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III. Strategic Goals

Summary of the Web and New Media Strategy Goals

  1. Mission
    Prioritize Web and New Media programs in proportion to their impact on the mission
  2. Brand
    Strengthen brand relationships throughout the Smithsonian
  3. Learning
    Facilitate dialogue in a global community of learners
  4. Audience
    Attract larger audiences and engage them more deeply in long-term relationships
  5. Interpretation
    Support the work of Smithsonian staff
  6. Technology
    Develop a platform for participation and innovation
  7. Business Model
    Increase revenue from e-commerce fundamentals and Web 2.0 perspectives
  8. Governance
    Design and implement a pan-Institutional governance model

Goal 1: Mission

Prioritize Web and New Media programs in proportion to their impact on the mission


Once on the fringe of institutional and public awareness, Web and New Media initiatives are now considered to be a critical part of the Institution’s core activities and future: They need to be funded and managed accordingly.

Policy/Program Goals

  • Leadership
    The Secretary should continue to be a visible and vocal advocate for prioritizing the use of Web and New Media technologies across the Institution
  • Budget
    Allocate budgetary resources to digital technology initiatives that are commensurate with their importance to the future of the Smithsonian
  • Compensation
    Align compensation to reward those who excel in use of digital technologies that best support programmatic objectives
  • Accountability
    Create a culture of accountability. Require regular reports on Web and New Media initiatives, including target audiences, measurable performance goals, technologies used, resources expended, and lessons learned
  • Visibility
    Underscore the importance of the Smithsonian’s Web and New Media initiatives by connecting this strategy to the visioning and program development for the Arts and Industries Building, National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), and other Institution initiatives

Tactical Implementations

  • Recruit a pan-Institutional Web and New Media leader and give that person the decision-authority and visibility to lead change
  • Align budgetary processes to support a tactical road map for this strategy. In the short-term, make discretionary funds available at the unit level to promote experimentation/innovation and ensure that successful projects can be replicated across the Institution
  • Continue to leverage the excitement around SI Web 2.0 with annual or bi-annual follow-on conferences. Coordinate ongoing engagement with external experts
  • Build expertise in metrics and evaluation and implement standard lightweight (not burdensome) reporting processes. Use a blog and dashboard to showcase successful results and best practices
  • Coordinate this strategy with the emerging program/goals for the Arts and Industries Building and the NMAAHC [National Museum of African American History and Culture. - edsonm edsonm]
  • Examine Human Resources policies/practices to align with and support this strategy

Goal 2: Brand

Strengthen brand relationships throughout the Smithsonian


The Smithsonian Institution brand is powerful in its reach, recognition and prestige. The brand is associated positively with perceptions of trust, history, artifacts, and authenticity, yet many audiences (internal and external) have difficulty understanding the full depth and breadth of the Smithsonian’s offerings or explaining the core meaning of the brand. Many still think only of “the nation’s attic” when thinking about the Smithsonian. Furthermore, many audiences appear to be uncertain of the relationship between the overall Smithsonian brand and the brands of the individual museums and research units that comprise the full Smithsonian Institution.

Far more people encounter the Smithsonian online than in person, and the Institution’s Web sites and new media programs will play an increasingly strong role in influencing perceptions of the Smithsonian brand. Web and New Media branding is an important tool for ensuring that users form strong associations between the Smithsonian and the concepts of learning and education.

Policy/Program Goals

  • Positioning: Reposition the Smithsonian brand to emphasize its role as the preeminent facilitator of learning for national and global audiences
  • Voice: Shift the Smithsonian brand voice away from attributes of institutional/omnipotent/authoritarian towards attributes of individuality/relevance/passion for learning
  • Attitude: Enliven the Smithsonian brand to increase its appeal to and relevance for younger audiences
  • Architecture: Establish a comprehensive brand architecture that describes a strong and consistent relationship between the Smithsonian master brand and the sub-brands for each of the museums and research centers that comprise the Smithsonian enterprise

Tactical Implementation

  • Invite public audiences to participate in defining the look and feel of the updated brand
  • Update the Smithsonian visual identity standards to make the brand more flexible and accommodating to today’s digital needs
  • Develop a domain URL strategy to facilitate marketing and promotion of the Smithsonian brand
  • Develop a writing-style guide that emphasizes concise, friendly, action-oriented content
  • Synchronize this strategy with the branding initiative currently under development. Communicate the Smithsonian’s focus on learning and education to internal and external audiences
  • Encourage and provide necessary support for staff to share their work and ideas directly with visitors though blogging, video, mobile platforms, geospatial data, and other Web and New Media formats
  • Ensure that the new brand architecture is reflected in new Web initiatives such as the Smithsonian Commons (described in section IV. The Smithsonian Commons: A Place to Begin)

Goal 3: Learning

Facilitate dialogue in a global community of learners


By increasing emphasis on the increase and diffusion of knowledge through online technologies, the Smithsonian can help create informed and educated 21st-century citizens and continue to fulfill James Smithson’s founding vision.

Learning is the ruling passion that drives the Smithsonian’s internal experts and attracts many of its external audiences. Learning motivates the Smithsonian’s effort to provide context for the American and global experience by helping us better understand ourselves through the lenses of history, culture, science and art.

But the models of learning that defined our nation’s progress through the 19th and 20th centuries are changing with dramatic speed, influenced by rapidly evolving technology tools and the new cultural patterns that come with them. This is not to suggest that the old models of learning are irrelevant or inoperative, far from it. But the emergence of a new class of learning techniques—built on a foundation of broad and unrestricted access to information, social sharing, creativity, play, and participatory learning—supplement those standard protocols and enable vast new audiences to use the Smithsonian as one part of their lifelong learning journeys.

Policy/Program Goals

  • Dialogue: Acknowledge the crucial role that interactive dialogue plays in the learning process and provide opportunities for it to grow on Smithsonian and external sites
  • User-Generated Content: Embrace user-generated content as an important catalyst to engagement and inquiry, particularly for younger and more “Web 2.0” kinds of audiences
    [Suggest adding "crowdsourcing" to this policy/program goal. - edsonm edsonm]
  • Narratives: Develop programs that emphasize the role of storytelling
  • Digital Learning: Become a leader in the creation of digital learning environments through virtual worlds, virtual education conferences, gaming, mobile platforms, and a sense of exploration and play
  • Impact: Establish means of determining the impact of the Smithsonian’s learning initiatives and a mechanism to share best demonstrated practices across the Institution

Tactical Implementation

  • Develop a plan to emphasize learning and its outcomes across the Smithsonian’s digital initiatives
  • Develop a program of audience research to inform decisions and analyze results. Develop an understanding of audience types and their learning goals
  • Provide resources and establish policies that encourage the incorporation of user-generated content. Connect Smithsonian content, experts, and dialogue with users of Smithsonian and external social networks
  • Develop programs that support the learning journey through Smithsonian exhibitions, collections, research, expertise, and related communities
  • Support continued development/experimentation with digital learning environments and increase connections between those environments and the rest of the Institution’s digital content, research, and communities

Goal 4: Audience

Attract larger audiences and engage them more deeply in long-term relationships


For generations, people have been drawn to Smithsonian exhibitions. These exhibitions create memorable experiences by encouraging close observation of artifacts, and presenting interpretation through exhibition texts, sometimes supplemented with catalogs and/or educational programs. This observational learning model has been largely replicated in the Smithsonian’s current online museum experiences as most sites continue to adhere to a relatively conventional content publishing paradigm.

The Smithsonian online experience should be a means of extending the experience of those who visit the physical exhibits, as well as a means of engaging more deeply with audiences unable to visit in person. Web publishing fundamentals—excellent content, strong Smithsonian-wide search, a cohesive information architecture, and a coherent navigation structure—are critical to reaching this goal. The online experience must become more interactive and able to facilitate ongoing dialogues between the Smithsonian and its users to ensure the continuing relevance of the Institution, particularly to digitally attuned audiences.

Policy/Program Goals:

  • Audience Profiles: Develop a clear understanding of the audiences who interact with the Smithsonian online, including their interaction goals and unmet needs
  • Web Publishing Fundamentals: Acknowledge the criticality of search results, findability, and other fundamental aspects of the user experience
  • Extended Relationships: Develop interaction mechanisms that encourage museum visitors to start—and continue—their Smithsonian experience online and through mobile devices
  • Smithsonian Commons: Re-imagine the experience of the Smithsonian portal to become the Smithsonian Commons, a place where communities of learning gather and grow [To do: re-cast this goal & describe SI Commons as project that does not compete/conflict w the mission and users of the main SI portal. - edsonm edsonm]

Tactical Implementation

  • Strive for excellence in Web publishing fundamentals. Invest in search and findability, “social search,” information architecture, and overall usability. Make it easy for online visitors (as well as internal scholars and researchers) to find the content they are, or might be, interested in. Once visitors find content, make it easier for them to find similar and related content elsewhere in the Institution
  • Publish more of our collections, images, video, activities, and content of all kinds. Enable network effects in which a critical mass of content and users enables kinds of learning and value-creation that many smaller, isolated pockets of content and users can not
  • Ensure that Smithsonian content is available in a variety of formats and platforms (Smithsonian Institution and non-Smithsonian Institution)
  • Create a shared global navigational structure that encourages deep exploration of unit-based content and discovery of content across units
  • Develop expertise in User Experience Design. Convene focus groups to help staff and leadership better understand audience needs. Create an audience segmentation plan that describes and prioritizes roles, online goals, and value to the Smithsonian, and correlate that plan to the structure/interaction flows of Smithsonian Web sites
  • Continue and strengthen an online pan-Institutional calendar to aggregate upcoming events and announcements
  • Publish content so that it can be shared, tagged, collected, rated, re-purposed, commented on, and exported to other Web sites. Optimize Smithsonian digital content with meta data and semantic structure to maximize availability to search engines
  • Dedicate resources to manage and support user interaction and user-generated content, Institution wide
  • Redesign the main Web site and use the Smithsonian Commons as the basis for a pan-Institutional site structure that demonstrates the NEW Smithsonian online experience (see section IV. The Smithsonian Commons: A Place to Begin)

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