Being relevant within our communities, building and sustaining strong brand and reputation, being economically viable and reflecting, or responding to, the world in which we live, are all priorities for museums. Audience engagement is at the centre of these possibilities. Successful, sustained and genuine audience engagement should be, and can be, a primary and measurable indicator of success for museums.
Museums exist to engage audiences. A museum’s collections, exhibitions, programs, communications, staff, facilities and its very building are all created for audiences – for the community, for the public, for everyone.
With this in mind, the IAE Network defines audience engagement as any function or set of functions within museums – or any organisation or company – whose core mandate is focused on building a strong and mutually-respectful relationship with audiences. For museums and organisations, the defining element of true audience engagement is that it is doesn’t focus only one one or two aspects of the audience relationship – for example customer service or marketing or events – but holistically considers the overall audience experience across all the points of contact or interaction a person may have with a museum, such as customer or visitor services, research and analytics, ticketing, membership, digital engagement, education, accessibility, exhibitions, displays and communications. When we move from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to how and why audiences engage with our museums, we can begin to provide meaningful, relevant engagement for many different people.