! Respondees will be entered in a raffle to win a pair of free tickets!”
“Join the team” call to action: “”We're trying to reach XXX 'likes' on Facebook! Share with your friends and help us get there!” or “Can you help us reach five new donors in the next five days? Donate here!”
Images always help! Adding imagery to your posts help capture your visitors' imaginations. Social media is very temporary... feel free to be creative!

What else?

With a million thanks to the individuals we interviewed, here are some other outreach ideas!

  • Everyone appreciates good entertainment! Consider offering free admission to locals when they bring someone from out of town.
  • Local school contest: challenge students to design a cartoon or a poster;
  • Local college contest: put together an ad or a video. Winner gets featured on official advertising! (Even if that's just social media...)
  • Think about themes you could build around. The Hayes Center has a great series entitled, “Lake Erie’s Yesterdays”. Local focus encourages local engagement.
  • Consider a podcast. You can record on your home computer and distribute (for free) through iTunes. Podcasts have a variety of formats and lengths these days. Maybe a brief weekly tale from a historical or curator?
  • Non-profits and museums are often able to receive donations of books or goods. If there is a publisher or individual nearby who is willing to donate, those materials could be then used for a book sale to generate revenue and engage the community.
  • Volunteer, participate! Get a team for the Relay for Life (and be sure to wear your org t-shirts… or even historical costumes?!) Put together a team to do some gardening at a local school, or crowd control at a fundraising event. Advertise like crazy that you’re doing it. Maybe the goodwill will come back around!

Public Event Ideas

  • Wine tasting event: Partner with local galleries or stores. Sell tickets, get some sidewalk chalk and make it a family event!
  • Local musicians/talent show: battle of the bands? Sell tickets, open your doors!
  • Coordinate speaker series w/ other local orgs (ex: music exhibit w/ musicians org or church, book exhibit with library)

Do you have other ideas to add? Send them to presidentialcollections@virginia.edu!