A recent blog post by Max van Balgooy about a study that examined why teachers visit or don’t visit historic sites confirmed something we know to be true at the museum where I work: word of mouth is the way that most teachers learn about programs.

In major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, I wondered if there were online resources or blogs for teachers that did things like collect reviews.  I hopped online and started to look around, Googling things like “field trips museums Los Angeles reviews.”  Although I could not find anything for the greater Los Angeles area, I did find some field trip reviews on sites like Yelp and individual blogs.

If word of mouth is continuing to play such an important role in how teachers decide to visit our sites, we should be asking ourselves how to stay on a teacher’s radar and encourage them to spread the word.  As an institution, it’s important to know where teachers and students rank in your list of audiences that you serve.  We can’t be all things to all people.  While some institutions can and should focus predominantly on school groups, others consider students and teachers two of many audiences that are served.  A lot of time, effort, and money can be put into cultivating relationships with teachers, but there are some simple things that can be done with limited resources and creative thinking.

Here are some ideas:

  • Maintain an accurate mailing list for teachers so that you can send them something at least annually about program offerings.  Be sure to ask them their preferred method of receiving information.  While some want to receive information via e-mail, others might prefer regular mail.  Be flexible and have both formats ready.  Also, consider asking teachers if they’d like you to send information to any of their colleagues.  (By the way…make sure that you have current information on your website.  A teacher might forward someone a link to what you have to offer).
  • Ask teachers if they’d like to sign up for a quarterly newsletter that keeps them informed about school programs and other opportunities for their children at your institution.  Ask them if they are interested in signing up when they make a reservation and have a place for them to sign up on your website, too.
  • Consider adding a teacher’s voice to your correspondence—maybe a testimonial with some great illustrations or pictures.
  • Offer whatever freebies you can!  If you host events for the general public, consider inviting teachers to bring friends and family to something special just for them like a film screening or a concert.  Offer the first five teaches who respond to a mailing a modest gift certificate for your Museum Store, a local book or craft store (getting gift certificates donated for this purpose), or Amazon.com.
  • If you have meeting space available for little or no cost, let teachers know.  Our institutions can be great locations for a staff development day.

Who else has something to share?