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Marketing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: A Q&A

Tonight, we’ll be kicking off Content Marketing World at Cleveland’s own Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s evolution began in 1986 and has since added myriad rock ’n’ roll artifacts, along with 269 inductees, including 619 individuals. The museum in Cleveland opened in 1995.

We had a chance to sit down with Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the Hall, and Todd Mesek, the Hall’s VP of marketing and communications, to talk about the challenging roles of marketing the Hall to a global audience.

Content Marketing World (CMW): Tell us about the Hall’s mission, business model and its place in musical history.

Terry Stewart (TS): It has taken us years to develop a business model that markets to 50 states and globally. We’ve discovered that when we can create impressions with the mass media, that is our business model. Today, nearly half of the visitors are families, and many of the children have adopted the classic rock of their parents. That has expanded our demographics. And, conference attendance and registration rises dramatically when the Hall is included.

CMW: What are some of the more interesting pieces in the hall that MWC reception guests shouldn’t miss?

TS: The current Women in Rock exhibit is extremely popular. We have the original lyrics sheet to Save the Last Dance for Me and A Day in the Life written on the back of an envelope. Some people are moved by guitars, lyrics, fashion or just listening to music. And, Lady Gaga’s meat dress, which has no odor, rodents or critters, and has been scientifically stabilized. We have so much here, so spend the time.

CMW: You are now marketing the Hall to a global audience. What are some of the challenges with that?

Todd Mesek (TM): There are always myriad stories out there, and there’s value to that. But we have an important story of an art form that everyone has a connection to. And we’re blessed with a story people are interested in. But it’s challenging. As our social networks grew, we had to establish an avenue to share feedback. So, we’re facilitating dialogue.

CMW: What about social media marketing, content marketing, Web-based marketing at the Hall?

TM: There are always the fundamentals of marketing, but they are changing like content marketing. And content development, best practices etc. are changing constantly. Our mission is to tell the story of rock and roll and why it’s important through social media. To some, we’re a classroom, to others we’re a museum. It’s about establishing our credibility and understanding the caliber of the work we do here.

CMW: Your blog is evolving into a legitimate marketing tool. Tell us how that’s working.

TS: We struggled with how to market globally and to 50 states, and needed to shift our focus to social media. We have evolved our business and marketing models to balance the Web and social media with traditional media and marketing. The key is getting on the blog all the time. So, we all take a shot at the blog here at the Hall and put it into the cloud.

CMW: How is the memorabilia attained?

TS: We get memorabilia through a curatorial team of 10 people who are constantly tracking materials from bands, even the younger artists. We rarely buy materials. We are currently seeking the original Yasgur’s Farm sign from Woodstock.

CMW: Do many of the inductees participate in any of your marketing campaigns? Do they visit the Hall?

TS: Most of the inductees are hard to reach, so we engage them through their fan clubs and Web sites. We try to get inductees here to convince them that we’re doing God’s work for rock ’n’ roll, but we don’t do it as a regular marketing strategy. One interesting visit was from Bruce Springsteen, who was here unannounced and was taking photos when some unsuspecting ladies saw him and cried, then fainted. Others such as Steven Tyler, even Betty White, have visited.