Organization: Adler Planetarium

Location: Chicago, IL

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About Adler Planetarium:

Countless galaxies, unfathomable distances, exploding stars, diamond planets, black holes, there’s no way around it:  Space is Freaking Awesome. The Adler Planetarium (“The Adler”) has inspired people to learn and explore the Universe for over 85 years. America’s first planetarium, the Adler invites people to explore space along with active space scientists. It is a nucleus for frontier research, technology that advances human knowledge and one-of-a-kind educational programming.  On the most fundamental level, the Adler is driven by other peoples’ curiosity about space.

The mission of the Adler Planetarium is to inspire exploration and understanding of our universe. The Adler is focused on the audience experience; it cares about seeing new generations get excited about STEM, space and everything in between. The Adler hosts lectures with accessible, low-priced admission fees engaging audiences both at the Adler and across the world. Adler’s astronomers could have chosen to research at a university, but instead found their calling in interacting with the public, whether it is answering questions among exhibits or hosting a science-themed bike ride across state borders. Everyone at Adler is driven by an internal sense of purpose, and a fundamental approach to ignite the explorer in us all.

The Adler Planetarium has a rich history and is one of the leading science-oriented cultural institutions in the United States.  Under the leadership of the Adler’s first female President and CEO, Michelle Larson, the museum is on an ambitious path of growth and expansion that embraces the ways people engage today.

Since launching its award-winning marketing campaign, “Space is Freaking Awesome” in June 2015, attendance has increased 22 percent from the previous year, to over 550,000 visitors. The Adler had another record-breaking year in 2016 as the museum welcomed 568,814 guests – another 5% increase since 2015. The Adler is creating more opportunities to make the science of space accessible beyond visitor hours and seeks ways to extend the brand in constant iteration – living and growing with the speed of curiosity.

The values of the Adler include:

  • An engaging, user-friendly museum serving diverse audiences;
  • Excitement and curiosity about space science and space exploration;
  • Programs based on credible science and educational research;
  • Well-managed collections;
  • Adherence to results-oriented planning;
  • A professional work environment and highly motivated, diverse staff; and
  • Long-term financial stability and the economic viability of our endeavors.

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The Opportunity:

Reporting to the President & CEO, the Vice President, Marketing & Communications (Vice President) will be responsible for the development and implementation of the new marketing and communications strategy for the Adler Planetarium.  This strategy will increase attendance, membership and brand recognition expanding the reach and prominence of the Adler.

Drawing on the recent award-winning marketing campaign and the strength of the Adler brand, the Vice President will be the senior marketing strategist and leader who will be responsible for defining and communicating and building awareness of the Adler both internally and externally.

As a key member of the senior team, the Vice President will provide business and marketing thought leadership to the organization. S/he will educate, motivate and lead a dynamic, creative team in applying best practices, with particular focus on brand strategy, digital communications and data-driven approaches while providing leadership to the overall integrated marketing activities of the Adler.

The Vice President will oversee a team of 12 marketing, communications, and private events professionals. S/he will also have oversight of the Café and Store, both of which are outsourced. The Vice President leads the Adler Planetarium’s efforts to promote its exhibitions, programs, and collection to local, national and international visitors, and the media. The Vice President will work with other departments across the institution to refine the Adler’s identity and position it externally.

Responsibilities of the Vice President include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating and implementing innovative and compelling integrated marketing strategies that build and reinforce the Adler brand, to increase awareness, relevance, participation and fundraising revenue;
  • Developing the Adler Planetarium’s brand locally, regionally and nationally consistent with its mission and vision, and within financial resources;
  • Promoting the Adler’s strengths in the following areas: dynamic exhibitions; collaborative departments with significant audience engagement; an ongoing membership drive; and a wide roster of events;
  • Leading brand development and implementation for the Adler, including strategic brand positioning, identity, brand supervision, and execution across multiple platforms;
  • Establishing methodologies by which to assess the success of market development efforts across all media; Taking appropriate risks and conducting regular audits of market development efforts to determine their effectiveness and to ensure that market development expenditures are best aligned with museum priorities;
  • Collaborating with the Vice President, Development to provide marketing and consultative sales strategies for fundraising initiatives resulting in diversified revenue streams and building a culture of philanthropy for the Adler;
  • Leading and developing a talented marketing and communications staff; creating annual department management plan for marketing, communication and engagement activities with objectives, goals, strategies, tactics, measurements and outcomes;
  • Serving as primary liaison to marketing strategists and key Adler constituents including the senior team and Adler Trustees to ensure that market development efforts are in synch with organizational goals; and
  • Introducing and executing market development initiatives for Adler programs and exhibitions locally, nationally and globally, including development events, cross-promotions, and targeted outreach with other cultural institutions and arts organizations.

Candidate Profile:

The ideal candidate will have the following qualities, characteristics and skills:

Marketing & Communications Expertise

The Vice President is an experienced leader with a curious mindset and a high level of intellectual horsepower. S/he has a measurable track record of successful, progressive, and applicable experience in the leadership and management of communications, public relations and integrated marketing, and the supervision of functional marketing groups and budgetary oversight. S/he has demonstrable experience in setting and implementing innovative marketing and communications strategies, serving as a catalyst and leader within organizations. S/he is analytical and data-driven, able to conceptualize and analyze both problems and solutions and identify key metrics that will help the Adler’s goal towards increased membership, attendance and engagement. S/he will have an expert understanding of branding, public relations, digital marketing, social media, web and mobile development and management.

Strategic & Innovative Thought Leadership

The Vice President is a strategic and results-oriented leader who can translate business and operations plans into marketing and communications strategies. S/he is a creative thinker who effectively and constructively will lead the Adler to consider new and innovative approaches to targeting and engaging new stakeholders, as well as branding and partnership development. S/he is a visionary leader, and a highly collaborative colleague; someone who can enlist the support of the entire organization behind a marketing and communications strategy. S/he sets priorities and executes against them, while also seeing to immediate organizational needs. The Vice President is a flexible and adaptable learner who can lead teams in a dynamic environment.

An Action-Oriented Leader with Strong Execution Skills

The Vice President will have the ability to set marketing and communications priorities decisively, delegate responsibilities, assure accountability and allocate resources to ensure results. S/he will strengthen and retain an empowered team that will work with him/her to implement the course of action for achieving the vision. A tactical executor, s/he will have a strong data and analysis orientation and a proven ability to use metrics to drive decisions and achieves strategic objectives. An engaging and supportive leader, s/he will have a track record of motivating and inspiring other to achieve impact through creativity and teamwork and of leveraging individual strengths to meet organizational goals.

Passion for the Mission

The Vice President will have a curious mindset, sense of humor and belief that ‘Space is Freaking Awesome’. S/he will embrace the Adler’s culture while continually innovating to help expand its brand and reach. The Vice President will have strong faith in humanity and will be an empathetic, charismatic leader who treats others with respect. The Vice President will understand, appreciate and practice humility while accepting feedback and sharing in his/her success. S/he will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.


Marissa Martin and Turner Delano of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role, please submit your materials here or email Marissa and Turner directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

To effectively educate and serve its community and constituents, the Adler Planetarium strives to achieve diversity among its Trustee leadership, staff, volunteers and programming.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit