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!

Suffolk Museum of the Year Awards

I’ve spent the last few months working on the Suffolk Museum of the Year Awards alongside another consultant, Miranda Ellis. We organised the process and ceremony, and promoted the awards to encourage museums to enter and the public to vote for their favourite Object of the Year.

Last week’s award ceremony was a lovely evening, bringing together so many of Suffolk’s museums champions, from dedicated volunteers who do outstanding work running and supporting museums, to stakeholders who lobby for much-needed funding.

It was humbling and inspiring to hear the stories of the winners and their teams, for example:

  • the Natural Science Volunteer Team at Ipswich Museum (winners of Volunteers of the Year) whose “tireless effort and dedication to efficiently archiving and cataloguing part of the museum’s collection has meant that collections are properly listed and more accessible”
  • Bawdsey Radar, winner of the Small Museum of the Year, which “has seen the most incredible transformation. The presentation is outstanding, and the building and stories contained within have been presented to the standard of a national museum.”
  • Lowestoft Maritime Museum, winner of the Family-Friendly Award due to “its marked improvement in engaging families, with a 65% increase in the number of young people that visit the museum.” (quotes from the judges)

What stood out from the evening was the incredible impact that museums have in their communities and the incredible staff, volunteers and trustees that make this happen. It was a treat to have been a part of.

(Image: Winners of the Suffolk Museum of the Year Awards 2019, photo by Gary Payne).

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”!

12-month annual museum passes: what is the rate of return?

Back in early May I asked the Twitter hive: “For museums with a free return visit within 12 months: does anyone know an average, examples or research of the proportion of visitors who take this up?”

I was keen to benchmark a client’s figures and get a bit more context to explore whether aiming to raise their rate of return was a realistic – and desirable – prospect.

I promised to share the responses (where I was given permission to do so), so here goes!

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MuseumNext takeaways

MuseumNext takeaways

I’ve been following along to #MuseumNext conferences on social media for a few years and they always have a great buzz around them. So when MuseumNext founder Jim Richardson created an early bird freelance offer to this year’s London conference, I (and many other freelancers) jumped at the chance to attend.

In fact, Jim called it an “invasion of freelancers” and we had about 40 freelancers at our Museum Freelance social meet-up on day 1 from across the UK, America, Iceland, Denmark, Spain, Holland, Turkey and more! Some left inspired to set up something similar to Museum Freelance on their patch. This is brilliant news, as a thriving supportive community is such a boost for freelancers.

Some of the crew at the Museum Freelance meet-up at Museum Next
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Reflections on Agents of Change – the Museum Freelance conference

A cancelled meeting means I’ve finally got the chance to finish my blog post on the third annual Museum Freelance conference held in Manchester in March. I organised it with Marge Ainsley as a conference dedicated to freelancers working with museums, heritage sites, libraries and archives.

My key takeaways were:

  • Be yourself and be authentic
  • It’s ok to make mistakes – learn from them
  • Question your purpose, what do you want to be, what do YOU want to do?
  • The importance of online networks – join them, get involved in them
  • Change can be positive
  • Being “unemployable” is great!
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Example: tailoring digital content to users

I really liked this from The Drum – after signing up (free of charge) to get to their website content, I was given three options of what they can do for me:

The design is clean, with clear calls to action.

It’s a simple concept, easy for a user to do and feel like it’s something that benefits them – information tailored to what they are most interested in.

And of course for the organisation an opportunity to flag some of their products and services and get a useful layer of user insight about each of their preferences.

The Drum is a global media platform and the biggest marketing website in Europe so you’d expect them to get it right. But this approach could easily be scaled up and down and be transferred to cultural organisations’ websites and e-newsletters to establish what their users and audiences are most interested in e.g. visiting, buying a ticket, finding out about events, doing some research, being inspired and then curating relevant content to them as a result. No doubt some of the bigger cultural organisations already do this for e-newsletter sign-ups, but I’ve not seen it frequently and certainly not on their websites. Would love to see examples if anyone has any case studies?

End of week testimonial

On Wednesday I delivered the findings of a substantial piece of audience consultation on behalf of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in Norwich. The project team and trustees were so receptive to the findings – they listened, they got it, they’re excited about the possibilities and ready for the challenge.

It was so encouraging to see, as audience development and consultation is new to the organisation. It was a meaningful project and one I feel privileged to have contributed to. I was delighted to receive this note from the client today:

“Congratulations and a huge thank you from of all of the Governors and staff for a very thorough, well planned and executed piece of work.  It will not only inform and underpin the immediate project but, most importantly, the development of the offer as the Library moves forward. […] Thank you once again for all of your work and skill in bringing together such a helpful piece of work.”

Richard Hill, project manager, The 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

About the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

The Memorial Library is a really special and unique place. It was set up to honour the nearly 7,000 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.

Audience consultation project for the Memorial Library

However the organisation recognised the need to increase and broaden its visitor base. I was commissioned to undertake a programme of front-end user, non-user and stakeholder consultation to help the Trust to understand:

  • the Library’s current user profile
  • barriers to engagement from non-users
  • what both sets of audiences would like to see from a redeveloped Memorial Library.

The work involved a feedback station in the Library, a series of focus groups, telephone interviews with stakeholders, an online survey, face-to-face interviews with users of the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library (the Memorial Library is housed within it) and two public consultation events.