At our Beyond Brick & Mortar salon last month, Jeffrey Herbst, Newseum president and BB&M panelist, mentioned his museum’s innovative content creation unit, the Rapid Response Team (RRT).

The RRT responds to issues related to the Newseum’s mission: the protection of the First Amendment.

By taking the opportunity to educate the public on issues related to religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, this task force authentically inserts the Newseum into the national dialogue.

The Team

For the Newseum, it was important to have buy-in across the organization.  Too often, departments become siloed and miss opportunities to create timely content that captures coverage related to their mission.  To solve this issue, they formed a cross-departmental team including:

  • Chief operating officer (COO)
  • Public relations director
  • Social media director
  • Newseum Institute’s COO
  • Newseum Institute’s social media manager
  • Exhibits writer
  • Video producer
  • Data analytics manager

How the Rapid Response Team Decides What to Cover

“We want to insert ourselves into national and international conversations that relate to our mission, so it is just a judgment call,” says Scott Williams, Newseum’s chief operating officer and quarterback of RRT.

Newseum Brussels Instagram Post
Rapid Response Team’s timely, sensitive post in response to the terrorist attack in Brussels

“Is what is being discussed out in the world going to give us a return on the investment of our resources if we stop what we’re already doing and focus on it?”

Sometimes creating a cohesive plan can be as simple as a group email exchange, i.e. Nancy Reagan’s death.  More complicated events, like the Paris attacks, often require a more in-depth meeting.

In the process, the Newseum has learned to identify when their voice adds value.

“What I’ve found is, honestly, what works is authentic. If we are authentically in that arena anyway it works.  If we try to fake it, it doesn’t,” says Williams.

“Everyone doesn’t always agree. We measure every single thing we do. At the end of the month I’ll put together a very intense report on all of the social media metrics we can easily measure, and we get a sense of where it makes sense for us to insert ourselves and where it doesn’t so much.”

How It Works in Real Life

When the Rapid Response Team convenes, they create a “tactical plan” which lays out team members’ roles and duties regarding the relevant event.

In the case of the Ferguson protests, which thrust the right to assemble into the national dialogue, the team quickly mobilized a plan that resulted in staff members on the ground (a few were from the St. Louis area).

Local authorities were aware of the RRT’s intent and loaned artifacts from the protests to the museum. The exhibits team created a pop-up exhibit in the Newseum featuring these artifacts, as well as video from the event, to educate visitors on the right to assemble.

Newseum visitors view artifacts from the Ferguson protest. (Scott Williams/Newseum)

The Rapid Response Team activated their “Talk Back Wall” which polls patrons in real time. The results were shared on social media to spark a conversation.  They also created content for their owned media channels, targeting different audiences via specific sections of their website.

The Bottom Line

Many of you may ask about the true ROI of such an endeavor. And truthfully, a direct, causal bottom line impact is difficult to prove. But for sponsors, this integrated approach to content, exhibits and programming is very appealing.  Through the Newseum’s holistic marketing efforts, sponsors are able to align with target markets in unique and efficient ways.

Unsolicited inbound requests for events, insights and sponsorships have increased since the introduction of the Rapid Response Team – all measurable results.  And as for the intangible?  The extension and influence of the Newseum as the authority on the First Amendment continues to grow and will reap rewards in years to come.

In our next post, we offer five ways to make the case to your team for your own Rapid Response Team.

If you have questions, feedback, insights or case studies on timely content creation for museums, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me on Twitter @_JaySharman or email me at [email protected].

Jay Sharman is the CEO of TeamWorks Media, a purpose-driven marketing company which sponsors Museum Revolution.