Icon’s Impact: Introducing international audiences to conservation

14 Dec 2022

What was the goal we set out to achieve

Icon’s strategy sets out our strategic aim to champion the value that conservation brings to society, and also to extend our reach within the UK and internationally. With this intention, we decided to deliver our 2022 Annual Lecture on the controversy surrounding Kim Kardashian wearing Marilyn Monroe's dress at the Met Gala, to capitalise on the global popularity of the incident and raise awareness of conservation with new audiences here and abroad.

In May 2022, fashion conservation went viral when Kim Kardashian wore Marilyn Monroe’s dress on the red carpet for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual gala. Social media erupted, with some people expressing anger and shock that the dress was allowed to be worn, and many conservators, curators and scholars stated that to put an iconic and historic garment onto a human body was problematic. 

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Annual Lecture speaker Sarah Scaturro (former Head Conservator at the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art) considered how conservation thinking has evolved beyond absolute prohibitions towards people-centred approaches that may facilitate the wearing of historic garments in some contexts. The lecture used this case study to explore how conservation issues can go viral and how conservators can engage these opportunities to communicate compellingly and with nuance the varied nature of conservation.

Given that the media covered this story globally for several weeks, we set out to reach the general public and aimed to promote the lecture more internationally to attract new supporters from overseas.


What did we do

We have planned a cross-chanel communications campaign using data insights to target the audiences we wanted. Our main channel was Instagram, as we have identified it as the most suitable platform to reach out to young people interested in conservation both within the UK and overseas. On Instagram, 11.3% of our followers are between 18-24 years old compared to 2.4% on Facebook, and 19% are located outside the UK.

Our main posts on Instagram were designed to appeal to new and young audiences. Making use of Instagram as the most visual platform, we chose images of celebrities Kim Kardashian and Lizzo to appeal to these audiences and generate interest in the topic. We then introduced our audience to the debate in our sector on whether people should be allowed to wear historic costumes or play historic instruments. These reached 2,156 non-followers and were highly effective in generating discussion in the comments.

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However, our main objective was to direct people to buy tickets to the lecture. While Instagram does not allow for links within post captions, we made sure to direct people to our Stories where we shared further details to the debates and engaged them through opinion polls, after which we directed them to our ticketing page. We have scored a link click rate of 6%, much higher than the platform’s median rate of 0.24% (Socialbakers, 2020).

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While the tone of our posts is informational, on Stories we aim for a more fun tone to connect with people more personally. Fun emojis, stickers and polls encourage the audience to talk to us directly, and we received testimonials praising the lecture.

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What was the outcome

A record number of 646 people booked tickets for the Annual Lecture 2022, out of which 223 (34.5%) were located outside the UK. This meant that we were succesful in attracting a large international audience, as more than a third of attendees were international.


What will we do next

Engaging a global audience is an important goal for Icon. We want to work to retain this audience and promote the value of conservation, but also the value of Icon Accreditation. We are hoping to attract new supporters and also new members to join us.


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