A training on Audience Development

Here is the text on Audience Development by our collegues Rosanna Spanò and Milo Sarrini from BAM! Strategie Culturali written within the project CREMA – CREative MAking for Lifelong Learning.

Introducing and discussing Audience Development (also, AD) with museums is never easy. It is even more difficult when it comes to organisations that have been dealing with their audiences for years, sometimes decades, as most of CREMA project partner organisations. Those museum professionals get in contact with their visitors on a daily basis: they see them coming into their spaces, interacting with collections and taking part in activities.They collect information on their audiences through standardised surveys, interviews or focus groups. They mostly already have in mind target visitors to reach and relative challenges to overcome. So, what could BAM! add up to this?

Toolkits and exercises

During CREMA training, (virtually) held in Zagreb, BAM! aimed at providing partners with theoretical tools (see application of the Ansoff matrix below) and some planning schemes, to support and frame audience development activities that:

  • take into account all the dimensions related to the public and the offer,
  • are based on strategic reasoning, i.e. starting from the objectives up to outlining the specific actions,
  • relay on chosen targets, defined as thoroughly as possible.

Despite the short time available, we tested these “new” schemes learned during the training, dividing participants into two groups and sharing the exercise visually on a digital board (see image below). Each group chose a partner museum and the relative staff member explained which audiences they would like to work with and why. We then identified their position on proximity maps, making use of the mapping options learned (from community to crowd, from central to non- audience). 

In discussing audience targets, we tried to keep in mind that the more distant the public, the more difficult and costly it is to reach them. On the contrary, if an audience segment is in part already in contact with the museum (the so-called “community”), the investment in resources and promotion is smaller, leveraging word of mouth in the reference network.

The exercise, more than outlining specific audience development actions, helped participants to put into practice the theoretical models and exchange ideas with other partners. Besides, partner museums collected external points of view, good practices from which to draw inspiration, questions that could open up further reflections.

We learned to ask ourselves new questions about audience targeting: where are those audiences? Do we have the resources to reach them and / or engage them? What needs do they have? 

Same museum functions, from a different angle

As mentioned, theoretical tools are a good support in the planning phase. However, audience development in itself is neither an ongoing activity nor a museum function: it is rather an approach, which therefore should become typical of all sectors and aspects of a museum.

Above all, promotion, mediation and participation are the functions for which it may be more interesting to adopt a more audience-oriented approach.

The classic cultural promotion of museums, if carried out with particular attention to the visitor, can become an AD activity. It often involves using relational marketing tools, for example by designing offers, products or channels dedicated to a well-defined audience segment. We took the example of the Bologna Culture Card, a loyalty card that stimulates demand and helps to expand the offer.

Given their nature, museum mediation activities are already oriented to the public: the growth of educational activities for adult visitors, alongside those dedicated to the younger, or the focus on the needs of a specific target in the processing of texts and materials, are all important steps towards potential audiences. An emblematic case that has contributed to the dialogue with foreign communities is that of the “My Egyptian Museum” project in Turin.

Participation is a word that cyclically becomes part of political and cultural agendas. The novelty of recent years is that the visitor, through audience development, is also involved in cultural production and organization. Participation is certainly facilitated in the digital and social media environment, where the offer expands and where the on-site museum visit can begin or continue. It is about creating digital engagement: stimulating a simple sharing on social networks or giving the visitor the opportunity to interact with the museum collections directly on the museum website. To understand how far you can go, a visit to the Rijks Studio, the flagship of the RijksMuseum in Amsterdam, is a must.

When engagement goes well beyond “spot” participation we talk about community building. This is a very intense relational activity for the museum at an early stage, but which can become fruitful by establishing lasting relationships with visitors. Classic “Friends of the Museum” groups or volunteer groups, practice groups (reading, writing, crochet…) can be created, “ambassadors” can be appointed and so on. The Thyssen-Bornemiszka Museum in Madrid has decided to involve young artists, inviting them to create a work based on the museum’s collection through the #VersionaThyssen contest.

Finally, we talk about crowd-sourcing when the visitor is allowed to contribute to artistic creation, cultural programming, curatorship. This is a very delicate step for museums, but if done with authoritativeness and creativity it can lead to surprising results. For example, the San Francisco Exploratorium proposes “Tinkering at Home”, inviting users to share their creations on social networks with a dedicated hashtag.

Is making the right answer?

After having explored tools and possible activities to position audiences at the centre of museums, for the CREMA project it is time to take up the challenge of involving adults through making activities connected to museum collections.

In the Output dedicated to AD we will try to understand when making may be the right path to take: what needs does the offer of a making space in the museum respond to? What activities are needed to reach and engage potential audiences? How to understand the point of view of the identified target? How to measure the impact generated?

Stay tuned!

Written by Rosanna Spanò and Milo Sarrini from BAM! Strategie Culturali, Italy

Article republished from www.cremaproject.eu 
Since October, 2019 Radiona – Zagreb Makerspace is part of the CREMA or CREative MAking for Lifelong Learning.
CREMA is 3 year ERASMUS+ project (2019 – 2022).