Last week we attended the Let’s Get Real conference in Brighton, hosted by Culture24 on the topic of ‘Is your content fit for purpose?’. Cultural and heritage organisations from across the UK came together to listen to speakers including The Guardian, V&A, C4, Brooklyn Museum and discuss how to best use digital to tactically attract your audience, keeping content fit for purpose.

One of the key points of the day focused on how 'content needs to be human', despite being digital. Jane Finnis of Culture24 introduced the conference by discussing the idea of ‘content in a deeply human way’. Michiel van Iersel, co-founder of Amsterdam-based company Non-fiction, also argued that behind all the digital, there must be a human to human connection at the heart of a project, or the digital aspect simply won’t work. It was very positive to reflect on project failure and hear discussion on failure. In summary, don’t be afraid to fail, map the failure and use it to propel your project forward and listen to what your audience wants, rather than what you think they want.

Amongst some fantastic ideas from speakers, the Crit Room encouraged delegates to take a look at three different organisations’ websites, in order to better understand what works from the point of view of the audience. We were asked, what would the user want to see first? Does the mobile site need to have a different front page to the web interface, as mobile users may likely be standing right outside your museum and need to know the opening times, rather than scrolling through pages of your latest archives? Two key points from the Crit Room were the ‘15 second test’ and a comparison with pregnancy…

Every organisation should do the 15 second test on their website; within 15 seconds a user must be able to know what your organisation is, who it’s for and what it does for them personally. In a witty comparison, Anna Rafferty, guest critic for the session’s Crit Room, likened the building of a website to pregnancy. ''It’s all very well nurturing the website until the launch of a new site, but you can’t then abandon it after the excitement of the birth. Content must be ongoing and exciting, and it must be constantly keeping up with the needs of the audience''.

A personal favourite talk was that given by Shelley Bernstein from Brooklyn Museums on ‘Trusting the audience’. Like previous speakers, Shelley is a strong believer that ‘if it’s technology only it will fail’; there must be a human exchange in the process. Despite being Vice Director of Digital Engagement and Technology at the Museum, Shelley refuses to turn to digital until her idea works on paper – a brilliant insight. By starting with listening to the audience, and creating the idea manually on paper before turning to technology, the team at Brooklyn created an iBeacon driven app that got visitors talking to each other and engaging with the art. The digital app became simply the catalyst in the human interaction. The app itself is a very simple concept that lets visitors talk real time to experts, and has significantly increased engagement in the Museum. Shelley left us with the thought that highlighted her particular vision; ‘the local audience is the engaged audience. We’re not after the whole web’. Whilst this may not be true for every organisation, it’s certainly food for thought.

The conference was a great day, discussing pressing issues in the world of heritage and culture, as we move more and more towards digital, and how to ingrain this into the world of human culture. To join the conversation on Twitter, tag #LGR2014.

My favourite quote from the day comes from Michiel again: ‘enjoy failure, it gives you free time’.

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