Sinclair Arts was invited by the founders of Museum 2050, Leigh Tanner and Nicole Ching, to participate in their second annual symposium hosted at Zhi Art Museum, Chengdu from 28-30 April. As Museum 2050’s Integrated PR Partner, Sinclair Arts had the privilege of leading a workshop, which gathered attendees from several prominent institutions across China, including He Art Museum, YUZ, M+ and others.
Led by Sinclair’s Executive Director, Kevin Lam, and Manager Greg Young, the workshop focused on the relevance of PR to institutional strategy, its continuing evolution and its implications for the survival of art institutions, and was designed to equip art world professionals with the fundamentals needed to tackle their existing PR dilemmas, and to get the most out of limited resources.
Here, Greg Young shares some of the thoughts and opinions that emerged over the session.
What is PR?
We began by asking the question, “What is PR? ” For those of us working in the field—as did many in attendance on that day—the answer seemed obvious. However, responses were varied and telling: PR is both internal and external communications; PR is media relations; PR is managing government relationships; PR is crisis management.
Other attendees, like Hugh Davies, an independent curator living in the UK, tried mapping historical responses to the question, locating the formal arrival of what we identify as PR today in the post-WWII period when government propaganda departments regrouped in the private sector. Davies sited seminal works by Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays as major groundwork for those researching the field of communication.
The ‘truth’, as with many things, is that PR is a combination of all of these things. At its core PR is ‘Public Relations’, the management of the relationship your brand (or in this case institution) has with its chosen public, or audiences, both internal and external. Because of the changing nature of how your audiences interact with your institution, both online and offline, PR has now developed to incorporate a number of different disciplines. Thinking within the framework of PR as a service Sinclair Arts offers to clients, Kevin Lam identified eight pillars within our own agency. These are not definitions in themselves, but rather describe the functions key to brand building. They include: Media Relations, Social Media, Influencer Marketing, Digital Solutions, Measurements & Insights, Partnerships, Events and Content Creation.
Another discussion that left us with lasting impressions was preference in touchpoints. As one would expect, the most trusted touchpoint across the room was word of mouth, but as with any product launch, when millions of yuan are invested, one can’t rely on word of mouth to cover all the bases. Most participants cited WeChat public accounts as their primary touchpoint with brands. Others concluded that each representative read between 10 and 12 messages from WeChat Service or Subscription accounts per day. This preference is unsurprising when we consider the ROI for WeChat accounts, and the audience reach that can be obtained. However, when asked about those with perhaps the most reach in our online world, KOLs, and whether they solidified brand trust, most said absolutely not. While KOLs continue to be a key tactic for consumer brands, China’s art professionals remained cautious of their true value, concluding that it would be a strategy most ideally placed in second and third tier cities.
About Our Partner, Museum 2050
Recent years have witnessed a dramatic and much-documented “museum boom” in China, with the number of private museums having tripled from 277 in 2009 to 841 by 2017, with this number ever growing. China-based platform Museum 2050 was initiated in 2017 to consider the cultural and social impacts this exponential growth will have by mid-century and how this growth will affect audiences and ideas about existing museum frameworks. Additionally, the platform has a distinct focus on being a resource for young people from allover China, many of whom largely work and inhabit these institutions, as well as providing a place to converse, share ideas and create a vibrant museum community.