UTS Library

Bringing back the people


Museum of Tropical Queensland

PR Company: 

Balfour Consulting

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2004 B 1



Executive Summary: 

The Museum of Tropical Queensland (MTQ) in Townsville opened in 2000.  By 2003, visitor numbers had dropped 67%, with the greatest decrease in the local/regional market.  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

MTQ established a Community Pass Program to develop this audience through Council-subsidised free entry. 

The challenge was to:

  • Make residents aware of the program
  • Raise their interest in museum activities
  • Encourage first-time visitors
  • Develop cooperative programs with Councils.

Five of the eight Councils covering the target market have joined the Community Pass Program.

Communication activities included production and distribution of posters in high-traffic areas, media articles and the distribution of flyers to specific audiences.  

The MTQ Community Fun Day achieved outstanding results, including:

  • Attendance by 3,154 people (compared with 846 on the museum?s opening day)
  • 89% were local residents, with 63% of these being first-time visitors.

The development of strong media partnerships resulted in:

  • Generous promotion of MTQ activities and the program through the news, interviews and CSAs
  • The region's newspaper printing a museum story weekly, always including information about the program. 

To date, resident visitation has totalled 17% (29,705) of the catchment population, and the first six months of 2004 saw a record 38,165 visitors (Appendix A: 5).

Situation Analysis: 

The Problem<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The Museum of Tropical Queensland (MTQ) in Townsville was rebuilt and reopened in 2000.  Over the following three years, visitor numbers dropped by 67%, and research showed the greatest decrease was in visitation by the local/regional market.  Similarly, school visits decreased by 40%.

The Solution

MTQ developed a Community Pass Program that aimed to develop the local/regional audience by:

  • Encouraging increased regional community access to the museum
  • Providing equity of access for regional residents
  • Developing community participation in MTQ activities
  • Encouraging local and regional residents to take ownership of the museum

An additional goal of the Community Pass Program was to turn local/regional residents into museum ambassadors and increase both visitor numbers and financial returns by their bringing visiting friends and relatives to the museum.

The Community Pass Program provides residents with free unlimited access to the MTQ, subsidised by contributions from the participating Councils and a major discount from the museum.  MTQ formed initial partnerships with two Councils in November 2003, two in March 2004 and <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />one July 2004, giving a total population catchment for the free entry scheme of 176,084 residents.  In terms of understanding the communications challenges involved, Dalrymple Shire is larger than Tasmania but has just over 3,500 residents, with its largest school boasting 32 pupils.


Quantitative research was undertaken with randomly selected individuals in households throughout the region.  Questions covered awareness of the MTQ, visitation, attitudes towards the museum, family composition, with whom they visited, the key decision-maker and basic demographics.

Qualitative research was undertaken with school children, teachers and visitors to the museum, and interviews were held with individuals from key stakeholder organisations, representing areas such as the State government, local government, the tourism industry, related attractions and the Townsville business community. 

Along with desktop and other research, analysis showed that MTQ has four natural key target markets, which are, in order of priority:

1.          The local/regional market, which in turn has two main segments:

  • Families visiting the museum in groups consisting of one adult with children or more than one adult with children; and
  • Singles or couples.

2.          The intrastate market, which includes all other areas of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Queensland

3.          The interstate market

4.          The international market.

Implementation of the Community Pass program would increase visitation directly from residents taking advantage of the free entry and indirectly by their recommending the museum to visitors from the other three markets, especially visiting friends and relatives (Appendix A: 1-3).

Target Policies: 

General:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Councils  Successful communication of the Community Pass Program was highly dependent on developing strong partnerships with participating Councils.


Media It was equally important to inform the public about the program and present MTQ as a fun and interesting place to visit. 

Local/regional residents Identified as the priority market by research, local residents were defined as those living in eight local government areas.


Defence Force personnel - Defence personnel and their families make up about 18% of Townsville?s population, with a regular turnover in personnel.  Commonwealth policy will see this sector continue to grow. 

School principals and teachers - It was essential to communicate the benefits of the Community Pass Program to teachers in the participating areas and encourage school visits to the museum.

Library staff - Research showed that many visitors were also library users, so it was considered important to develop partnerships with library staff to gain their assistance in promoting the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />CommunityPass scheme.

New residents - Townsville and Thuringowa together recorded the second highest growth rate  of any regional city over the last five years.  It was important that new arrivals learn about and take advantage of the Community Pass Program.

Communication Strategy: 

Communications Strategy and Implementation


The overarching strategy of the program was to position MTQ as "our museum" with the local/regional market, and to establish the museum as being fun, interesting and with continually changing activities.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Another major strategy was to develop strong partnerships with media, local government and business in order to help the museum extend its budgetary resources and gain greater impact.


Maximise the communications budget.


Develop partnerships with the media, Councils and businesses/organisations.





Development of a one-year partnership agreement with WIN TV

Regional television

Regular segments on local evening news

2 for 1 CSAs

Local/regional community

Development of a one-year partnership agreement with 4TO (dmg Radio)

Regional radio

News items

Regular interviews with and on-air reads by two leading presenters

2 for 1 CSAs

Outside broadcasts

Local/regional community

Development of a one-year partnership agreement with the Townsville Bulletin

Major regional newspaper

Weekly editorial, with feature items presented under a logo + Our Museum

Local/regional audience

Maintenance of four-year partnerships with local/regional Councils

Regular report on visitor numbers according to local government area (via visitor post codes)

Development of PowerPoint presentation on the program for use by Councillors (Appendix A: 4)

Community Pass Program funding


Councillors and residents

In addition, ABC radio gave its support in presenting items of interest to the regional audience via interviews and news.  Other community partnerships were developed through the inaugural Community Fun Day (see below).


Position MTQ as "our museum"

Attract local first-time visitors.

Encourage <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />CommunityPass usage.


Develop a launch event that could become an annual event, had something for everyone and showcased MTQ.


The most innovative and successful activity undertaken to promote the CommunityPass was the inaugural MTQ Community Day held on Sunday 18 January 2004.  Community partners were enlisted to help stage and promote the day, and a program of additional free activities was designed to attract children and adults of all ages (Appendix A: 11-12). 







Library users, Council visitors, general community


CSAs on TV and radio for two weeks

Local/regional community

Media releases

Interviews and news

On-air radio reads


Local/regional community

Media photo opportunities

Newspapers and TV


Local/regional community

Telephone messages

Councils telephone on hold

Promotion during the day

Outside broadcast by 4TO with key presenter "Harro"

Promotional points

Fridge magnets, stickers and balloons given to visitors on the day

3,154 Community Fun Day visitors


Encourage 15% of local/regional residents to use their free entry to the MTQ.

Communicate with specific audiences.


Develop and implement a broad media and communication campaign.





Posters (Appendix A: 17)

Library users

Council visitors

General community

Media releases  all included a paragraph about the Community Pass Program

Interviews and news

On-air radio reads

Weekly item in Townsville Bulletin under special logo


Local/regional community

Media photo opportunities

Newspapers and TV


Local/regional community


CSAs on TV and radio for specific activities

Local/regional community


Townsville and Thuringowa residents magazines

Residents (75,800 households)

Direct Marketing




Defence Force families


Schools, day care and after care



Visitor numbers for January to June 2004 totalled 38,165, a 28% increase on the previous best period from January to June 2001 and a 77% increase on the previous year (Appendix A: 6).

Visitation from residents of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />CommunityPass areas totalled 17% of the catchment population in the first nine months of the program to 30 June 2004 (Appendix A: 7). MTQ has held media events to celebrate the 10,000th and the 30,000th pass visitors.

Visits by residents of the first two local government partners have risen 300% in the first three months of 2004 compared with the same period the previous year. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Attendances during school holidays showed major growth (Appendix A: 6), with the 2004 winter school holidays showing a 107% increase over 2003.  It was MTQs second-best ever school holiday total - an achievement considering the record was set when the museum opened and was new to everyone.


The inaugural Community Fun Day attracted 3,154 visitors, compared with the previous daily record of 977 visitors.  Of those attending the first annual Community Fun Day in January, 89% were locals and 63% were making their first visit to the museum.  January was also a record month:

July 2000 first full month of opening                11,205

Jan 2004 Community Fun Day promotion                  11,811

Sound strategic partnerships have been developed with Townsville and Thuringowa Councils (see Evaluation), and programs are being implemented with the more recently joined Councils (Appendix A: 4-5). 

Three partnerships were negotiated and implemented with the leading print, radio and television media for the region.  These involved the regular use of news items, two-for-one donations of community service announcements/advertising, on-air reads and the use of special logo with print stories.  The partnership with Radio 4TO has already been renegotiated and extended for three years.

The media campaign resulted in very positive coverage, averaging 27 items per month in the local/regional media, plus a total of 112 television and 276 radio CSAs (Appendix A: 8-11, 18-20).  The Minister sent a letter of congratulations (Appendix A: 16).


Objectives:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

  • Raise awareness of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />CommunityPass Program
  • Encourage visitation
  • Gain 15% base population visitation  (26,418) in first year


Since the program launch in mid November 2004, over 29,705 (as at 30 June 2004) or 17% of residents have enjoyed free access to the museum.  Visits by residents of the first two local government partners increased by 300% in the first three months of 2004 compared with the same period the previous year (Appendix A: 6-7).


  • Develop Council partnerships and implement specific activities

Achieved with first two Councils others being developed

Partnership activities included:

City of Thuringowa - MTQ brochures in residents kits, articles in the Thuringowa Magazine, website linkage, library posters, tie in with Councils school programs, participation in the Community Fun Day.

City of Townsville  library displays and posters, articles in the Council newspaper, website linkage, promotion of holiday activities by Council, participation in the Community Fun Day

Five out of eight targeted Councils have joined the program (Appendix A: 5).


  • Develop media partnerships
  • Raise public interest in museum activities


Three partnerships were implemented with the leading print, radio and television media for the region.  These involved the regular use of news items, two-for-one donations of community service announcements/advertising, on-air reads and the use of special logo with print stories.  An average 27 media news items were printed or broadcast per month over up to 30 June 2004.


  • Develop an annual event


The inaugural Community Fun Day was attended by 3,154 visitors, with the previous best days attendance being 977 and with 848 attending the MTQ opening day (Appendix A: 11-15).


  • Encourage first-time visitors

Achieved further tracking commenced 1 July 2004

The first annual Community Fun Day in January was attended by 89% locals and 63% were making their first visit to the museum (Appendix A: 13).  From July 2004,

 visitor research will measure the number of first-time visitors.


  • Communicate with specific target audiences

Achieved some elements still to be implemented before 30 September 2004

Defence personnel  Brochures and display material at Defence Forces Orientation Days for new families.

New residents  Brochures included in packages sent by Thuringowa City Council to new residents. 

Library users  Library displays, plus posters promoting activities, lectures and holiday programs

School teachers  MTQ is currently revising its education programs and organising familiarisation functions for teachers.

Students MTQ will be present at JamesCookUniversity and the Barrier Reef College of TAFE orientation days.