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Four key lessons from #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellow Kim Osborne from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre shares the four key lessons she’s learnt from the projects and experiments she’s undertaken as part of #DigiLab.  

So, we’re at the end of Digital Lab now, and this blog post is a good opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt over the last six months or so. Here are four key lessons from the projects and experiments I’ve carried out; some expected, some not! But they’re all great things to keep in mind when planning future digital projects.

1. Always take time to work out ‘why’ you are doing something.
I spent a long time at the beginning of Digital Lab trying to work the ‘why’ of the project. I had lots of ideas about exciting things I could make and test, but my mentor Ron Evans really made me drill down on why I should do these things. I eventually decided to make a series of films to gain audience feedback via email and Facebook, but initially I had just wanted to generally increase engagement on Facebook using film. Spending time thinking about why we needed engagement, and what types of engagement would help the Museum, enabled me to develop an idea that involved asking our audiences specific questions, the answers to which would be useful for many Museum projects.

This approach helped me step back for a second to develop some well-considered ideas and eliminate some ideas that might not be so beneficial.

I now find myself taking more time at this stage with other projects and plans, and it’s made a difference to how I communicate my ideas too.

2. Don’t operate in a silo — make the most of all those around you.
Because the feedback I was looking for was potentially useful for various Museum projects, it meant the I needed to talk to people across the Museum team. This helped me to understand their views on the content I was creating, and we worked together to devise a set of mutually beneficial questions. These conversations also gave me more ideas and insights, gave me a greater understanding of the Museum as a whole, and led to the development of future projects. Win, win!

3. Planning ahead makes perfect sense!
This is kind of covered in point one, but I don’t think it can be overstated, especially for me — planning is key. I can be a bit too eager to get on with things sometimes, and always in a rush to tick things off my list and get on to the next thing. I do plan, but probably don’t always take enough time on the planning stages, so for this project I made sure I thoroughly and methodically went through each stage. This was helped by the two points above, but also on my mentor’s insistence on making storyboards for my films, which I have to admit not only helped me when it came to making them, but also helped me to share those ideas with others. And helped me to develop a new skill, which is always handy.

4. Don’t underestimate email.
The biggest surprise of the project for me was the response to the emails I sent. Although my focus was on sharing films on Facebook, I set up a test on our email list initially. This was so I could split my audience up fairly and test film and non-film content alongside each other.

After all my storyboarding, filming and editing it turns out that my emails with plain text questions were more successful than those with embedded links to my films. In fact, they were also more successful than the films I posted on Facebook. I had so many replies to my emails despite our relatively small number of subscribers — some people writing up to 300 words — that it made me think about the untapped potential of our email list, something I’ve definitely overlooked.

So, based on these results my next steps are: 1) think about email — what can we do with this audience to help us achieve our goals? And 2) what can we do with film on social media? What kind of content will deliver the results we’re looking for?

Now for some more experiments…

Read Kim’s previous Digital Lab blogs: Remember the why #DigiLab and All about the making #DigiLab

Images courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum © The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

AMA research finds it’s tough at the bottom

The AMA has published the results of its first benchmarking survey. Following a fantastic response — over 500 members completed the survey — the data has been assessed and the results published in the AMA Benchmarking Survey 2019 report.

The full report includes email open rates and social media benchmarks, and is available for AMA Members. For highlights from the report, sign up to receive the Executive Summary.

The research looked at key benchmarking factors for members to use in their daily activity and planning including: budget breakdown, email open rates, social media channel, and website trends. Details of this can be found in the full report.

It also explored how members feel about their roles and organisations. This data was then broken down against the geographical location of the organisation, culture and art form, and career stage of respondents.

The results show that only 50% of early career level members agree that their organisation is open to change — other highlights from the report show that:

The more senior the role, the more likely respondents are to agree that their views are heard, and that they feel valued by their organisation. Only 50% of early career level members agree that their organisation is open to change – compared to 75% of senior career level members, which may reflect this knock-on effect of whose voices are heard within organisations.

33% of early career members do not agree their views are heard in their organisation, whilst in contrast 30% of senior career members strongly agree that their views are heard.

The research suggests work/life balance varies heavily between career levels, but there are encouraging signs of a growing shift to a cross-organisation approach to building audiences. Although marketing and digital is cited by all levels as being very important in developing relationships with the community — it is notable that there is strong agreement across all art forms that it is a whole team effort encompassing Front of House, CEO, artistic director, fundraising and outreach. 

“The number of early career stage respondents reporting lack of investment in role specific training supports the perception that organisations are not valuing their early career employees”, says CEO of the AMA, Cath Hume. “Combined with feeling that their views are not being heard, there is the real risk of disenfranchising talent at the early career stages, making the sector a poorer place. We know there are challenges within the arts and culture sector in diversifying the workforce, with many barriers in place before even landing your first role. It’s important that we support people’s development in their early roles to help them thrive. It’s about making sure that everyone’s contribution is valued.”

“We hope that you find this research report useful. Whether you want to check how you’re doing against the email open rate benchmark, or compare how your team feels compared to others in similar organisations, we hope you’re able to use and apply these findings to support your work, or make a case for change.”

To read highlights from the full report in the AMA Benchmarking Survey 2019 — you can sign up to receive the Executive Summary. AMA Members get access to the full report.

AMA members can find the full report here: AMA’s Benchmarking Survey Report 2019 — member report. Please note that you will need to be logged in as a member to access this report.

Image AMA conference 2017 © Elaine Hill Photography.

Climbing Access Mountain – from base camp to summit the long way round #ADA

The Audience Diversity Academy may seem like a long way to the mountaintop.  In Fellow Emma Oaks’ final blog-telling, the triumphs always outweigh the challenges.

The trip was planned, the teams were briefed, and as long as there was a clear leader everyone seemed keen to find a way to the summit.

However, it soon became apparent that there are several different rival camps on our own little mountainside. Camp A was in the village community, disapproving of the climbing party and of the perceived elitism of where they had come from, scoffing at our team of aging but willing Sherpas and seemingly expensive equipment without realising that it was fraying at the edges. Camp B stayed at basecamp and neither moved up or down the mountain, daunted by the scale of the climb and the potential cost of the attempted journey, after all no-one was making us climb it and we could just move the tent a few feet closer if they did. Camp C could see the summit from where they had pitched their tent and would have loved to see the view, but couldn’t summon the energy to climb, choosing to read the guidebooks instead. Finally there was a quiet little group starting out at the bottom of the hill, faintly exhausted but with a determined stride.

To make things that little bit more interesting, those at Basecamp would never admit to such a thing, preferring to make the journey just a little bit more difficult in the hope of quashing any enthusiasm, metaphorically chucking snow over our tent and telling us there’s an avalanche. Little did they know, we’ve got our crampons on and we’re heading to the summit, no matter how long the climb, reassured in the hope of meeting other climbers along the way.

My first SOS call was in autumn 2018, throwing myself on the mercy of our team of trusty Sherpas. I showed them my map, pointed out the peaks that I hoped to pass and the gullies I was trying to avoid. I wondered if anyone could help me plot an easier route to the summit? or if anyone would like to join me on my epic climb? No offers of help were forthcoming, but a few did point me in the direction of other paths, dozens of paths in fact, all leading in different directions.

A new group of climbers was what we needed, untainted by the memory of failed climbs. For safety we decided to attach a rope between the climbers, to avoid anyone slipping back down the mountain side to basecamp, or worse still falling into one of the numerous time gullies that ran alongside the path. This group would be armed with some previous mountain experience and up-to-date training and would be keen to learn from one another and push ahead with courage and fresh eyes. Together we drew a new map of our route to the summit, planned how we could avoid obstacles along the way, imagined the view from the top and inspired each other to get training in preparation for what was to be a long but rewarding climb.

Together we drew a new map of our route to the summit, planned how we could avoid obstacles along the way, imagined the view from the top and inspired each other to get training in preparation for what was to be a long but rewarding climb.

The training started in earnest in November 2018. And even in training I have lost my footing, plummeting briefly into time gullies that threatened to suck me off the path. I hit severe weather in mid-January that put a halt to any training, and I had no option but to wait patiently for the storm to clear before I could continue.

If training goes to plan, the date for the start of the climb has been set for 16 March 2019.

Climbers roped together = 15

Time gullies = eleventy billion

Severe weather = 1

Avalanches = 0

Digital Advent Calendar #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellow, Charlotte Angharad from Metro-Boulot-Dodo (MBD) shares the thinking behind and outcomes of her second #DigiLab experiment — a digital Advent calendar.

In our second #DigiLab experiment we didn’t have a specific goal as such, we just wanted to try lots of different things through our social media channels to see what worked and what didn’t.

We thought Christmas was a good time to experiment with playful content, so each day throughout December 2018 we published different types of content on our three social media channels — Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — a bit like a digital Advent calendar.

The type of content we published varied — photographs, videos and plain text. Some posts we put across all three channels to see how they performed, some we just put on one channel.

We had a series of posts on ‘meet the team’ with a bit of information about each MBD team member. We asked the team questions such as what’s their favourite thing about Christmas? And what were they most looking forward to in 2019?

We also asked questions as posts. Some questions related to our work, for example, asking whether people had seen a show that we’d done or whether they had any feedback on a show. We also asked unrelated questions such as — what’s your favourite Christmas film? We just wanted to get people talking and engaged on our social media channels.

We monitored the level of engagement we got from these posts. We wanted to see if there were any trends we could identify with the type of content we published. We wanted to gain some insight into what our audiences engaged with and “liked”.

The results were very mixed. We found that the posts that gained the most engagement were the ones about the team — information about real life people rather than pictures of a show or a prop. Posts that had human interaction — either a video or a picture of a team member — were the ones that got the biggest interactions with the most likes and occasionally some comments.

The question posts were really hit and miss. We found that some of the questions were our top performing posts while others didn’t get any reaction at all. It was very hard to glean any evaluation from these. What we did find was that top performing questions were the ones that generated a conversation. Posts with interactions and comments were the high performing posts.

It seems the key to social media is not just sparking interest in a post it’s about sparking a conversation amongst your audience. We know that’s a good thing for us to do but we’re still figuring out what kind of questions and posts work best.

What we’ve gained from this experiment, and from the whole Digital Lab experience, is that our social media channels have very different purposes.

We now see that Twitter is more for engaging professionally with partner organisations and other organisations and artists within the sector; and that’s where we get the most interaction. Whereas Facebook is more for our already engaged audiences — giving them more insight into the work that we do. We’re quite new to Instagram so we’re still finding our feet but it tends to be a mixture of both.

We’ve definitely changed the way we engage with social media. Knowing which audience suits which social media channel has helped us think more about the type of content we share and who it’s aimed at. We’re more mindful of the content we post on each channel. We might share the same subject matter across the three social media channels but how we present that content is very different.

Images courtesy of Metro-Boulot-Dodo ©.

Experimenting with family workshops to increase take-up #ADA

[CONTACT BETH on 07888753521]

Emilie McGroaty and Tom Spurgin are Audience Diversity Academy Joint Fellows with big plans to take over their virtual world by storm in small segments.

We are conducting an experiment as part of a large-scale audience diversity project called The Virtual Orchestra, which aims to make orchestral music accessible to people with no, low or lapsed engagement with it. The Virtual Orchestra is a four-year, £600,000 project which ran in Bedford earlier this year, is still running in Leicester, and will visit Canterbury and Basingstoke in 2019. 


The problem 

From analysing the data that we captured from the family workshops that we ran in Bedford early this year, we could see that they were well attended but weren’t hitting our priority audiences, either in terms of audience segmentation or priority wards within the area. We found that most attendees were already engaged in other cultural activities in and around Bedford, and thus concluded that our offer and the campaign surrounding it was not well-tailored to our priority audience: people with no, low or lapsed engagement with the arts. 


The experiment 

Following a conversation we had with our ADA Mentor Sara Devine, we created an experiment that split our family workshop audience into two groups: those that had no or very little engagement with arts & culture (priority families) and families who were already engaged with arts & culture in some way (engaged families). We decided that the two groups needed two different offers that reflected the varying barriers to entry of the different groups.We wanted to grow our target family audience whilst continuing to meet the needs of our engaged families. 


Target families offer 

  • Free and unticketed 
  • Held offsite in a known location e.g. community centre 
  • Offering non arts-based incentives like free food and drinks 
  • Use of community gatekeepers to access this audience 


Engaged families offer 

  • Tickets cost £3 per person and could be purchased in advance via the Philharmonia’s website or on the day at the installation 
  • Held at the main site of the installation in Leicester city centre 
  • No additional incentives offered 
  • Contact with families made through traditional marketing and advertising campaigns

Results so far 

The first target family workshop that we ran in a priority ward (St Matthew’s, LE1 2) was attended by 35 people, in comparison to an average family workshop size of four in Bedford. Not only are the numbers useful for reinforcing our methodology but there are some inspiring stories too. One child that attended a target family workshop at her local community centre re-engaged with the project by visiting the main virtual orchestra installation the next day in the city centre. Furthermore, one of the gatekeepers for the community re-engaged by bringing a group of 30 to the main installation. It’s still early days but the results so far have been encouraging 

Targeted Experiments #ADA

Fuel Theatre Twitter screenshot

Sustaining an audience development campaign can only be done once the framework has been designed and tested as Audience Diversity Academy Fellow, Emilie Wiseman explains.

Last time I wrote about our experiments as part of the Audience Diversity Academy, we had just appointed two key ambassadors to help us reach out to young people aged 16-25, refugee communities and people from Afro-Caribbean heritage. We were embarking on our experiments and focussing our efforts on very targeted activity and personalised approaches to key groups local to the venue for the show: Ovalhouse in the Oval/Brixton area of London. This type of activity was also supported by targeted invitations on social media. 

Fuel Theatre Twitter screenshot

Our objective was to ensure that at least 30% of our audience was booking tickets following those approaches. Refugees were offered free tickets while young people and people from Afro-Caribbean heritage were offered heavily discounted tickets (£5 against a standard ticket price of £15). As ever, our audience engagement commitment needed to be balanced with our financial targets and although we were hoping to sustain the offer across the two week run of the show at Ovalhouse, we could only offer it for the first four shows. In a way, this enabled us to focus our attention and resources.

We also offered free meals and workshop options in a bid to further incentivise attendance from our target audience groups.

These ambassadors were so well connected that they enabled us to reach out to key target groups.

We were all very excited by the offer we had at our disposal and the amazing ambassadors we had managed to contract for the show. These ambassadors were so well connected that they enabled us to reach out to key target groups. A special push was done for the press night and we feel that this was the most successful night. A local group of refugees who had recently made their way from Calais came to the press night as well as young people from a local poet group.

We’re currently gathering the venue’s box office reports and our feedback cards to see how we’ve done against our targets but simple observation at the first three performances indicate that we have probably reached some of our targets. The response to the show on social media also seems to support this.

Fuel Theatre Twitter screenshot

This is all very hopeful but the real challenge will be to sustain this work throughout the tour and outside London in particular, where we are less connected to local communities.

Why do video when a podcast would be better? #DigiLab

Kyra CrossAudience Development Officer at Ideas Test, explains how a Digital Lab session on podcasts inspired her to create podcast content as part of her #DigiLab experiment.

If you asked me a few months ago about how I felt about my Digital Lab project I would have probably sent you a gif of Michael Scott from The Office (US version) looking visibly worried.

My colleague Jade, who is also on the Digital Lab programme had the brilliant idea of creating an ‘Instazine’, a mini Instagram magazine that is posted each month. Due to some major events and projects, which seemed to all happen at the same time, I felt that I hadn’t progressed very far. The feeling that I was lagging behind my peers I think was partly the impostor syndrome I think everyone one has at one time or another.

But … you’ll be glad to learn that I’ve had a breakthrough! 

Originally my idea had been to create video content about our organisation and the projects we do. This was a bit of a daunting prospect for me. I have some experience with video but I was concerned that it may not look professional.

In the meantime I took part in all the sessions Digital Lab offered. One session in particular caused me to have a startling revelation about my project, which I think has not only improved it, but has the possibility to continue beyond Digital Lab. During Hannah Hethmon’s podcast session I had the thought: “Why am I doing a video when a podcast would be better?” It’s a growing medium, a great way to communicate with people.

One of my colleagues once said that if I could talk to everyone they would understand what we do. A podcast is an ideal platform to create that. Also we have a few community radio stations in the area that we could offer the podcast to as local content.

Hannah’s session was so thorough that I didn’t need to ask any questions as she already answered them. Issues around accessibility were a concern, but Hannah showed that podcasts can be transcribed in various low cost methods. Plus I already have experience in audio editing, and Ideas Test has quality audio recording equipment, so the initial costs would be lower. All I needed was a great story to tell.

That story is going to be about our Youth Programme project: Swale’s Big Music Takeover. It’s a programme funded by Youth Music for young people that includes music performance, production, and other opportunities connected to the music industry. Through the project’s Audiocamps workshops, young people will learn about radio presenting and production, with visits to radio stations, and the chance to make their own show. It seems a perfect fit with a podcast.

But I always feel that there should be a back up plan in place, just in case something happens and I can’t record audio during the Audiocamps workshops.

I’m creating a trial podcast (an ‘Episode 0’) where some members of our team have informal chats with each other about our jobs and what we do. Not only will it demystify and humanise our organisation, but it will be good to assess how long the podcast will take to make, trial the uploading and RSS feeds, and to make sure everything runs smoothly for future episodes. I’m looking at keeping this podcast short, around 15 minutes or so. 

After talking to our amazing mentor Seb Chan, I’m already coming up with questions that I can use analytics to answer, not only in my podcast project but across the whole of our organisation.

So as my second blog comes to a close you find me in a much better place. I have a plan, now to make a podcast!


Image courtesy of Sound and Music © Dimitri Djuric. Christina Kubisch, Electrical walk at Cut & Splice by Sound and Music, 2017.

Remember the WHY #DigiLab

 Kim Osborne of the Roald Dahl Museum walks us through her thought process for creating films in the Digital Lab

When I began Digital Lab it seemed that I knew what I wanted to do, but not necessarily why.

The area I wanted to focus on was film. I’d started making films for the Museum over the summer during an unexpected closure due to a flood. I’d created a little project to help us reach our audience during a time when we were physically inaccessible to them. The films had come out quite well – I’d taught myself Premier, roped in people on the team to take a starring role, asked Learning and Collections to help with the content and then shared them with the world. Colleagues thought they were great, people online liked and shared them. Success!

So now we’re back up and running it seemed like the obvious thing to capitalise on all the work over the summer and use Digital Lab to help us to create and test more films, didn’t it? But my initial conversations with my wonderful mentor Ron always led back to one question – why?

Well… everyone is making films now, every blog I read says you need them, they are great for engagement – we need more engagement, right?

But why? Why do you need more engagement?

Um, because likes – duh!

What I’d failed to address was the basics. What do we want these videos to achieve, what’s our ultimate goal? I’d got swept up in the “I saw another Museum post a video of a cat falling off a shelf, and that got a thousand likes – we should be doing that!” mentality.

After a lot of thinking and chats with Ron I focused on an area that video could potentially bring real benefits to the Museum – audience research.

The Museum is gearing up for a major refurbishment, and another closure period (don’t worry, it’s not for a while). We’re potentially re-designing the whole of the Museum content, and re-thinking all of our spaces. It’s an exciting time, and we know the value of asking our visitors for their feedback along the way. We’ve planned to use focus groups and surveys, but hadn’t considered using our Facebook audience for their opinions. Until now.

After speaking to the Galleries Project Manager and other members of the team it became clear that there’s real potential in using Facebook this way, and a lot of support for the project. We’ve focused on key questions to ask, and I’m now beginning to plan and create a series of films to test. There’s also the possibility of engaging with our online visitors this way throughout the whole project – from asking for feedback, to allowing people to help us make choices during the process.

Digital Lab has really helped me to think differently about the digital content we produce – not just for these experimental films, but across everything else we produce. By working with other departments in the Museum it’s not only helping me realise the potential of using film and social, but also helping the wider team to understand how it could help other projects (maybe I’ve created a monster!?). The main challenge now is maintaining momentum, and finding the time to create the content, so careful planning and preparation is key!


Find out more about the AMAculturehive Digital Lab and information on how to take part.

Images courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum © The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

Finding that golden nugget among a hoard of treasure #DigiLab

In her first #DigiLab blog, Digital Lab Fellow Rachael Williams explains how she’s kept things simple (but pleasantly effective) for her first “scrappy” experiment.

Inspired after webinar number one with the fantastic Rachel Grossman from dog & pony dc and fresh from the first chat with my amazing mentor Sara Devine from the Brooklyn Museum, I wanted to get my first little experiment into action pretty swiftly.

I’ve been working on a social media campaign which highlights what the British Library calls its Treasures Collection — as well as showstoppers like Magna Carta and Jane Austen’s writing desk — these also include the hidden gems; the unexpected treasures perhaps less well known but certainly no less spectacular.

The aim of the campaign? To keep an always-on message present within our social media so that a) people know that we have a free gallery to visit, and b) to drive traffic to our Treasures microsite. Handily, the campaign also ties in with the airing of season two of Treasures Of The British Library on Sky Arts — a programme which sees famous faces pick six ‘treasures’ to capture their life, career and passions.

To start, the social media posts designed drum up a buzz around the #BLTreasures in the series included a combination of glossy portrait images, animated GIFs, trailers and the mentioning of the breadth of the collection. But they just didn’t seem to be capturing our audiences’ imagination as much as we’d hoped.

The copy in the first couple of posts highlighting the TV series and the accompanying website articles took a more generic angle. The first post tried to weave in the many areas presenter Fiona Bruce explored within the collection (‘From Charlotte Bronte to a cake fit for a queen’…), which I thought would have a broader appeal. While the Hanif Kureishi promo perhaps assumed too much prior knowledge about the collection item and presented the content in a rather ‘flat’ way — in hindsight playing on why this manuscript is so important to Hanif, and the significance of E R Braithwaite’s handwritten revisions, would have possibly captured people’s attention much more.

Earlier social media posts promoting #BLTreasures and the Sky Arts series.

The numbers on these posts were healthy (the Facebook post here received 28k+ impressions and 40+ link clicks, while the tweet received 27k+ impressions and over 300 engagements — but ideally we’d like to see at least 100 likes on a tweet/Facebook post). However there was room for improvement and in terms of engagements and we wanted to drive more comments.

Time for a slight change in approach to try and unearth the ‘why’; why should people care?

At the mid-point way in the series, I crafted posts which focused on one showstopper picked by actor Andrew Scott, rather than use the approach of previous posts which tried to tell the whole journey of each celebrity. It seems that drilling down into one chapter rather than attempting to give a whistle-stop tour of the entire story, was a good idea. These posts picked one item of Scott’s to focus on, explained why he’d chosen it and why it was so relevant to him personally, and told a rather intriguing story that explained why this item was so unique. Each celebrity picked such a wonderful array of interesting items with captivating tales behind them, it was tricky to select just one to highlight, but it was a little risk worth taking to see if people’s attention and imagination could be better captured.

Facebook and Instagram posts using more focused content approach.

It may have been the dream team combination of Shakespeare and Andrew Scott, or maybe it was telling people something they didn’t already know; finding that little hook which intrigued and triggered an emotional response in our audience. (Perhaps it was a lucky combination of all of these things — it’s always hard to pinpoint one single reason for any moment of success on social media).

But these posts were received very well by our audience, our second-best performing post of the month in terms of engagement and comments on Facebook, and over 7000 likes and 50 comments on Instagram (our top-performing post of 2018 so far). Deepening engagement with users is something we’re trying to improve — creating posts which drive emotional interactions and comments — so this was a massive step in the right direction. We also saw a nice spike in traffic to the microsite web page.

Snapshot of Instagram account showing difference in reception to posts.


Selection of positive comments from audience across social media channels.

The posts were sent at similar times on a Wednesday or Thursday morning, to the same audiences across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It seems that the more specific angle of picking one collection item to focus on with an intriguing and perhaps unknown backstory, rather than giving an overview of an array of collection items, really helped the later posts get picked up and stopped our audience in their tracks while scrolling through their busy feeds.

Was it pot luck or are we closer to better understanding what makes our audience tick? Bring on Scrappy Experiment Number One, Part II*.
*Cool snappy name still a work in progress.

Scrappy Experiment Number One, Part II
Surprised by a leap in response to Part I of the experiment on social, I wanted to try a little A/B testing with our email audience. I created an email that gave a roundup of the TV series and directed people to the new content on our website where they could discover digitised collection items and the stories behind them.

Would the famous faces with an overview of their individual journeys attract more clicks, or would a more single-treasure-focused approach work best as it did on social? We sent two emails with slightly differing narratives and content to test the click-throughs and drive collection items consulted on the website. Would our email and social audiences respond differently? Would a less-traditional approach persuade or put off our audience?

Version 1 (single-treasure-focused) left, Version 2 (overview approach) right.

The whole email list was made up from people signed up to receiving marketing with a ‘What’s On’ preference from us. They like to hear about news from the Library, particularly around events, galleries and exhibitions. To create the two separate lists, this main list was simply cut into two. As a result, the lists were of equal numbers and included people with the same opt-ins. They would be used to receiving emails from us telling them about our latest displays, how they can get involved in the Library, and culturally exciting additions to our website. Both email lists also received the same subject line, it’s only when they opened the email they would see different content. The serving of each email to each list was done randomly, but each version was delivered to the same number of people and audiences of equal ‘warmth’ to our brand.

Cue drum roll…

Okay, a huge celebratory fanfare isn’t quite needed for this. But still there were lessons to be learned.

Somewhat disappointingly there was no clear statistical winner from the testing in terms of opens (25.2% for version 1 vs 25.0% for version 2) and click-throughs (8.6% for version 1 and 8.0% for version 2). Interestingly version 2 (the celebrity/overview-approach version) did best on revenue, with version 1 (collection item version) doing much better when it came to collection items consulted (30% higher rate of consultation). Did the glossy celebrity shots appeal to spenders, while the manuscript images appealed to those who want to delve deeper into the collection? As the lists would have included some people opted into retail marketing and those interested in research and news about our microsites it makes sense that these journeys took place from the email. I think it could be a safe conclusion to suggest that the collection-item-led approach did whet people’s appetite for pursuing the items further (as the stats confirm).

This little experiment has given me a taster of the small iterations and gradual changes that can be made to better understand our audience, what they want to see, how they want content delivered and how they want to digest it.

Maybe I’ll even be a little bit bolder with my next scrappy experiment…

Rachael Williams is Content and Community Officer at the British Library.

Images courtesy of the British Library ©.








Come Together

AMA Member Rep for the North East & Yorkshire, Hannah Mason, shares her thoughts on the issues raised by the latest JAM — the AMA’s journal of arts marketing — which focuses on health and wellbeing.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (The wonderful Maya Angelou)

What struck me most about the latest issue of JAM was the optimism and connections in every story. Being a well human is a lifelong occupation that spans our physical needs and our emotional ones. Having other people to be with while we improve our health seems to be the key to success.

From the article on the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra working with people with dementia (page 5), to the Silver Swans at the Royal Academy of Dance (page 9) and the launch of Lyric Life (page 12), being connected to the arts and to each other brings phenomenal results that medicine alone cannot.

Each article has a focus on helping people with particular health needs for example Parkinson’s, falls prevention, mental health/depression, dementia, but they also tell us inspiring stories about tackling isolation and loneliness by giving people a place to go to with others in the same or similar situation as themselves.

There are some frightening statistics out there about the detrimental effects of loneliness and isolation. A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross reveals over nine million people in the UK across all adult ages are either always or often lonely. The Campaign to End Loneliness says that some of the health risks include being “more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression” and that “Loneliness is worse for you than obesity”.

Having the opportunity to connect with people over creative activities opens the door for conversations that are much broader; improving self-esteem and confidence. As part of the Creative Alternatives programme in St Helens (page 15) they “aim to provide a safe space where they can meet like-minded individuals and where judgements are left at the door.” I love that because it resonates with everyone, not just for people working in the creative arts, but for groups of all shapes and sizes.

As a freelancer, working from home, I sometimes find myself neglecting my physical and emotional self. Hunched over a computer all day, not talking to another human and only getting up to get another cup of tea (or go to the loo!) I am hardly getting the right kind of exercise and mental stimulus. JAM has made me think twice about how I spend my time. Should I wait until I am actually ‘silver’ to get out there and make connections? Working for yourself can be an isolating experience. Not having people to be accountable to can make for a sedentary existence.

“My ladies frequently meet for coffee …. even though most of them came knowing nobody else, they have created wonderful friendship groups thus combatting loneliness and promoting wellbeing” (JAM 72, page 9).

It’s never too late or too early to make new friends, learn new creative skills and truly take good care of yourself.

Hannah Mason, Founder of The Content Managers, is an experienced cultural producer and communications director with over 10 years’ experience in the arts, education, public and private sectors.


For more on Health & Wellbeing read the latest issue of JAM. You will need to be logged in as a member to access.

3D modelling made by participants of a Creative Alternative workshopImage courtesy of Creative Alternatives ©

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