New Success Guide published – Understanding Your Audiences


As AIM publishes it’s latest Success Guide – Understanding Your Audiences, author Emma Parsons, Arts and Heritage Consultant, shares her thoughts on understanding audiences during a pandemic.

“What a challenge we are all facing.   As museums, we rely and thrive on visitors.   How do we engage with people in times of lockdown ? Who is our audience now, and what do they want and need ?

These are times of uncertainty for everyone. For many it’s uncertainty around their health or that of their loved ones; uncertainty around their jobs, business and income; maybe even feeling a loss of identity if their role has changed in lockdown. For museums, we face huge uncertainties too.

How do we talk to audiences – who even are they – with so many unknowns on both sides ?

It seems to me that the best route is to be open, honest, but most of all, empathetic. Open to new ways of working, new ways of engaging, new definitions of audience.

I think this can follow the same essential circular process that I’ve described in the Understanding Audiences Success Guide, written before the Covid-19 situation. Planning, listening and talking to people, analysing this, acting upon it, and then reviewing again as you go back to listening to feedback. But all of this needs to be done now through a lens of empathy, consideration of the new situation and what people are going through.

Museum visits may not be anyone’s priority right now.   But finding content and voices to distract them, to inspire them, to learn something, to help in some way, to share and enjoy may well be higher up their priorities than ever before.

Think about the assets you have – your people, your collections, your building and site, your knowledge and experience. How could they be best put to use to support communities now ? Your work could help to connect and motivate people, give them a purpose, or make them smile.

The situation calls for resilience, being adaptive, finding new ways of being under incredible financial pressure for many. Look for ways to meet the emotional needs of your audience and yourselves. Be open and empathetic, listen and respond, and form a deeper connection with your communities through this new shared understanding.”

Emma Parsons, Arts and Heritage Consultant

Read the Success Guide Understanding Your Audiences here. And if you want to hear more from Emma, or get advice on your specific audience challenge during this crisis, book a place at AIM’s Hallmarks at Home session on Understanding Your Audience.