English Heritage cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites bringing the story of England to life for over 10 million visitors each year. Over the last few years the digital content team has been developing specific curatorial content (as distinct from marketing content), in order to enrich visitor experiences with authoritative historical context and showcase the work of English Heritage curators, historians and conservators. The Audience Agency was commissioned to explore how users engaged and interacted with this type of content, understand whether it resonated with them and asses it’s overall effectiveness. The resultant detailed report presented the variations and similarities across the different audience groups and included specific recommendations for the digital content team, to assist them in continuing to develop the effectiveness of their online content.

The Fit

The Audience Agency has an extensive track record of helping cultural and heritage organisations understand, engage and develop their audiences through exploring their digital and online behaviours.

The Task

English Heritage uses its audience segmentation to actively target four key groups. In order to continue developing a compelling digital strategy, they needed to understand clearly what types of content, and in which formats, are most engaging to each of those four audience segments, as well as those who had no previous connection with English Heritage as either physical or online visitors. In the latter case, they wanted to understand what kind of content could help to build relationships with these untapped audiences. In addition to research insights, the team at English Heritage also wanted clear recommendations for how the findings could be used to drive deeper engagement by users.

The Project

The Audience Agency recruited users from each of English Heritage’s key audience segments, along with non-users. Understanding that visiting and browsing a website is generally a solitary experience and the response by each user can be personal and nuanced, The Audience Agency chose a methodology that closely reflects the authentic browsing experience. Offering an online interview as the participant interacted with the content was a more effective way to gain candid and usable insights than traditionally discursive approaches such as focus groups. A proportion of these participants were then selected for a follow up ‘depth’ interview, which allowed the team to explore emergent themes in more detail. The results of the research provided rich insights into the ways in which the content resonated across each of the audience groups, including with those who had not previously engaged with English Heritage.

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