Monday, 9 January 2012

English Heritage

English Heritage consults members on changing its "stuffy" name

English Heritage has asked its members whether it should change its name, amid concerns it is too “stuffy” and “off putting”.

Stephen Fry at blue plaque unveiling
Stephen Fry at the unveiling of the blue plaque to PG Wodehouse at 17 Dunraven Street, W1 Photo: Paul Grover
The Government agency, which protects historic buildings and monuments in England, has hired market researchers to investigate whether a new name would help raise its profile and broaden its appeal.
A series of focus groups were held last month in which panels of the organisation’s members were quizzed on the issue and asked for their ideas on what new name could be used.
Two hour sessions were held at the Research House facility, in central London, and organised by the Round Peg Field research company, with members paid £50 to attend.
During the discussions, members were asked a series of questions about the English Heritage name, including what it conveyed, whether it should be changed, and whether a new name would boost the numbers visiting its sites, which include Stonehenge.
One of those who attended, a longtime English Heritage member who asked not to be named, said: “The interlocutor opened the discussion by asking us about the name English Heritage and did we think it was a good name and was it what it said on the bottle.
“Then it went on to all sorts of things that got much more technical about the website and how it should be advertised. It was all really trying to find out how they would raise the profile of English Heritage.
“They asked whether it sounded too stuffy and asked whether we could come up with a more exciting title.
“We said 'no’, we thought it was fine. Compared with National Trust I think it’s a good name. But they were worried that the word 'heritage’ might put people off.
“Lurking behind the discussion was a comparison with the National Trust and the question of whether it was all too middle class and how one could broaden it a bit to draw in more people.
“That was certainly in the background even if it was never expressly put in as a question. The general feeling among us was that we thought it was less middle class and less stuck in the mud than the National Trust.”
The woman, who did not want to be named, said that the feeling among the six participants in her session were overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the existing name.
Participants were told in a letter that the results of their discussion would be analysed by an English Heritage 'project group’.
As well as running a series of visitor attractions, the organisation advises the Government on heritage issues. It also monitors the state of England’s historic sites and publishes the annual Heritage at Risk survey which aims to identify those in urgent need of protection and repair.
A spokesman for the agency said the research was to help it to “improve the visitor experience and generate income”.
He added: “In common with other visitor attraction organisations, we regularly seek the valuable opinions and feedback of our membership and visitors to the properties in our care.
“Understanding our current (and potential) members, visitors and supporters is essential if we are to continue to improve the visitor experience and generate income. Revenue generation is vital to protect, maintain and improve the national collection of over 400 historic sites, properties and monuments in our guardianship for current and future generations.
“It is not unusual for an organisation to ask the public for their opinions on the work it does and this may include seeking feedback on the name of the organisation.”
However, last night Dr Simon Thurley, the organisation’s chief executive, insisted the name was staying
“There is absolutely no intention whatsoever of English Heritage changing it’s excellent and very popular name and there never has been.
“We have to increase our profits by 100 per cent to £16.7 million. Our marketing department has a massive job to do and like any commercial visitor attraction they do market research to understand how we can attract more members and visitors.
“We have a £50 million plus commercial turnover now, so it’s big business and the research will be contributing to our marketing campaigns for next year and informing the design and content of the handbook.”