6 episodes

Conversations on audience research and development for cultural institutions.


The Audience Research and Development Podcast Kyle Bowen

    • Non-Profit

Conversations on audience research and development for cultural institutions.


    Aubrey Bergauer on audience engagement [The Audience R&D Podcast]

    Aubrey Bergauer on audience engagement [The Audience R&D Podcast]

    Happy to share my interview with Aubrey Bergauer with you all today.

    Aubrey is the former executive director of the California Symphony and current vice president of strategic communications & executive director at the Center for Innovative Leadership at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    In this interview, we discussed:

    Different views of audience engagement,

    The role of UX research with regard to audience engagement and the impact of UX research on the California Symphony,

    Defining audiences in terms of behavior rather than (only) demographics,

    and a bunch more.

    While Aubrey’s expertise is in leading performing arts organizations, I think you’ll find her experience and views of audience engagement are highly relevant to museums and other cultural organizations.

    You can learn more about Aubrey’s work on her website, and on be sure to check out Aubrey’s articles on the long haul model on Medium.

    As always, reply to this email to let me know your thoughts, leave a comment below, or share your feedback here.


    Sign up to receive future interviews in your inbox.



    Aubrey Bergauer is the vice president of strategic communications and executive director at the Center for Innovative Leadership at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Aubrey, I've really been looking forward to this. Thanks so much for talking with me today.


    Good to be here.


    So we're just going to dive right in and I'm going to ask you, when I say audience engagement, what comes to mind?


    There's so many ways we can answer that question. I think audience engagement is everything. Everything about really user experience is how I would translate that. So that means everything from the very first interaction we have with a potential patron because if they're not a patron yet because it's their very first interaction, what is that? Probably something online is the answer.


    All the way through cultivating that relationship, that online journey, that first ticket purchase, that first in person visit when they come and that visitor experience. All of that is audience engagement. Then if that's just sort of the beginning, then it's how do we continue to engage and audience engagement means how do we build a relationship over time? How do we make sure that a first visit isn't a one off bucket list thing and instead it's the beginning of something that somebody wants to repeat and form a habit of. So I think audience engagement is all of those things.


    Yeah. One of the things that I find so compelling about your perspective is that you're thinking about things sort of persistently over time. I don't know if this has been your experience, but sometimes I find that when people think about audience engagement, they look for clues in the moment. I think of people looking at like, well, how are people behaving in a moment, which is a little bit different.


    I see what you're saying. Yeah. I guess if we're talking museums, could this exhibit get more attendance or interaction or could this online post to get more engagement, quote unquote. Is that what you mean? It's normally like a snapshot that we sort of look at.


    Yeah, a snapshot is a good way to put it. Are they asking questions on the [inaudible 00:02:17]? Things like that.


    Yes. I see. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


    Whereas, what I find so interesting about in these articles that you've written that I'll link to again in the show notes, you're looking at things over this extended period of time. I'd be curious to hear how that sort of took root for you and what were any of the obstacles that you encountered in trying to implement that vision?


    There are many statistics definitely in the performing arts industry. So hopefully I'll share some of these and there might be parallels that come to mind in the m

    • 25 min
    Altitudes of Engagement & Jobs To Be Done [The Audience R&D Podcast]

    Altitudes of Engagement & Jobs To Be Done [The Audience R&D Podcast]

    Today’s episode explores JTBD theory for museums and how segmentation may impact engagement efforts.

    Demographics may influence an individual’s behavior in some contexts, but how much does our income, ethnicity, or age influence motivations?

    How do the ways we define audiences impact our ability to engage individuals?

    How do different segmentation models impact our ability to identify gaps and opportunities in organizational offerings?

    There’s a transcript below if you prefer reading over listening.

    I’ll be back next week with an interview with Aubrey Bergauer. (You can read more and leave questions for Aubrey here.)

    As always, reply to this email to let me know your thoughts or leave a comment below.

    KyleP.S. I’m planning my next online event around this topic of audience segmentation and JTBD theory. I’m still considering whether it will be a reader roundtable — similar to our Member Research and Development Roundtable a few weeks ago — or if it might be a short, remote workshop series.

    If you think you might be interested in exploring this further with me and other readers, just reply to this email with a thumbs-up.

    I’ll email you in days to come with details, and you can decide if you’d like to participate.

    Get future episodes in your inbox.


    I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago and we found ourselves discussing audience engagement and jobs to be done theory, and this is something that I keep returning to. So I thought I'd do a quick ramble today and kind of explore the relationship between JTBD and audience engagement. So if you're not familiar with jobs to be done theory, you'll find a number of definitions online. The one that I think is particularly relevant to museums and similar visitors serving nonprofits is one that I would summarize in this way, so people are seeking some sort of progress, that people do not buy a product or a service or engage with an organization for the product or service or experience in itself. It's that those things are a means to an end. So people are seeking some progress and they will hire a particular tool or service or product to achieve that goal.

    There's some future desired state of being that they're seeking and the organization's offerings somehow helps people realize that job to be done or that life goal is, I would call it. So a job is not an activity or task. Visiting the museum is not a job to be done. Making a donation, viewing artwork or reading an object label, none of these things are our jobs or life goals, those are all activities. The job to be done is the underlying reason why someone pursues those activities. And I'll give you a concrete example in a minute, but I also just wanted to point out that jobs theory, jobs to be done is not just about marketing or market research either. I really think it could be a useful model if you're in almost any role because whether you're in visitor experience or operations marketing or development or executive director or director of education, I mean when we're talking about the fundamental goals that drive people, it's obviously relevant across the board. You can't silo life goals.

    So one thing that I return to often is this idea of how we differentiate between different groups of people. And I think this, the way we understand audiences, the way we talk about them and refer to them, I think that this is central to this question of how do we engage audiences. So when museums talk about audience engagement or development, people often describe visitors or different constituencies they hope to engage in terms of demographics. So we need to engage millennials or Latin X communities or lower-income individuals. And so when we differentiate between different groups based on jobs to be done as sort of this is the alternative that I'm proposing, we're focusing on the goals of

    • 13 min
    Randi Korn: Banning engagement and building trust

    Randi Korn: Banning engagement and building trust

    I spoke with list member Randi Korn, founding director of Randi Korn & Associates, about:

    Audience engagement: What it means and how temporarily banning the term may help us articulate goals

    Trust as a museum’s most valuable resource

    The evaluator’s role in planning

    Defining and measuring organizational impact

    Segmenting audiences and what it means to be “visitor-centered”

    Heads up: Randi and I had some intermittent wifi challenges while recording — Please forgive my choppy editing. Things do smooth out, though.


    Randi’s book: Intentional Practice for Museums: A Guide to Maximizing Impact | Amazon, Rowman & Littlefield

    RK&A Blog & Randi’s most recent article, I ❤️less is more

    Randi on Google Scholar

    As always, reply to this email to let me know your thoughts or leave a comment below.

    Thanks for listening,Kyle

    Sign up to receive future interviews in your inbox.


    (Download PDF)

    Kyle Bowen: Randi, I'm so glad I get to talk with you today. I've been introducing you to readers as the founding director of Randi Korn & Associates and the author of the book Intentional Practice for Museums, a Guide for Maximizing Impact. I was wondering if you could just share a little bit more about your work.

    Randi Korn: Well, yeah. I mean those are the two biggies. The Intentional Practice work is the combination of all of those years of studying visitors and conducting evaluations and doing research in museums. It occurred to me that someone needed to help museums think about their organization as a complete entity, an organism rather than the exhibits department putting together exhibits and the educators working with the public face-to-face. Everything was pulled apart. Back I don't know, 20 years ago I covered this in chapter two when the first time that all the funding agencies for museums were on the chopping block, people skirted around. It's like, "Where's the evidence of that museums make a difference in people's lives?" The truth was there was no evidence, no one had ever looked at whether museums do in fact make any kind of difference at all.

    But it occurred to me that in order to measure anything you need to clarify what you want to achieve. So at least you know where you're going and the researcher would then know they found it when they found it. Otherwise, anything goes and that really doesn't work when you're trying to provide evidence to people who say, "Where's the evidence?" I realized it wasn't an evaluation activity, it was a planning activity that needed to happen in museums, and thus came from up with all the stuff that's in the book.

    Kyle Bowen: That's interesting that you make the distinction between planning and evaluation. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

    Randi Korn: Yeah, so there's a link, planning and evaluation are linked and there's nothing we can do about it, they're just linked, except most people see them as separate activities. A planner might go about their work and then call the evaluator when the project is done and say, "We want you to evaluate this." The evaluator then says, "Well, what is it that you wanted to achieve?" And they kind of look at you like you're from Mars and you have to talk your way through it. So, "What were your big ideas that you wanted to impart to the public?" And really help them realize that if we're going to measure anything, we need a gauge to determine what success is and what failure is along that continuum.

    You can't evaluate anything without having a sound plan in place, and I believe you can't do your work effectively without having a sound plan in place. For example, Yogi Berra of all people said, "You don't where you're going, you'll end up in someplace different." That's true, if you actually don't have a guidepost and you know this, that a good plan is necessary to do good work and a good plan is also nece

    • 50 min
    The evaluative research loop

    The evaluative research loop

    A few responses from readers caught my attention this week. I felt there was a thread tying them together, so I decided to talk my way through it this morning in this recording.

    In future letters, I’ll go deeper into these topics — demographics vs life goals; evaluative research vs generative research. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts, objections, and questions or share your feedback here.

    Here are links to some past letters related to the ideas in this episode:

    The Museums-As-Progress Model: Demographics and relevance are not friends.

    Let the war on evaluation begin: Shots fired from the Department of Generation.

    Why are audiences declining: Is it because of changing demographics? Or changing behaviors, goals, and values?

    Defining terms: More on the generative–evaluative research spectrum; Readers have very different ideas of the relationship between market research and evaluation

    Who is playing offense? Map your organization's methods and resources on the playing field.

    You need a scout: Someone needs to go see what's on the other side of that field.

    Have a great weekend,Kyle

    Never miss a post.


    Kyle Bowen: I thought I'd discuss a few responses I've received to a questionnaire I'd been sending out to new readers. Basically when someone signs up for the newsletter, they get a confirmation email with a link to a questionnaire. The questions are things like, what made you decide to sign up? I'm just trying to learn more about people who are signing up and where they're coming from and their work and so on. But two responses jumped out at me this week and I think they're related in some way, and I'm going to read them both in a second. But overall, I think what made them stand out is that they called to mind these two tensions that I often write to you all about.

    The first of those is this tension between how we define audiences. It's this tension between demographics and life goals. The second tension is between evaluative research and generative research. So I'm going to, let me just read what the responses are. Let me read the first response.

    Now the question was, is there any particular challenge you're facing that you hope this newsletter might help you address? This reader wrote engaging specific demographics in my community that are low or missing from our membership and general visitation. So the challenge is probably a familiar one to you all. How do we bring in people who are not visiting or joining, how do we bring them into the organization's orbit, as it were?

    Notice how they're thinking in terms of demographics and what you'll see me writing about in these letters is an alternative way of segmenting the audience. So instead of thinking about people in terms of their ethnicity or age or income, we might also, or in addition, we might think about them in terms of their life goals. So I'm going to put some links in the newsletter, down below, to some previous letters where I've written about this tension between demographics and life goals. But getting back to this person's response, they want to bring in people who aren't currently visiting and presumably they're not quite sure how to go about that or the things that they've done so far haven't taken them as far as they would've liked.

    What can they do? Well, I think the best thing to do is to begin to study those non visitors and non members in terms of those life goals. What leisure activities do they pursue now? Where do they go to satisfy their curiosity or to socialize? What draws them to the alternatives to the museum, let's say. How do they decide how to spend their time? How do they pursue their goals? Why is the museum not a part of that consideration set today? To answer those questions, you have to sort of get out of the building, right? The organization has to sort of disappear into the rear view mirror and you hav

    • 9 min
    Dr. Paul Kortenaar: Building the right children’s museum for El Paso

    Dr. Paul Kortenaar: Building the right children’s museum for El Paso

    I spoke with Dr. Paul Kortenaar, founding executive director of the El Paso Children's Museum, about creating a new children’s museum. We talked about:

    Paul’s collaboration with the University Texas El Paso (UTEP) and how their research is informing the design of the new museum from facilities to organizational structure

    Exploring different and new membership models

    Overcoming “failures of imagination” by facilitating a sense of ownership among visitors

    Fundraising strategies and inward versus outward-focused research

    You’ll hear us refer to a previous conversation throughout the recording. I initially interviewed Paul as part of the research I’m doing into audience motivations. I found Paul’s perspective on audience research fascinating. He kindly agreed to talk with me again, so that I could share some of his stories with you.

    If you’d like to get in touch with Paul, he’d be happy to discuss audience research and museum operations. You can email him at pkortenaar@epchildren.org. And you can always reach me at kyle@superhelpful.com.

    Thanks for listening,Kyle



    Paul Kortenaar: We have to reach the kids whose parents have never imagined coming to a museum in order to give them those opportunities to imagine a different future. It's the kids here in El Paso as much as the kids in bigger cities across the States who are going to be building the future. And if they don't have that imagination, if they don't recognize that they're actually building the future, and the future isn't just something that happens to them, then we failed.

    Kyle Bowen: Hi, I'm Kyle Bowen, founder of SuperHelpful, and I'm speaking with Dr. Paul Cortner, founding executive director of the El Paso children's museum. Paul, thank you so much for speaking with me today. I wonder if you could start just by sharing a little bit about your work there at the children's museum.


    Paul Kortenaar: So this museum started as a Quality of Life Bond initiative. There was a very large Quality of Life Bond in 2012 that looked at really transforming the community. El Paso is a very large city, but it's not a city with a lot of amenities and the community got together to decide to change that. And one of the things they wanted to add was a children's museum. As often happens with these projects, things languished for a while. And then what happened was that the community foundation came in our local community foundation and decided to take this on as an initiative for the community. So they got together with several large donors in the community and decided to move this children's museum forward to make sure it became a reality. And so the city has accepted that proposal.

    So the city's total contribution is now 40 million. And the community foundation and myself are raising 20 million in the community to build this new museum. So that's where we are right now.

    Designing a new museum for a specific community

    Paul Kortenaar: I think one of the things you were interested in when we talked previously was our initiative to try to make this the right museum for El Paso. And we just had a community meeting yesterday, or at least UTEP organized a focus group yesterday that resulted in some very interesting answers that will change the way we operate. And so that's what I want to think about. As you design a new museum for a community, it's very important that not only the exhibits and the building are the exhibits and building the community want, but that your operations actually respond to the community you're in. So the question we've been asking ourselves for these two years, and I feel very privileged to be designing a new museum because it gives me an opportunity to do this, is what makes this children's museum the right museum for El Paso.

    In many cases, you could just... It feels like you could jus

    • 41 min
    The Audience R&D Podcast?

    The Audience R&D Podcast?

    The best time of year to visit the east end of Long Island is September/October. Everyone has returned to the city, and the locals begin burning the shuttered yoga studios for warmth.

    I’m in Montauk, looking through your responses to my questionnaire on podcast listening habits and looking out over the Atlantic on a windy morning.

    Here is a boring picture of a beautiful place to write and review survey responses:

    If you responded to last week’s survey on podcast listening — thank you! (If you’re a museum professional reading this on the web, you can take the two-question survey here.)

    16 of you have responded so far, and 13 of those who responded said they listen to at least one podcast more than once a month.

    I’m distributing the survey elsewhere and should have more meaningful results in the weeks to come. But understanding the listening habits of current list members is perhaps most important to me. It’s interesting to see that of the 64 specific podcasts you all named, just two of them were related to museums, and those two were mentioned by two different people, only once.

    Why would people who will subscribe to a museum-focused newsletter not listen to museum podcasts? Is it that the podcasts out there are not what they’re looking for? Or am I just tapped into a community of people who prefer to read?

    One comment that caught my eye:

    I follow a variety of Museum and Fundraising podcasts - but I almost never bother listening to them.

    Why? If you’re the person who wrote that — or if you feel similarly — reply to this email and tell me what prevents you from listening to those podcasts. I’d love to hear more.

    Learning out loud, and including other people’s voices.

    I’m asking what podcasts you listen to for a few reasons — one is that I’m considering recording some interviews in the future to share with you all. I’d like to see if audio might be a good way to share some of the ideas and inspiration I’ve found in talking with so many museum professionals this past year.

    Today I’m sharing episode 0 of what may someday become The Audience Research and Development Podcast. I hadn’t planned on creating a podcast any time soon, but earlier this month, I interviewed Dr. Paul Kortenaar, the founding executive director of the El Paso Children's Museum. I came away from that conversation feeling especially energized. Paul is asking some very interesting questions as he plans for the opening of the museum. Questions like: How do families decide how they’re going to spend their time on a Saturday afternoon?

    That may seem like a simple question, but my hair stood up and caught fire when I heard it. I was thrilled to hear an executive director so invested in understanding the context of people’s lives and how they go about making decisions as to how they spend their time.

    I’ll be sharing my conversation with Paul with you later this month. Soon, you’ll be able to subscribe to future interviews in the podcast player of your choice.

    If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please let me know in a reply to this email. I’d love to hear from you.

    Thanks for reading,KyleHow helpful was this letter? Share your feedback.

    P.S. A list member requested more information on what other readers are listening to. I’ll have a more thorough report once more survey responses come in, but — for now — you can see responses from just mailing list members here.

    Never miss a post — Get future episodes delivered to your inbox.

    This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at superhelpful.substack.com/subscribe

    • 2 min

Top Podcasts In Non-Profit