Helping museums become better advocates

Connect November 2016

advocate

Exploring and improving our approach to advocacy has been central to MGS’s work in 2016: but what do we actually mean when we use the word ‘advocacy’? In short, advocacy is the act of working to influence decision-makers on behalf of your organisation: we are dedicated to supporting museums of all sizes to build closer relationships with a range of people who make choices that influence the way your museum runs. Our approach this year has been developed to help museums to better understand, approach, and work with, the decision makers who have the most influence in their areas, and to open up new and better opportunities for your museum to share your story.

What are the museum messages?

The way your museum talks about your work is central to effectively harnessing the support of decision makers on a local, national, and international level. For this reason, we have developed three key messages that we museums to use when crafting their advocacy.

  • Museums play an important role in tackling inequalities;
  • Museums are crucial to local and national placemaking;
  • Museums make a substantial economic impact.

While collections are at the centre of what we do, the focus of effective advocacy is actually on the people who benefit from our work: and every museum in Scotland is already doing extraordinary work that ties directly to these three messages.

Using the advocacy toolkit

We developed a set of online resources that will help you to get a start on crafting effective advocacy messages. As well as highlighting the ways in which museums can engage with the messages above, the resources offer pointers on the best way to approach your communication, and include templates for writing to a range of stakeholders and creating press releases and news items for the media. These materials can be found on our website and will continue to be expanded over the coming months. If there is material that you would like to see there, please let us know!

Upcoming advocacy opportunities

If you are just setting out on your advocacy journey, or are looking to further develop the work that you are already doing in this area, there are a range of opportunities coming up to support your work. These include conference sessions and courses, as well as national initiatives and social media campaigns that will help your museum to share your messages as widely as possible.

Additional courses to support your work will run throughout this year and into next, including a dedicated advocacy course at MGS in January 2017. We also highly recommend the courses run by Resourcing Scotland’s Heritage to museums concentrating on developing their advocacy materials: the basics of developing a case for support for fundraising are largely the same as for advocacy, and we encourage museums to embark on these journeys at the same time.

#MuseumsGavetoMe 24 December to 6 January

MGS will encourage museums and galleries across Scotland to participate in the second annual #MuseumsGaveToMe campaign over the 2016-7 holiday season. This Twitter campaign will offer an opportunity for museum staff, volunteers, and visitors to share the ways in which museums have improved their lives and communities: whether through offering opportunities for intergenerational fun, helping visitors to explore their own histories, or supporting those with barriers to employment to get a start in the workplace. Last year’s successful campaign clearly showed the massive contribution museums make to communities across the country, and included retweets and comments from a range of national politicians and decisions makers.

2017: Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology

This coming year will offer a brilliant opportunity to really highlight the work you do, and the celebration of a Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology throughout 2017 will offer a brilliant international platform for sharing Scotland’s extraordinary cultural offer. Specialist event funding is available for the Year, including through HLF’s Stories, Stones & Bones fund, and a number of initiatives, including Dig It! 2017, can help to better promote your programming and special events throughout the year.

And finally: get in touch! Whether it is a resource that you are struggling to apply to your organisation, or a success story that you would like to share with us, please let us know how you are getting on. Feedback on the elements of the approach that are working (and really frank information on what definitely is NOT working!) is crucial: we are continually evaluating and re-vamping this work to make sure that it remains relevant and helpful for the sector. Just drop me an email, or pick up the phone: I would love to hear about your experiences with this work.

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