As everyone who reads ARTSblog should know by now, the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study (AEP IV) was released yesterday at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio.
With 182 participating communities and more than 150,000 audience-intercept surveys, this economic impact study of the arts is the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted. As the study launched before 800 attendees and countless others who saw the announcement live on the web, there was a collective sigh of relief at Americans for Arts.
The story we had held on to for more than six weeks was finally able to fly free.
Embargoed press releases. Pre-written tweets and Facebook updates. Scripted talking points. There were a dozen different ways that the big story of the $135 billion impact of the arts in our country could have been “spoiled” early.
Multiply those communications tools by the number of participating organizations and other partners and members of the press who had this information for the last few weeks and it’s nearly a miracle that barely anyone spilled the beans.
When we released the previous study (AEP III) at the 2007 Annual Convention, social media wasn’t the cultural and communication force it is now. Twitter wasn’t even a year old. And while Facebook was a staple at universities and colleges, its use by nonprofits wasn’t nearly as ubiquitous as today. Very simply: in 2007 it was easier to keep a secret.
But now…all of us are reporters, and bloggers, and photographers, and witnesses to history. A flipcam or a smartphone allows you to widely convey any story you stumble upon…via a limitless number of online outlets—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. And in the blink of an eye thousands of people might be talking about it.
For the marketing and communications department of an organization, it’s a maddening game of “Hurry Up…and Wait!” Have all your ducks in a row. Make sure all the partners have they info they need on the study and the communications tools to spread the word, not to mention a great social media strategy. Ensure that the media and other partners have the story they need to tell. Everyone is ready to go, but then you wait.
182 partners, 70 Americans for the Arts staff, and at least 50 reporters sitting on an embargo of the national story—all of us waited to release and talk and spread the good news at one time. So we owe a big thank you to our study partners and the other people who helped make AEP IV possible. And another thank you for these same great collaborators who have kept the secret so that we could have a greater collective impact as we spread the good together.