The National Trust is overhauling its marketing strategy in order to alter how it is perceived by the British public.
The conservation charity believes many of its supporters currently see membership as a season ticket to many of the UK’s major heritage sites and historic buildings. As a result, it is concerned that the focus on its work to preserve these attractions is being lost.
It has therefore unveiled plans to revamp its digital strategy in order to change brand perceptions, which it acknowledges is something that will not happen “overnight.”
In recognition of this fact, it has created a five-year digital roadmap, which will see key areas including its content strategy and mobile apps being overhauled.
Tom Barker, who was involved in the BBC’s digital lab project, is taking the lead on this effort and hopes it will help the National Trust “present ourselves as a much more cause-based organisation.”
“One of the charity’s problems is that people view us as a day-out option and not a conservation charity, which is actually what we are,” he said. “Our aim is to preserve places for everybody but that is an open ended challenge.”
Mr Barker identified “getting the basics right” as a key priority, in particular making the website more responsive and ensuring the mobile app has a full list of National Trust locations. Creating a new CMS to simplify the process of uploading content will also be high on the agenda.
He said: “My first job was to get the house in order. The way the organisation was running people were allowed to do and create their own content at a local and regional level with no guidelines in place. The website wasn’t responsive. People were saying ‘let’s do some innovation with beacons’ but my response was we have to get the basics right first.”
Meanwhile, the National Trust’s web editors are being given content training to make sure a consistent message is being put out through its blogs, social media posts and other marketing materials they are directly involved with.
“Conservation must be seeded across everything we do – at retail, hospitality, the website and when people visit,” Mr Barker said. “The way we structure content in the future will be about managing that message and making people aware we are not just about stately homes for the middle classes.”
Mr Barker added that while many of its members sign up after visiting their first National Trust property, this often proves to be their only visit of the year, which means they often fail to renew their membership.
The charity is therefore integrating its tills and databases, so it can get accurate information on which properties people visit and use it to offer more personalised marketing content. Furthermore, the mobile app now features a geolocation feature that advises users of National Trust properties located nearby. Mobile users can also input specific preferences, so they can find properties that meet their unique needs. For instance, a person in a wheelchair could use it to identify disabled-friendly locations, while a pet owner could see if a National Trust site is suitable for animals.
Mr Barker added: “We are a charity and all our work is based on fundraising so we have to do a number of things with the website: get people to understand the cause and its charitable nature, donate, join as members and visit places. That keeps the organisation healthy.”