Dr. Cornelis Stal
Manager of H-digital, The Heritage Management Organization digitization program.
Convenor of the annual ‘Digital Tools for Heritage Management’ executive workshop by The Heritage Management Organization.
Lecturer/Researcher, Ghent University College – HOGENT, Belgium
You have organised the best exhibition of the year, or set up a ground-breaking educational program. You have worked hard with curators, conservators, educators, everything is ready to rock, but now you wonder… how can I bring people in? How can I reach my audience, and what should I be telling them? Informing and engaging the public is a crucial process for the success and sustainability of heritage institutions. However, heritage-related university programs do not usually include any training in Communications, and heritage managers who cannot afford to recur to external experts might find themselves in serious troubles when it comes to communicate and promote what they are doing.
This is why last April HMO organised the first Workshop in Communication Strategy for a group of 15 students from the joint MA in Heritage Management of the University of Kent and Athens University Business School. The workshop took place in Elefsina, a few meters away from the archaeological site of ancient Eleusis. The course instructor, Derwin Johnson, has a 20-year experience as a journalist for CNN and ABC, and is a professional media consultant and trainer.
The aim of the workshop was to give heritage managers the basic tools to communicate the identity, activities and events of their cultural organisation effectively in order to engage the right audience with the right messages.
Participants learnt how to produce a communication strategy, starting with identifying the appropriate audiences through a “conversation map”, where you can visualise all the groups interested in your message and select the most convenient for you. Once they knew who they were talking to, the students could then draft their key messages, the core ideas that they needed to express, and then learnt how to tweak those messages depending on the different media they wanted to use: more informal and experience-focussed for a blog, more simple and informative for a press release, more condensed and witty for social media. They had the chance to experiment with a wide variety of styles, always keeping an eye on the core message and reminding the importance of consistency.
A considerable amount of time was dedicated to interview simulations, where the students had to talk about their organisation in front of a camera and answer questions from Derwin playing the role of a journalist. They learnt how to catch attention and stay focussed on their messages, but also how to improvise in case of unexpected remarks.
The most successful feature of the course was that applied work immediately followed the theoretical lectures. Participants could put into practice what they just learned by working in groups under the supervision of the instructor, and receiving immediate feedback and further advice. A good example for that is the press conference simulation that took place on the last course day: each team had to present in a structured manner their piece of news to a (fake) audience of journalists ready to leave if they were bored or ask tricky and uncomfortable questions. It was a matter of coordination and team work, and students learnt the importance of being inspirational and audience-oriented when communicating their mission and messages.
Philanthropy is a word that dates back to the ancient Greeks and there is no better place to learn the true meaning and actions of the word than in Greece itself. The three-day workshop provided by the University of Kent’s Philanthropic centre took place last February in Elefsina, just a few kilometres from Athens. It was lead by Dr Triona Fitton, Dr Eddy Hogg and Dr John McLoughlin of the University of Kent, experts in the field of social policy, social research and sociology.
Philanthropy is part of the third sector, with more importance in some places than others. However, giving needs to be recognised as more than parting ways with money, but as a large system that encompasses and embraces all of humankind. A sector that brings people together, whether that be through volunteering, giving or asking. The fundraising workshop explained how this could be possible.
We learnt what we mean when we say philanthropy, why people and companies give, the core elements of fundraising, the different types of fundraisers and fundraising, and above all, how to make “the ask” and how to approach potential givers.
However, not all the workshop was lecture-based. We did post-it exercises on whether we personally give and why, and we participated in the debate of why heritage is a priority for fundraisers. On the last day of the workshop we were split into teams and were to pitch our own ways to fundraise for the HMO (the Heritage Management Organization) summer school programmes in Greece. All of which were great ideas and given the right amount of time can be implemented correctly.
Participation in this workshop did not go without merit. At the very end we were examined through the Institute of Fundraising online exam… and we all passed!
The workshop explained why fundraising is a well worth while thing to pursue, especially in the heritage sector, when heritage relies on the ‘love of man’ to be sustained. After three days of hard work and learning, the workshop had trained and gained 22 members of the Institute of Fundraising, all raring and ready to help many worthy causes.
Elizabeth Kearsey – BA in Classical Civilisation (University of Nottingham) now a student of the MA in Heritage Management. Lifetime student (so far). I am new to the work field of heritage, having previously worked with people with learning disabilities.