By Ariel Kaplan
As the head account executive for the Montclair Art Museum (MAM), for the past two semesters, I have learned a great deal about event management. My primary responsibility was to help the organization grow by targeting Montclair State University students to attend the museum’s events.
My contact at MAM, Asif Iqbal, theorized that a free event on a popular night out for college students would be a successful way to increase interest in the museum. Of course, offering alcoholic beverages to those who are 21 and over is also a good approach.
MAM hosts a recurring free event on the first Thursday of every month called “Free First Thursday Nights.” These events have different themes and include activities like concerts and drop-in-draw-along sessions. Since I had never been to a Free First Thursday Night, I knew it would be helpful to experience the night to see what we should highlight in our marketing of these monthly events.
Once I attended my first event, I realized the Museum’s event planners needed to focus more on promoting the events to the Montclair State student body. The event was not crowded and there were only a handful of college students. The museum is close to campus where there are many students who love art and a free event with friends and classmates. Thus, it was obvious that the best way to increase attendance would be to heavily market these nights to the Montclair State students.
Including a gift basket to raffle off to the attendees of the event would bring more MSU students to the Free First Thursday Night. As college kids are obsessed with coffee, I arranged for Dunkin’ to provide a basket with popular items such as gift cards, coffee mugs and k-cups. I then used my social media coordinator position to my advantage and posted a photo of the basket on the Hawk Instagram with details about the raffle for the Dunkin’ basket. As MAM reposted this to their Instagram channel, there was positive feedback regarding the raffle and a better turnout of MSU students at the next event. This showed me that the most important part of any event planning work is to market the occasion to a nearby receptive community to ensure a large turnout.
My experience with MAM also showed me that an integral tool for event management is the use of surveys. Noticing that there were not many MSU students at my first Free First Thursday Night, it was important to discover if students had ever been to the museum or even knew of its existence. Including these questions as well as inquiries about what students would be most interested in seeing at MAM generated useful feedback for Asif. Taking the results into consideration, Asif reviewed the responses with his team so that they could include the students’ suggestions at the next event. I posted the schedule for the following Free First Thursday on the Hawk Instagram, and students were excited to see new activities, like more concerts, being added to the event like they had requested.
By doing PR work for MAM, I learned that first attending your client’s event is a requirement of effective public relations work. As there was a lack of interest and awareness in the Free First Thursday Night event amongst the MSU student body, I needed to find out first-hand why students were not attending. Once I had experienced the event, I was able to craft my public relations and event planning efforts to increase MSU students’ awareness and attendance at the free happening.
Thanks to being part of Hawk Communications, I now know the essential components to effectively manage an event, how to identify and survey a promising customer base and how to leverage social media to generate interest.
The opportunity to perform public relations and event planning services to the museum through Hawk Communications was a valuable learning experience. It was an exciting opportunity that allowed me to gain real-world experience similar to an internship, but without leaving campus. It also allowed me to understand the dynamics of teamwork and client management. It’s an experience and course that I highly recommend!