The COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of most museums worldwide. These organizations then needed to rely only on digital tools, especially social media, to maintain a relationship with their public. Despite the numerous studies on strategic communication, few have focused on exceptional situations. This lack of knowledge, added to the impact of the pandemic on the digital transformation of museums, made it essential to understand how art museums carried out strategic communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper focused on studying how art museums cultivated relationships with their public through Instagram during the first six months of the pandemic and how the audience engaged with the published content. The Instagram communication of three art museums, the Rijksmuseum, the British Museum, and the Louvre, was studied through thematic analysis. The analysis was conducted on 150 Instagram posts and 1500 user comments. Communicational strategies used by the museums were considered, as well as the influence of cultural patterns and the weight of Instagram initiatives on the digital transformation of cultural institutions. Findings indicate that museums focused on portraying an accessible, humanized image by taking advantage of the wide variety of content in their collections and giving a protagonist role to their staff. They also offered material that contributed to the well-being and safety of the public, explicitly tailored to address the demands caused by COVID-19. Efforts to provide an improved experience online further added to the digital transformation of museums. However, emphasizing the physical location continued to be a relevant aspect of Instagram communication despite the closures caused by the pandemic. Moreover, despite the increasing weight of globalization, social media communication is shaped by cultural, national, and contextual aspects, such as colonial past and governmental policies. Finally, the study on public engagement showed that the audience engaged cognitively and emotionally with the content. Additionally, followers relied on these Instagram posts to interact with the museum and other users and reflect on the exceptional situation caused by COVID-19. Findings offer museums and other organizations insights into how to use strategic communication on social media to connect emotionally and cognitively with the public. Results also highlight how organizations can adopt a role beyond their goals and activities to contribute to the well-being of the audience.

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Dr. Yijing Wang
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Isabel Cristina López Vásquez. (2022, June 27). Museums are closed. Now what? Strategic Communication Employed by Museums on Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic. Media & Business. Retrieved from