Being in Boston, the impacts of weather are unavoidable. In our marketing and promotions at the Museum of Science, Boston, we take advantage of really hot days in the summer by urging visitors to come enjoy time while cooling down in our air conditioned Exhibit Halls or our Mugar Omni Theater. At other times in the year, we urge visitors to escape the rain or snow by enjoying all of the activities they can do indoors at the Museum. However, this winter posed a bigger challenge for institutions in Boston than we had faced in many years.

This image we used for social media posts shows a visual of just how much snow fell in Boston this year. With record-breaking snowfall, schools, restaurants, museums, and other attractions were unable to open doors on many days between January and February. According to this article in the Boston Globe, many local attractions saw attendance drop 20-50% in the month of February 2015.

While this winter was especially difficult in Boston, the problem of how to respond to dangerous and uncontrollable weather is not unique to Boston or our museum. In other parts of the country, this same issue can arise in the form of extreme heat or flooding. We all need to be aware that extreme weather can hurt our businesses and attendance figures at attractions.

So how do we respond? For us in Boston, this meant taking advantage of better weather as soon as we had it. For April school vacation week in Massachusetts, we were running our usual multichannel advertising campaigns, but we also did paid and organic social media pushes around Humpback Whales and other museum offerings, in addition to partnering with the Cambridge Office for Tourism to reach a new audience on social media. We knew people needed a break after the winter we had, and the film stills from Humpback Whales and Living in the Age of Airplanes provided the perfect chance for us to position seeing the films as opportunities to escape to other places and times. Thankfully, for the April 20-May 3 time period, we did see a 5% increase in attendance in 2015 vs. 2014.

However, going into this summer, we know more must be done to bounce back from the hard winter. We plan to position this summer as a chance for visitors to take advantage of all the activities they didn’t get to do this winter, and we have a major new exhibit opening in late June (The Science Behind Pixar), which we can run major promotions and ad campaigns around.

But let’s use this as an opportunity to talk about the weather. What do other organizations do to bounce back from dips in attendance because of circumstances out of your control? Has anything worked really well for your organization? Anything not worked? Do you just have any ideas to share?

Submitted by Corinna Graham, Marketing Analyst, Museum of Science, Boston