Successfully engage with international audiences

Harnessing digital tools can not only improve your local engagement but also open your organisation to international audiences. The motivations for doing this and the observed benefits to your organisation are explored in this resource. It provides some top tips for increasing international reach and examines a successful case study.

This resource is available in English and Welsh
Two dragon boats sitting on a river
Image courtesy of Visit York © Gareth Buddo

Successfully engage with international audiences

1. The benefits of extending the reach of your heritage organisation

There are a number of benefits to extending the reach of your organisation and engaging different audiences. These can include:

  • Financial benefits (e.g. increased fundraising opportunities and ticket sales)
  • Encouragement of knowledge exchange (e.g. exploring wider international approaches and innovative ways of doing things)
  • Cultural exchange and understanding (e.g. increased awareness of particular religious, political or other cultural contexts to inform wider audience engagement).

With the range of digital tools at your disposal, there are opportunities to develop or grow an international online audience. By digitising holdings or offering digital means of exploring collections, what you offer can be more readily shared with people anywhere in the world.

This online engagement can be a goal for you to work towards by itself, not just a means of encouraging in-person visits to a heritage site or museum.

2. Successful online engagement and experience

The Audience Agency is a national charity aimed at enabling cultural organisations to use national data to increase their relevance, reach and resilience.  It has argued that the role of an organisation’s ‘digital offer’ is no longer simply about attracting people to the physical experience. Digital media and online engagement can now present a distinct heritage experience for many in its own right.

Heritage organisations are now able to offer different kinds of engagement to audiences, that may facilitate entirely physical, entirely digital, or ‘hybrid’ wrap-around experiences. They state:

In many cases, wholly new engagement models and learning programmes are being developed to reach participants who cannot engage physically, at a never before seen place

The Audience Agency

If done well, organisations can provide online audiences with new and enjoyable means of experiencing and engaging with collections in novel ways in a way that ensure accessibility. Heritage organisations that have done this successfully have:

  • Defined the audiences that they want to reach and their mission.
  • Considered the platforms, such as social media, that might attract their target international audiences and the expertise needed to support their move towards online exhibitions and resources.
  • Tailored the presentation to their online exhibitions and collections via social media and websites in order to find and retain audiences.

This might be the first step towards the museum or heritage organisation within what is being called the virtual reality ‘metaverse’ – a digital ecosystem in which users interact with each other as well as the digital environment. Might museums and heritage organisations soon need to build their digital double in the not-so-distant future?

3. Case study – Decolonising the Archive

Decolonising the Archive is an online heritage organisation that curates and discusses Pan-African testimonies, artefacts and ephemera. The organisation seeks to challenge colonial and post-colonial tropes of Blackness in ways that give rise to new cultural frameworks of understanding and learn and move on from the violence of colonialism creatively.

The website caters for an international audience by providing a range of interactive and non-interactive media through its well-designed and visually arresting website. This includes:

  • Web radio
  • Podcasts
  • Video
  • Online exhibitions
  • Online events

This means there is a range of resources that provide a nuanced impression of Black history that is accessible internationally and reaches a growing audience.

4. Explore some effective examples

You should spend some time visiting Decolonising the Archive’s website and consider these questions:

  • How have they identified audiences, created resources that cater for different user groups, and created a sense of interactivity with those that visit their website?
  • What do they do well?
  • What could they improve?

Now think about your own organisation.

  • Could your organisation emulate their approach?
  • What skills would your workforce or volunteers need to utilise or acquire to do so?

More help here

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Selecting the right platforms and channels for your organisation

When making a decision about which platform(s) will best suit your organisation, you should consider two main factors: the different social media platforms available and your audiences. This guide will outline some considerations regarding the skills and capacity of your organisation, and the needs of your audience.

A young couple read an exhibit at the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, a small, terraced house in Old Commercial Road in Portsmouth, Hampshire

How your organisation can engage with underrepresented groups

This resource highlights how heritage organisations can engage with ‘hard-to-reach’ audiences and widen the participation of underrepresented groups. It explains how to improve digital participation, develop socially inclusive practices and embrace the heritage insights of source communities. By doing so, you can start to establish the trust needed to involve groups that may have previously been excluded from the heritage sector.


Browse related resources by smart tags:

Audience Cultural value International Mission
Published: 2022
Resource type: Articles

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "Successfully engage with international audiences (2022) by Dr Patrick Glen supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

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