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:

1.Treat your online presence as more than a shop window

“Wellcome Collection’s 2017 strategy recognised that our website and social channels — were Wellcome Collection rather than promoted Wellcome Collection.”

Websites and social media channels should reflect your organisation’s purpose and values, and provide a user experience that echoes these. They should be seen as opportunities to connect with and engage audiences, and not just as tools to sell products, visits and events.

So for Wellcome Collection:

“That means the editorial content we produce should deliver a Wellcome Collection experience — one of being challenged to think and feel differently about health by considering its social and cultural contexts.”

2. Understand and cater for your audiences

I always go on about the importance of identifying, understanding and catering for your audiences.

Wellcome Collection’s take on this is providing content in familiar formats with content clearly signposted:

“using a journalistic approach to storytelling, creating high-quality, regular content with all the parts stories have — narrators, protagonists and antagonists, arguments, opinions, climaxes, resolutions — in formats readers know and recognise.

“We’ve chosen six content formats, focusing on the ones that people who love reading are used to reading in newspapers, magazines and online: serials, essays, interviews, photo galleries, book extracts and comics. By using these familiar and well-loved formats, our readers are primed to consume these stories.”

And how have they developed this approach? “We’ve used research with readers to develop, refine and rename the formats so they know what to expect.”

It doesn’t have to be that cumbersome or expensive, but if you don’t know what your audiences and potential audiences want, you need to consult them.

The Stories pages on the Wellcome Collection website are also great at referring readers on to additional articles in a way that is common on Amazon and YouTube but I don’t tend to see on museum websites.

Recommendations at the end of an article about
The sickness in the wellness industry
Prompts to other articles near the bottom of the Stories’ home page

All of this helps website visitors navigate reams of material to find what they’re after or find something that piques their interest quickly (remembering you don’t have long online to engage people before they drift off).

3. Create and publish content regularly

This provides reasons for your audiences to keep coming back, can attract new audiences, improve your search engine optimisation (SEO) and showcase your organisation’s breadth and depth of collections and activities.

Having a schedule (either internally or as a public commitment) forces accountability and will motivate people to produce content. It also means you can plan ahead and be more proactive and strategic in your choices of subject and timings, rather than scrabbling around trying to think of something to write quickly on a Friday afternoon.

As Jennifer says “The time we’ve saved on this we’ve reinvested into ensuring the stories are well-edited and of higher quality. (It’s also less stressful!)”

4. Encourage a range of content contributors

Not only does this mean the responsibility and workload doesn’t rest on one person’s shoulders, but you are also likely to get a greater range of subjects and perspectives.

Wellcome Collection is able to commission articles which they pay for, but encouraging other members of staff or volunteers to write articles and opinion pieces is also a great way to source content.

When I was comms manager at Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART), volunteers researched and wrote articles for the website on aspects of Norwich’s heritage that fell within key topics and which interested them. Aside from the Heritage Open Days pages, these articles were consistently the most popular on the website and drove so much new traffic to the website (from people interested in those topics but who perhaps were not aware of HEART).

If you are sourcing content from different contributors, you might want to draft a basic guide to ensure consistency (for example to include copy length; tone of voice; how to reference; sourcing and labelling images).

5. And don’t forget evaluation

Always monitor and evaluate what you’re doing so you know what’s working well and can hone future plans and activities. The key to this is having clear and ideally SMART objectives so you know what data to collect and can set up a method for doing this efficiently.

For Wellcome Collection this has meant marked increases in the number of readers and how long they stay on the website, which ultimately “means more engagement with Wellcome Collection and more people who can be inspired to journey further into our site that suits what they want to do — whether it’s to research a topic more deeply, plan a visit or read another story.”

All of these points can be achieved with the investment of some thinking, planning and time – it’s not dependent on reams of budget – and it will pay dividends.

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

Non-user consultation project

Earlier this year I was commissioned by the South East Museum Development Programme (SEMDP) to run a project about non-user consultation, involving:

  • Planning an affordable, realistic, and yet meaningful consultation process for four museums in Hampshire wishing to undertake consultation with non-users for the first time;
  • Coaching and training the museums’ teams during the delivery phase;
  • Producing a practical online guide on non-user consultation and case studies of the museums’ experiences;
  • Delivering a shared training session to showcase the project to a group of museum staff or volunteers from the area.

The projects included:

Continue reading

Visitor survey links for Hampshire Military Museums Network event

Here’s a list of information resources to support a presentation I delivered to the Hampshire Military Museums Network at the National Museum of the Royal Navy on 9 November entitled ‘Making the most of visitor surveys’. Guidelines, tools, templates and examples to help you plan your visitor surveys:

For accreditation and funding body guidelines:

For audience research programmes:

 For tools

Continue reading

New event for museum freelancers, by museum freelancers

After many months of behind-the-scenes work I’m hugely excited that a pipe-dream of running an event for museum freelancers is finally coming to fruition.

I co-run the Museum Freelance network with Laura Crossley, which we started after we found there was appetite for a forum bringing together people who freelance in and for museums.

After 18 months of live Twitter conversations and a LinkedIn group for discussions with over 300 members, we are now holding our first actual event!

We’ve planned an insightful, valuable and practical day of training and networking, at London Canal Museum on Monday, 13 March 2017. The event is aimed at freelancers working across all disciplines in the museums and heritage sector who wish to access excellent yet affordable training that is tailored specifically to them. It will also be relevant to people considering embarking on a freelance career.  Continue reading

Christina Lister appointed to develop a campaign for new festival

Norwich Historic Churches Trust has appointed Christina Lister to develop and run a marketing and PR campaign for their new festival, Flintspiration. The festival aims to celebrate Norwich’s outstanding collection of medieval churches over a weekend in 2017.

The festival takes place on Saturday 29 April to Bank Holiday Monday 1 May 2017, and will enable people to explore and enjoy Norwich’s 31 medieval churches through a packed programme of events. Events will include performances, family activities, church trails and guided walks, open buildings and exhibitions.

Flintspiration will showcase the churches’ role in the city over the centuries, and their importance as heritage assets, community and cultural venues and places of worship today.

The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. For more details please visit www.flintspiration.org and www.norwich-churches.org.