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Advocacy: where to start

Overview

It’s important to make sure people are aware of the true impact of your work, and to ensure policymakers and your supporters are vocal in their support for you.

Museums play a vital role in the lives of individuals, families and communities across Scotland. Their learning and outreach work bridges inequalities in education and mental and physical health provision. Museums help to connect people with their community, while enhancing the experience of visitors to Scotland and bringing a positive economic impact.

Although you may already know this, do the people who are making decisions about the future of your organisation?

Introduction to advocacy

Tough budgetary decisions are being made and indeed, some museums have been on the receiving end of cuts already. Advocacy involves you taking control of this situation by trying to influence the outcomes of these decisions.

The Scottish Government priorities give preference to programming that cuts across departmental agendas. Therefore the best way to protect our cultural heritage is to demonstrate how much of a difference it makes in other aspects of people’s lives.

The information in raising your profile will help you to start advocating for your museum, and help in thinking about how to link your advocacy campaigns to effective fundraising from varying sources in the long term.

You can also find all this information in the full Advocacy guidance toolkit we have produced.

Key messages

Three key areas that the Scottish Government are keen to address are inequalities, placemaking and economic impact. Coordinating our messaging as to why and where museums are important will ensure the maximum impact in advocating for the sector. We have therefore focused the messaging in our advice around these three themes:

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

How to start your advocacy campaign

Identify your key audiences. Museums don’t deliver their work in isolation, so make a list of other organisations who would be affected by cuts to your budget and mobilise them to help advocate on your behalf.

To engage your key audiences successfully, PARC your message to be more impactful:

  • Be Positive: phrasing your message positively can help the recipient to be more receptive to what you are saying;
  • Be Authoritative: provide facts and figures about your impact;
  • Be Rational: try not to be too emotional or emotive in your messages;
  • Be Calm and helpful: keep a level head and instil confidence in others about your work.

Simple advocacy messages

Start by developing short, positive messages that highlight the impact of your work in a general sense – you will be able to use these messages when communicating to all your audiences. Think about both national initiatives you may have been involved in and the work you are doing locally.

Some examples of messages that might work for you would be:

  • ’The lives of xxx people with dementia have been improved through our work with local care homes.’
  • ‘Our museum involves xxx volunteers contributing xxx volunteer hours.’
  • ‘Our museum is an integral part of our City of Culture bid/town regeneration plans/Creative Place bid.’
  • ‘Our museum (which holds a Nationally Significant Collection) is enjoyed by xxx visitors every year.’
  • ‘Our museum has worked with xxx (could be a name or number) groups to find ways we can welcome them to the museum and improve their visitor experience.’
  • ‘Our museum has worked with xxx (could be a name or a number) local community groups over the past year to arrange exhibitions which showcase their heritage.’
  • ‘Our museum hosted a year­-long paid internship as part of a Scotland-wide programme encouraging new entrants to the museums sector.’
  • ‘Our museum has worked with xxx local schools over the past year to help deliver the Curriculum for Excellence.’
  • ‘xxx children have enjoyed learning about our past through our outreach programme and xxx people have participated in our adult learning programme.’
  • ‘Our museum’s national Festival of Museums event in xxx was enjoyed by xxx visitors and participants.’

When thinking about more specific audience segments, you’ll need to include language and messages tailored to their interests. Read more in our targeting advocacy section.

Learn more

The Culture Counts Toolkit offers further guidance on advocacy. Although encompassing culture in a broader sense, the toolkit gives: help to find your local policymakers; key evidence on the impact of culture; ideas about engaging with your local community; and tips on lobbying politicians and getting involved in elections.

The Museums Association offers some good general advice on advocacy.

Also, the newly-updated Museum Association Code of Ethics for Museums is essential reading. It promotes three core principles: public engagement and public benefit; stewardship of collections; and individual and institutional integrity (which is particularly relevant to advocacy work).

The Association of Independent Museums’ (AIM) Economic Value of the Independent Museum Sector Toolkit provides a straightforward approach to help estimate the impact museums might have on their local economy. The toolkit was revised in 2014.