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.