The Impact of Globalisation on Museum Communications (Part 1)
Improving the Museum Product
Professor Tomislav Šola, Zagreb, Croatia
Globalisation is a new process to a traditional sector like museums, inasmuch as there has been comparatively little direct action to adjust to it, - globally speaking. Some very successful institutions and professionals, mostly in highly developed countries, create an opposite impression and make appear that we are dealing well with the issue.
It would be of high importance for the majority of profession world-wide to understand the true nature of the globalisation with its political, economic, social and psychological implications. In brief: knowing well the nature of the world in which museums operate and our users live is inevitable condition to any marketing.
To be able to deal successfully with the challenge of marketing, museum professionals have to have a clear philosophy of the profession as a total understanding of heritage institutions and the notion of heritage itself.
Knowing and loving the users more than just using the "visitor-friendly" phrase as a buzzword is the inevitable condition to any long run success of the profession.
The museum occupation has to achieve the level of becoming a true profession and to perceive heritage institutions, though scientifically based, truly as communicational art or even (soft) communicational business. Many know their museums, but a few only understand them. Do we explain useably well the role of heritage today and the task of institutions within the changed context? Maybe so, but the explanations have not "descended" into the practice.
This way it would be easier to talk to our new marketing partners or our fellow-professionals-gone-communicational. Anyone of them, if serious enough, starts the conversation with questions: What business are you in? And: What is your product? Most of the museum people have difficulty to answer these questions to them. Check with the majority, not yourself, please!
The product would obviously be derived from clear definition of the nature role and mission of heritage institutions. It can be generic or given, stemming seemingly logically from the character of the collection; there you do not need marketing but some advertising. Marketing implies the quality, transcended, wider product, the one that is itself the result of marketing approach: clear process of formation, knowing the user, evaluation and creating improvements. Still a step further, there is a needed or useful product as a result of clear insight into the needs of given community of users. That is a custom-cut museum product made to place heritage institutions in the very heart of contemporary democratic debate, - not to take sides but to act as corrective, adaptive mechanism of transparency and insight. That is the product so necessary in the issues of human and citizens' rights and in the paramount issues of (sustainable) development.