Say it loud and say it proud... we love museums

Stacey Arnold, Issue 110/02, p17, 01.02.2010

Do you sometimes think your museum deserves a higher profile? Does it sometimes feel undervalued, misunderstood… unloved?

If so, remember a basic truth about communication: if people aren’t getting your message it’s up to you to improve things.

Help is at hand. ...Love Museums, the Museums Association’s (MA) campaign to help you make the case for your museum and for the wider museum sector is about to be launched.

Over the next few months, free workshops throughout the UK will show you the benefits and importance of speaking up for your museum – and will give you the confidence to do more of it.

Later in the year, the MA will be providing people who attended workshops, and others, with resources that can help you. We’ll make it easier for you to use the evidence that shows how schools, tourists, local authorities, kids and communities all love museums. We’ll help you with key facts and key messages to use with different audiences.

…Love Museums will run for six months and it’s never been more important for museums to make their case. Most museums have relationships with stakeholders such as funders and local community representatives, but external relations can sometimes be viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.

But the external environment is volatile, with a great deal of political and economic change ahead, and museums need to engage more systematically with stakeholders.

PR theory says that organisations should develop a dialogue with their stakeholders, so that they feel properly engaged by the organisation.

However, recent research into regional cultural organisations found that stakeholder relations can often be fragmented and informal – the press office focuses on media relations, fundraisers deal with funders and sponsors, and the director talks to politicians.

This rather bitty approach makes it harder to explain fully and consistently what the museum achieves. But a clear set of arguments or “narratives” for an organisation can be useful in achieving consistent messaging – both for external audiences and for staff.

This work is often termed advocacy – but this might be a misunderstood buzzword that covers a variety of things. Over the next few months I’ll be investigating what advocacy means for different types of museum and tracking down examples of success.

Let us know how you make the case for your museum, or if you know someone who is a great champion. And book your free place to find out how you can do more to ensure more people …love museums.

Stacey Arnold is an advocacy associate at the MA on secondment from Tate Liverpool with the support of the Cultural Leadership Programme,

For more information on the free workshops, click here