Being a #DSIR2022: Reflections and new beginnings

In the second round of this year’s Digital Strategist-in-Residence I was privileged to have worked with staff from Eastern Riverina Arts (ERA), where I learned more than they did I think! We ended up with a pretty simple, but detailed, strategy that we decided to upload to Notion – a steep learning curve for me but very enjoyable.

This week we begin a new round of the Australia Council’s’ Digital Strategist-in-Residence program, and I’m excited to again be selected to participate as a strategist, working with Open Space Contemporary Arts (OSCA), an artist-led organisation in South Australia dedicated to the development, creation and role of contemporary art in public spaces.

This post summarises my reflections from the round we just completed, along with some gems from the other strategists during our final cohort gathering session.

General Learnings*:

  • Digital literacy – there were many suggestions about how to elevate these skills across organisations, but also the realisation that are more ‘digital’ than they think
  • “Pause moments” – how do you build in time for this? A great concept I hadn’t thought about before
  • Extending what the organisation is already doing, or has already done, and enhancing that (rather than always coming up with new projects)
  • Determine admin systems that work for the organisation – ‘embedded efficiency’ – so can spend time on core work
  • Aligning digital strategy with overall organisational strategy
  • Thinking about how digital supports creativity
  • Accessibility – think about making the final strategy document accessible
  • Don’t be afraid to try out things along the way – don’t wait until the strategy is formed, take an agile approach
  • “People and process over platform”
  • Factoring in “deep time” – and realising that digital tools are often a hindrance (e.g., messaging and notifications mean we’re constantly ‘on’ and can interrupt that reflective time)

And, learnings for ERA:

  • The Assessment Phase crystallised thoughts around needs and helped identify priorities
  • Experimenting and prototyping on the go worked well
  • Designing the strategy within project management software (ERA ended up using Notion) was a great way to embed the vision into daily tasks to ensure they keep on track

And, for me personally:

  • Notion as a tool with many uses and applications – for me was taking a risk and letting go of my standard ways of writing a strategy
  • Importance of identifying audiences and writing personas
  • Face-to-face sessions are valuable where possible
  • Flexibility in ways of working is key to a successful outcome

Looking forward to this next round, meeting new organisations and strategists, while learning even more!

*I couldn’t remember which strategists said what but I’d like to acknowledge them all as a bunch of wonderful, generous and clever folks! You can find them here.

Me with the ERA champions!

#MSAANZ22 Blog posts and Resources

Attended the Museum Shops Association of Australia and New Zealand conference last week. Was lots of productive fun with a room full of switched-on retail folks and many more online via Zoom. Was great meeting so many members and talking about the impact of the pandemic on both the GLAM retail sector and the wider industry.

As promised, below are links to several resources I mentioned in the COVID panel session:

And, also as mentioned, here is the link to the Patternmakers Audience Outlook Monitor: a series of large research studies looking into how audiences are feeling about attending arts events. The latest report for August 2022 found:

  • Two-thirds of audiences say they are now ready to attend ‘whenever permitted’ (65%), and despite high case numbers say they are eager to get on with life under ‘COVID-normal’ conditions
  • In the fortnight before data collection, 76% attended a cultural event of some kind – live performances (49%), cinemas (32%) and museums/galleries (29%)
  • Uncertainty continues to lead people to buy tickets for events scheduled in the short-term, either seven days (26%) or later in the month (43%)
  • COVID is still a factor to contend with as almost half (46%) say the risk of transmission will inhibit their attendance in the next 12 months, as well as 24% stating financial reasons are a factor, with those aged under 35 the most affected (47%)
  • One in five (22%) say their attendance won’t be inhibited in any way in the next 12 months

There is also a dashboard that enables you to easily drill down into your specific region/area which I have used many times and is super-useful.

Thanks for having me MSAANZ and the final survey report will be sent around later in October, with the survey closing on 30 September so hurry and complete if you haven’t already!

Museum Shops Association of Australia and New Zealand (MSAANZ): 2022 conference #MSAANZ22

Very excited to be attending the MSAANZ conference this Thursday and Friday at the Australian Museum, Sydney. Be great to meet folks face-to-face again and reflect on how the pandemic has treated the museum retail sector.

I’ll be presenting the preliminary findings from the 2022 Industry Survey (and there’s still time to participate if your organisation hasn’t already – go to this link).

I’m also on the Past, Present and Futures panel where we will talk about the impacts of COVID, tourism, economics and everything else we’ve had to deal with over the past 2-3 years.

As part of the Industry Survey we asked three questions about the pandemic (similar to the AMaGA Industry surveys I conducted in 2020) and it was interesting to see many similar, and also many different, learnings and opportunities identified by respondents. I’ll be presenting these via the panel but here’s a few quotes to get you thinking.

What did you learn?

  • It was a shock especially for Victorians being locked down for so long. Working from home and not having the ‘stores’ at our fingertips was challenging but also great opportunity to work on the ‘wish lists’ that never got completed. Mental health issues caused a lot of concern for all our staff and our organisation supported and guided us all. Microsoft Teams has been a game changer.
  • We had greatly underestimated the percentage of our visitors that were interstate or overseas visitors.
  • I hate using catchphrases, but being ‘agile’. Being able to pivot sales to online, being able to step back and really focus on what is achievable and what isn’t that important for the business has been really important.
  • Don’t have all your product eggs in one basket, always remember your domestic customer. When borders close, they’re all you’ve got.
  • We’ve improved numerous processes and diversified our offering to be more in line with the overall gallery strategic plan. Our current KPIs are all trending up and we’re looking forward to seeing amazing results when higher visitor numbers return.
  • Upskilling staff, hiring skilled staff, product development; online store upgrade (currently underway).
  • New way of working and collaborating with suppliers and colleagues.

Also very much looking forward to hearing from the keynote speaker, Adam Thow of Kew Gardens, who will present an overview of Kew Gardens and their commercial activities.

You can find out more about the conference here. I’ll be tweeting (@lyndakelly61) and posting reflections during the conference, so watch this space.

We’re tired of online!

While conducting a heap of focus groups for several clients recently (~ ten groups / 80 people), I asked participants about how they wanted to interact with museums, galleries, etc online. Their answer? They don’t!

Why?

While many reported accessing cultural activities online during the pandemic, the majority are NOT interested in any further online engagement with cultural institutions because:

  • They are tired of screens
  • Parents, in particular, want screen-free experiences for their children
  • They much prefer to interact physically:
    • Even if chances of visiting are slim (e.g. overseas museums)
    • Pandemic reinforced importance of a physical experience
    • Hard to replicate the ‘real’ in an online setting, for museums and galleries in particular
  • Museum visiting is inherently social:
    • They don’t see online experiences as social…

What did they say?

  • After 2 years of not being able to attend things in person I would way rather see everything in real life.
  • Virtual tours are nice but not the same experience as being there.
  • The ability to touch and feel and view in person is more important to me.
  • I like a holistic experience. Like to discuss what I am viewing with my partner.
  • I guess post-COVID, everyone wants to step out and do things.
  • I’m happy to use ‘virtual’ things that are part of the exhibition but still need to be there to appreciate. Wouldn’t join from home.
  • I work on a computer for 8+ hours each day, last thing I want to do is log on for social / cultural activities.
  • Attended online comedy show in COVID. Good, but didn’t enjoy so wouldn’t rush back. Was just to support the artist.
  • I’d do anything to reduce my and my child’s time on a screen.

What about other audiences?

In a study I conducted in 2019 with teachers, they had pretty much the same feelings when comparing digital excursions to physical ones.

Although many teachers regularly access and value digital programs and resources for their classroom teaching – so maybe for them it’s a mixture of both, when they can get out of the classroom.

What now?

This is interesting to me and maybe worth asking what is best for our sector to invest in regarding in online programming? Be keen to see some stats and / or hear dissenting views…

Which leads me to my final question. Are we tired of online? Or are we just tired?!

#DSIR Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems

CRMs can be tricky and painful, but also have potential to streamline work processes, increase and diversify reach and encourage donations through better communication and engagement across all an organisation’s audiences/clients/customers.

As part of my, now third round of participation in Australia Council’s DSIR program, I’m having a little look at CRMs. yes, I do know that in the arts CRMs are somewhat vexed, being expensive, complicated to use, labour intensive, not necessarily fit-for-purpose, and the ROI may just not be worth it.

But I am persisting, for now…

So, advice I received is to FIRST ask:*

  • What are you using it for? Audience segmentation? Ticket sales? Communication? Seeking donations?
  • Are you starting from scratch or re-purposing / using what you have?
  • Think about who will be using the system and working arrangements, for example: Do you use shared workspaces? Are staff working from home? Hybrid? Part time? How easy is it to communicate between all those who need to be using the CRM? What about staff training (and buy-in!)?
  • Could you think about better utilising what you are already doing as it’s hard to move people to new tools and systems??

Some ideas:*

  • Notion: is cheap, good for setting up groups and multiple tagging, also good for CRM database for project-based work as it is between a more traditional CRM and a bit like Monday.com. At this stage is mostly used for project management. Notion has many uses, and is ‘on the rise’ so the developers are putting resources into better functionality, which means it is also sustainable (for the moment).
  • MailChimp – has a CRM function, can tag and group people and segment audiences. Can also be labour intensive, but good for newsletters if that’s what you want your CRM to do (personally I find it pretty clunky)
  • Monday.com has a CRM function
  • Asana as a CRM:

*courtesy of an interview with Sophie Penkethman-Young, Manager, Digital Culture Initiatives, Australia Council

CRM Implementation Quick Resource List (I’m sure there are many others but these came up on a quick Google):

Digital Culture Network (Arts Council UK):

The organisation I’m working with, Eastern Riverina Arts, are grappling with this very issue so we’ll keep you posted on our progress!

#DSIR: Marketing and Communication Plans

Round two, week three and we’re off and running in the Australia Council’s Digital Strategist-in-Residence program (background here).

One area of investigation that has emerged from the Digital Culture Compass Tracker process with Eastern Riverina Arts is to develop a Marketing and Comms plan that focuses on digital and social media. I have done a bit of tooling around the web and found the following resources which will be helpful in the weeks to come.

Research & Planning for Museum Marketing Success, MuseumNext:

  • Highlights important role of research and data
  • Suggests undertaking a SWOT (I always love a good SWOT, such a useful starting point, often overlooked) and a competitor analysis
  • Lists a range of useful starting questions around your marketing goals. What are they? Bring in more visitors? Attract different audiences? Increase revenue? Partnerships and fundraising?
  • Identify target audiences
  • Budget and implementation

Overall, a good starting point.

Marketing for Museums, MGNSW:

MGNSW has an amazing number of resources on their website. This downloadable Fact Sheet sets out similar areas to the above, with a reminder to think about your brand.

Building Digital Strategies & Interpreting Social Media Analytics, Museum Learning Hub (US)

An online video from a workshop which (while long!) does give a thorough overview of digital strategy, analytics and marketing. The video is also well laid out so you can skip to the bits you need. The topics covered are below:

Marketing planning – where to start, Museums Galleries Scotland:

A useful overview with checklists and a good resources section.

Developing a Marketing Plan, Te Papa National Services (NZ):

Again, another useful template with an easy-to-read set of tables that guide you though the process of planning and marketing, and a worked example to help you along the way.

Marketing and Promotion Resources, Arts Queensland:

Some good links, but note the link to the Australia Council’s guide to developing a marketing plan for arts organisations is broken, but I managed to find a downloadable version of the document here. It is a tad old but still very comprehensive. The site also contains resources for social media, public relations and audience development.

And, for those of you going ‘old-school book’ there’s also the classic, Museum Strategy and Marketing: Designing Missions, Building Audiences, Generating Revenue and Resources, by Neil and Philip Kotler (1998, Jossey-Bass). When I had a quick re-read this text still has some relevant information as well as, for the time, an interesting focus on audiences and research, and worth a look if your local library can source it for you.

Accessible Arts (NSW) have a great Resources page for all things accessibility, including a downloadable Marketing and Communications checklist, which I have uploaded here:

Finally, an oldie but a goodie! My work at the Australian Museum back in 2009 when social media was still shiny and new (and probably a lot nicer space to work in!), The Museum’s Social Media Strategy. This was also around the time where two, now famous, phrases were first coined that I still use today:

  • Write once, publish many times across a range of platforms
  • Work 20% differently, not 20% more

Good advice for all!

If you have any go-to resources, especially related to digital marketing, feel free to add to the comments.

Being a #DSIR in 2022. Take 2!

Co3 Archives of Humanity. Image: Chris Symes

Another year and not one, but two rounds of the Australia Council’s Digital Strategist in Residence Program.

From February to May I was lucky enough to work with Co3, Western Australia’s leading contemporary dance company. We developed a strategy that focussed on consolidating their already fantastic digital programs, many of them developed pre-, during and post-pandemic. It reinforced the idea that a digital strategy doesn’t need to focus on the next new and shiny tech, but in many cases it’s about:

  • recognition from an external person that an organisation is already doing cool digital things, and
  • that these just need to be documented in a planned way, relating to the Corporate Strategic Plan and identifying KPIs, timelines and resources

My reflections on the first 2022 intake was that we all face a number of shared challenges implementing digital in the arts sector across the following areas:

  • Communication and marketing strategies, including digital marketing/social media
  • CRMs: what are the best for small arts organisations? Best value for money + ability to make data-driven decisions
  • Project Management systems: ditto. What can work well for small organisations + being cost-effective? (See also this post from the 2021 program about Project Management Systems )
  • Accessibility in the digital space
  • Organisation structures and roles: what is best for enabling a digitally-led organisation?
  • Upskilling staff / digital literacy

And, specifically for performing arts, how to balance live performances with digital programming, specifically when thinking about reach and accessibility? A question I’d never really thought about before, but a good one to consider.

Then, after just one week to dust off the keyboard we were raring to go for the next intake! This round I’m working with Eastern Riverina Arts, who “… deliver core sector development programs for regional creatives in the Riverina region of Southern NSW”.

In our initial session we started to talk about their key digital challenges and opportunities, with some exciting ideas in the works, so watch this space…

While the DSIR program has changed and evolved, these posts I published in 2021 are still useful background for this round:

And, I’ll be tweeting any useful links and resources with the hashtag #DSIR2022 if you want to follow along! (I also created a Wakelet for the 2021 program, again as a reference point).

Are Museums Trusted??

Answer = Yes!

Gratuitous ‘selfie’, Newcastle Museum, NSW

There have been a raft of studies looking into museums as trusted institutions. My own work in 2006 unpacked the idea of museums as trusted sources and where they fitted within a range of organisations when Australians were looking for information particularly related to controversial topics. The resulting paper, Museums as Trusted Sources of Information and Learning: The Decision Making Process, can be downloaded here.

The AAM worked with Wilkening Consulting, asking Americans whether and why they trust US museums, especially given the challenges of the past two years. The main results are summarised in the report Museums and Trust 2021.

In the UK, a survey of adults found that 86% of Britons would trust museum curators, behind nurses (94%), librarians (93%) and doctors (91%), and alongside teachers (86%). More on this study can be found on the Museums Association (UK) website.

More recently in 2021, the Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD) commissioned a survey that found public trust in museums has risen to 78%.

Key findings (quoted directly from CAMD’s website):

  • Museums received one of the highest ratings of the 17 included organisations, with around 8 in 10 people placing a great deal of trust in museums.
  • At a time when trust in most sources of information is declining, museums have retained their status as reliable sources of information and expertise.
  • 87% trusted museums because as experts they are highly credible sources of information.
  • 87% trusted museums because they are experienced public educators.
  • 60% trusted museums because they personally connect to the content and experience.
  • 58% trusted museums because they share their values.
  • 89% agreed museums can care for and hold collections and mount displays.
  • The most common responses for how trust could be improved include: through provision of more proof, facts and information to demonstrate artefacts are genuine, increased honesty about the sourcing and collection of artefacts and more transparency, openness or willingness to take part in open debates.
  • Generation Z had the strongest focus on trust and transparency, desiring unbiased exhibitions with honest explanations around how artefacts were acquired.
  • The most commonly cited loss if museums were to close was a loss of history, historical records and an understanding of how we, as humans, came to be. This was followed by a loss of heritage, a link to the past and a sense of belonging. Knowledge, information, education and learning were also perceived losses if museums closed.

Taken together, all these findings paint a great picture for museums in the public sphere, and maybe could assist with better funding in the future??

Let’s hope our politicians and funders take notice…

2022 Digital Trends and Museums

A new year and another digital trends post. Were things much different to this post I did in 2021? Well yes, and no…

In the interests of time (i.e. laziness!) I’ve collated a bunch of sources below that I’m referencing for some client work:

Plus, these posts via Ed Rodley from The Experience Alchemists’ workshops held with the Texas Association of Museums:

And, as to the “what was different?” question, my take is:

  • Looking into what NFTs can do / might mean for our sector
  • Increased availability of tools to aid accessibility
  • AR / VR and AI
  • Increased emphasis on sustainability for digital programming – being able to keep a project going internally with tools that can be managed in-house
  • Continuing importance of digital literacy
  • Increase in immersive experiences (and whatever we think about them, visitors generally love them!)
  • A focus on personal health and wellbeing

Thanks to all the authors above for sharing their great work.

And, this image below is feedback from an evaluation I did where immersion was spontaneously mentioned by participants … some food for thought!

How, and why do we count visitors to our museums and other attractions? And, Happy New Year!

A new year and a new beginning – let’s hope! I’m very excited for 2022 with a raft of new clients including the Newcastle Museum, Museums and Galleries of the Northern Territory, Northern Midlands Council (Tasmania), the Museum Shops Association of Australia and New Zealand, as well as returning clients, the Australia Council as a Digital Strategist-in-Residence and Women in Gaming & Hospitality Australasia.

One of my tasks was to undertake a quick review into visitor counting systems. Came up with some useful information that I thought I’d share.

Visitor counts are used to calculate:

  • how many visitors to an attraction for reporting and management purposes
  • how many convert into an activity
  • how many make it into a space such as a café or shop
  • data that provides a foundation to predict and analyse visitor behaviour, including more advanced purposes such as queue and capacity management

General findings:

  • Use a variety of systems / methodologies to map against each other and make educated estimates of numbers
  • Numbers will always be estimates so there is a need to document how the figures were calculated
  • Wi-Fi tracking has positive and negative aspects, but is pretty cost-effective
  • Manual counting is usually pretty consistent, but resource-intensive
  • No method is perfect, however automated sensors usually provide around a 20% improvement in count accuracy from manual clicking
  • What is important for footfall counters is for onsite hardware devices to transmit data in near real time

Dexibit have an awesome online report into counting visitors, with the summary reproduced here:

  1. Select a counting solution that can provide a high accuracy footfall count – we recommend camera counting technology to future proof your venue.
  2. Pick hardware accessories that work with your spatial environment – ensuring that devices can work effectively, be installed easily and blend into your venue’s aesthetic.
  3. Ensure your technology solution can transmit data in near real time (via Ethernet, Wi-Fi or cellular), allowing you to analyse data quickly and efficiently through a big data solution.
  4. Install devices at every entrance, areas of significance, commercial zones, high profile queues and key activity conversion areas (e.g., entrances to roller coasters or exhibitions).
  5. Manage your devices by recording their location or give a group of devices an alias name for easy data analysis.
  6. Make sure your devices are working – test them for accuracy and add a scaling factor if needed.
  7. Conduct hardware inspections and accuracy tests annually to avoid misreporting over time.
  8. Footfall is just one of the important metrics you can capture and analyse at your attraction. You might be surprised at what types of data your attraction is already collecting – if you think your organisation isn’t collecting much, look again.

In Conclusion:

Overall, choose a solution that suits the aims of counting, the institutional environment (including considering indoor and/or outdoor settings), is easy to collect and report on data and is cost-effective within budget and staffing resources.

Acknowledgements

Shout out to the team at Dexibit (their website is a very useful resource for all things big data) and to my Canberra colleagues at the Australian War Memorial and National Museum of Australia who generously shared their insights and experiences.

Happy 2022 all, let’s hope it’s better than previous…