Tower of London owner to take smarter digital approach to expand globally

Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) has hired its first digital boss as it embarks on a five-year transformation plan aimed at “getting smarter” in digital and expanding its reach globally.

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The charity, which looks after royal palaces including the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, is undertaking a “comprehensive review” of its digital strategy. This includes the visitor journey, digital asset management, customer data and insight, IT infrastructure and marketing.

Carolyn Royston, head of digital transformation at HRP, tells Marketing Week the move is aimed at setting the charity up for a digital-first future. She says HRP is keen to take advantage of digital in more ways to improve its relationship with consumers.

Currently around 4 million people visit one of the royal palaces every year, but Royston recognises that this leaves hundreds of millions of people around the world who don’t. The charity wants to start speaking to and engaging with them as well.

“This is about modernising the organisation, but also about visitor expectations, reach and engagement. We have a growing number of people visiting our physical sites but we have a whole world of people that won’t be able to visit. We want them to be able to have a relationship with us,” she adds.

Royston, who has been in the role for less than two months, says the charity will undertake a number of big projects including a website redesign aimed at making finding out more about the palaces, its content and planning a trip easier.

She says the refresh will take a “customer-first approach” and make it easier for the charity to capture user data and use that to personalise the experience. HRP is also looking at how best it can use mobile and makes its collections available and accessible online.

“The key area is the visitor journey from first contact, which could be someone in LA planning a visit to London, to being on site and what we can offer afterwards and using digital to enhance all of that.

“What we want to do is get smarter about who our audiences are in the digital space and be able to tailor and personalise the experience and content we offer,” says Royston.

She believes content is critical for HRP and says the charity is already using it to build a very engaged and active audience on social media. However, she admits the charity needs to find new ways to showcase everything it has to offer to build a “more coherent story”.

HRP will also look to hire more people with digital experience across areas including marketing as it needs them. It is currently looking for a head of digital asset management to help make its collections available online.

HRP was set up as a charity in 1998. As well as preserving the palaces and their collections it works to uncover more about the history of the palaces and the lives of the people who lived and worked there.