Laura is Head of Content at the National Football Museum in Manchester, UK, where she is responsible for overseeing the collections, exhibitions and communities teams. Prior to working at NFM, she held leadership roles at Oxford University Museums and the National Trust. Laura has 8 years’ experience as an independent museums consultant, a role in which she worked with museums of all types and sizes to improve resilience through transforming organisational practice, better understanding audiences, improving evaluation, and developing innovative programming. Laura holds a PhD in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester, UK, for research into resilient community engagement practice in museums.
Outside of work, Laura likes going to gigs, exploring new places and visitor attractions, watching football (her own footballing ability is, sadly, non-existent), enthusing about dogs (particularly her own rescue Staffy, Chance), and spending far too much time scouring vintage shops to find the perfect 80s dress.
Jon is Exhibitions Manager at the National Football Museum and has worked in the sector for 15 years. He’s worked on a number of exhibitions including Curator of the show ‘Strip: How Football got Shirty’. Born in Blackpool, his seaside upbringing has had an impact on his exhibition ethos of bright colours, cheeky humour where appropriate, experimentation and “what’s the worst that could happen?!”. Prior to working at NFM, he served candyfloss to the punters at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and worked in the curatorial department at the Manchester United Museum. With a remit to lead the National Football Museum’s move into digital, Jon has co-presented the Museum’s successful podcast and developed a popular online version of the ‘Strip!’ exhibition.
Outside of work, Jon is a vinyl obsessive and adores electronic pop and guitars. He supports the mighty Tangerines of Blackpool FC and is a season ticket holder at the cathedral of football, Bloomfield Road. He likes visiting attractions and traveling a lot, with a preference for open spaces where he can freely walk and drink ale (not at the same time!) in the countryside.
We discuss why it’s helpful for museums to have a podcast and what you need to think about strategically if you’re going to create one. We also talk about their new podcast, Strip!, and all of the lessons learned from creating it.
“Have a reason for doing it. Know who your audience is. Test if it’s the right thing to do, and it’s fine if you have all of those things and then you try it and it doesn’t work because then you can evaluate why it doesn’t work, but you need to know why you’re doing it.”
What will you learn from this podcast?
- Why it’s helpful for museums to have a podcast
- What you need to think about strategically if you’re going to create one
- Their new podcast, Strip!
- All of the lessons learned from creating their own podcast
To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast. You can also read the full transcript below.
Your host, Kelly Molson
Our guests, Laura Crossley and Jon Sutton
Kelly Molson: Jon, Laura, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. Look at us as well. We’ve dressed for the occasion. We’ll have to do a little standup, we’ve all got our strip on. Our favorite strip and all will become clear a little bit later why we are dressed as our favorite football teams today.
Okay. As ever, we start with our lightning round. Jon, I’m coming to you first. What is the greatest movie that you have ever watched?
Jon Sutton: I don’t know. Karate Kid’s very good. Karate Kid’s a good film.
Kelly Molson: With Karate Kid, are you a massive ’80s fan? Is this your thing?
Jon Sutton: Yeah, that’s one of the films that left a great impression on me. I’m watching Cobra Kai at the moment, which is the follow-on.
Kelly Molson: Can we talk about Cobra Kai? Because we were obsessed. I wasn’t feeling very well, and I tucked myself up on the sofa with a duvet and Karate Kid. I was like, “Everyone keeps talking about Cobra Kai. We should do it. Let’s start it tonight.” Oh my God. Genuinely, did the whole two series in less than a week. We just smashed through it.
Jon Sutton: Yeah, I’m stopping it. I’m calming it down because I don’t want it to end. I think we got a bit giddy and then I’m calming it now because I want to… Series three is coming very soon so I want to make it that I’m there for it.
Kelly Molson: So, you haven’t seen the last episode yet?
Jon Sutton: No, I’ve not seen the second, I’ve only just joined the party.
Kelly Molson: It’s feel good, isn’t it? That’s what I love about ’80s films, they’re really feel good. That was a great answer.
Okay, Laura, I’m coming to you. What fictional family would you be a member of if you could be?
Laura Crossley: The Simpsons. That’s really obvious, isn’t it? Partly because my family was absolutely obsessed with The Simpsons and even now, I find myself saying catchphrases. Like, “I have a feeling that we are going to win the lottery.” Or like, I’m a vegetarian and I always quote things from the Vegetarian and I think other people know what I’m talking about but I’m like, “Oh no, it’s just me and my family who know that.”
Jon Sutton: It was on the first day when you said, “Cowabunga dude.”
Laura Crossley: I skated in, in a hat.
Kelly Molson: Love it.
Laura Crossley: When I was younger particularly, I would get a lot of grief about basically being Lisa. Like when I was younger, I was very, very right on. I was a vegetarian and in the episode where she becomes a vegetarian, she can see bits of animals. That was exactly like me.
Jon Sutton: Can you play the saxophone then?
Laura Crossley: Can’t play the saxophone but I could play the flute. I was in an orchestra, I could play the flute.
Kelly Molson: Oh, that’s close enough.
Jon Sutton: Going to play the piano.
Laura Crossley: And in my peak teenage years, I did go out, but I also spent early Friday evenings in Salford Youth Orchestra. So, I was really cool.
Kelly Molson: You really are Lisa. You’ve already joined the family, you’re there. Oh, I love it.
Okay, we’re going to go to your unpopular opinions. Jon, I’m going to come to you? What’s the thing that you think is true but nobody else agrees with you on?
Jon Sutton: I think it’s humanity’s worst invention, umbrellas should be banned really. I hate them. They’re a weapon, pretty much, and particularly as people are more and more on their phones these days while they’re walking down the street, if they’re carrying an umbrella, you could lose an eye.
Kelly Molson: Do you not think that this is an issue with people looking at their phones rather than the umbrella though?
Jon Sutton: No, I think it was even before. I thought everybody hated them. Apart from Rihanna, I thought everybody hated them.
Laura Crossley: I don’t think I’ve ever hated an umbrella. I lose a lot of umbrellas. My mum once bought me 11, you know those little pocket-sized ones? She bought me 11 of them for Christmas one year. I had a whole stocking full of one pound bargain umbrellas because I just leave them in places.
Jon Sutton: That’s the thing, you think, “Well I don’t want to spend a lot of money on them because I’m going to lose it,” but if you buy a too cheap one, it’s going to be inside out, probably leave things, it just doesn’t stop revolving that’s the problem.
Kelly Molson: That’s a great answer. Again, not really what I was expecting but interesting. All right, Laura, what’s yours?
Laura Crossley: Mine’s going to sound really geeky now which is that I think that often theme parks are better at talking about history, teaching people about history and the environment than museums are.
Kelly Molson: Oh wow, okay.
Laura Crossley: Do you remember when we could go on holiday and things like that last year?
Kelly Molson: The good times.
Laura Crossley: We could go to other countries and it was really nice. I went to Florida last year and I didn’t really go to Disney as a kid or anything but it was really fun last year and I nearly came back and wrote a big blog post about all the things that museums can learn from theme parks because I think they can learn absolutely loads. But one of them definitely is about teaching people about history and the environment and science because it just talks about things, you don’t even realize you’re learning. You think you’re just on a ride or having fun or in a queue or just walking for a different land or watching a film or doing something that’s just really fun and then you come out and you’re like, “I’ve just learned about this new [inaudible 00:05:55] a new kind of animal that I didn’t know about. I’ve learned about this really interesting thing in history that I didn’t know about.”
Obviously, we can’t see the original objects and that is a really good thing about museums but I just think the way that theme parks are quite sneaky about the way that they teach people history. Maybe it’s mainly Disney because that is a big theme across Disney.
Jon Sutton: I worked five years at the Pleasure Beach, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, for five years. I must admit I didn’t really think about it from that point of view. I felt that I was not getting paid enough. I wasn’t very good at doing candy floss either, terrible. If you asked me for a stick of candy floss and I would give you them through gritted teeth. I’d really try and shove a bag onto them because a bag was much easier to make.
Kelly Molson: Oh, I always fancied a go of that though.
Jon Sutton: Oh my god, it’s really hard. It’s so hard.
Laura Crossley: Really?
Jon Sutton: Particularly in Blackpool where it’s windy all the time. The machine’s quite dangerous as well because it spins around but you have to make sure you’ve got the right amount of moisture on the edge of the… You can’t have too much moisture but you need some moisture for it to stick to the sides. It’s really, really hard.
Laura Crossley: It’s like science.
Kelly Molson: I’ve learnt so much today, I really have. I haven’t even asked you any good questions yet. I’ve learnt loads.
Jon Sutton: Museums are a breeze compared to producing candy floss.
Laura Crossley: That’s really interesting.
Kelly Molson: I think, Laura, it’s about making it fun.
Laura Crossley: Yes absolutely, and immersive.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, and then you don’t really realize that you’re learning, so you suck it in.
Laura Crossley: Yeah, the other thing I really like is that it’s really multi-sensory. You can hear music or read stuff and the atmosphere and so you just, yeah exactly, you don’t realize you’re learning. It’s just really cool. Whereas at museum’s I think sometimes, we don’t talk enough about the story. I think sometimes it’s just like, “Oh, there’s another object.” As Jon knows, I’m not the biggest fan of labels in museums. Maybe that’s an opinion that won’t go down well with the museum sector but I do think we put far too much stuff on labels and always want people to read everything.
And I think sometimes it’s nice to also help people use their imagination and tell a story, and not just be like, “This is a thing. Look at this thing and here are some facts about it.” It’s just, I don’t think it’s very engaging.
Kelly Molson: Well, this leads us really nicely actually to what we want to talk about today because the reason that we are dressed in our strip is because we want to talk about your new podcast, it’s called Strip the Podcast, but it’s in line with the exhibition that you’ve got running at the moment which is Strip! How Football Got Shirty. And I guess that goes a little bit hand in hand about what you’re talking about in terms of telling a story about something.
So Laura, just for our listeners, can you just give us a little overview of what the National Football Museum is. I mean, it says very clearly what it is in its name, but what do you do there?
Laura Crossley: We do all sorts of things. We are England’s only national museum for football and we basically explore the impact that football has on all our lives and how it shapes identity and a bit like I was saying about telling stories, we are moving much more towards telling stories and sharing other people’s stories about the diversity of the game. So we are not just about talking about men’s elite game, although that’s obviously a big part of football but we’re also about the women’s game and also, I think a really good thing that we can do is challenge attitudes around homophobia and racism.
I watched that Anton Ferdinand documentary last night and just thought, “Gosh, there’s still so much work to do in terms of challenging racism in football.” So we’re trying a lot more to tell those difficult stories and hopefully change attitudes and make football something that’s really welcoming for everyone because it’s something that touches all of our lives, even if you’re not a football fan, it’s not something that you can escape. It’s something that you might dip in and out of or you’ll know people who like football and so it is about telling those really broad stories and for me, about celebrating diversity and making everybody feel like they have a place in the game and that they’re represented in football.
Kelly Molson: Lovely. And Jon, the exhibition is something that you’ve been organizing. So can you tell us a little bit about what this exhibition is about? Again, How Football Got Shirty, I think we could maybe hazard a guess at that.
Jon Sutton: There’s no shorts or socks in the exhibition. That was the first thing. We’re not having shorts, we’re not having socks, it’s just shirts. So yeah, it’s got over 200 shirts going right back to the Victorian era, so it’s very comprehensive. We did the first century of football shirts because there wasn’t an awful lot of change and then we branch out into the ’70s of Admiral and the dawn of replica shirts. And then we’ve got some bangers from the ’90s, lots of the bright and the garish ones. We’ve got a bit about the retro revival. Got a real controversial hall of shame area which actually, the six shirts in the hall of fame are all pretty good shirts, to be fair, generally. But they’re there almost for a malfunction of design, that’s why they’re there like that.
And then right through to the present. So one of the big things now is eco-friendly shirts, so sustainability and we’ve also got loads of shirts from the women’s game as well because I think we’re the first exhibition that have worked out that basically women can play football too and women wear football shirts.
There’s been football shirt exhibitions in the past or there’s almost like kit experts and things like that but I don’t think the women’s game and the shirts that women wear has been told yet. So it’s really comprehensive. One of the toughest things is having to do the top 20 shirts of all time. It’s so subjective.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, I’ll bet.
Jon Sutton: I’m a Blackpool fan and I didn’t put a Blackpool shirt in the top 20.
Kelly Molson: There’s no Tottenham shirt in the top 20 either, I checked.
Jon Sutton: There are a lot more Arsenal shirts than Tottenham shirts as well.
Laura Crossley: Oh dear, anyway.
Jon Sutton: The shirt you’re wearing is in the exhibition.
Kelly Molson: It’s a great shirt.
Jon Sutton: We’ve got a Jurgen Klinsmann shirt as well when he did the dive celebration. We’ve got that in the museum as well. It’s not in the exhibition.
Kelly Molson: Perfect moment. Okay, so great exhibition, great museum. You’ve been shut for most of this year which has been a challenge all around in the sector. So what I really want to talk about is what you’ve done to engage your audience while you’ve been shut, and one of the great things that you’ve done is launch the podcast. It’s a big thing to do, it’s a bold move, and that’s what I want to talk about today really. So I guess my first very short question, which has probably got a really long answer is, why a podcast?
Jon Sutton: To be honest, I don’t really listen to podcasts, so it was quite hard presenting one because I didn’t really know much about the basis of being the host on a podcast, I’ll be honest. And I think David realized that very quickly, our digital producer. I think David realized that too when we started.
Kelly Molson: What have I let myself in for?
Jon Sutton: I was amazed. On the day, luckily Tim, who is our graphics and interpretation producer, basically the three of us in our exhibitions team, we kind of led it I suppose, and luckily, he’d done a script which was really helpful because I was going there without even a script. Laura, why did you [crosstalk 00:13:36].
Kelly Molson: Yeah, how did you come to the decision that a podcast is the thing that you’re going to create to engage people with? How did that process work?
Laura Crossley: I think a podcast would… because I joined the museum almost a year, just over a year ago, and even when I joined there were talks, before we even knew about COVID, there was talk about doing a podcast as a way to reach the audiences and share our stories in a different way. I think because our mission is all about sharing stories and a podcast, I think, and that narrative, is a good way to do that.
So we’d always thought about doing a podcast and then Jon’s team got some funding and it made sense to make that about the Strip exhibition. But certainly, when we then shut, for me it became more of an imperative. I know that museums decided to see lots of different things during lockdown but we have on our strategy, the aim to build a virtual museum, basically reflect the galleries and the content of the museum, but digitally, whether that be in our social media content on YouTube or via podcasts or whatever it might be.
And so I saw this year as a way for us to just experiment because what other year do you get… I mean, obviously, it’s been a bad year but the one positive, I think, is that it’s allowed people to throw caution to the wind and just say, “Well, we’ll just experiment with lots of different ways to engage people because why not? And if it doesn’t work then it doesn’t matter and we learn from it.”
And I really hope that that’s something that museums take into the future. I think we always try and plan and try and be perfect, whereas actually, I think experimentation is much more exciting and just seeing what happens and not really worrying too much if things don’t work because so what? You’ve learnt lessons and you try again. So for me, that was the really good thing about a podcast and also, I did really feel for them. Strip opened in my first week at the museum, and so it was open for what, three months, and then shut.
And I could tell when I joined, I mean, Jon can talk a lot more about it because it’s his exhibition, but I went to the opening night and I remember just thinking, “Wow, so much passion and love and care has gone into this exhibition,” and it was incredibly sad to see it have to close, well, the whole museum have to close. So I think we focused a lot on putting content out about Strip. Partly for that, because it was just such a great topic, something that was really engaging. Something that we know that if the museum had been open, lots of people would have come to the exhibition and we really wanted to give them the chance to experience it in a different way.
Jon Sutton: Yeah, on the day, the last day of March before we closed, we did a frantic tour around the exhibition and we got our own Strip website as well dedicated to the exhibition. And in co-curating the exhibition, we had so many assets. I’d spoken to a lot of the kit manufacturers, a lot of the kit experts. We’d had a panel discussion, been out to some clubs. We had so much and then only so much of that can go into the exhibition.
So we’re sitting on all these assets and I think we divided it so some went out onto the Strip website but then even then, we had so much and we just thought, “If we theme it right, we’ve definitely got a podcast here.” And so we’ve managed to use some of those assets in the podcast but also recorded new interviews with people as well for it. So luckily, I think we’ve done a decent job on it.
Kelly Molson: So you’ve done six episodes, is that right? Six episodes so far. Let me just go back a bit because what you said is really interesting, Laura, and I think I agree with you in terms of playing with things this year. We all know it’s been a challenging year but it has given us that opportunity to do some new things and do some different things that we don’t know if they’re going to work, we don’t know what the reaction’s going to be but let’s try it, right? Very much the same with this podcast that we’re on. I had no idea what the… We’d pre-launched it the previous year. Hadn’t really got a lot of traction and thought, “Let’s bring it back. There’s a lot of people that are potentially sitting around maybe with not a lot to do at the moment. Maybe we can give them something to listen to.”
And so, that was the objective really. What can we push out there that’ll be helpful and engaging for people right now. So with the podcast, did you actually set any objectives for it or was it purely, “We’re just going to do this, see what happens.”
Laura Crossley: I think this is what we were grappling with a little bit because we were kind of pushed into doing digital before we’d written a big strategy about it, and as I said, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s kind of like writing a strategy for research and development which isn’t a bad way to do it. For me, Jon might disagree I don’t know, but it’s about engaging more people in a deeper way and growing those audiences and also hopefully, some of the people we engage will actually physically come to the museum. Acknowledging that some people who live in different countries might not actually physically be able to get to the museum now or in the future.
But for those people, making them aware of us and getting a kind of loyalty to us and looking out for our stuff and feeling part of the museum and then for other people, hopefully encouraging them to come through the door and become physical visitors.
Kelly Molson: And I guess you won’t see that until a bit later on potentially, whether you do make that shift from people that are listening to the podcast, to coming along. Jon, I’ve got so many questions about the podcast because I know myself personally, how much time and effort and a challenge it can be. You said earlier, you’ve never made a podcast before. Have you ever been a guest on a podcast? Have you ever had any interaction with any of them?
Jon Sutton: No, I don’t think I have. I don’t even think I’ve been a guest. I think I just assumed they were a bit like radio but not live. I have listened to some podcasts but not many, so I had no experience really.
Kelly Molson: All right, so you were at the point where you’ve got all your assets and you think, “Yeah, we’ve got a podcast here. We can create some content and its valuable content, it’s interesting.” Where did you start because that’s a big learning process, right? To saying, “I’ve got this idea about a podcast, I’ve got all this stuff, now I need to make a podcast.” What did you have to learn?
Jon Sutton: Well luckily, [crosstalk 00:20:02]. The first episode was a bit… Looking back now, if I listen to it now, I think it would be quite rustic and a little bit raw. One thing I did before we did the podcast, I listened to some other podcasts about football shirts. They were all pretty good, generally, but at the same time, I thought they might be slightly better at presenting than we would be. They may be more confident in front of a microphone, et cetera. But at the same time, I thought they might not necessarily have the assets we’ve got and also the knowledge that we’ve acquired in curating the exhibition.
So that was a bit of me that thought, “Well, what’s the worst that can happen with this thing and if we are terrible, at least we’ve got the guest to pull us out.” The first one we did wasn’t the best but then the next one we did was really good and then what we did was we went back to the first one and re-recorded it. But we did that with most of them, so it wasn’t necessarily really a quick process. Sometimes we’d start in the morning, rattle through in say, an hour, get lunch. Then we’d go, “Actually, I think we could do that better now.”
So most of them, we did it in two takes. There was a period where we recorded, I think, probably three or four within a two week period because we were going into the museum, say, once a week when we could. And we found that we found a rhythm to it and then there was one episode, the last episode in the podcast, which I think is actually somehow the best one. We’d been about three, four weeks between recording the fifth and the sixth and that day, we had Linda working on it. She was fantastic. We had Tim working on it, he was fantastic.
Whatever reason, I think I might have had a couple of too many drinks the night before or something, but I was absolutely appalling. Nothing was flowing that day, it was awful, but listening to it, you can’t tell. So, David’s a magician.
Kelly Molson: So you had in-house editing skills, which is a huge bonus because we outsource our editing, we’ve got a brilliant, Steve is our… He’s an award-winning podcaster. I have to just give him a little plug there. But that’s the one thing that we didn’t have in-house, so we were like, “Well that’s something that we need to get professional help with.” That’s a huge cost saving and, like you say, it means that you can go back and do things again, so you’ve got that time.
Jon Sutton: I mean, there’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as well. David would cut something, for example, and I’d go, “David, you just cut me.” The pinnacle moment of the podcast, for once I was really funny in that point and David’s just like, with a straight face, “It wasn’t very funny at all, Jon.”
Kelly Molson: Steve does this to me all the time.
Jon Sutton: That’s the thing. Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you get any kinds of rights, do you?
Kelly Molson: None at all. My bits are always the bits that have been cut.
Jon Sutton: The weird thing, I’ve been finding myself cutting myself as well. So when we have the to-ing and fro-ing, I’ll say to David, “You need to cut me at this point,” because I sound like an absolute imbecile. And it feels weird being the… It’s almost like if you did an exam or something and you’re the teacher putting the red pen through your own examination.
Kelly Molson: What about equipment or anything like that? I’m just thinking about other museums that might potentially be looking to make this decision and do something like this. Did you have to invest heavily in any specialist equipment or did you have things that you just got? Did you just get by with what you had?
Jon Sutton: Yeah, I think what we try and do with each exhibition is we try and purchase bit by bit, like piecemeal, I suppose. Little bits that make us stronger in the future so we’ve got a legacy from each project we work on. I’m not really technical, I’ll be honest. I think we got new headphones and the new microphone but we had some other microphones. I remember though, I had the worst microphone. It wasn’t a massive outlay. The other thing is, David is really particular and Tim, we are quite particular, but I think really, you don’t have to have mega-quality to do it.
For me personally, I think the stories and what you’re going to tell is more important than if there’s a little bit of hiss on it, for example. And we did have to lower our standards a little bit because we did some interviews with people via Zoom, et cetera, for it. So it’s not all slick, I suppose. But yeah, it wasn’t a massive outlay and luckily we’ve managed to, each exhibition we do, we try and buy a little bit of stuff.
Kelly Molson: All right, two questions. What went well and what didn’t go well?
Jon Sutton: I think we managed to replicate the themes of the physical exhibition, I suppose. If you hadn’t seen the exhibition, I think you would’ve got a good flavor of what it was about and I think, actually, at times, we even went a little bit further. In the exhibition, for example, there’s a Lewis FC shirt and it’s got What If on it as a hashtag and it’s about the fact that they are the world’s leading club on equality. Their men and women’s teams get exactly the same resources, same pay. There are not many clubs doing that.
And you’ve got a label on it and we’re really strict, I think it’s 50 words on a label, but we then take it one step further, so we then in the podcast, feature somebody from the club about what that stance means. So in a way, it looks at it and expands on it. It adds more to it. So I think in that respect if you think about the podcast and the Strip website as a duo in digital terms, I’d still want people to come and see the exhibition but you’re getting a really, really good flavor of what we’re about.
Things that didn’t work was, you can’t really tell, but it’s quite a time consuming, I think, recording a podcast. David’s having to do a lot of editing. Tim, our digital producer’s doing the theme music to it which obviously you don’t have to do, go down that route, but he was bringing his own symph-pop tune-age to the proceedings. But even writing the script’s quite time-consuming as well, so you’ve got to dedicate quite a lot of time to it really but luckily this year, we’ve been able to do that with lockdown and that experimentation aspect.
I suppose one thing is that if you’re doing it, don’t see it as an add-on to what you’re doing really. I think you need to build it in from the start. I think in the past, we’d never done a podcast. We’ve done online exhibitions on our website but they’ve been very much afterthoughts. Whereas we did build it into our thinking when we opened the exhibition in, I think it was November. 2019, we knew we were going to do some of this stuff but when we had the lockdown, it almost accelerated it, I suppose.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, that makes sense.
Jon Sutton: Nothing major. I remember the police sirens going off quite a lot when we were trying to record and then the lift would be going up and down, so it makes a racket. You’ve got to choose your space as well.
Kelly Molson: That is really good advice actually because our podcast has been a lot better since I’ve been recording it at home. I do get the occasional dog bark but that’s better than the constant trains that go past our office. So, it’s swings and roundabouts.
This brings me to a really good question to come back to you on Laura, actually, and it’s something that you mentioned before we started speaking which is around what you said about not just bolting a podcast on, thinking about this strategically. Why is it helpful for museums or attractions to have podcasts and what do you need to think about strategically from the start if you’re going to go down this path?
Laura Crossley: I’d say this for everything about digital museums, that I think we can get a little bit excited about the word digital and just go, “Oh yes, we need a thing. We need a digital thing and if we get a digital thing then we’re going to engage lots and lots of people and then they’re all going to come to the museum and it’s all going to be amazing.” And I try and remember back to my Masters, which was a long time ago now, so before we were talking about things like podcasts, we talked a lot about digital interactives and it was in the first session where the lecturer was like, “Digital interactives are great but they will break and you have to have a reason for doing them and there has to be an audience in mind.”
And I think sometimes with digital, we don’t plan with audiences in mind. It’s like everything that we know about audience-centric planning goes out the window because we think, “Digital. Cool. Amazing.” And I love digital stuff and I do listen to podcasts. Adam Brookson’s podcast is my happy place and I do think they can be really good for museums in order to tell those stories and engage people who might not have heard of the museum before. Build the brand. Engage them with stories that they wouldn’t hear if they weren’t in the museum.
Keeping engagement with audiences. I suspect that some people who listen to the Strip podcast have come to the exhibition but want more information and also, as I said, potentially convert people into visitors to the museum. But I think it’s really important firstly, that there’s a reason to do it. The podcast took a long time, it wasn’t the quickest digital thing that you could do, so you do have to have a reason for doing it. I also think, really thinking about who the audience is and is the audience right for a podcast or should you do something like a YouTube channel or should you get a TikTok channel. I don’t know, all the various different digital things that we can do.
And also really plan it into strategic planning because the time it takes, the capacity, the resources. It can feel like it’s free because you might not have to buy loads of equipment but it’s not free because it takes people away from doing stuff on the galleries and the museum. So it is really important to schedule it in and make sure that you have the provision for it. And although I think that museums are getting better at having roles, actually it’s been really interesting, over lockdown, I’ve seen so many more roles for digital content producers who just solely focus on blogs and podcasts and digital channels. So I think that’s definitely going to be a trend that continues but you do need someone to take ownership of these things and not just say, “Oh well, someone will do it at some point.”
So yeah, definitely have it in the strategic plan. Have a reason for doing it. Know who your audience is. Test if it’s the right thing to do, and it’s fine if you have all of those things and then you try it and it doesn’t work because then you can evaluate why it doesn’t work, but you need to know why you’re doing it. And also I’d say, next week, we’re doing an evaluation session about the podcast which is really important to me because again, I want it to be a learning experience. So there’ll be things that have gone really well and there’ll be things that haven’t as much but it’d be good to really test that. And I’d also really like us to talk to people who listen to the podcast and hear what they think about it and whether it has done what we set out to do.
Kelly Molson: That is really good advice, and actually, my next question was going to be, what would be your best piece of advice to other museums who were thinking about doing this? But I think you just summed it up absolutely beautifully there, Laura. Jon, have you got anything that you would add to that in terms of your best piece of advice for a museum that’s thinking about starting a podcast?
Jon Sutton: Yeah, I think I might have covered some of it already but it’s things like building the time, don’t see it as an add-on, what’s the audience? The Strip, I knew that we already had an engaged crowd for that and also it’s not particularly niche either. We’re not going for necessarily the most niche subject in the world, football kits and what they represent. Particularly at the moment, I think lockdown brings in… This year, if anything, has brought in a real nostalgia to yesteryear, hasn’t it?
The first shirt, basically, I ever had. Wore it when I was eight years old. It’s an adult one but it’s the same design, so I knew there was an audience for it. So that’s how we built around the exhibition but if we were talking about football studs, for example, boot studs or something like that. I’m not sure whether that-
Kelly Molson: That’s like the niche that, isn’t it? I definitely wouldn’t have listened to all six episodes of that podcast, Jon.
Laura Crossley: [inaudible 00:32:44].
Jon Sutton: Exactly, but the thing is, you need to realize what you’re presenting isn’t niche. I’m not sure all museum people do that, I think you get bogged down in the day to day and maybe you need that bigger picture of actually what I do is quite a niche.
Kelly Molson: Great advice.
Jon Sutton: So we knew with this one it wasn’t too niche.
Kelly Molson: Really, really good advice. We’re coming towards the end of the podcast. On every episode, I ask my guests if there’s a book that they would share with us and it can be a book that’s either helped you in your career or just a book that you really love and our lucky listeners get to win this book. So Laura, what have you chosen for us?
Laura Crossley: Well, I was racking my mind for museum books because I did a Ph.D. in museum, so I have obviously read some amazing and really not so amazing type of books. Some amazing museum books that have really shaped my career but I was thinking about what book do I actually really love and again, remember that I’m a geek. The book that’s really stayed with me for a long time is, Of Mice and Men, which I read when I was in year 10 doing my GSCEs, a long time ago now. And I was thinking, “Has that affected my museum career?” And I think it has because of all the books that I like, like that and The Catcher in the Rye and A Room with a View. Well firstly, they’re all set in the past. Well for me anyway, they might have been contemporary at the time but for me, it was reading about the past and so I think that kind of bringing history to life.
A bit like I said about theme parks. I think that books can do that as well really, really well and sometimes in a more emotive way than museums do. I think museums have the power to do it but they don’t always do it. And also, all those books are about this big and you can probably read them in a day if you put your mind to it. And again, I think that’s why I really like the power of storytelling but not over using words, just telling, a bit like with films. I just want an hour and a half. I just want to watch Stand By Me in an hour and a half and be told a really good story.
And the same with books, just tell me a really emotive, evocative story, that paints this amazing picture and transports me into that world. I don’t need too much and that’s what I think museums should really aim to do as well. Think about storytelling and description and emotional engagement, as well as just, “Here’s an object,” and expect people to be engaged with it.
Kelly Molson: I love that. I love that you’ve tied your book choice in with your career and how it’s focused you on what you do. Jon, what about you? What have you got to share with us?
Jon Sutton: Bringing you back to football shirts. When we were starting this exhibition, there was two books that stood out. One of them was book that was The Worst Football Shirts Of All Time, and I was flicking through it and I was like, “Well, that’s a banger, that’s a banger. These are amazing shirts. This book is so wrong.” But the thing is when you look at these best ever shirts and worst ever shirts, often they’re the same, they’ve just put opinion. But the book really that got the exhibition, made me say, “We’re definitely doing this exhibition and we need to bring this author in,” is a book called True Colors by John Devlin. He’s done various books. His latest book is all about international kits.
He does these beautiful illustrations of the shirts. He draws every single shirt, for example, England. He will have drawn in that book, every shirt that England have worn. Really nice illustrations. The passion for the subject comes across, the depth comes across as well. His books are amazing and we actually hired him as an exhibition consultant on the basis of his brilliant books.
Kelly Molson: Wow, bet he never saw that coming when he was writing his books.
Jon Sutton: No exactly. We can’t feature every club in the exhibition, we’ve got 200 shirts, but there is this rainbow of football shirts that he drew for us and so most clubs are covered under that, for example, Derby under white, for example, Tottenham under white. And so, True Colors by John Devlin is my choice and it’s the right one.
Kelly Molson: Great but I love that book has been part of this journey that you’ve been on with the podcast as well. It’s really great to tie it all together. Well as ever, if you want to win a copy of those books, then if you head over to our Twitter account which is Skip The Queue, and you retweet this episode announcement with the comment, “I want Laura and Jon’s books,” then you will be in with a chance of winning them.
I’ve loved having you both on today, it’s such an interesting topic because I’ve a personal experience of just how difficult it is to start a podcast, edit a podcast, all right, Steve does the editing, but pull a podcast together. Think about who you’re going to have on as guests. It’s a huge amount of work and I think it’s a brilliant task that you’ve gone ahead and done this.
Laura Crossley: Can I just say, I think yours is brilliant. It’s so good.
Kelly Molson: Thank you.
Laura Crossley: I think that visitor attractions have a lot to learn from each other and I sometimes think museums can be quite snobby and not see themselves as a visitor attraction. Whereas actually, one of the best things we can do is give people a good day out. We should sometimes just relax a bit and say, “Actually, a really great thing we do is give people a good day out.”
Kelly Molson: Yeah, it’s making memories, isn’t it? So six episodes of the podcast have been released, what’s next? Do you think there’s any more episodes coming?
Jon Sutton: David was really, really brutal in his editing, so I think there could be something in a bloopers episode, like a special. He’ll probably tell me, ‘No,” but I was thinking like some of the bits, sort of me being stupid generally.
Laura Crossley: You’ve said it now in public, so that’s it. [crosstalk 00:38:40].
Kelly Molson: It’s a commitment.
Jon Sutton: It’ll get vetoed, I know it will. It never gets their own way. I think it’s probably it for Strip for the time being but then we’re going to look at hopefully something that talks about the other stuff we do as a museum. So something that isn’t exhibition focused but is about our general offer and the stories we want to tell and the power of football ultimately.
Laura Crossley: I think for me, really feeling down to who it’s for because we could just do it in so many ways and tell so many different stories and maybe that’s something that museums do grapple with a bit, that unless it’s about a special exhibition, you have to really think about who it’s for and what you’re trying to do, otherwise you could do a podcast that just never ended and you talk about a different random thing every week.
Jon Sutton: That doesn’t mean it’s not going to have those studs [crosstalk 00:39:28].
Kelly Molson: Honestly Jon, if anyone wants to listen to a podcast about football boot studs, email me and let me know and I’ll pass this onto Jon but I think I’m going to get very few emails about this.
Laura Crossley: That’s episode 527.
Kelly Molson: Guys, it’s been so good to speak to you today. Right everyone, if you want to listen to the podcast, it’s called Strip! The Podcast and you will find it on all of your usual podcast channels. Go and download it, it’s really entertaining. I have listened to five of the six episodes now and look, I’m a football fan, I love football shirts and I really, really enjoyed it. I think you’ll get a lot out of it if you’re a football fan in general. So definitely go and download it. All that’s left for me to say is, “Thank you both for coming on.”
Jon Sutton: Thanks very much, brilliant.
Laura Crossley: Thank you, I love the Skip The Queue podcast, so it’s really cool. Thank you so much for inviting us.
Kelly Molson: Thank you for making it… It’s the guests that make it, so thanks.
Do you know someone we should be talking to?
Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?
If so, email us at email@example.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.