With a history dating back to 1887, the National Museum of Singapore is the nation’s oldest museum but one with an immensely progressive mind. Beneath its 19th-century colonial exterior, it uses cutting-edge technology to present the nation’s legacy and development. Its galleries highlight fresh perspectives of the Singapore story as they take consumers on immersive voyages to redefine storytelling and museum experiences.
Some innovative events and activities that have garnered National Museum of Singapore attention include the well-loved Night Festival, visually arresting art installations, as well as performances and film screenings of different styles and genres.
This year, the museum took home the coveted gold spot for Best PR Campaign: Government/Public Services at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's regional PR Awards 2021 is National Museum of Singapore. We speak to Jonathan Goh, assistant director, strategic marketing and communications, National Museum of Singapore on the win and what we can expect from the brand in the future.
This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series for PR Awards 2021. To find out more about the awards, click here.
What would you say was the biggest accomplishment for the whole PR/communications community in 2020?
Goh: 2020 was a challenging year for PR practitioners. Communication plans were upended without warning and we all had to find new and meaningful ways to connect with our communities amidst a pandemic. However, I was really heartened to see how fellow communicators went beyond chasing profits and KPIs to come up with so many creative ways and initiatives to support the public through the trying times.
What would you say was your proudest achievement of the year?
Goh: It definitely has to be the National Museum of Singapore’s campaign, "Doraemon’s time-travelling adventures in Singapore", which almost did not happen! We were on the verge of cancelling the campaign because we were unsure, early last year, of when we could reopen the museum to visitors. However, we believed that the meaningful campaign had great potential to uplift the public, especially in difficult times, so we decided to push ahead and adapt nimbly to circumstances.
The campaign was the museum’s first on-site offering during Singapore’s phase two of re-opening, and I am proud of the team behind the campaign, which responded quickly to new developments throughout the planning and implementation phases to ensure that the campaign ran smoothly. It was priceless to see the smiles on our visitors’ faces and to learn from their feedback that the experience brought them much cheer amidst the trying period.
We were also glad that the campaign grew the public’s appreciation of the National Museum of Singapore. They came to view the museum not only as a heritage institution, but also as a social space essential to people’s lives and well-being, especially in trying times, and offering uplifting experiences that connect people to their heritage and to others.
What are some communications trends you see carrying on post-pandemic?
Goh: Many brands have made the pivot to a digital-first strategy during the pandemic, including the National Museum of Singapore. We increased our online engagement efforts by launching new virtual exhibitions and digital programmes that audiences can enjoy from home during the months that the museum was closed to visitors. Digital outreach efforts will remain a key part of our communication plan even after the pandemic.
The pandemic, however, has also shown us that as much as people enjoy online experiences, they will continue to seek out opportunities to bond with family and friends in person. Many people, for example, participated in our on-site campaign for "Doraemon’s time-travelling adventures in Singapore" even though they had the option to take part in the campaign’s online activities.
“Phygital” experiences, which blend digital and physical experiences, will therefore likely be a trend that carries on post-pandemic, in response to changing consumer behaviours. Our approach will be to deepen our engagement with both online and on-site audiences. Through seamless online-offline storytelling avenues, we aim to reach audiences online at different touchpoints and interest them to visit us in person to enjoy fun and exciting physical and digital activities on-site.
How will the role of communications professionals evolve as we move into a rather uncertain future?
Goh: As communication professionals, we will have to adapt quickly, as we always have, to waves of changing trends while staying true to our brand story and values. Moving into an uncertain future can be unsettling, but an unscripted future also presents opportunities for us to experiment, be creative and cultivate a growth mindset in ourselves as we keep learning to stay ahead of the curve.
What can we expect from the National Museum of Singapore in 2021?
Goh: We have two special exhibitions on until 29 August – Home Truly: Growing up with Singapore, 1950s to the Present, and Picturing the Pandemic: A Visual Record of COVID-19 of Singapore. Both exhibitions are designed to appeal to audiences young and old, and they invite visitors to reflect on Singapore’s past and present through immersive, interactive experiences on-site and online.
The Home Truly exhibition, for example, has a complementary digital experience, @Home, Truly, that includes content related to the on-site exhibition, as well as a chatbot that engages users through online games and quizzes. There is also a related website, mamashopofmemories.sg, that invites people to contribute a memory of Singapore on the website in exchange for a treat they can pick up at the museum. Picturing the Pandemic, on the other hand, has made available online videos and activity guides that complement the on-site exhibition.
Collecting Contemporary Singapore is another of the museum’s latest initiative to expand public engagement efforts and crowdsource objects and related stories or photos from residents in Singapore to broaden our contemporary collection. We started with the Documenting COVID-19 in Singapore open call for people to contribute personal items that have been significant to their experience of the pandemic. We will be introducing different thematic open calls for Collecting Contemporary Singapore in the coming year, and beyond, to encourage Singapore residents from all walks of life to contribute to this meaningful project and have their voices be part of Singapore’s collective memory.