Tuesday, 3 March 2015

#UKRGMoL: 'Communication: What You Say and How You Say It!'


 
UKRG's Second Annual CPD Event – Friday 27th February 2015

A Fundraiser's Point of View


For me one of the best things about being a registrar is the range of people that I get to communicate with. Starting communication on the best possible footing is important when we are often asking people lots of questions, trying to negotiate with them or need them to complete paperwork. Judith Kerr, Head of Trusts and Individual Giving at The National Gallery, shared her advice about business etiquette for the museums sector at the UKRG CPD event on 27 February.

Judith started by highlighting that lenders all have specific demands and expectations of how they would like to be treated. As with the advice we gleaned about public speaking and negotiating, the key is to adapt to the audience. Before we make the first contact we should consider who the person is, what their needs are, their interests and concerns. We should then consider if the person has an existing relationship with our institution, maybe a curator knows them well. Do we have any information on file about how they like to be addressed? Should we be communicating with their PA initially? Some lenders have very specific wishes as to how they should be addressed which might vary between letter, email or credit line.

First impressions are important: accuracy, politeness and efficiency are the aim and characteristics we would all aspire to. We should also follow brand guidelines, as our organisation may have a preferred style. Matching the tone and level of formality to that of the other party is a good guide to pitch communication at the right level but if we are instigating communication it is safest to start formally and reduce the level of formality if and when the other person does so, such as moving to first name terms.

When I started to work in the Arts, one of the new things for me was the amount of communication I had with people who have titles and honours. For this sometimes challenging area, Judith advised checking http://www.debretts.com/forms-address which contains a myriad of advice from how to correctly address the royal family to members of the clergy. Just a word of warning that once you start reading this website it is dangerously addictive, especially the information about British etiquette!

Another form of etiquette that can play an important part in a registrar's role is cultural etiquette when working with international partners. There is such a range of cultural codes of behaviour that things we may take for granted as good etiquette might in fact be rude for our international colleagues.

Once we have made a good first impression, developing the relationship is important through listening, building rapport and regular communication. Judith's advice that what someone says is not always what they mean is a good cautionary note to remember in our role where dotting the I's and crossing the T's is so important. I have learnt never to assume what the other party means, if there is any room for misunderstanding, clarify!

Katie Robson, Loans Officer, National Museums Scotland

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