Media Training Success Story

Media Training Success Story

As well as media training many business clients across a variety of industries, we also have several clients in the creative and cultural sector. The British Library is one of them and we have worked with their in-house press team on all their major flagship exhibitions over the last 8 years.

This included their Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition with the British Library requested bespoke media training for the Exhibition Curators.

This was an interactive show, celebrating the act of writing across the globe, displayed into 5 parts: The Origins of Writing; Writing Systems and Styles; Materials and Technology; People and Writing; and The Future of Writing.

The story unfolded through just over 100 objects from the British Library’s extensive collection, some on display for the very first time, bridging 5,000 years and spanning five continents. Items ranged from carved stone inscriptions and medieval manuscripts to early printing, modern handwriting and digital inputting systems.

Through audio-visuals and interactives, visitors were given the chance to immerse themselves in the story of writing and offer their own thoughts on its future. Writing: Making Your Mark explored how the individual choices we’ve made over thousands of years have been the driving force behind each step in writing’s evolution.

The Client Aim

With culture being driven by the experience economy with audiences looking for unusual experiences that they can talk about with friends and share on social media, the British Library is now competing with a wide range of leisure activities. So it was important that their media spokespeople conveyed the exhibition in an engaging, interactive and fun exploration of the past, present and future of writing and that they should communicate a sense of the extraordinary in the ordinary in all the regional, national and international media coverage planned and then requested as the project gathered momentum.

This exhibition also had to build on the success of the British Library’s highly popular cultural programmes over the last few years, including Harry Potter: A History of Magic and Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War – both had been blockbuster shows and we had also media trained their spokespeople for these shows.

Our Response

The first element was preparation, research and development:

  • We undertook thorough preparation and research. This included meetings with the press team, surveying their spokespeople, reviewing the communications plan and and reading all the relevant materials including the book to accompany the exhibition.
  • We then developed a media training programme, which would tap into the key messages about the relevance of writing’s evolution to the present day, as well as creating a sense of curiosity around how symbols and pictographs evolved to become the letters, alphabets, and tools for communication that we use today.
  • We devised questions covering the key angles and targeted audiences to help unpack the exhibition through the stories behind the objects and to highlight the diversity of the collection to attract a broad range of audiences with different interests.

 

The second part was delivery of the media training to prepare the Curators, who had differing levels of media experience, for Writing: Making Your Mark press and media interviews.

  • Working in collaboration with the British Library Press Team and Curators, we set up a studio on site and created an environment that was both realistic and put the spokespeople at ease, so they felt confident to try things out.
  • We balanced their knowledge with our media expertise to unpack stories so they could be articulated well.
  • We shaped the key messages, bringing to life the stories behind the items exhibited.
  • By testing the key messages through a variety of broadcast interview formats including filming live in the British Library foyer, the messaging evolved throughout the day and we helped create media soundbites, identified news stories, feature ideas and Q&As based on the interview practice sessions.
  • We prepared the Curators for their interviews for the busy Press launch day and beyond by making sure their spokespeople felt comfortable and confident on radio and in front of the camera and could communicate the key messages in a conversational way clearly and effectively.
  • We rehearsed more difficult and confrontational interviews, identifying the potential ‘curveball’ or challenging questions they may face, and this also helped finalise the reactive Q&As.
  • All the interviews were recorded and transferred to both the spokespeople and press team. These were accompanied by a written report on each spokesperson’s performance with constructive feedback, to remind and reinforce the learnings from the media training.

 

The Outcome

The media coverage was very successful and widespread with the spokespeople interviewed by key publications including The Guardian, Evening Standard, The Telegraph, The Times, The New York Times, as well as The Lady, Londonist and Time Out. The exhibition was also featured on several radio programmes with the Curators interviewed on the likes of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Review. They appeared on a range of national and international TV channels including Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch and the Turkish Public Broadcaster, TRT World Showcase programme.

With online audiences increasing in importance, the media spokespeople were quoted and appeared in many online publications (including BBC Culture) and popular online platforms. They successfully took part in several Facebook Live Streams which included tours of the exhibition and panel discussions. This gave the Curators a chance to reflect on 5,000 years of history, demonstrating that the writing traditions of civilisations past continue into the writing practices of today.

The extensive coverage helped reinforce the British Library’s brand and raised its profile further, positioning it as an organisation that hosts compelling and relevant exhibitions. Writing: Making Your Mark attracted a wide range of audiences, including a younger demographic right through to the British Library’s core cultural audience. Enhanced by a series of events which featured leading experts exploring everything from hieroglyphics and alphabets to typography and tattoos, as well as a Late at the Library ‘lettering party’ sponsored by Montblanc, and soundtracked by DJs featuring famous names from the early 1980s New York subway graffiti scene, Martha Cooper and Lady Pink.

Through being interviewed in the press and media, the spokespeople also drove public awareness and therefore attendance of the free school workshops, a range of inspiring adult courses including masterclasses on Japanese calligraphy and Ancient Greek, and the Library’s first autism-friendly private view of the exhibition.

 

Exhibitions for which we have media trained British Library spokespeople

  • Harry Potter: A History of Magic
  • Leonardo da Vinci – A Mind in Motion
  • Writing: Making Your Mark
  • Shakespeare in Ten Acts
  • Empire Windrush
  • Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy
  • Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
  • James Cook: The Voyages
  • Buddhism
  • Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels
  • Hebrew Manuscripts
  • Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK
  • Propaganda: Power and Persuasion
  • 20th Century through Maps
  • Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths
  • Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire
  • Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms
  • West Africa: Word, symbol, song
  • Discovering Literature: Shakespeare

 

Harry Potter: A History of Magic

As part of the Curator’s media training we delivered in anticipation of the intense national and international media coverage of the British Library’s Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition, we were asked to help prepare their spokespeople for an hour-long documentary. This aired on BBC Two and featured an in-depth look at the exhibition, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the publication of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The film featured interviews with the Curators from the British Library exhibition, as well as readings by actors from the Harry Potter films, including David Thewlis, Evanna Lynch, Warwick Davis, Miriam Margolyes and Mark Williams. In the run-up to the exhibition and as part of the documentary, JK Rowling ventured behind the scenes of the British Library, with the Curators revealing on camera to her, the real-life counterparts to her fantastical world. Everything from shrieking mandrakes and Elizabethan invisibility spells to the mystery of ancient Chinese oracle bones and the real-life search for the Philosopher’s Stone.