Future Learn – Museums as a Source for Learning Part Three – Instagram Curation

I’m nearly at the end of Week One of this course, but I’m doing it in a pretty condensed way so I’ll be jumping straight into Week Two (of three) very soon. Also, Blaugust starts tomorrow! Unlike last year, I have not planned at all and I feel great about it. Expect a specific starter post about that.

I’ve realised that this is quite a short section, so this might be a fairly short post!

Using Instagram to Measure and Curate

A museum in The Netherlands specifically encouraged visitors to post about an exhibition on Instagram with specific hashtags. Going through these after, they were able to break down which parts of the exhibit engaged people the most by which pieces of content showed up the most, as well as the comments with them, and were able to use this as a way to curate for future events.

This is a great way of measuring audience engagement in a both quantitative and qualitative way, although it is always important to remember that you are only seeing a narrow part of the overall story unless you use other methods to measure your audience. For example, when the arts organisation where I work surveys the audience, we are always careful to do it via both online (email/survey forms etc.) and offline (paper surveys, face-to-face etc.)

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 20.20.49

(From my own Instagram – a photo from the Anson Engine Museum. It’s a wonderful and strange place and if you’re ever in North Cheshire you should go.)

Since this was a fairly short post, I had a quick glance over the next week’s worth of content, which is mostly about exhibition planning, a new topic that I’ll be getting to grips with over the next few days!

Just so they’re linked, here is Part One and Part Two of my posts on this course.

Latest YouTube Video – Baqueira-Beret Trip, January 2018

I finally finished up and published this video just yesterday, so I wanted to have a copy of it up on here. Is there a less appropriate time to make a video about being in the mountains in the depth of winter than during a July heatwave?

This is a pretty short snapshot travel vlog, made of some short videos and images I took on my phone whilst out skiing/exploring. Most of it is less about the actual skiing (since I can’t easily ski and film) but it’s still a really nice little reminder of the trip, and it’s always fun to keep my hand in with basic Adobe Premiere functions.

FutureLearn – Museums as a Source for Learning Part 2 – Engaging Different Audiences

Yesterday, I started a new Future Learn course – ‘Understanding Museums as a Site and Source for Learning’. I’m going to try and get through this course fairly quickly, so I’m planning on doing daily or near-daily posts with my notes from the course – my previous post is here.

How to engage different audience groups

The next section of the course Museums as a site and source for learning: Week One looked at how to engage and accommodate different types of audiences.


The first was children, where the emphasis is on engaging them via different senses – exhibits, workshops and activities that use sight, sound etc., as well as a focus on interactive activities that both confirm skills and experiences they already have (the example given was around basic literacy) as well as providing new experiences.

The key person in this video was the facilitators, in encouraging children to vocalise their thoughts, and come to conclusions via their own ideas rather than being told answers.

Deaf Visitors, and visitors with hearing loss

The next video looked at the issues of providing information in museums in a way which can be translated into British Sign Language, as specialised language might not be translatable. Public tours with transcripts don’t really work either, as it can lose specific details.

It’s also important to ensure that text-based information in exhibitions is clearly visible and easy to read.

A video interviewing deaf visitors, we are asked to consider previous info about putting exhibits into lived context – can the museums’ content be related to artists/historical figures with deafness

Visually-Impaired Visitors

The course gave an example of a staff member in a gallery giving an audio description of a painting. This is an important way to engage visitors, but it is also a skill that would require training.

Young People

The final section discussed the issues that museums and galleries have had in engaging young people who may not feel that the content is relevant to them, or may be nervous about coming into a building, especially when they worry that they may automatically be regarded with suspicion by staff and security. Many cultural institutions have issues with this, and have different ways of making a place seem more welcoming, or more relaxed, holding parties etc. Also, young people are (and should be) encouraged to have opinions on the arts, even if they don’t like it or find it irrelevant, and not be afraid of being wrong.

The last part of Week One covers some elements of how museums and galleries use social media to engage, so I’ll be looking over that, and whipping up a quick set of notes tomorrow. After that, it’s August… I mean Blaugust… and I’ll see there that goes!

FutureLearn – Museums as a Source for Learning Part 1 – Visitor Profiles

I went back on Future Learn for the first time in a while, and immediately came across a course that is perfect for my current career working in arts/cultural event marketing – ‘The Museum as a Site and Source for Learning’.

I’ve only gone a short way through the first week’s work of this three week course, and so far I’ve made notes on the sections covering the elements of creating engaging content, and visitor profiling. These are both things I’m very familiar with already, although not in the context of museums.

Designing exhibits to engage people

All content for your venue should be developed with the visitor in mind. Always need to have an audience in mind before you even begin to programme – this will determine not just content but also approach – tone of voice etc.

  •         Families – Conversation and Dialogue, like interactive experience and group-based tasks
  •         Adults will pick and choose the topic and exhibition they want to engage with

For families and early years, an exhibition should encourage play – this is something that came up a lot at the Arts Marketing Association Conference earlier this week (see my posts about that here). At the AMA, they talked about wanting visitors to have a creative approach and response to your programming, and also the importance of flexibility.

  • Make content relatable to people’s own lives – put it in context.
  • Importance of research – you can gauge the level of understanding and engagement through direct contact with the audience. If you don’t have an understanding of this, then you’re only guessing on how your target audience will like your product, and you could get it completely wrong.

One way is to test a single content idea with an audience, and allowing them to engage with it and then feed back. This will be through a number of approaches such as focus groups, interview and observation. This gives you both quantitative and qualitative data.

Generally, I’m used to doing post-content research, which tends to be more survey-based. Face-to-face feedback is also very important, especially from those at the highest level and lowest level of engagement – those people who come all the time, and are often involved in other ways such as volunteering or through patron programmes, and  then those for whom it might be the first time in years, or at all.

Visitor Profiling

The next section discussed visitor segmentation and profiling, via two methods. One was used to understand what particular factors prompt someone to visit, and is based of surveying and visit recollection.

  1. EXPLORERS, generic interest in the content, wan to  find something that will grab their attention
  2. FACILITATORS – enabling the experience and learning of others in their accompanying group.
  3. PROFESSIONALS/HOBBYISTS – coming for specific content related to their job/hobby/studies
  4. EXPERIENCE SEEKERS – See the museum itself as an important destination
  5. RECHARGERS – looking for ‘a contemplative, spiritual and restorative experience’

The other profiling method was more psychological-based, as well as surveying visitors on their experience of the exhibitions, they also used sensors on visitors to track heartbeat and reactions to exhibits, as well as mapping their path through the venue. This produced three visitor profile types. (Note, this profiling was done specifically on contemporary art gallery visitors, which may have produced both a smaller and narrower sample size of visitors.)

  1. THE CONTEMPLATIVE VISITOR. These visitors like to move around alone, to think about the art work, to reflect
  2. THE ENTHUSIASTIC VISITOR who does not come alone, is generally older and likes to chat about the art.
  3. THE SOCIAL VISITOR goes because of company, talks while at exhibition (although not necessarily about the art).

This form of segmentation is slightly different to the demographic – based work that I’m used to, primarily through Audience Finder’s Audience Spectrum, and Experian’s Mosaic, though it is somewhat like MHM’s Culture Segments.

The next sections of the course cover different audience groups and how to reach them, then how to use social media as a learning tool.


(Image above from Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Insel Museum, Berlin by Mike Steele, original here)


The Weekend Update and Social Strategies

I sat down today at my computer, and read through a few websites to get my thoughts together what to write about. This included a really interesting article on the future of Facebook advertising (unskippable stories?) and a good posting about creative writing from the lovely AlternativeChat (go follow her on Twitter for great writing).

Social Media Strategy – or at least, the way that works for me

My mind drifted back to what I was up to at work yesterday – mostly a lot of rushed admin after several days away at the AMA conference, but also quite a bit of Twitter and Facebook scheduling, since I won’t be back in the office again until next Wednesday.

I’m the main manager for my employer’s Facebook and Twitter pages – making sure there is a constant stream of short-form copy, images, videos, things shared from other relevant accounts etc. Events need to be marketed (and how much depends on how popular they are), news needs to be announced, partner organisations need to be recognised. Weekly hashtags need to be planned in – a #tbt here, a #FridayFeeling there. Space needs to be left in the schedule for any livetweeting work, or content that is likely to be finished and uploaded later in the week.

So how to start this? For me, generally it starts with a piece of paper and a hastily drawn out table, with the days of the week as the rows, and the different platforms as columns. This is based on the spreadsheets that Hootsuite recommend you put together, and certainly I often do pop the post content into an excel spreadsheet to share with colleagues, but I find for the initial planning, it suits me better to have a something to scribble on. (My office is still very paper-heavy due to the amount of copy proofing that goes on, so there is always plenty of scrap paper around to use!)

First, I lay out the topics and summary of a post, without actually writing it up. This ensures that I have a good spread of content – e.g. I can plan to tweet about an upcoming event x number of times in the week leading up to it. I might know, for example, that there is going to be a press release going out on Thursday of that week, and I can plan to have social media posts for that day. I can also space out posts with images, videos and without so they won’t look too same-y in a news feed.

Once I’ve got a spread of social media posts planned, I’ll start scheduling the ones that can to written in advance, writing them in into complete posts as I go. For Twitter, I use Hootsuite, and Facebook posts can be scheduled directly (though you can also do them through Hootsuite if you want to see everything on one screen). For posts that will need to be written later or in the moment, I make sure to leave a time gap. I tick off the posts on the original piece of paper as I go, and I’ll keep it on my desk through the week for reference. Next, I go back through the scheduler and proof my posts!

Finally, the tweets/posts can be copied and pasted in the shareable doc if needed, with notes about images/video/links or where content will be filled in later on. Once this is done (always on Monday for the rest of the week if possible) then I can ensure that no matter how busy I am or whether I’m in the office or not, these social media accounts will keep on doing their thing.

Anything else to add?

I’m looking to get back into free online courses again, so expect to see some posts relating to that very soon.

Blaugust is nearly here again – and I’ve been putting off making any kind of commitment to daily blogging because honestly with everything that is going on next month I’m not sure I can do it and keep up any level of good output. So, I’m going to do a relaxed Blaugust this year. Posts will happen, and I’ll push myself to write, but it won’t be every single day (for example, not when I’m on my sailing trip at the end of the month), which overall feels like a much better way of going about things.

I’d like to do a quick shout-out to ChilledCow’s Lo-fi Hip-Hop stream on YouTube – I know this stream is something of a joke around the internet, and it’s not at all my usual music, but I’ve found that as background music for writing, it’s actually pretty good to have on, and honestly better than any Spotify playlist I’ve found so far.

#AMAConf Day 2 – Session Notes

It’s day two of the Arts Marketing Association Conference in Liverpool. After yesterday’s sessions, followed by a lovely evening having a tour of the Liverpool Philharmonic, I’m back with another day’s worth of notes.

 Morning Keynote — Putting Play at the Heart of Your Brand

The morning keynote was introduced by AMA chair Cath Hume, who talked about some of the work to come out of the hackathon and ideas sessions from Tuesday. This included looking at how a tech solution could improve accessibility for the arts – suggested a directory of venues/organsations listed by access requirements – very cool idea! Here is a tweet thread about it – and the AMA plans to follow these ideas up.

Also mentioned that the AMA is 25 years old in November! It was set up with the goal of networking arts marketeers and professionalising the sector – now they have members from all across the sector working together to promote a society where everyone has access to culture. They will be celebrating their anniversary at their Digital Marketing Day, 5 December in London and Glasgow, and are planning an Inclusivity day for early 2019.

Keynote from Tom Rainsford – Brand Director of giffgaff

  • Talking about mobile networks and play
  • The mobile phone industry has issues of brand loyalty and they take themselves too seriously
  • There is a lack of understanding of play in the industry – not challenging the status quo
  • Giffgaff is built on mutuality – people become members and then help with recruitment
  • They started by talking down other networks – saying why they were bad, but people don’t want to hear that, they want to hear what is good about giffgaff – a positive position

Power of play – in marketing campaigns such as their zombie-themed ads in 2012 – these were playful in content but could also have a more serious underlying point.

Be playful on social media – by engaging people, joking with them etc. you can create a sense of community.

  • For this to really work, you need playfulness as an internal policy, not just your external comms.
  • Everyone has a daily routine – how can you fit play into it?
  • The role of play in giffgaff is about disruption – how do you challenge people internally to create change externally?
  • What are your company values? You have to first understand your company values and care about them for your customers to care about them.

AMA Session 1: The Brightest Heaven of Invention — rebranding Shakespeare’s Globe


The Globe is a charity, but does not receive any public funding. It currently has 400,000 theatre visitors a year, 320,000 tour and exhibition visitors a year, and engages a further 100,000 children and young people via education work.

View from MHM (the consultancy which worked on their rebrand and audience insights) Any project needs to start with imagination – not necessarily a full formed plan but the desirable outcomes. 

The Issues

Globe Theatre, Globe Exhibitions and Globe Education were programming in isolation, even having separate ticketing and database systems. For the audience, there were multiple entry points to engaging with the Globe, but without any crossover engagement. To get a 360 degree view of their audience, they needed to build a single CRM, and do a major visitor insights study, using MHM’s Culture Segments.


The Globe didn’t at that point have a  unifying vision across it’s three departments – they needed to understand their ‘mission’.

A brand is a promise – one which is articulated clearly, and delivered to everyone who comes into contact with it. 

They had ideas, like their commitment to Shakespeare and to historically accurate staging and performance, but needed something to hold it together.

The Process

Everyone in the organisation has to be involved if everyone is to uphold the vision. Cross-departmental and cross-hierarchy working groups were created and MHM conducted many one-to-one interviews to find the common ideals that everyone held. They decided not to have a mission statement, but instead they had a ‘cause’.

The second thing was to develop a brand model, or a way of brand articulation, using the idea segments of ‘performance’, ‘curiosity and learning’, ‘Shakespeare for all’ and ‘our unique space’, divided by the values of ‘Attract’, ‘Engage’, and ‘Impact’. They were very clear not to use education, theatre or exhibition with capital letters – these were no longer titles.

The first draft of the brand model was literally post-it notes, they then gave this to an artist who created a design based on their round logo which could encompass these ideas for the staff in a visual way.

Audience Insight

They needed to get info that would inform them on all audiences, so they used MHM’s Culture Segments, which segment by cultural values rather than demographic or prior booking patterns. It could also inform the Globe about their wider potential audience rather than solely past and current audience, which they could then use to survey audience and non-audience about their views on the organisation.

The Globe over-indexed in the ‘Essence’ and ‘Stimulation’ segments (click through for explanations of these) so they did an audience forum t find out how the audience understood the Globe.

‘Essence’ were very confident that they understood the Globe’s position and mission, whether or not they had visited the venue.

‘Stimulation’ however, was split. Attenders were very enthusiastic about the Globe, but non-attenders saw it as a slightly cliched tourist attraction.

Visual Identity

The new logo is a 20-sided polygon based off architectural drawings of the theatre. This shape was carved into a piece of oak left over from the construction of the theatre, which was then used as a screen print to create the slightly cracked and textured round logo. All colours are red, black and white, based off historical theatre flags.

They also looked at the original printings of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and analysed the unusual (to the modern eye) way text and illustration was grouped in that early era of printing. This was used to inform print design – appealing both to Shakespeare geeks and design enthusiasts. 

One more important thing – previously they had had different print for education, theatre and tours/exhibitions, now it is in one unified brochure branded as a festival season.


(Taken directly from the slide!)

  1. Visuals. Start with why?
  2. Understand obstacles to success
  3. Discovery. Audience motivation and impact
  4. Agincourt. Great victories are founded on a common cause
  5. The Future – this is only the beginning

AMA Session 2: Working Together — Shared Ambition panel

This was a discussion/panel with fundraising/development and marketing staff from the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, and CAST, Doncaster. They had been a part of the AMA’s Shared Ambition programme, bringing together marketing and fundraising.

The first discussion was around recognising that while heads of department may be working well together, they need to look whether this is also true at lower levels where people might be working in very different ways to each other, rather than working together.

  • Looking at meeting strategies
  • Matrices of working
  • Looking at how people talk to each other
  • Also connections with the audience and engagement via CRM system.

In one case, they had starting out looking to jointly work on membership, then realised that they needed to look at a bigger picture of joint working first. Used exercises like empathy mapping to focus on where the barriers and and how to overcome it. Marketing/Comms and Development do need to work closely – but people have different priorities and if experience isn’t shared then there can be tension.

At CAST, the organisation began in 2013 and created a joint comms and development team with development under the direction of the Head of Comms. However there hadn’t been a need for fundraising in the organisation’s previous iteration as Civic Theatre Doncaster since it had been a council venue. This meant a lot of communicating the fundraising goals inside the org so that it could be widely and effectively spread to the audiences. Examples of this included their first Christmas campaign, where they wrote the fundraising notes into the script for the actors, and encouraged front of house to have themed decorating, including a goal display they could draw updates on.

Things that an arts organisation looking at shared ambition projects can do:

  1. Make the message cleat that your organisation is a charity
  2. Make the case for support really clear
  3. Look at responsibilities that can be spread across the whole team
  4. Share targets – don’t let them be just one person’s responsibility and reason to stress
  5. Keep departments physically and emotionally close where possible, so they can share news etc.
  6. Share the stories of the work that marketing and fundraising do together
  7. Write joint campaign plans
  8. Gather the willing – have conversations and get people together to talk about how they can help
  9. Share ideas and make them work for your own organisation


One question was about the possible issues of having a person who is head of comms and development?

Answer: It can certainly work if at a very senior level, if you have someone with an understanding of both and can view the benefits of both. If you don’t see them as a joint, equal focus, it can confuse not only staff but also audiences. It can also happily be a split role with two specialists, as it’s less about structure than it is about working together.

Another question asked about how to feed into strategy as a marketer if it’s not in your remit

Answer: Change might need need to be organisation wide if it’s a organisation-wide problem, also as a marketing person you can always start from the data side.


Have a conversation with your team – if you work more closely then what is the shared vision. Also, if one person has an idea, it’s not about taking over but about communicating that idea across to the whole team

AMA Session 3: City of Culture 2017 — a 365 day experiment

This session was about the Hull City of Culture – which featured an entire year of arts events, ensuring that 9 out of 10 people in Hull engaged with a cultural programme in 2017.

Their initial bid for City of Culture didn’t actually go down that well – people didn’t see Hull as a cultural place and even 60% of it’s own residents were against the idea. There was a poor perception of the city. The City of Culture team felt like there were a lot of things to celebrate, but some famous people in Hull Culture such as William Wilberforce perhaps didn’t reflect the current buzz of the city’s arts scene.

The team involved had never done anything similar before, so this was a chance to do something entirely new and to tell a story rooted in the city itself.

With their video ‘This City Belongs to Everyone‘ in support of ‘Say Yes to Hull’, they showed that they wanted to frame it as an invitation to everyone, not to segmented audience groups – and the Hull inhabitants were up for it. The City of Culture preposition was: find something you love, find something you would never normally go to, and then be inspired to find something else.

They had to involve the local people closely to departmentally volunteer coordinating sat alongside marketing

Some mistakes they they made early on

  • Rebranding – they had to rebrand after the bid process, but came to realise that people emotionally invest in a brand to need to be careful
  • Ticketing issues – they failed to anticipate the high demand for tickets in early events. They worked on this throughout the year, and now every arts venue in Hull has an upgraded and unified box office system.

The New Branding (see video)

  • They needed to embrace the tone of voice that people would use when talking about festival – if you were chatting to mates down the pub or at home etc.
  • Bright colours
  • An open, accessible brand

Other notes

  • They always asked for things – if you don’t ask you don’t get
  • Even as far as asking the BBC to put Hull on the weather forecast map – which it is now!
  • Overall, City of Culture contributed £220 million to the local economy, and attracted 6 million tourists. But most important was how many of the local residents came to events – 95% of the city

Three Important things to remember (if you’re ever putting on a 365 day festival!)

  1. Take risks – they had to have constant momentum because 2017 was going to arrive whether they were ready or not – but any arts organisation can adopt that momentum
  2. Surround yourself with great people – not just a great team, but great partner orgs too
  3. Say yes to things – be positive!


Was there any loss of momentum at any point?

  • Around September 2017 there was a loss of audience because the audience had become more ambitious over time and so demanded more.

(From an organisation in a city thinking of applying for City of Culture) What did you wish you’d known before applying for City of Culture?

  • An initiative like City of Culture forces you to look at the focus of a place, but actually you don’t need to wait for something like this to start a culture change.

Did Liverpool (as 2008 European Capital of Culture) or Derry/Londonderry (as 2013 UK City of Culture) give you advice on what to do?

  • It’s good to have friends from far away to call and get advice/support from. Also don’t announce a year’s worth of programming in one go – your later works will be informed by the earlier ones.

What is the legacy of the volunteer programme? (Around 2,500 volunteers were recruited for Hull City of Culture)

  • The volunteers willingly put in far more work than anticipated – they were everywhere, vey committed and learned skills along the way. Now rather than cultural ambassadors, they are a force for community-led changes on local issues.

(From a org in Coventry – UK City of Culture 2021) What one thing can a venue do to support a City of Culture team?

  • Make friends – be supportive!

End of the Conference

Finally, we had a keynote speech from Tatiana Simonian, the Head of Global Partnerships at Tumblr, and then it was time to head home and type up these notes. Tomorrow, I’ll be back at work, and we can start seeing what ideas and inspirations can be put into practice…

#AMAconf Day 1 – My Session Notes

Today was the first day of the Arts Marketing Association Conference. After some networking and socialising time last night, people from arts and heritage organisations across the UK and beyond have been in various sessions, workshops and speeches in the ACC Liverpool. I made a LOT of notes today, so here’s all the things I learned at AMA day 1. (Note, there were literally dozens of sessions today, but sadly I am not yet able to time travel, so I could only pick a few to go to!)

AMA Session 1 – ‘Art Happens with Art Fund’

Artfund is a specialised crowdfunding platform for museums and galleries that aims to bring together art organisations, curators, visitors and current donors for funding initiatives such as acquiring new art, funding exhibition tours etc., including personally managing national campaigns to save artworks for the nation, or highlight the work of a particular institution.

They had discovered that 90% of visitors give to charity, but only 40% of those people give to galleries and museums – most of that via ‘tip’ style donations that are seen by the public as added value rather than the regular giving that supports an organisation. People don’t automatically see museums/galleries as charities in need of their money.

Art fund created Art Happens as a crowdfunding platform, unlike other platforms they also provide advice and help on marketing/comms and the design of a campaigns, reward ideas etc. Campaigns usually run for 30 days to create a sense of urgency, and museums can provide updates etc. like many other crowdfunding platforms. Campaigns are usually for a specific project focus, or for the last few thousand pounds of a part-funded large-scale campaign – achievable goals.

Since 2014, they have had a 94% success rate (wonder how this compares to other platforms? It is certainly incredibly high due to the niche nature of the campaigns.) They credit it to having a dedicated team for advice and building on past campaign experience.

41% of donors are already known to Artfund, so they have a lot of repeat funders across the country.

Why Crowdfund?

  • Can fund a risky venture – it provides funding outside your usual channels.
  • Way to test audience reaction and enthusiasm for a new product.
  • Profile raising, and gives audiences a real sense of the cost involved in producing art projects.
  • Way to engage low-level donors – people who can only give a small amount can still feel their donation counts towards something tangible.

Challenges Involved

  • Very intense period of work
  • One barrier can be lack of access to technology – some of your current supporters may not like to do online giving. One idea may be to engage donors face-to-face and lead them through the process while making it less scary and making them feel involved – for example, the Fan Museum began their crowdfunding campaign with a launch party for supporters where people could use tablets during the event to donate, with staff on hand to help them.
  • People need to feel they have a personal connection to the project.
  • Involvement – people are becoming a stakeholder in your campaign, so they need the behind-the-scenes details etc.
  • The project needs to be exciting to people outside of your org/industry.
  • You need a tangible goal that people can see happening

Example – York Art Gallery

York Art Gallery had opened up a new outdoor space as a place for art installations and open-air theatre. This needed a high profile, general interest exhibition to bring people in. They chose Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf installation, and needed to raise £10,000 to bring it to York, with the marketing campaign ‘Art for the Course’.

This was a new marketing campaign unlike their usual work, which allowed the marketing team and the entire gallery staff to be playful and involved – golf puns, costumed staff etc.

Other heritage organisations in York such as Jorvik came on board to promote the idea, as well as more unexpected sources such as mini-golf enthusiasts. Plus, Artfund has it’s own massive social media following and email database to promote the campaign even before York Art Gallery had started their own work.

Regular thank yous to donators is hugely important – creates goodwill both for the organisation and further Artfund campaigns. This makes sure people feel that their investment was worthwhile and fosters a sense of ownership.

Summary points

  • Get the whole team on board – everyone needs to be able to talk about it
  • Be totally transparent – break down how the money is being used
  • Tell the story
  • What’s in it for the audience – why should they make it happen
  • Timing – the campaign is going to need your full attention, so don’t schedule it during busy times.

Morning Keynote Speeches ‘Power of Play’

Notes from speech by the Executive Director of New Zealand Festival

Play – it means action, collaboration, it means fun

The New Zealand festival ethos is about taking action – if things aren’t working right, being proactive about it.

They used to run a festival membership, which slowly declined despite best efforts with marketing, consultancies, offers etc. So instead, they looked at what they wanted from the membership, and also what audiences wanted (both those in and not in the membership). They created a whole new scheme from this – a rolling £5/month arts ‘community’ rather than the traditional members/friends scheme. They realised many people weren’t interested in discounts and booking offers as they were engaged in the arts anyway. Instead they created a digital magazine with a round-up of arts stories, and commissioned content from freelance arts journalists.

Think about what you want from ideas – it’s about learning through doing and making mistakes. When they changed the scheme, some previous members didn’t want to move to the new scheme but they still supported what the festival was doing as an idea.

Notes from keynote speech – Alice Proctor – Uncomfortable Art Gallery Tours

Communities – what do we mean by that? When we talk about needing to engage communities, it shouldn’t be just a token box tick, or a basic attempt to increase visitors. There will always be someone who doesn’t feel comfortable in your space, so what needs to change about the space. When you bring change, someone will always be annoyed, so choose who you’re going to annoy and who you are going to stand by. Commit to a change – change has to be meaningful and genuine. Be prepared to have conversations and have people ask awkward questions, and let them ask those questions about those organisations.

(This section was a very useful prologue to the session on Colston Hall and handling a PR Crisis – further down.)

Notes from keynote speech – Director of the Africa Centre – Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE

Arts and Education: ‘Creativity is a great way to break the rules without getting put in detention’. Children take play very seriously – they are fully invested in it. We like to think of ourselves as creatives, but for people working behind the scenes in the arts, ‘play’ is for outside the workplace. Remember that creativity isn’t just the prerogative of artists – creative choices can bring about new ways of thinking or doing.

AMA Session 2 – Colston Hall Name Change – How to handle a PR Crisis

How to deal with a difficult, controversial situation which has national interest and threatens a negative public view – strategic approach to crisis management.

Context – Colston Hall is a South West- based concert hall in Bristol, a city which is one of the UK’s most diverse, but also most unequal. The legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade is very much a political and social elephant in the room, particularly through the places named after prominent slave trader and philanthropist Edward Colston. The hall was not built with his money but the city council chose to name it after him. This had become an issue in recent years. Local businesses and individuals refused to be associated with the venue, and local artists such as Massive Attack refused to play there. It placed barriers between the organisation and diverse communities.

Their capital build, starting in 2017 and running until 2020, seemed like an opportunity for change, but they knew that current audiences had an attachment to the name and the personal emotional histories that it had for them. The hall team feel that in hindsight they should have been more proactive in a public desire for change, but they were unprepared in how to tackle the situation.

After opinion pieces in the Guardian, things came to a head with public protests at the hall in early 2017, resulting in national press and negative social media attention.

In April 2017, the Hall’s Chief Executive announced that the name Colston Hall did not reflect their values and that they intended to change the name. However, after this the negative attention increased, with regular attenders declaring that they would stop coming, and a negative impact on fundraisers who had previously agreed to give to the capital build campaign.

Strategic Decisions Taken

The biggest short-term decision was when to announce the change. By February 2017 there were regular protests at the building, and serious reputation damage was on the horizon. Also, they were about to announce a fundraising drive, and didn’t want that to be caught up in the any other press stories. Even so, at that point it looked like the announcement would be seen as caving in to protesters rather than a freely made decision – but it was crunch time for them.

Another decision, with both short- and long-term implications, was to programming. In the short term, they collaborated with Bristol Old Vic for historical tours that would address the issues of the city’s past. More long term, they will be focusing on diverse programming, including working with St. Paul’s Carnival, and looking into how the Hall can be more welcoming to audiences of different backgrounds.

They had to be clear about the reasons for the change – particularly that as the Hall was being rebuilt and developed with public money, they couldn’t continue under the Colston banner.

They worked up key messages and an online FAQ for staff to use to direct people to. They were clear about the Hall’s wider place in Bristol’s controversial history.

Timing – they made sure it was announced when there wasn’t any other press stories to put out, e.g. programme-based announcements.

They put a digital strategy in place so that when negative social media started to roll in they wouldn’t be overwhelmed, though they admit that they very much were, and learned to only respond to messages when it was clear that a measured conversation could happen.

What They Learned

  • Critical voices are the loudest, but don’t necessarily reflect the majority opinion
  • Caution about the news, primarily about it not leaking before they were ready, mean they didn’t take enough time beforehand to seek allies in Bristol who could have been ready to support their message, and this left them isolated
  • They needed support networks for staff, and staff needed all the facts. Not telling them everything at once was seen as a way to protect staff, but in reality they were being constantly asked about the name change in both their professional and personal lives.
  • Spreading the load of speaking for the organisation across both senior management and board meant they could be ready to put out proactive supporting statements where needed.

Now, they are in a unique opportunity to make change, and work with communities to choose a new name.


  • It’s the place of the arts to challenge, and this is okay
  • They were slow to follow up on their initial announcement, and this was due to shock at the negative reactions
  • They need to look for the missing voices in the conversation – who disagreed with their decisions and why? For example, some came from white working-class people in Bristol so they need to be more engaging in those communities
  • Be bold in a difficult situation, make the decision
  • Have an organisation-wide position attitude to back up your choice.

AMA Session 3 – Playing with Fear – By bystander to ally

This was a session from Museum Detox, a BAME network for the museums, galleries and heritage sector, looking at how to shift conversations about racial issues in the sectors, even if it is tricky or awkward, and how to influence change at infrastructure level, not just through small community projects that any organisation can do.

They demonstrated a ‘playful way to challenge perception’ through their White Privilege Clinic test, which works to challenge people not only on unconscious privilege and bias, but also to show them what immediate positive action they could take, rather than feeling defensive. You can find the details and take the White Privilege test here – and I really do recommend looking at the stuff on that link.

AMA Session 4 – Creative Fundraising in the North West

This was a panel session, with representatives from FACT, MIF and People’s History Museum. My notes for this one are a little all over the place and I apologise if they seem disjointed – perhaps I was getting tired?

  • Looking into creative ways to fundraise
  • In the North, organisations have slightly lower levels of donated income, compared to the national average.
  • You need to look at the intrinsic value of your product, and frame it in difference ways as they need to – educational purpose, value to society etc.

FACT – they wanted to fund a massive new exhibition, and rather than breaking it down into different funds, they took the idea and the needed sum of £750k to the city council and the Arts Council to say, here’s our big ambitious idea, what can you do for us?

MIF – Their festival is based on asking artists what they want to do that is new, innovative, and they wouldn’t be able to do elsewhere. These aren’t easy, small or inexpensive works, and they only happen over eighteen days every two years. So they have a real focus on special works to engage corporate partners, such as a year-round initiative for artists making work as responses to the festival events.

Some corporate sponsors can only offer a small amount of money, but they can offer other things – for example, a firm that built staging for a MIF event.

In individual giving, they have levels for people who want to be heavily involved in the planning and behind-the-scenes parts of the festival, but others just want to give them money and remain hands-off – it’s important to have places for both.

PHM – In 2014 they developed a new campaign called ‘Join the Right Cause’. They hadn’t focused on individual giving before, so they started by connecting it strongly with they organisational values, and people who cared about the museum’s ideals as a place for political and social history. The campaign was started in a crisis moment for the museum as they had just lost some significant funding. They aimed to create a starting list of 100 sponsors who would sponsor their 100 ‘radical heroes’ – various political and activist figures from history, and the idea was that this could turn into a multi-level membership scheme.

People pledged for three years, but it has been harder to retain people over longer periods – perhaps they had had too much focus of the survival of the museum and to enough on the long term plan, so their current messaging is being changed and worked on. Also, they realised that it is a lot of work to maintain relationships, but they don’t necessarily need to offer much in return to donors as these are people who have pledged ‘from the heart’ – because they care about the museum, not because they need added value.

It’s important to get over an initial fear of asking for money, but the representatives from MIF and PHM agreed that in Manchester, at least, people donate out of a sense of civic pride in the city and it’s culture attractions.

At FACT, a high percentage of their audience is under 35 so they have less focus on individual giving, but in their work with businesses it is important to ask – if they can’t give money, can they help in others ways, or perhaps pass opportunities on to other business contacts, and to always make sure that rather than presenting it as ‘can you donate, yes or no?’ give a sliding scale of packages and opportunities to give people an idea of the possibilities at all levels.

…And after all that

We had a final keynote speech from theatre director Emma Rice on ‘Play and the Oxygenation of the Workplace’, and after I’ve got this up and posted, I’ll be heading off for a tour, food and networking at the lovely Liverpool Philharmonic. Tomorrow, I’ve got plenty more sessions (as listed here) so plenty more notes to write up…