Museum Data and What To Do With It – Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Part One

With an annual visitor count of 267,000, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh was named as one of the 15 best Children’s Museums in the country by Parents’ Magazine in 2015. The museum is not only a popular destination for children and families, but it aims to provide fresh, innovative experiences for all visitors. As a part of the Museum Data and What to Do with It series, AMT Lab contributor Kate Lin took a look at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s continuous journey of adapting to technology trends, and how Big Data is changing the museum’s operations. Part I of this article focuses on how Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh uses Data to enhance its marketing efforts.

Recognizing the importance of digital trends and the increasing number of young parents with mobile devices, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh created the New Media department, separated from the Marketing team. Now the Marketing team is primarily responsible for ad placements in traditional media channels such as print media, TV and Radio, while the New Media department oversees all online/digital communication channels including the website, social media sites and video productions.

Data Influence On the Selection of Ads Placement for Traditional Media

Bill Schlageter, the Director of Marketing at the Children’s Museum, has been working at the Children’s Museum for 15 years.  Schlageter pointed out that the data that is available today has rapidly changed the way the museum places its ads in traditional media channels.

For example, the museum’s upcoming “Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: A Grr-ific Exhibit” is based on the award-winning PBS KIDS television series Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and grounded in Fred Rogers’ landmark curriculum on social and emotional learning. This is not the first exhibition based on a popular television show presented by Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. In 2010, the museum also hosted a traveling exhibit "Curious George: Let's Get Curious!" based on the well-known book character. The marketing team at the museum used to buy television ads on Public Television channels before or after TV episodes of Curious George  to promote the exhibit. “The same strategy is not sufficient today” said Schlageter.

Today, people not only watch the shows via network /public television but also by streaming the content on Netflix or other applications. Even for people who watch shows on television, they have the option of pre-recording the TV shows without ads. Schlageter’s team is working with the Fred Roger’s company to obtain data in order to understand the proportion of audiences watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood live versus the audiences that are streaming the program online. This data will help the museum’s marketing team to make strategic decisions to better target and penetrate both audience segments. 

Despite the rise of low cost online marketing tools, print media is still essential to the Children’s Museum’s marketing strategy and its overall brand identity. According to Schlageter, billboard ads are still one of the most important ad placements for the museum, and the most expensive. There might not be a lot quantitative data to measure the effectiveness of the billboard ads, but the decisions of billboard ad placement are made based on years of experience. For instance, the billboard located adjacent to the Pittsburgh Zoo has always been a prime location to effectively target the desired audience since the zoo’s visitors often overlap with those of The Children’s Museum.

Current Focus on New Media and Digital Strategy

Prior to having digital data available, decisions at the museum were based on intuition or previous successes. Having great tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics allows staff members to look at data on a daily, monthly or even post-by-post basis and to inform other team members of what’s effective in terms of communicating to the online audience with creative content. Social media isn’t just about marketing at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. It is also about building relationships with the community, talking about what their partners are doing and also promoting its North Side community as a whole. Currently, the museum only pays for Facebook boosting and ads, but is planning to begin paying for Twitter ads within this fiscal year especially for special events such as Maker Faire Pittsburgh.

The New Media department has its place in Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh beyond just marketing. The department is also the frontline of collecting qualitative data and maintaining customer service for its online audience. “We try to be as transparent, fast and responsive as possible to questions and concerns on social media and other online sites, and to respond to both positive and negative feedback as much as we can,” said Suzanne McCaffrey, the Director of New Media. The museum has its own internal policies on handling online feedback to accommodate the 24/7 nature of the online world.  Aside from social media and the website, the museum started to expand their attention to include review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, which both drive significant traffic to the museum website. “It is important to show our audience that the opportunity to start a dialogue with us is there when they need it”  said McCaffrey.

The museum uses MailChimp to send out an e-blast newsletter twice a month. MailChimp allows users to track the devices their email recipients are using and what links they clicked on. This data, as well as data from Google Analytics, informed the museum that the majority of their audience received museum messages and viewed the museum website on a mobile device. This discovery influenced the marketing decision to buy more mobile ads when purchasing ads through various platforms.

Additionally, the New Media department also has a content manager on staff to produce videos for promotion, documentation and innovation, which is a great resource for all departments. You can watch the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s videos on its YouTube channel here.

Challenges and Future Goals for Both Traditional and Digital Marketing

Both traditional marketing channels and digital ones face similar challenges. Needless to say, it has always been hard for the museum to track the effectiveness of print media. For online marketing, the museum can see how people are clicking on its ads, and how social media drives traffic to the website, but it is still hard to tell what drives the audience from the web to the museum door. Sometimes, the barcode provided in the print media or the promo code for online purchases allows the museum to keep track of the outcome of those marketing efforts. However, those are usually very small percentages of visitors, and therefore there isn’t enough data for meaningful interpretation.

A similar set of challenges applies to understanding the museum audience’s background. Tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights help the museum to understand its online audience profile. However, it has been a challenge for the museum to understand its on-site audience demographic beyond just zip codes.  Other data points such as income range, age, race and education level are often hard to capture at admission because the audience is balancing the transaction with keeping track of their excited children. Aside from demographic data, the museum also wants to understand people’s motivations for coming to the museum and the barriers that prevent them from visiting.  “Some answers to these questions are intuitive or we make assumptions based on past experience or limited survey responses.  We’d really benefit from having the data to verify it” said McCaffrey.


Banner image provided by Children's Museum of Pittsburgh