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Targeting advocacy

Overview

Effective advocacy involves targeting those that are most likely to be able to influence on your behalf. This includes policymakers who are making decisions that will affect the future of your organisation, as well as key museum stakeholders, friends, members and the media. In order to make the most powerful arguments, you should include language and messages tailored to their interests: effective advocacy is not 'one size fits all'!

For politicians

Who should I speak to?

You have a number of representatives, all of whom may be appropriate to speak to.

In the Scottish Parliament, you have 1 constituency MSP and 7 regional MSPs who represent the wider region. In the UK Parliament, you have 1 constituency MP. You can find your MSPs and MP at www.theyworkforyou.com

In your council, you will have several local councillors representing your ward. There will also be a councillor with a responsibility for culture, who may not represent your local area but who would still be appropriate to speak to.

Why should I speak to politicians?

Local representatives from all parties will have an interest in supporting organisations doing good work in their area. They may be able to help promote your museum through their own channels or raise your concerns in parliament.

Your work is incredibly relevant to government priorities - whether it's as a key local service, delivering education, supporting volunteers or as a tourist attraction.

When should I speak to them?

It is better to build a relationship before you need their help.

You can do this by proactively offering site visits and by sharing information on your work.

Local representatives will be interested to know about your museum and will love to hear about any plans you have to improve or expand your services.

Can MSPs help me with funding?

Not directly – but they may be aware of funding opportunities or have other valuable advice.

For your local press and media

Local journalists are always interested in community interest stories – but local media is often under-resourced.

Instead of sending a press release to a generic inbox and hoping for the best, you should get to know the journalists covering your area and what works for them – including simple things like their print deadlines. 

If you offer engaging and positive stories about your museum you have a good chance of gaining excellent coverage. 

For key museum stakeholders (e.g. Board/Trustees)

As this audience is already engaged with what you do, they are likely to be the most useful of your contacts. You just need to ensure they are motivated to get in contact with people they may be able to influence. The most effective advocacy creates more great advocates for your organisation!

By liaising with stakeholders, you’ll be able to find out whether they have, for example, an existing relationship with your local politicians or media contacts and be more likely to affect a positive outcome to your discussions. Be sure to give them the facts, figures and evidence to start these conversations on your behalf.

Phrases such as the following should engage their interest:

‘You know what the true impact of our work is, but to continue we need you to tell others about us.’

‘Support us by meeting with or writing to anybody you know who can help us influence a positive outcome.’

We have produced a template for writing to your stakeholders and influencers. Please see the ‘template advocacy materials’ section for information.

For other museum stakeholders (e.g. Friends/Members)

The people who visit your museum regularly and are already your supporters are your most important assets: they are likely to be among the more useful of your contact in helping to advocate on a local and national level for your work.

Ask your current volunteers, Friends and Members who they know that makes decisions locally, and if they would be willing to help advocate further on your behalf. Give them the tools, confidence and information they need to help them to comfortably start these conversations for you.

Here’s some phrases to use with them:

‘You know what the true impact of our work is, but to continue we need our most valued Friends like you to help us spread the word.’

‘You can support us by speaking publicly in our favour, especially about the elements of our work that have made the biggest difference in your life.’

We have produced a template for writing to your stakeholders and influencers. Please see the ‘template advocacy materials’ section for information.

For other partners

There will be other organisations in your area who will be working within the same cultural context as your museum. By combining your messages you will have a very strong case with which to advocate.

‘We are all facing an uncertain future. Let’s work together to communicate the value and impact of our work.’

We have produced a template for writing to your local partners. Please see the ‘template advocacy materials’ section for information.

Template advocacy materials

We have produced a series of templates for you to use as guidance when contacting specific target groups for advocacy purposes.

We would encourage you to use these for the basics and develop your own messages to complement them (bear in mind that other museums in the area may be using the same template). The copy for these materials has been written in a standard format and may contain examples that are not relevant - please delete what does not apply to your circumstances and put your own style to the template.

Letters should ideally be printed on one side of A4, on your standard headed paper so that the recipient has all your contact details.

You can also find all these resources in the full Advocacy guidance toolkit.

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.