A strategy helps to link your organisation’s mission and aims to the work that you do on a daily basis. You can think of it as a roadmap for how you will reach your goals. Different strategies will guide different areas of work. While they may link together in different ways, having a clear sense of the approaches your organisation takes to digital technology, content and marketing ensures a joined-up approach.
Firstly, it’s important to understand how your digital strategy, digital content strategy, and digital marketing strategy relate to one another.
Your digital strategy is an overarching plan which informs how your organisation as a whole engages with digital to support you mission and aims. It has a wide focus and may touch on multiple areas of your organisation’s work.
A digital content strategy focuses on the how the content, the images, videos, podcasts, blog posts and so on that your organisation uses and creates helps to achieve your aims. It might include approaches to interpreting collections through social media or the sorts of behind-the-scenes content that is created and shared with the public.
Finally, a digital marketing strategy guides the use of digital tools and methods for achieving your marketing objectives. Perhaps you want to reach younger audiences. If so, your digital marketing strategy will lay out a plan of which digital platforms and engagement will help you to achieve this aim, for example by creating TikTok videos.
Having an effective digital content strategy will help your heritage organisation to create and disseminate content to a wide and diverse audience. This has the benefit of building brand awareness, integrity and reliability as well as generating leads and new partnerships.
Good examples of digital content strategy in the heritage sector include organisations that effectively translate assets into something mutually beneficial for the organisation and its audience, in the digital realm.
These include making use of the latest social media trends such as live streaming, which according to data from the app monitoring firm AppAnnie, “is driving growth in engagement for social apps.” With the Covid-19 pandemic having accelerated the move to digital technologies, heritage organisations can now build on those initial investments and developments made to respond to the fall in face-to-face contact. They can now look to attract a global audience, capture interest and deliver exciting and engaging content by keeping up with the latest social media developments.
Heritage organisations are now making use of apps such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat to reach a demographic that they might previously have missed through more traditional forms of audience engagement.
Black Country Living Museum: West Midlands, UK
Black Country Living Museum (BCLM) is a good example of a heritage organisation that has effectively translated an immersive in-person experience to the digital realm, making use of storytelling about one of the first industrialised landscapes in the UK. The museum recognised an opportunity to engage with its existing audience during the national lockdown by delivering content in creative and innovate ways. Based in the West Midlands, BCLM produces short video clips that are both entertaining and educational. Examples include:
- Making chain #learnontiktok
- Notice anything strange about the house?#learnontiktok #museummoment #history
The museum quickly captured an international audience and has amassed 1.3 million followers since November 2021.
Royal Academy of Arts: London, UK
The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) is another good example of a digital content strategy from the heritage sector. Whilst the RA has not quite yet embraced TikTok, the organisation tweeted a creative task each day during the national lockdown and currently invites its followers to participate in #RAFridayDoodle weekly. It also runs an Instagram account where it shares content about exhibitions and events, alongside images from its collections. The RA has amassed a diverse following by tailoring its content for each social media platform. Since November 2021, the RA has acquired 456,000 followers on Twitter and 562,000 followers on Instagram.
The Museum of English Rural Life
The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) has made quite an impression on the museum and heritage sector (and beyond) through their clever use of Twitter to share their collections and increase engagement. In 2018, the MERL shared the below image from their collection of an Exmoor Horn ram which received over 18,000 likes and 60,000 retweets.
The following year, they tweeted a number of duck images from their collection and then began tagging other museums and heritage organisations asking them to share ‘their best duck’. This led to museums and cultural organisations all over the world tweeting images of duck-related collections in response including the British Museum, Kew Gardens and the Getty Museum.
An article from the Art Newspaper from 10 January 2019 provides a bit more detail on the story. This is an example of a simple kind of digital content strategy that smaller organisations could employ to gain wider engagement.
Take away points
- A good digital content strategy will help your heritage organisation to create and disseminate content to a large and diverse audience.
- It is worth trying to stay informed about the latest developments in social media and how you might make use of new and existing technologies, for example, live-streaming platforms, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR).
- A good content strategy is one that is both engaging and educational.
Where might you start to develop your own digital content strategy? The resources further below from Europeana can help you get started. Among the many excellent examples of digital content strategy in the heritage sector is Europeana’s use of digital storytelling to increase audience engagement. Europeana’s aim is to empower “the cultural heritage sector in its digital transformation.”
Europeana’s task force put together a 7-Step Guide to Digital Storytelling with Cultural Heritage (3 min video). This is applicable to different content types.
Reflect on your organisation’s mission and aims. How might you employ a digital storytelling approach to help you reach your goals? The following examples might give you some ideas about what your digital storytelling could look like.
A few examples
- A Picture of Change for a World in Constant Motion is a long-form text/image blog (‘close read’) from Jason Farago of the New York Times, focusing on Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print ‘Ejiri in Suruga Province.’ The storytelling is perceived by the audience as very engaging and inspiring. Its style of narration and language is informal, personal and evocative (multisensory). Images are presented with a close-up technique that produces compassion for the characters and makes the audience feel like they are travelling through the time and the space with the author.
- #MetKids is a digital resource from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City composed of an interactive map and a digital storytelling discovery strategy made for, with and by children 7-12 years-old. The emotional engagement #MetKids produces is based on creating connections with the past, involving the audience actively, fostering a sense of wonder and the thrill of getting close to an object in order to discover the hidden stories behind it.
- You are Flora Seville’ from the Egham Museum is a choose-your-own-adventure Twitter experience following the fictional Flora Seville, illustrated with the museum’s collections. The story of Flora Seville is well-structured; readers feel immersed in the historical context in which Flora lived through the museum’s showcased collections, and drawn into her personal (fictional) life through the informal, personal style and the agency to choose what Flora does next. There is an element of surprise along with the possibility to choose how to continue the story.
- UNESCO Digital Heritage – A detailed guide breaking down the concepts of digital heritage and digital preservation.
- Asimetric – A comprehensive PDF guide on digital engagement frameworks, strategies and examples in the heritage sector.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Website aimed at younger audiences with an interactive, animated map of the museum alongside a time machine to explore different collections and video content.
- Europeana – A guide to digital storytelling with cultural heritage.
- Digital Storytelling Festival – Information on Europeana’s digital storytelling festival.
- Jing Culture & Commerce – A guide to how a heritage organisation can develop digital storytelling materials.
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Please attribute as: "Integrating strategies: how to ensure your strategic approaches to digital content and digital marketing underpin your digital strategy (2022) by Dr Ruth Daly supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0