Museum Freelance Covid-19 Hardship Fund opens

I co-run Museum Freelance in a voluntary capacity with Marge Ainsley and we champion and support freelancers working with museums, galleries, heritage sites, archives and libraries.

Throughout lockdown we’ve been lobbying hard behind the scenes on behalf of the self-employed in the sector. Whilst the Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was a welcome and much-needed boost for many, many people were not covered under the scheme including:

  • people who started freelancing after April 2019
  • people who were previously majority employed in the SEISS eligibility years but are now majority self-employed
  • people who are the owner/director of a limited company.

We are therefore so pleased to have secured a £7,500 grant to provide emergency support for freelancers who work with museums, heritage sites, galleries, archives and libraries in the UK.

Museum Freelance’s Covid-19 Hardship Fund is for freelancers who are in urgent need of critical financial support due to the devastating impact of Covid-19 on their work and livelihood, and who have not been eligible for and received the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

There will be 15 grants of £500 each. The grants do not need to be repaid.

The fund has been made possible thanks to a generous grant from a charitable trust that wishes to remain anonymous, and will be distributed by the Museums Association – we are enormously grateful to both organisations and their supportive representatives.

Please visit our website for the full details and apply through this short form by Friday 4 September if you are eligible, and do share with others who may benefit from this fund.

Free marketing training resources

Whilst I know that a lot of people are currently firefighting, adapting plans, feeling overwhelmed and anxious due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve also heard from some people who are planning to invest some time in their CPD over the coming weeks. This goes for both staff at cultural organisations and other freelancers and consultants whose work has been reduced or postponed.

If this is you and you’re interested in exploring or upskilling a bit in marketing, here are some suggestions of free sources of marketing training you might want to look at, split into five categories. Hopefully there’s something in here for everyone:

  • Courses and webinars
  • Blogs and inspiration
  • Podcasts
  • Communities
  • Books and eBooks.

1. Courses and webinars

The Arts Marketing Association

The AMA has made some of its upcoming webinars free of charge to members and non-members. Topics include Creating a marketing plan, Connecting with your audience in tough times and Social media analytics.

The Audience Agency is also running some free webinars on core digital skills such as Google Analytics, Facebook advertising and Online community participation.

If you want some structured learning, perhaps some kind of certification and have a bit more time to commit, then these two are great free options:

Google Digital Garage: Free online courses in digital marketing

The Digital Garage cover topics like Fundamentals in digital marketing, Make sure customers find you online, Understand customers’ needs and online behaviours, plus courses on Google Ads. The majority are 1-10 hours in length, apart from Fundamentals in digital marketing, which is 40 hours and gives you the option of an exam and certification.

Future Learn: Free online courses on a range of marketing topics

Future Learn currently lists 86 courses under ‘marketing’ from a range of universities. For example, Create a social media marketing campaign, Marketing analytics, the Secret power of brands. Generally, they require a handful of hours per week for a few weeks. Some are open for intake now, some you can sign-up to be notified when they open. They are free, but a few charge you to upgrade to get life-time access to the materials and a Certificate of Achievement.

2. Blogs and inspiration

The Arts Marketing Association’s Culture Hive provides content from the arts marketing community so you can learn from your peers, including case studies and how to guides.

Museum Next has a load of great articles on all things marketing and museums, with inspiration from across the world.

Empower Marketing is a lovely London-based digital marketing agency that run campaigns for purpose-led organisations. I find their blog and regular newsletter full of useful tips and case studies that have transferable lessons for cultural organisations.

Copywriter Tom Albrighton provides practical, timely and well-written LinkedIn posts about all things copy, words, brands and campaigns.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Exchange is a collection of blogs, quick reads and opinions from the UK’s professional marketing body.

3. Podcasts

I love podcasts and find them great company and an injection of sneaky learning and keeping up-to-date whilst I’m multitasking (running, housework, on school run etc). I’m preparing another blog just on podcasts (and I’m still roadtesting a whole load of marketing ones out there), but in the meantime, here are a couple:

Marketing Week

This podcast covers a range of topics from campaigns, interviews with key industry speakers and how to guides. Generally covers the big, well-known brands and therefore budgets, but still useful to keep up-to-date about marketing trends.

The CIM Podcast

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s offering is a fortnightly podcast with news and views from across the marketing industry. Again, there’s a tendency to focus on bigger organisations and brands but there are still useful takeaways.

The Marketing Meetup

These podcasts tend to be recorded at the Marketing Meetups’ meetings which are dotted around the country. I’ve been to a few in Norwich and it’s a great community with two speakers generously sharing insights every fortnight. A lot of these are aimed at existing marketers and tend to cover specific areas for each 20-minute speaker. For example, The gamification of content, Visual storytelling, Unlocking the potential of AI.

The Media Show

Whilst this BBC Radio 4 offering isn’t all about marketing, I love it and find it really useful on the big topics, with great guests and great probing and fast-paced questioning. Topics include all trends and current stories in the world of media including PR, podcasts, social media, fake news and investigative reporting.

4. Communities

Marketing Meetup normally runs fortnightly events in-person across the country but have now taken their events online, so are now offering webinars, workshops and conversations clubs.

There’s Museum Social Media Managers, a Facebook group which brings together people working with social media for museums – it’s a handy place to pick up tips from others and ask questions, especially on some of the nitty gritty of social media operations. For example recent questions include ‘I am looking for examples of art activities done via livestream’ and ‘Does anyone know how to do voiceovers on a video?’

And there’s also a Facebook group on social media across any sector – The Social Media Geekout group.

And the Arts Marketing Association has created a Coronavirus support group on Facebook for people interested in or responsible for marketing – you don’t have to be a member to join.

There is also the Museum Marketing group and the Arts Marketing Network group on LinkedIn but neither have very good engagement or discussions; they’re mainly a stream of shared blogs, news and videos.

5. Books and eBooks

There are so many marketing books out there and many feel out-of-date quite quickly to be honest. But one is worth a mention as it covers marketing strategy specifically for the museums sector:

Kotler, N. G., Kotler, P. & Kotler, W. I. (2008) Museum Marketing & Strategy. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Philip Kotler has been a key marketing writer and thinker for decades – I had to read a raft of his marketing books at university and this one’s definitely got that meaty and theoretical textbook vibe. Its approaches and models are still relevant, even though it’s a few years old now (and you can get second-hand copies from Amazon and other retailers). In some ways it’s more geared towards larger museums, but many lessons are transferable and if you want something substantial, this is the one!

Digital tourism agency The Tourism Marketing Agency has created an extensive (400 page!) eBook for free: How to turn your online bookers into lookers. It’s aimed at the tours and activities but with lots of more broadly applicable advice. And also they’ve launched a new eBook: Coronavirus battle plan: Marketing through the crisis.

Web design Agency Rubber Cheese has developed this free Book on Doubling Your Visitor Numbers which you can download from their website.

And Museum Next founder Jim Richardson and consultant Jasper Visser created and shared this Digital engagement framework for culture, heritage and arts organisations.

As I’m often asked about the difference between audience development and arts marketing, here’s a handy exploration of the two terms in an article from Ivan Wadeson, from a talk he gave at an Arts Marketing Association conference a few years back ‘Audience Development: Unpacking the Baggage’.

And finally

I hope that’s a useful roundup. If you have any other recommendations for free marketing learning I should add, please let me know.

Before lockdown I wrote a blog with 15 marketing tips for small and medium-sized museums during the Covid-19 outbreak you might also find useful.

I’m rolling out lots of new marketing, communications and audience development content on this blog in coming weeks so please do check back for more, and let me know if there’s any particular subject you’d like me to cover.

[Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash].

15 marketing tips for small and medium-sized museums during the Covid-19 outbreak

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented uncertainty and challenges for everyone. And with government briefings and advice being frequently updated, museums are having to react nimbly and creatively.

Mindful that many small and medium-sized museums don’t have any dedicated in-house marketing staff and may be overwhelmed in the coming months, I’m ramping up by blogging with the aim of providing more useful resources aimed at these organisations during this time. Future blogs I’m planning include:

  • ideas for social media content during this time
  • free marketing training ideas
  • crisis communication
  • tips on home-working (having done it for over seven years now).

But I’d really welcome other ideas you’d find useful or questions you might have.

For now, here are 15 marketing tips aimed at small and medium-sized museums during these challenging times:

1. Unschedule social content

Look at all scheduled social media content and unschedule it if no longer required (e.g. for an event that’s no longer happening) or if it’s not appropriate in the current circumstances.

2. Evaluate upcoming plans

Look at all upcoming marketing and change course if necessary. If you were promoting an upcoming temporary exhibition that will now not open, can you pull any print or adverts or change their content? Pause, take stock and reflect.

3. Communicate clearly and compassionately

Be honest and open with your team, audiences and suppliers. A lack of communication leaves room for uncertainty and rumours, so even if you don’t have the answers yet, it can be useful to go out with some communication to show that you’re on the case.

4. Prioritise customer service

Prioritise customer service and responding to enquiries, rather than pumping out lots of ‘clever’ content for now. Your museum is likely to face so many questions from audiences about the cancellation of events, how to get money back, what’s happening to memberships and so on. For larger museums with different functions such as visitor services and front of house, work jointly to ensure the process and communication is consistent and as smooth as possible for audiences.

5. Be part of your community

Many people are understandably incredibly anxious and unsettled at the moment, and museums can play a really important role in helping their audiences and communities deal with these new circumstances. This may be online by sharing practical advice and information; sharing a message for help from a local foodbank; being a reassuring presence by continuing to share your usual weekly photo from the archives; or just providing a welcome distraction from the torrent of Coronavirus news in people’s social media feed. We’re all in this together.

6. Be authentic

I think a lot of people will be looking for things that will reassure them, ground them and help them keep a semblance of normality under these abnormal circumstances. Museums, their objects and stories are steeped in history and can anchor us while the world around us is such an unknown. Make the most of the amazing objects, knowledge and stories you’ve got.

7. Be sensitive and human

Don’t use this as a crass bandwagon opportunity. Be sensitive in what you use in your marketing, and the tone and language you use. Know when to remain silent. Already there are some organisations getting it right, being honest, approachable, heartfelt and generous, whilst others are not. Chances are that many people will remember how they were treated by organisations when we emerge from this mess.

8. Share your education resources

If you already have materials online, contact your key schools asap to let them know about what you have, as the schools I’m in contact with are planning their teaching materials now in anticipation of school closures. If you haven’t got anything online yet, consider whether you can make things available on your website, since parents and carers will be looking for things to stimulate and entertain their children with if or when they are stuck at home.

9. Partner up

There are already lots of conversations happening in the museums sector about promoting each other’s resources and working together on ideas and solutions during the Coronavirus outbreak, for example on the GEM JISCmail and MCG JISCmail. There’s a new #MuseumFromHome hashtag over on Twitter where people are sharing quick videos of themselves taking about a museum object for one minute. Get involved!

10. Listen and adapt

The situation we’re in is unprecedented and very hard to predict. Your audiences’ needs are likely to change over the coming weeks so listen and be responsive to their needs.

11. Create good digital content

If you find that the main flurry of customer service questions starts to quieten down, you might have time to think about content to post while your museum is shut. Now more than ever there’s a need to be in content mode not selling mode. Think about content ideas around your museum, its collections and stories that might engage, interest, entertain, move or stimulate your audiences. With more and more people forced to limit social contact and outings, make the most of video. Whether you do some behind-the-scenes at your museum, an interview with a curator, a recorded mini education session, or a quick Instagram story of Facebook live. Remember it doesn’t have to be polished and perfect. Experiment and bit and get something out there, it will get better. The Museum Social Media Managers group on Facebook is worth joining to learn what other museums around the world are doing at the moment. And keep an eye on Mar Dixon’s feed on Twitter as she announces sector-wide hashtags e.g. #WhyILoveMuseums is on Wednesday 18 March.

I’ll expand on this point in a future blog post dedicated to social media content with lots more ideas

12. Repurpose old content

Some teams might find they will have no access to their museums or collections at all during this time which will call for even greater creativity. Can you organise a virtual ideas generation session with colleagues to give you more ideas? Is there any content from a year or two ago you can repurpose? Do you have access to object photos you can share and if not, do any colleagues have any relevant photos on their phones worth sharing

13. Resuscitate your “never get to” list

As most business-as-usual activities will have stopped, you might find that a lot of your normal to-do-list actions are no longer required. If that’s the case, see if there are some of those important-but-not-urgent jobs that you could tackle. For example, undertaking some evaluation, expanding website content, labelling photos and sorting computer folders, doing that online training course you keep meaning to.

14. Team contact and communication

As most museums and offices are closing and encouraging people to work from home where possible, it’ll be really important to keep in contact with your colleagues. Partly so that you know what’s going on and partly to avoid social isolation. This may require some time to set up and get used to new ways of working, maybe using some new tech tools. Be patient and open to trying new things.

15. Look after your well-being

And finally, and arguably most importantly, look after yourself. These are exceptionally difficult times for everyone personally and professionally and you need to be kind to yourself. Mind have put together lots of tips and resources to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing. For me I find daily fresh air, exercise, a gripping book, baking and chatting to friends and family are key, whilst limiting social media and news scrolling as much as possible. I’ll expand more on this in a future blog post with tips on working from home.

My 2019

As my seventh year working for myself draws to a close, I’m reflecting on another year that’s whizzed past – January 2019 seems like a lifetime ago…

This year’s been another one of variety, with work for 15 clients:

  • I’ve undertaken marketing consultancy for organisations including Jane Austen’s House Museum, the Museum of Cambridge and the Norris Museum
  • I’ve delivered research and evaluation projects for clients such as the Museum of London, the Second Air Division Memorial Library and De Havilland Aircraft Museum
  • I’ve run training and facilitated workshops for organisations including Stratford Circus Arts Centre, China Exchange and SHARE Museums East.

It’s been a huge privilege to play a part in many interesting projects and work with so many passionate, knowledgeable and motivated clients.

As ever, it’s been also been great to work with other freelancers and consultants such as:

Ups and downs

I’ve really enjoyed doing more marketing, branding and vision work this year, from facilitating organisational brand and personality workshops and content marketing planning workshops; to running training sessions and developing an online training module for staff and volunteers; to full-blown marketing strategies.

Some standout high points have been a client’s lightbulb moment in a tone of voice workshop; a group of trustees being open to change and navigating difficult decisions; and feedback from other freelancers about the difference that the Museum Freelance Network is making to their work and well-being.

Some not-so-high points have been chasing late payments, disingenuous procurement processes, being on the receiving end of mansplaining and a fair few train delays.

Museum Freelance

Working with Marge Ainsley on developing the Museum Freelance Network, we took our third annual conference to Manchester, ran three sold-out training courses for people thinking about or starting out as freelancers and have grown the community to over 900 people.

The freelance communities are an endless source of inspiration, support and advice; aside from Museum Freelance there are some fab cross-sector ones including Being Freelance, Doing it for the Kids and Freelance Heroes – you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve also enjoyed speaking at events about freelancing, including the MuseumNext and Museums Association conferences, and as part of a panel for the Visitor Studies Group.

Balance

I’ve started taking emails and social media off my phone some weekends and holidays which has been long overdue and a revelation. I’m generally keeping up with my daily step count target and weekly runs, which I’ll need to up next year as I’ve signed up to my first half marathon, eek!

From January I’m joining a co-working space on an ad hoc basis at St George’s Works in Norwich. I’m looking forward to meeting others there and being back based in Norwich city centre.

I’m working on identifying the type of work I do that as Esme Ward said at our Museum Freelance conference “makes my heart beat faster”. And I’m working with career and life coach Simon Seligman, a valuable and challenging experience which is already having a transformative impact on my thinking and my work.

Next year

Thank you to all of my clients, suppliers, freelance colleagues and communities – wishing you all a Merry Christmas.

I’ll be downing tools and having a digital detox over the festive break, the easiest time to do it as everyone and everything goes quiet then as well. That way I can start the new year feeling recharged and raring to go. As ever I have ambitious plans for the coming year, but this year am framing it in terms of what is sustainable and feasible for that elusive work/life balance…

I’m excited for what 2020 will bring and am off to start making some more plans for it!

Evaluation project testimonial

I’m all about evaluation that makes a difference, that has an impact and people will act on, so I was delighted to receive this testimonial from Laura Turnage (Programme Manager, Secondary Schools) at the Museum of London who I delivered an evaluation project for:

“It was a delight working with Christina. She successfully navigated and evaluated a complicated schools project which included the participation and feedback from more than ten project partners. Importantly for us her tenacity in contacting the school made sure they responded and their feedback was included in the final report! Her facilitation of the partner reflection workshop was transformative. It continues to be spoken about for its effectiveness in identifying the sticking points within the project and creating collaborative solutions.”

I undertook the evaluation of a school study day which was a collaborative project run by members of the Culture Mile Learning partnership (including the Museum of London) over several years. The work included facilitating a staff reflection workshop, student and teacher evaluation forms and partner interviews.

I’ve written a blog on running internal reflection workshops, something that I love doing, especially when the results are deemed “transformative”!

Lessons on content marketing

Yesterday I read an interesting article on Medium about how a change in editorial strategy — from blogging to magazine-style storytelling — has enabled Wellcome Collection to reach and engage more people. The content sits under the heading of ‘Stories‘ on their website.

The piece was written by Jennifer Staves, digital content manager at Wellcome Collection, and I spotted it thanks to a share on Twitter by Tom Scott, head of digital there.

I mainly work with small and medium-sized cultural organisations, but even if organisations don’t have a team, expertise or budget that are comparable to Wellcome Collection, I think there are some key lessons in the article that are universal.

I’ve put together five transferable tips which I share when delivering training on content marketing and that the piece on Wellcome Collection highlights:

Continue reading

What makes a good audience research brief?

This will be one of the questions discussed at an event organised by the Visitor Studies Group (VSG) later this month.

It’s aimed at both in-house staff and external freelancers and agencies and aims to help bridge the gap in understanding between what organisations want and need from research projects, and how independent researchers and evaluators understand organisations’ needs and respond to research briefs appropriately.

The event includes a panel discussion (which I’m a part of), followed by a practical workshop for all attendees and will cover:

  • Writing and responding to excellent research briefs – the need to be clear, concise and realistic
  • Appropriate costs for audience research – deciding budget and understanding day rates
  • Procurement process – scoring criteria, whether to interview and appointing
  • Stakeholder needs – commissioning research that meets the needs of both internal stakeholders and external stakeholders such as funders.

I’ll be there to talk both about my own experiences and reflections and also representing the wider Museum Freelance Network community which I co-run to ensure freelancers’ voices are heard in the debates. The event – Commissioning Audience Research – takes place on Wednesday 23 January 2019, 3-5.30pm at the Dana Research Centre and Library, Science Museum, 165 Queen’s Gate, Kensington, London, SW7 5HD. Tickets are free to VSG members, £30 non-members and £20 for non-member freelancers and students. Hope to see you there!

User and non-user consultation for The Second Air Division Memorial Library

I’m just starting to work on a really interesting project for The Second Air Division Memorial Library based in The Forum in Norwich.

The Memorial Library was set up to honour the nearly 7,000 young Americans in the Second Air Division who lost their lives during the Second World War in bombing campaigns against Nazi Germany from their Norfolk and Suffolk bases.

It is intended to be a living memorial, to not only be a tribute to those Americans who were killed, but also to act as an educational and friendship bridge between the UK and USA.

The project involves a programme of front-end user and non-user consultation to help the Second Air Division Memorial Trust to understand the Library’s current user profile, barriers to engagement from non-users and what both sets of people would like to see from a redeveloped Memorial Library.

Facilitation for Science Museum Group

I’m thrilled to have started on a new project for the Science Museum Group (the Science Museum, National Railway Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and the Science and Media Museum). The project aims to capture staff feedback on group-wide learning projects, and to create a best practice guide and toolkit for the museums to use in the future.

The work involves facilitating staff reflection workshops, combining with evaluation from the learning projects, developing the guides and presenting the findings to senior management.

 

GDPR and freelancers

On Wednesday I hosted a Twitter chat on the Museum Freelance account about the upcoming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation that comes into force on 25 May 2018 (search for #museumfreelance).

The legislation was “designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy” (www.eugdpr.org).

I’ve got to admit, it’s at times like these that I wish I was back in an organisation where someone else could take responsibility for trawling through the details, breaking it down into something meaningful and relevant for the organisation and where the workload for implementation was shared with colleagues. But I’m not, so I can’t – the buck stops with me! And really embracing it is the way forward – seeing it as an opportunity to tidy up, question what you are doing and why, and plan your approach going forward.

Many freelancers I’ve spoken to have been concerned, baffled or intimidated (or head-in-sanding) about the new legislation and its impact on how they run their business. And also it’s clear that the legislation is being interpreted in many different ways. So having been recommended a GDPR expert in the Facebook group GDPR – Shared Resources, I set up a Twitter chat to tackle questions specifically about GDPR and freelancers. A big thank you to Annabel Kaye, founder of Irenicon (a specialist HR and employment law consultancy) for joining us and answering our questions. Annabel has spent the last 18 months helping micropreneurs get ready for GDPR and runs a number of dedicated GDPR support groups you can join.

My main takeaways from the session were: Continue reading