At last week’s Ecsite conference Steven Snyder of the Franklin Institute posed a rather interesting dilemma: If the Franklin Institute wants to achieve its mission of inspiring a passion for learning about technology and science, they need to leave their building. Yet, at the same time they’ve just invested millions in a redevelopment, are seen as a building by their audience and get in most of their revenue because of the building. “How the heck,” to use Steven’s words, in such a case, “do you leave a building?”
In other words: Can outside become your primary side, even if you’ve had a roof over your head for the last n years?
Leaving a building, like leaving anything stable and safe, is all about opening up.
Once there are no more walls to hide behind, you’re really vulnerable and naked. That is incredibly scary and – to most of us – immediately blocks out the potential positive side effects of being in such a position: the need to work together, the renewed curiosity, the increase in serendipity…
A great example of an institution that has managed to leave their building and revived because of it, I think, is the Museum Rotterdam. I’ve written about their The City as Muse project before. The project searches for inspirational developments and initiatives among the people of Rotterdam and tries to connect this with the museum. At the moment they’re working with care givers, doing pop up events around town and (still) involving an audience otherwise alien to the institution. Read the rest of this entry »
I recently realised that we, cultural institutions, are using the wrong metrics to measure our online success, because we’re measuring just that: generic success. We’re using statistics and software that is perfectly fine when you’re selling Cokes, but might not be ideal for culture, heritage and the arts.
In the real world we know our success cannot easily be measured in hard figures. Visitors numbers and shop turnover are important KPIs, especially as our funding and financial well-being often depends on it. Yet, these quantitative measures of success are hardly ever part of our mission. Instead we consider ourselves successful when we change behaviour, increase knowledge, spark imagination… Evaluators use complex toolkits and checklists to see if an exhibition had the right impact, an event the expected outcome. In the real world, we are successful if we are significant.
Not online. In almost all project presentations I’ve seen in the past year, success is measured in hits, comments and likes. Sometimes more advanced metrics are used that hint participation, enthusiasm, loyalty. Once or twice I’ve heard people refer to quality of service (search queries resolved). Success, online, is a number.
An anecdote: In a recent conversation with a marketing manager at a larger cultural institution in the Netherlands I asked after the organisation’s primary target groups. “That’s not the way we think about marketing here,” was his stern reply.
Another meeting, another story: When discussing how to get people to enjoy a new cultural product a cultural communication professional quickly pointed out that the best way was probably carpet bombing the city with posters and flyers. That’s how they always did it, even though they had no clue about the ROI.
Marketing is all about bringing the right product to the right people. It’s about market research, product development, distribution, sales, public relations and yes: also partly about promotion and advertising. There is no marketing without a market, without an understanding of the market and without a specific focus on a market.
Promotion alone won’t help you get your product to the market. Buying ads doesn’t automatically help you reach the right people. Even if all curators start writing Facebook updates, this doesn’t necessarily get more people through the door. Read the rest of this entry »
Whenever I feel like there is an occasion for a party, I always quickly reject the idea. I’m terrible at throwing parties. It’s not that I’m not a good cook, don’t know about wine or have trouble keeping a conversation going. It’s not even that I know my musical taste is a bit unusual or have too few friends. My problem with throwing parties is that I know I will never quite invite anybody, or ever publicly announce the event.
This, unfortunately, is a problem lots of people are having when it comes to their digital strategy. We’re great (or at least getting better) at designing engaging online content, yet terrible at reaching people with it.
Earlier this year a theatre company in the Netherlands made a production about making news. For months they researched how to manipulate the news and how to get topics trending. The accompanying website was nicely made, with bonus materials and even an interactive YouTube video. The only problem: nobody knew about the production. They had studied making news, but forgotten to be news themselves, as the people involved had to admit reluctantly in an interview.
There’s a subtle but important different between providing good engaging online content and actually reaching people with it. I call this difference the difference between engagement and outreach and it’s a tough difference if I consider many of the projects I’ve been advising about in the past months. Read the rest of this entry »
N.B. I should have posted this post when I first wrote it. By now Alain de Botton’s opinion about museums is all over the place, and way better written (that is: by him) so you’d better read his columns on the Huffington Post or the Museums Association website. Sorry!
It’s been a while since we reflected on the way Lady Gaga or Richard Branson would make your museum top the charts. Recently a book came out by the great thinker and museum babes lover Alain de Botton which provides us with another nice angle on the outsider’s view on museums: secularism.
Religion for Atheists by De Botton is a guidebook to religion’s uses in a secular life. For topics such as community, education and forgiveness it looks at the good religions have to offer so we can enrich our secular existence. It’s a beautiful book, one of the most enlightening works I’ve read in a long while. You get a good sense of the book’s contents and energy from De Botton’s powerful TED talk embedded below.
The presentation also gives some insight in this post’s topic: how Alain de Botton would run a museum. “Our museum of art have become our new churches.” he writes. But they aren’t perfect, “While exposing us to objects of genuine importance, they nevertheless seem incapable of adequately linking these to the needs of our souls.”
His museum would be a meeting place for strangers, where all sorts of people are encouraged to learn about each other and talk about important topics. Such a museum would battle one of our secular world’s greatest fears: loneliness. Visiting a museum would be like visiting an agape feast. Read the rest of this entry »