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Targeting advocacy


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'!

Keep in mind, whoever you are talking to, that you should always RAP your advocacy:

  • Be Rational: keep a level head and instil confidence in others about your work;
  • Be Authoritative: provide facts and figures about your impact.
  • Be Positive: phrasing your message positively can help the recipient to be more receptive to what you are saying.

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

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 politicians

Keeping up to date with local and national government priorities helps you to re-position the way you talk about your activities in terms of how they support and help achieve national priorities. This will ensure your activities support the aims of the politicians in your region.

Whenever there are Scottish Parliamentary elections coming up, or council elections or by-elections, your politician will be keen to be visible perhaps, for example, by pledging their support to your museum. Ensure your contact database for your local policymakers is up to date so you can contact them when needed.

In total, you will be represented at various levels by around twelve politicians and councillors. Once you have looked up who they are, you can choose which form of contact is the most appropriate for your organisation and which is most likely to be met with a positive response. When deciding who to contact, have a look at their online presence to find out who may be most interested in your work. Perhaps their remit includes culture?

Your museum may have an existing relationship with some or all of the elected officials – where there is an existing relationship, it is crucial to keep cultivating this to further develop support.

Some phrases that politicians may find engaging are:

‘xxx people benefited from our work this year. By supporting us you are showing your constituents that you support a service they value.’

‘Our museum plays a vital role in the lives of individuals, families and visitors to this community.’

We have produced an example template for writing to your MSP, your MP and your local councillors. Please see 'template advocacy materials' section for information.

For your local press and media

Local media often like to publically support local institutions. Local papers, radio stations and residents’ newsletters will be open to helping you, but it’s important that you make it clear that the messages you give should not be interpreted in the negative – for example, ‘xxx Museum Faces Threat of Closure’ or ‘xxx Museum in Budget Crisis’. Be sure to write to the editor asking for their support through positive coverage, emphasising your good work.

For print media, it’s helpful to find and include one or two up-to-date, nicely-composed photos that will help to demonstrate your work. Ideally, these would tie in to the message you are trying to get across, but even a nice shot of the exterior of your building can help make an impact.

Here are some phrases that press and media may find engaging:

‘Our museum plays a vital role in the lives of individuals, families and visitors to this community.’

‘We want to continue to serve our community and your support will help us to do this. Take part in budget consultations and voice how much you value us.’

We have produced a template for writing to local media outlets and a sample press release. 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.