This is a pivotal time in the evolution of the Natural History Museum, as they continue to accelerate their impact at a time of profound environmental crisis.
The Museum, with a newly expanded definition of its role and mission, ‘to create advocates for the planet’, was considering ways in which it could grow reach and relevance nationally and internationally. It was clear that as one of their best-known and highest-profile global properties, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, could play an increasingly important role. The question was, how?
Our challenge was to help develop both a reinvigorated, shared definition of purpose and a new strategic framework that would provide the clarity and confidence for diverse teams to work together to develop WPY, finding new ways to be ever more relevant, resonant and engaging, as a vital component of the Museum’s mission. As well as establish a clear and compelling proposition for external partners, sponsors and collaborators; to help accelerate commercial growth and revenue.
Kick off & immersion > audit of existing data and research > 1-2-1 interviews with senior internal stakeholders > wider internal group consultation > 1-2-1 interviews with senior, global external partners, commentators and influencers; existing ‘customers’, industry and sector experts and influencers > initial insights and start points — co-creation of new definition of purpose > development and further co-creation of new innovation framework > development of messaging > final strategy development
The strategic shift
A clear purpose, a compelling commercial proposition
Whilst WPY has long been regarded as the ‘Oscars’ of wildlife photography, in existence for 55 years, respected and high profile around the world, it faces growing competition and is being increasingly affected by changes in technology, in audiences’ expectations of the role and impact of brands, as well as in the museum visitor experience.
In order to fully capitalise on its power to tell important and significant stories about the natural world and encourage broad audiences to engage with and act now on behalf of the planet, WPY needed a radical change in mindset and approach. One that married purpose and impact, with commerciality and growth.
From a prestigious property, to powerful portfolio
At the heart of our recommendations was a shift in mindset and definition, from a single, prestigious property to a powerful portfolio. This definition and resulting framework provide clarity on how an expanded definition of WPY can support commercial growth and new partnerships, identifying new products and experiences to generate additional revenue. Whilst also providing clarity on the role that different activities can play in growing reach and relevance, and how core assets can play an ever greater part in global conversations and storytelling about the natural world.
For a publicly-funded national museum operating at the heart of an increasingly sensitive global conversation about ‘environment’ and planetary health, the NHM leadership team balance their aspiration for wider and deeper engagement with a healthy aversion to risk. In addition, WPY represents an important income stream for the Museum, at a time of continued squeeze on public funding for the cultural sector. However, supported by our research, with insights gained from photographers, partners, global comparators and competitors, we successfully argued that the risk of NOT refreshing and ‘liberating’ Wildlife Photographer of the Year outweighs that of adopting a new purpose and mindset, that opens up new ways to extend reach and influence, as well as revenue.
Getting the balance right: prestige and kudos while developing new audiences and new opportunities
WPY is now thought of as a nimble asset of NHM’s, providing images, stories and experiences that can be leveraged and used in different ways with those whose aspirations and values match theirs. Sharing these assets in new ways allows the Museum to pilot and experiment with new experiences and opportunities for audiences to find out more, learn more, support and take action. And, crucially, innovative new ways to share WPY and its assets with new partners and new audiences can be developed without detracting from the prestige and gravitas of the core competition - generating the very best and most powerful natural world images and stories.
"Wildlife Photographer of the Year has worked well for us for many years and is both respected and loved by public audiences and the global photographic community. However, to unlock future opportunity and continue to increase impact and reach around the world we knew a strategic review of its overall positioning and purpose was required. Boardroom brought a real clarity of thought to the problem. Providing clear and practical advice on how to structure and approach the project, engaging brilliantly with diverse internal and external stakeholders and partners along the way. As well as leaving us with clear, compelling recommendations and an exciting strategic framework that will enable teams across the Museum to accelerate our plans for innovation and partnership; these will be of significant practical value as we plan for the future.”
Director of Engagement, Natural History Museum