The Smithsonian Institution has an amazing story, and we provided the tools necessary to properly tell it.

Uniting the work of many cultures by establishing one voice.

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage fulfills its mission of promoting cultural research and education by offering a mix of rich programming as well as online exhibits, blogs and resources. They also manage Folkways, a nonprofit record label, and The Folklife Festival, an annual two-week outdoor event celebrating world cultures. To ensure that each of these entities were represented through one shared voice, CHIEF stepped in to build the tools to support each team in this effort.


Marketing & Communications Strategy
Smithsonian Style Guide

To help the Center find its voice, we first dove into robust research to drive an understanding of the nuances that comprised each of its key audiences—so that the Center’s voice would accurately resonate with these representative groups. We then crafted personas to create a clear picture of the psychographic characteristics of each audience member: the artisan, the researcher, the donor and the American public. Inspired by these insights, CHIEF developed a messaging platform to help the Center captivate and motivate each audience—including a holistic mission, vision, elevator pitch and other components of a unified messaging platform.

We then built upon this work to deliver a communications and outreach plan that laid out short-, mid- and long-term strategies to support cohesive campaign planning among all Folklife groups. Finally, we crafted a style guide that covered the finer points of organizational communication, giving the Center a single resource to direct grammar and usage uniformity.


Without the cooperation of internal staff, however, even the strongest strategies risk failure. CHIEF confronted this head-on by leading a series of training workshops to promote internal understanding and create excitement around a collective voice.

CHIEF created a presentation as well as other resource materials to support each training workshop. The Center could then share these resources across the organization to further strengthen cross-team buy-in.

The Results

The Center’s new communications plan weaves a compelling story across each of its communications platforms—allowing the Center to deliver the right message, to the right audience, at the right time. As an added bonus, the plan offers guidelines that promote outreach activities in support of the broader Smithsonian Institution’s mission.

We Also Provided

  • A Discovery Findings Presentation that included a SWOT analysis and six key personas
  • Value add presentations that articulated the value of each provided deliverable, as well as instructional pointers to encourage use by each of the Center’s teams