Marketing strategy work with Jane Austen’s House Museum

I’m really excited to start work with Jane Austen’s House Museum in Hampshire on a marketing strategy project. It’s part of a broader range of work funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Resilient Heritage grant, aimed at improving the resilience of the museum by auditing and improving several key areas of operations, one of which is marketing. The project kick-off also coincides beautifully with my current bookclub read which is Persuasion by Jane Austen!

Agents of Change: our third annual Museum Freelance conference

It’s just six weeks to go until the third annual conference organised by freelancers (Marge Ainsley and me), for freelancers.

Museum Freelance conference promotional image

New for this year is a Manchester location, and a series of fringe and social events wrapping around the conference day itself.

But the purpose of the event remains the same. Firstly it’s an opportunity for freelancers working in the cultural sector (and those thinking about it) to:

  • get together and get to know each other;
  • share stories, tips and issues with each other in a safe and friendly space;
  • learn from a range of interesting and inspiring speakers;
  • spend time out of the office reflecting on and developing their business at an affordable event.

And secondly there are broader benefits:

  • the event raises the profile of freelancers as a valuable and critical part of the workforce in the cultural sector;
  • the event develops the skills and confidence of freelancers and consultants, who can thereby contribute more effectively to the sector;
  • it’s an opportunity for the Museum Freelance team to better get to know our community and thereby cater more to their needs in the future.

Some of the feedback from last year’s event included:

“I thought this was the most useful conference I’ve ever attended. Everything was directly relevant to me, the speakers were inspirational and I got to meet great people. I look forward to coming again next year.”

“Brilliantly well organised. Great to meet new people. Valuable resource for the freelance community.”

“It was really enjoyable, and the delegates were really nice! It was lovely to feel part of a ‘team’!”

“Great to have a safe space to talk about issues that everyone understands without worrying what impression it gives to a potential client!”

50 freelancers have already booked on and we look forward to welcoming them and some more to the event in March. Hope to see you there? Book now to join us.

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:

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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.

My takeaways from the SHARE Museums East conference

Last week I went to SHARE Museums East’s annual conference held at the stunning Firstsite gallery in Colchester, aimed at people working in and with museums in the East of England. The theme was ‘Embrace, Empower, Employ’.

I was there as a delegate and also as a representative of the Museum Freelance Network, presenting a break-out session on Working with Freelancers aimed at museums’ representatives and hosting a Museum Freelance stand with fellow consultant Claire Adler in the breaks. It’s great that SHARE recognises the importance of freelancers and consultants to our sector and provided a platform for us to develop relationships between the network and museums in the region.

As ever with cultural sector conferences, delegates’ and speakers’ passion, dedication and quest for learning and sharing really came across during the day.

Here are my four main takeaways from the day:

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Working with Freelancers – a guide for museums

On Monday 19 November I’m speaking at the SHARE Museums East annual conference about Working with Freelancers – how museums can find, choose and brief freelancers and consultants and thereby increase the diversity of ideas, experiences and approaches on projects. I’ll also explain common pricing structures and budgets, and share tips on how museums can work with freelancers to get the most out of the relationship.

The talk will draw on a guide I wrote for SHARE earlier this year, so I’m linking to it here for anyone who wants a more in-depth read. I’ll be updating it in 2019 so am interested to hear any comments or additional questions you’d like added in.

I’ll also be running a Museum Freelance Network Marketplace stand in the conference breaks with fellow consultant Claire Adler, hoping to chat to anyone who works with or is interested in working with freelancers, and freelancers or anyone who is interested in freelancing. 

Marketing strategy work for The Norris Museum

I’m delighted to have started working with The Norris Museum in St Ives, Cambridgeshire on a new marketing strategy for the organisation. The work follows its Huntingdonshire’s Heritage project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which has transformed the museum with an extension, a complete redisplay and increased and improved accessibility, learning and outreach.

It’s an opportunity to review and develop the museum’s marketing and communications to reflect the transformed space, and to broaden and deepen its engagement with its audiences, both current and new.

The work involves:

  • undertaking a marketing audit
  • facilitating a brand and vision workshop
  • running a content marketing workshop
  • working with the team of staff and volunteers
  • creating a new marketing strategy and associated supported templates and tools.

 

Greener freelancing

Last month Bridget McKenzie guest-hosted a Museum Freelance chat on Twitter on the topic of ‘green’ freelancing.

Bridget is the director of Flow Associates and founder of Climate Museum UK, a mobile museum creatively stirring response to climate emergency and Everyday Ecocide which exposes ecoblindness, erasure of other species and climate denial in media and culture.

We only scratched the surface in the 45 minutes on Twitter, but it felt like a good start to get a conversation going.

Some examples of green freelancing practice people raised were:

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End of project reflection

I recently completed a project working with the Science Museum Group to facilitate and capture staff feedback and reflections on their group-wide learning projects. This fed into a best practice guide and toolkit for the Group’s four museums to use in the future.

It was a fascinating project, and fantastic to see time being set aside for reflection and staff contributions being sought, valued and used.

It got me thinking about my own reflection and project evaluation when client projects come to an end. Whilst I always look back on them and think about them, this has never been a formalised or written-down process.

So I decided to create a simple reflection sheet that I now use at the end of each project, which:

  1. enables me to reflect in a more structured, constructive and consistent way;
  2. identifies lessons for future work to help me improve what I do, how I work, and mitigate similar future issues;
  3. ultimately feeds into business planning work, continually helping me to identify my strengths and preferences in terms of types of work and how I work.

If anyone is interested in having a look or using the sheet, you are welcome to download it as a Word or PDF document and I’d be really interested to hear what methods other freelancers and consultants use.