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Abstract

Strategic management is a familiar concept in for-profit organisations but is relatively new to museums. This paper presents and discusses a model of strategic management for visitor-oriented museums that aims to be more comprehensive than current approaches. It shows how museums can overcome the tension between the strategic demand to develop visitor-oriented museum services and the duties and social mandate of museums as public institutions that are defined by cultural policy—enabling access to cultural heritage, promoting broad cultural participation and providing informal education. Visitor-oriented strategic museum management is concerned with attracting a variety of visitors as well as the development of museum services that are appropriate to diverse museum audiences. The model presented here emphasises the comprehensive strategic management concept. Audience research and evaluation are shown to be valuable analytic and revision tools for strategic management in visitor-oriented museums.
The International Journal of Cultural Policy, 2003 Vol. 9 (1), pp. 95-108
1 Routledge
^ Tiytor&FnncisCiaup
STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT FOR
VISITOR-ORIENTED MUSEUMS
A change of focus
Eva M. Reussner*
Arts and Entertainment Management, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
Abstract: Strategic management is a familiar concept in for-prot organisations but is relatively new to museums. This
paper presents and discusses a model of strategic management for visitor-oriented museums that aims to be more
comprehensive than current approaches. It shows how museums can overcome the tension between the strategic
demand to develop visitor-oriented museum services and the duties and social mandate of museums as pubhc
institutions that are defined by cultural pohcy—enabling access to cultural heritage, promoting broad cultural
participation and providing informal education. Visitor-oriented strategic museum management is concerned with
attracting a variety of visitors as well as the development of museum services that are appropriate to diverse museum
audiences. The model presented here emphasises the comprehensive strategic management concept. Audience research
and evaluation are shown to be valuable analytic and revision tools for strategic management in visitor-oriented
museums.
Keywords: Cultural poUcy; Non-profit museumsi Strategic management; Visitor-orientation; Audience research;
Evaluation
INTRODUCTION
As PUBLIC institutions, non-profit museums need to act in line with cultural policy guidelines.
There are a number of museum-related cultural policy guidelines that can be considered as
general principles applicable to museums in the Western world. For example, enabling access
for and use by broad and diverse audiences as well as the facilitation of learning are generally
acknowledged as two important museum functions {c.f. Hooper-Greenhill, 1994; Falk and
Dierking, 1995; WeU, 1997; Sandell, 1998; Hooper-Greenhill, 1999; Falk and Dierking, 2000;
Bradburne, 2001). Beyond their common ground, cultural poUcies certainly have a history and
characteristics specific to their country. In Germany, for example, museum policies are
influenced by the democratic demand "Kultur für alle!"—"Culture for Everyone!"—that, in
*E-inail: eva@deakin.edu.au
ISSN 1028-6632 print/ISSN 1477-2833 online © 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/1028663032000089868
96 E.M. REUSSNER
the seventies, promoted the idea of a broad cultural participation to overcome limitations that
are based on class differences (DFG, 1974). Linked to this idea of enabling access for a
representative part of society is the concept of cultural education that regards museums as places
of informal learning (Nuissl, 1987). Today, the demand to be responsive to the public is stiU the
imperative. In 1995, the German assembly of the federal ministers of culture and education
emphasised that museums need to further open up to the public (KMK, 1996). In the same
document, the educational purpose of museums that first came up in 1969 is underUned as
being still an important museum function in the nineties (KMK, 1996).
Extending the perspective on museum policies to the international context inevitably
highhghts issues related to the interUnked processes of globalisation and firagmentation. In this
context, showcasing cultural diversity, providing spaces for cultural expression and for
experiencing identity as well as gaining knowledge and understanding of other cultures are
increasingly relevant (UNESCO, 1998). The expected humanistic benefits of cultural
participation and expression are underlined in particular in relation to minorities and
indigenous peoples (Kahn, 1997; UNESCO, 1998). Australia and New Zealand are excellent
examples in recognition of these principles: The Council of the Austrahan Museums
Association developed special poUcies in relation to Austrahan museums and their indigenous
peoples (1993), and the broad space dedicated to Maori culture at the National Museum of
New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is a clear poUtical demonstration of the recognition of
New Zealand's "first peoples".
Cultural pohcy influences the ways in which museums shape society and community
relationships. However, these guidelines are not easy to implement in an age of economic
restraint and growing competition in the leisure sector (Ambrose and Runyard, 1991; Koder
and Andreasen, 1996; Landschaftsverband Rheinland, 1997; Klein, 2001). Museums are being
challenged to attract visitors together with maintaining their financial viabiUty, without
compromising their obUgations to society. Not least, fulfilling their duties as pubhc institutions
is vital for museums in order to legitimate public funding. As a consequence, museums
experience a tension between the strategic demand to develop visitor-oriented museum
services and the political demand to fulfil their social mandate as public institutions.
As a possible approach to deal with these challenges, museums have welcomed the concept of
strategic management, derived from the for-profit sector. In general, strategic management is
concerned with ensuring success in the long term, dealing with changing contextual
conditions and competition (Thompson and Strickland, 1993; Hill and Jones, 1995). Since the
nineties, there have been efforts to transfer this concept of strategic management to museums of
all kinds (cf. Kovach, 1989). Strategic management is expected to support museums in bringing
their mission into action, and thus proving that museums make a difference. But the ways in
which strategic management has been translated to the museum sector appear inappropriate for
the visitor-oriented museum.
Related Work
A review of publications shows three kinds of approaches to strategic management for museums
and non-profit organisations in general. First, some authors focus on business aspects that are
without doubt highly relevant for museums (Kovach, 1989; Oster, 1995). But a business-
focused approach makes it difcult to incorporate the humanistic duties of
museums. Second, some pubUcations are characterised by an emphasis on strategic planning
VISITOR-ORIENTED MUSEUMS
97
(Ambrose and Runyard, 1991; Denis, Langley and Lozeau, 1993; Moulton, 1997; Kawashima,
1998). Notwithstanding the central role of strategic planning, this approach lacks a
comprehensive view of strategic management, that is, giving attention to the functions vital for
an effective preparation and implementation of strategies. The third group of publications
promotes a focus on external marketing (Koder and Andreasen, 1996; Koder and Koder, 1998;
2000). As it emphasises the external relations of museums, this approach is very close to a
visitor-related concept of strategic museum management. Nevertheless, it needs to be
recognised that the demand for broad cultural participation not only requires an increase in
visitor numbers, but also an increased variety of museum audiences. At the same time, the
educational mission of museums and the commitment to visitor-orientation require an internal
focus on the visitor and the visiting experience itself.
An Alternative Approach
By focusing on business aspects, strategic planning or external marketing, publications on
strategic management for non-profit organisations, cultural institutions or museums lack a
comprehensive concept of strategic management suitable for visitor-oriented museums.
Considering these shortcomings, this paper recommends a change in focus in strategic museum
management.
A strategic concept for visitor-oriented museums needs to be more comprehensive in three
respects: First, a comprehensive strategic concept for museums needs to be in line with the
guidelines of cultural policy and the duties of museums as public institutions. Strategic
management can only be appropriate and valuable for visitor-oriented museums on condition
that it pays tribute to the educational purpose and social mandate of museums: that is, providing
access, enabling social inclusion and promoting cultural diversity. Second, the principles of
visitor-orientation need to be considered to make a museum visit attractive and worthwhile.
And nally, it is questioned whether strategic considerations, if they are solely relevant in
planning and marketing, have the impact on overall museum work that they could and should
have. Museum work as a whole has to be committed to the overall strategic direction.
The contribution of this paper is two-fold. First, it extends strategic management into the
context of non-prot museums, incorporating the basic museum guidelines found in Western
cultural policy. Second, it presents a model for a more comprehensive strategic museum
management process. In particular, the paper takes a closer look at the ways in which strategic
management can be valuable for visitor-oriented museums.
This paper is organised as follows: First, a model of the strategic management process for
non-prot museums is described. To interpret this model for visitor-oriented museums, the
strategic implications of visitor-orientation are outlined before describing strategic museum
management in this special context. Within that frame, audience research and evaluation are
assessed as tools for strategic museum management.
STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT FOR NON-PROFIT MUSEUMS
From Strategic Planning to Strategic Management
As a rst step towards comprehensive strategic museum management, this paper advocates a
shift similar to that which took place in private business during the seventies: from strategic
FIGURE 1 Basic elements of the strategic museum management process.
VISITOR-ORffiNTED MUSEUMS
99
planning to strategic management. With this move, the focus changed from an emphasis on long-
term planning to goal-oriented, but exible and comprehensive strategic management. The
concept of strategic planning originally emerged in the sixties in the for-prot sector (Staehle,
1999). Strategic planning is concerned with long-term planning of the organisation's
development, based on information on the organisation's contextual conditions and relevant
trends and developments. Driven by the insight in the seventies that strategic orientation should
not be narrowed to the single planning function, a change of focus occurred: Now, the concept
of a strategic management encompassing all functions and levels of management broadened
perspectives (Kreilkamp, 1987; Johnson and Scholes, 1997; Staehle, 1999). This shift needs to
be followed by museums in order to ensure a comprehensive strategic perspective on museum
work: strategic issues have to become relevant in all organisational levels of a museum.
Comprehensive Strategic Museum Management
The principles and common tools of for-prot strategic management need to be interpreted
according to the specic conditions of non-prot museums. As a second step towards a more
comprehensive strategic management concept, it is suggested to consider the duties of
museums as pubUc institutions, related to the guidelines of cultural policy, and combine them
with the basic principles of strategic management, as found in strategic management
pubhcations (Kreilkamp, 1987; Thompson and Strickland, 1993; Harrison and John, 1994; Hill
and Jones, 1995; Johnson and Scholes, 1997; Mintzberg, Quinn and Ghoshal, 1999). Thus,
strategic museum management consists of organising, planning, leading and monitoring all
areas of museum work, such as collections, research, exhibitions, pubUc programs,
administration and marketing, in view of the museum's primary goals. The museum's goals
are argued as being dened by cultural policy and the challenges represented by competition
and changing contextual conditions. In order for museums to cope vvnth the challenges they
face, strategic museum management requires self-assessment, competitor analysis and
monitoring of strategically relevant developments in the museum's context. On that basis,
strategic museum management provides goal-directed, value-guided and iture-oriented
thinking.
These principles form the basic elements of a comprehensive model of the strategic museum
management process proposed as follows.
The model shown in Fig. 1 represents a synthesis derived from pubhcations on strategic
management, with particular references to Kreilkamp (1987: 61), Kotler and Andreasen (1996:
65) and Steinmann and Schreyögg (1997: 155). While it is acknowledged that a model
necessarily is an abstraction from reaUty, showing an ideal process rarely found in practice, it
nevertheless emphasises the basic principles that are considered as most important. The strategic
management process model presented here aims to serve this purpose. It shows the museum in
its context, which includes the museum field, the cultural and leisure sector, the community
context and the national and legislative fiiamework. The model emphasises the relations
between the different stages of the strategic management process. Strategic management
imphes an iterative process with a number of feedback cycles. Next, a short description of the
different stages and their interrelations is given, incorporating the specic conditions of non
prot museums (c.f. Kreilkamp, 1987; Thompson and Strickland, 1993; Harrison and John,
1994; Hill and Jones, 1995; Johnson and Scholes, 1997 and Steinmann and Schreyögg, 1997).
100
E.M. REUSSNER
In discussing the model and its application, the interrelations between each stage are identied
by lower case letters.
Goal-development
Usually, the starting point of the strategic management process is goal-development and goal-
definition. It serves to clarify and determine the major goals that are to become the focus of the
overall strategic direction. Through goal-development, preliminary goals are laid down and
formulated in a more concrete way.
In determining their central goals, museums are bound to prescribed functions and
guidelines. The museums' purposes are to collect, preserve and investigate objects that are of
cultural relevance, to provide access to their collections in a way that enables the cultural
participation of a wide and diverse section of the population, including the provision of access
and representation for minorities, and to facihtate informal education. The determination of
goals is also influenced by values and standards such as professionaHsm, the wish to contribute
to a better understanding of culture and society, a commitment to lifelong learning and respect
of the visitors' needs and interests. Additionally, museums need to take into consideration the
interests of stakeholders and the services of competitors within the leisure and cultural industry
in general and the museum field in particular. Because museums are not independent in
defining their aims and purposes, in the model, a reference to the museum's context is shown.
Within the rame of given purposes and guidelines, museums translate these general goals into
concrete, more operational objectives for the specic museum and have to decide on strategic
priorities that will form the major focus of the museum's effort. During goal-development,
contextual information is required. Strategic analysis provides this information.
Strategic Analysis
Strategic analysis helps museums clarify their strategic goals and provides information for
planning. Apart x)m analysing the museum context, strategic analysis represents a reective
step on the current status of the museum and its position within this context. Therefore,
strategic analysis consists of an organisational analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses of the
museum, and an environmental analysis to learn about the threats and opportunities in the
m u s e u m c o n t e x t .
The internal analysis shows which factors a museum can rely on to achieve its strategic goals:
for example, certain knowledge of its staff, certain qualities of its collection, or its pubHc image.
But it is equally important to nd out weaknesses threatening or at least diminishing the success
of museum work. Examples for areas of external analysis are: the competitive situation within
the museum eld, demographic trends and leisure preferences. The focus of strategic analysis is
defmed by the strategic goals. At the same time, strategic analysis helps to clarify these strategic
goals in showing which ones are recommendable, achievable and appropriate to the museum
(a). Strategic analysis helps museums set priorities in relation to perceived gaps or positions of
strength. Furthermore, the data gained through strategic analysis informs the planning of
strategic programs.
VISITOR-ORffiNTED MUSEUMS
101
Strategic Orientation
Refined goak and the findings of the strategic analysis determine the strategic orientation,
which serves as a guideline for museum work. Strategic orientation represents the guiding
principle that supports museums in achieving previously defined goals. As value-guided, goal-
referenced and future-oriented thinking, strategic orientation gives museum work a direction.
To enable successful museum work and a shared strategic orientation, attention should be given
to the development of consensus on and support for major goals, values and guiding principles,
expounded in the museum's mission statement.
Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is considered as the core stage of strategic management (cf. Kreilkamp, 1987: 25).
Strategic planning produces strategies that are designed to achieve the previously dened major
goals. It distinguishes between overall corporate strategy and the number of substrategies that
translate the general strategy into more concrete activities that complement each other, while being
adjusted to the different operational areas of museum work. If, for example, it is a major goal to
open the museum for senior audiences, this is reflected in the goals set for exhibition development,
public programming and marketing activities. Strategic planning focuses on the strategic goals,
while at the same time building on the ndings ofstrategic analysis (b) and, if necessary, demanding
additional information om strategic control, as plans progress (Q. As strategic plans generally are
designed for longer periods, it is important to leave room for flexibility in order to react on
unforeseen events and developments that make a modication of strategies necessary.
Implementation
After formulation (c), the strategies need to be implemented in museum practice (d). Through
implementation of the strategies, the programmes designed to achieve the major goals of the
museum are brought into action (e). Extending the previous example, now, the new marketing
campaign focusing on seniors is launched, guided exhibition tours designed for seniors are
offered and special offers at the museum shop are introduced. It is the purpose of strategic
management to ensure that the originally intended strategy is brought into action. To this end,
strategic control fulls an important task.
Strategic Control
Contrary to publications locating strategic control at the final stage of the strategic management
process, strategic control here is conceived as a process accompanying and supporting the other
stages of strategic management (() (cf. Steinmann and Schreyögg, 1997:157). On the one hand,
the function of strategic control is to provide further information, if needed, in order to support
strategic planning. On the other hand, it has to review designed strategies, to supervise their
implementation and to initiate modifications in programmes in order to ensure the
achievement of strategic goals. Finally, in a more narrow sense, strategic control is understood as
the final judgement of the measures' progress and success in the hght of major goals (g). This
can be done either for a single activity or for a whole set of programmes. As a consequence,
those findings indicate the need for a reorientation of goals as well as for modifications in
strategies.
102 E.M. REUSSNER
General management functions such as leadership and communication are important to
coordinate and align the different stages of the strategic management process and, above all, to
develop a widespread acceptance of strategic thinking throughout museum work. The basic
principles of strategic management can be appUed to diverse museum priorities, such as visitor-
orientation. Before the strategic management model is translated to visitor-oriented museums,
the strategic implications of visitor-orientation are examined.
S T R A T E G I C I M P L I C A T I O N S O F V I S I T O R - O R I E N T A T I O N
Nowadays, many museums consider visitor-orientation as the central principle of their work
(cf. Hooper-Greenhill, 1994; KGSt, 1989; Landschaffeverband Rheinland, 1997; Weil, 1997;
Günter, 1998; Graf, 1999; Klein, 2001). This development shows both a change in the
understanding of the role of museums and a change in attitude of museums towards their users.
Since the 19th century, museums have undergone an evolution from the private
"Wunderkammer" (cabinet of curiosities), only open to a tiny and chosen audience, to institutions
open to the public. Weil predicts that the relation between museums and the public will reach a state
in which "it will be the public, not the museum, that occupies the superior position. The museum's
role will have been transformed ftom one of mastery to one of service" (Weil, 1997: 257).
Visitor-oriented museums acknowledge that paying attention to preconditions, needs and
interests of visitors is important for the success of museum work. Only by considering their
audiences' point of view, can museums gain the interest of a variety of visitors and offer them a
valuable, enjoyable and at the same time educational experience.
Museums that aim to fulfil their mandate and at the same time wish to be attractive need to
bring together the museum perspective on visitors with the visitor perspective on museums.
The museum perspective on visitors is influenced by cultural policy in terms of cultural
participation, social inclusion and informal education, notwithstanding the commercial aspects.
The visitor perspective on museums is shaped by having multiple choices of leisure and cultural
attractions and the expectation of an enjoyable, satisfying and valuable museum experience
(cf. Doering, 1999). Whereas the museum perspective determines the criteria for effectiveness
and success of museum work in the long term, the visitor perspective shows that museums
operate in a competitive context. Museums need to demonstrate value in relation to the needs
and expectations of their audiences and services provided by other cultural or leisure attractions.
This means that even visitor-orientation is an area where strategic thinking is necessary.
To achieve visitor-related goals in a competitive environment, museums need to pay
at t ent ion to two di m ens ion s of vi s it o r-o rie n ta t ion :
(a) fi-om an external perspective, museums need to develop attracting power, in order to
enable access and cultural participation and to cope with competition,
(b) firom an internal perspective, museums need to ensure that their services are appropriate to
visitors, in order to enable an enjoyable and educational museum experience.
Being attractive and at the same time appropriate to their audiences are vital factors for long-
term museum success. Because of their central role, these goals can be considered strategic goals
of visitor-oriented museums. The following section discusses how strategic management can
support museums in a visitor-focused approach to museum work.
VISITOR-ORDENTED MUSEUMS
103
STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT FOR VISITOR-ORIENTED MUSEUMS
In the last section it was argued that, in order to remain or become relevant to a broad public,
museums need to focus strategically on the needs, interests and preconditions of their
audiences. In visitor-oriented museums, strategic museum management is concerned with
audience development in an external perspective and, in an internal perspective, with visitor-
focused product development, ranging from exhibitions to visitor programmes and service
quality.
E x t e r n a l V i s i t o r F o c u s
A strategic focus on visitors puts audience development among the primary aims of museums.
Audience development impUes maintaining the core audience, building a broader audience
base, attracting diverse audiences and building relationships with the community. But the limits
of audience development need to be acknowledged. Treinen (1996) has found that the group of
potential visitors that can be motivated to visit a museum is rather small: between 15 and
20% of the adult urban population. Museums should be clear about their real visitor potential
and try to build on relationships with actual visitors who can be encouraged to make multiple
visits.
Having determined the two major goals of audience development—^broadening the
audience base and encouraging repeat visitation—strategic planning then allows the design of
effective audience development strategies. In order to develop marketing activities,
information is needed from strategic analysis on the actual and the potential audiences, their
preferences and characteristics, and on the audiences and services of competing museums. This
enables museums to determine their potential audiences and gives indications for strategies to
reach out to certain target groups and how to gain distinctiveness in comparison to competing
attractions.
Actual visitors are the most powerful means of advertising as they promote the museum by
word-of-mouth (Koder and Andreasen, 1996: 43). But repeat visitation and recommendations
depend on the perceived value of the museum experience (cf. Thompson and Strickland, 1993:
109). In order to retain and enlarge their attracting power, museums not only rely on an
effective marketing campaign, but they need to offer a high-quahty museum experience.
A good marketing campaign is of no use if the museum experience does not meet the visitor's
expectations. Hence, the internal focus on visitors plays an essential role for the success of
m u s e u m w o r k .
I n t e r n a l V i s i t o r F o c u s
Paying attention to the museum audience is a precondition for an enjoyable museum
experience as well as for the fulfilment of the museum's educational purpose. On the one hand,
one has to acknowledge that a museum visit is a leisure experience and a social experience (Falk
and Dierking, 1992). This means, museums need to develop strategies that create interest in
their subjects and services, enable recreation and social interaction. In addition, the
contribution of quality service, good orientation and a welcoming atmosphere to a satisfying
visit should not be neglected. To initiate engagement with exhibits and occupation with certain
subjects, museums need to take into consideration the conditions under which informal
104 E.M. REUSSNER
learning is possible and encouraged and examine the effectiveness of exhibits. The internal
visitor-focus demands museum services appropriate to visitors by acknowledging their motives,
interests and needs in visitor-related strategies of museum work.
Being appropriate to a diverse museum audience is not easy; and it cannot be fiilfilled
completely. But instead of designing museum services for a stereotyped audience, museums
need to create a broad range of programs aimed at specific subgroups of visitors, e.g. children,
or subaudiences defined through sophisticated attitudinal and lifestyle segmentation methods,
such as Schulze's (1992). These differentiation strategies support museums in becoming
attractive to a variety of visitors.
Visitor-orientation as Strategic Orien tation
As visitor-orientation is considered strategically important for museum work, it has to
be conceived as the orientation that gives museum work a focus and provides guidance.
Visitor-orientation is not an end in itself, but a means to achieve the major goals of museums. It
is the leading principle that should be followed throughout museum work.
The central idea of visitor-orientation shapes the attitudes of museum staff throughout the
organisation, allowing audiences' needs, interests and preconditions to influence the direction
of m u s e um w o r k .
The Role of Audience Research and Evaluation
In o r d e r to nd o ut w h a t ma k e s mu s e ums a t t r act i v e an d in w h i c h fo r m mu s e um wo r k is
appropriate to their visitors, museums need information concerning their audiences, such as
which groups of the population currendy are brought into the museum, what are the
conditions under which learning in an informal setting is possible and what are the visitors'
attitudes towards the museum's programmes and services. Visitor studies and evaluations are useil
tools to gather reUable information about museum visitors in a systematic way (cf. Loomis,
1987; Screven, 1990). In addition, non-visitor research can also provide useful information
(cf. Kirchberg, 1996; Schäfer, 1996). Audience research here is conceived as comprising both
visitor and non-visitor research as well as evaluation. The methods of audience research that
many museums already use can be interpreted firom a strategic perspective and used
accordingly.^
Whereas visitor studies provide information on a more general level, such as the audience
profde and levels of satisfaction, evaluations assess museum services in more detail. The classical
objects of museum evaluation are the exhibitions, but the principles of evaluation can be
applied to the whole range of the museum's services. Evaluations can provide detailed
assessments of exhibitions, programmes, visitor services, commercial outlets and other museum
services. The function of evaluations is not a mere critique of museum work, but to initiate a
constructive learning process. Audience research and evaluation can help a museum on its way
towards a strategic orientation by supporting goal-defining, strategic planning and the
implementation of measures. Used in this way, audience research and evaluation can be
considered as means of strategic analysis and strategic control.
I
VISITOR-ORIENTED MUSEUMS
105
Audience Research and Evaluation as Strategic Analysis
For visitor-oriented museums, information about their visitors and the potential visitors in
their environment is relevant to assess their internal situation as well as their position in the
museum's environment. Through visitor surveys and status-quo evaluation, audience research
contributes to the organisational analysis.
A visitor prole survey paints a picture of the parts of the population the museum has reached.
It can describe the demographic and psychographic characteristics of its audiences, that at the
same time allow drawing conclusions on the target groups still underrepresented. Additionally,
this information can help to customise the museum's services for different audiences. A visitor
experience survey adds useful information in assessing the qualities and weaknesses of the visiting
experience, including all aspects of museum services, from the exhibitions and educational
programmes to the opening hours, the assortment of the museum shop and the service quality
in the museum cafe. If this information is related to visitor characteristics, museums can draw
useful conclusions differentiated for diverse audiences.
In the frame of strategic analysis, a so-called status-quo evaluation is suitable to assess the
current status of museum work. Existing services are reviewed concerning their strengths and
weaknesses to nd out where changes are necessary. In this assessment, visitor-responsiveness is
an important criterion to judge the exhibition, the educational programme or special events.
To complement the internal analysis of a museum, non-visitor research and comparative studies
support the environmental analysis. To help museums develop attracting power, the
environmental analysis collects information about the popularity and the pubUc image of a
museum, but also on socio-economic trends, leisure preferences, cultural attitudes and patterns
of media consumption.
Non-visitor research does not use museum visitors as primary sources of information, but
focuses on those that never or seldom find their way to the museum (cf. Kirchberg 1996;
Schäfer, 1996). On the one hand, it helps to identify target groups that could be reached by the
museum, and on the other hand, non-visitor research provides insight in motives and
particularly in barriers for a museum visit that need to be overcome to really open the museum
to a broad pubUc.
Concerning visitor-orientation, comparative studies focus on the services of other museiuns,
cultural and leisure institutions (cf. Oster, 1995: 144f). For example, subjects of comparison can
be the attendance figures of other museums or cultural and leisure institutions, their visitor
programmes and exhibitions, as well as service quaUty and marketing activities. While, on the
one hand, this comparison provides an overview concerning the services of competitors, on the
other hand, it allows to identify which factors contribute to the success of other museums.
The museum then has to assess whether it could also utüise those factors or find a niche to
distinguish its services x)m its competitors and develop a unique prole.
Audience Research and Evaluation as Strategic Control
Evaluations can also be considered as parts of strategic control as they aim to accompany the
development and implementation of programmes in a critical way. Front-end evaluation provides
information at the initial stage of planning, i.e. it takes place before a project is concretely
planned and brought into action. The intention is to get an idea of the perceptions of the
visitors to avoid the implementation of expensive, but ineffective measures. Formative evaluation
takes place during the planning stage and helps to nd out the best ways to design exhibits.
106
E.M. REUSSNER
programmes, marketing campaigns or other activities. Formative evaluation aims to optimise
measures before their nal implementation. As it initiates corrections and modications if the
achievement of the goals is endangered, it fulls the tasks of strategic control. Even with a very
careful preparation, problems can appear after implementation. Remedial evaluation helps to
identify and remove such problems so that museum staff can put the nishing touches to their
exhibitions and programmes. Finally, the exhibition, respectively the programmes are judged in
terms of success in view of the strategic goals through summative evaluation. The function of
summative evaluation is to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the programmes, i.e. if the
exhibition, the visitor programme, a new marketing campaign or an event achieved their goals
and if the investment was worth its effect. Summative evaluation does not necessarily relate to a
single programme, but can as well assess a set of different activities. Whatever task is concerned,
visitor-orientation is the primary benchmark to judge the success of museum work.
CONCLUSIONS
This article has described a new, comprehensive approach to strategic management for visitor-
oriented museums, overturning the focus on business, formal planning and external marketing.
This paper proposed a change of focus in strategic museum management towards including
cultural policy guidelines and the principles of visitor-orientation, in order to overcome the
tension between the strategic demand to develop visitor-oriented museum services and the
duties of museums as public institutions.
A comprehensive model of the strategic management process has been proposed. Due to
limited space, the impUcations of strategic management for visitor-oriented museums have
been described briefly. While focusing on visitor-orientation, the strategic museum
management model proposed in this paper could be applied to other aspects of museum
work, for example, research excellence or optimising the museum's nancial performance.
Proposing a model for the strategic management of visitor-oriented museums, this paper is
conceptual in nature. The practical implementation of this model goes beyond the scope of this
paper. However, there are some issues that should be kept in mind when implementing the
concept of strategic management. Taking the audiences' perspectives seriously is a prerequisite
for strategically successful visitor-oriented museum work. The concept of strategic
management is not applicable from one day to the other, but requires rst of all developing
strategic thinking and raising awareness of the basic strategic principles throughout the
institution. The application of this model at particular museums certainly needs to be
elaborated and adapted to the individual museum conditions. To avoid translation problems,
museums do not need to adopt all the methods and tools of strategic management derived from
private business, but procedures they use can be reinterpreted with a strategic focus, as for
example, audience research.
The ways in which museiuns can benet from audience research, as suggested in this paper,
go far beyond current common uses of audience research and evaluation. Audience research
and evaluation can be considered as instruments for strategic analysis and control and used to
review the whole range of museum functions. Certainly this is subject to the availability of
resources—not only in financial terms, but also of expertise in order to obtain reliable and
useable results. Nevertheless, also low-effort methods like a heightened interest in the activities
of competitors, learning from studies conducted by other institutions and simple procedures
VISITOR-ORIENTED MUSEUMS
107
like the collection of museum visitor postcodes may turn out to be very useful to strategically
position the museum vis-a-vis its competitors and its audience.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Associate Professor Ruth Rentschler as well as the anonymous reviewers
of this paper for their valuable comments. I would also Uke to thank Carolyn Meehan, Lynda
Kelly and Carol Scott for stimulating discussions about the issue of audience research and
* evaluation in museums. Finally, I would like to thank Dr Ralf Reussner for his continuous
support, the niitil discussions on strategic museum management and his helpful comments on
this paper.
Notes
* The link between strategic museum management and audience research is hardly covered in
publications, except for two conference presentations, one by Tim Sullivan on the 1998 Conference
"Visitors Centre Stage: Action for the Future" in Canberra, demonstrating how audience research and
evaluation have inuenced the development of a corporate strategy at the Australian Museum, Sydney.
The second contribution is made by his colleague Lynda Kelly, listing a strategic use among the
important functions of audience research in museums in her opening address at the Evaluation and
Visitor Research Special Interest Group Day of the 2001 Museums Australia Conference. This paper
complements their view with the theoretical incorporation of audience research into the model of the
strategic museum management process and a detailed description of its role within that process.
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