Amanda Chan is Marketing Officer for Birmingham Museums Trust. She works within a team of 4 staff members to manage the marketing and audience development for 9 sites, including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Thinktank Science Museum and Aston Hall. Her commitment to volunteering during her degree, and spending her summers wisely, has paid off with a successful career in arts marketing.
Volunteering experience, lots of it
Whilst studying History of Art at the University of Essex, Amanda gained extensive and varied experience within the arts and museum sector by volunteering. She joined the Youth Panel for Colchester Castle, consulting and advising on plans for the organisation’s redevelopment project. At the same time, she helped with a project run by Colchester Recalled Oral History Group, by transcribing oral history interviews.
And an internship
During summer holidays Amanda sought out experience in her hometown of Huddersfield. She secured an internship at Huddersfield Art Gallery, where she worked on 2 major exhibitions: a collection of works by constructivist artist Norman Dilworth and ‘Fields of Contention’ – which featured works by artists such as Carl Andre and Henry Moore, focusing on works that caused outcry when they were acquired by public galleries.
“One summer I did an internship at Huddersfield Gallery. It was a small place so I did a bit of everything – marketing, PR, exhibitions, learning and engagement, and organising private views”.
First paid arts job
It was in Amanda’s third year at university that the Firstsite Gallery opened in Colchester. Amanda made an application for the part-time, paid position of Gallery Assistant at the contemporary arts space. Successful, she juggled the role alongside her studies, and was responsible for leading tours to visitors, and stewarding in the gallery.
One graduate, 3 part-time jobs
After graduating in 2012, Amanda moved back to Huddersfield. It was here that she managed to get 3 part-time museum jobs, commuting across Northern England whilst she split her time across the roles and venues:
- Explainer at National Railway Museum – she gave guided tours, assisted with science shows and helped with the engagement team.
- Explainer at National Science & Media Museum – she led learning activities, such as photography workshops and sleepovers for hundreds of children huddled in sleeping bags in the museum!
- Visitor Services Assistant at the Hepworth Wakefield – here she gained experience of writing blog posts and researching exhibitions/art work, alongside front of house duties.
She also combined these with volunteering at the Churches Conservation Trust, a heritage charity, where she assisted with their marketing campaigns.
In 2014 Amanda moved to Birmingham, where she secured her current role as Marketing Officer for Birmingham Museums Trust. In this job, Amanda spends her time planning marketing campaigns for a varied programme of exhibitions, which includes:
- Meeting design agencies to brief in new campaigns
- Meeting with colleagues in other departments such as curatorial, commercial and learning, to plan marketing and audience development campaigns
- Visiting touring exhibitions before they come to Birmingham Museums
- Planning/scheduling campaigns: sometimes this can happen up to 3 years ahead of time
- Analytics: finding out and evaluating the level of engagement with campaigns, especially digital campaigns
- Visitor research around who is coming to Birmingham Museums e.g. families, schools, tourists
“One day I will be at a Private View for a high profile exhibition, and on the next I will be meeting community members to collaborate on a project with them. This means there is real variety and a range of interesting projects in my job”.
Skills needed for arts marketing
These are some of the key skills which Amanda needs to use in her job:
- Organisation and time management – Amanda is always working on lots of campaigns at the same time
- Excellent communication skills, including being able to adapt the tone of written content for various audiences
- Social media savvy – Amanda uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, along with new technologies such as Periscope, as part of digital marketing
- Stakeholder management includes agreeing the tone of campaigns with internal colleagues and external funding partners, and keeping them up-to-date with new developments
Amanda’s top 3 tips for a career in museum marketing
- Volunteer lots and apply for internships in the sector
- Don’t be too picky: don’t be afraid to take a job in a museum outside of your expertise. Amanda started her career by telling visitors about steam trains, before moving back towards the arts.
- When applying for jobs don’t worry if you don’t have specific arts marketing experience; you can relate the skills you have developed in other volunteering or part-time roles e.g. leading guided tours shows excellent communication skills and the ability to tailor your message to different audiences.
Birmingham Museums Trust has lots of volunteering opportunities. Want to get involved? Find out more here