Marla Sincavage

About 18 months ago, my boss informed me that they had decided to shut down the New York City branch of my division and, as the saying goes, “my position was being eliminated.”

I saw this as my big chance to do something different. Just exactly what that was I had no idea; I just felt very strongly that I was meant to use this opportunity to make a career change. I had spent fifteen years working in finance, and there were things about it I liked, but I never LOVED it.

I didn’t have to think too hard to recognize that I love music. So my first logical thought (because I am a very logical person) was to look for a finance job at a music company, like Universal Music or Steinway pianos. Unfortunately, even though almost every company has a finance function of some sort, I didn’t find a plethora of finance jobs at music companies that fit my background.

But I still had this strong pull toward music, and was determined to “think outside of the box.” I must have been going on about all this to my piano teacher one day, when she said to me, “I have a friend that works at Carnegie Hall, do you want to meet with him?” Are you kidding me?? CARNEGIE HALL? As in, the Mecca of Music? YES PLEASE!!

So I met with this young man, who was very nice, and asked him on a very basic level, “what would someone with a background like mine do at a place like Carnegie Hall?” He thought development would probably be a good fit.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jenna Hartzell

When the call for applicants went out for the first ever Local Arts Classroom (LAC) program with Americans for the Arts I didn’t hesitate to apply.

I had attended the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in 2011 and returned to work thinking, “I need more.”

I felt the need to stay connected to what’s happening on a national level, but had a desire to learn more about what I should be doing as a Program Director of a local arts agency. I read blogs, followed @Americans4Arts on Twitter, and was connected on a surface level, but missed the sense of camaraderie the convention facilitated.

Enter the LAC and a chance to learn about cultural planning, making space for art, advocacy, board and staff development, fundraising, and making the case for the arts; a chance to learn with arts administrators from all over the country; a chance to absorb different perspectives and experiences of those who know what it’s like to be an arts administrator.

I say “absorb” because that was how I approached the class: to be a sponge, and absorb every concept, idea, and piece of advice I could possibly take in.

One concept that I’ve applied frequently since I graduated from LAC is one about fundraising, planning, and community:

When planning for an event or fundraiser, organizations typically take this approach:

  • Name the activity/goal/event
  • Plan
  • Execute
  • Evaluate
  • Ask: What is a success for the organization?
  • Ask: Was it a success for the community? Read the rest of this entry »

As we entered the 2012 Arts Marketing Blog Salon, I said that we were taking cues from change agents, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. All true, but we were also visited by The Giftgiver, The Cowboy, and The Court Jester.

The Many Hats a Successful Blogger Needs to Wear

More so than any label, I would say all our bloggers are Supreme Storytellers. Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Clark

Last month I attended the first XOXO festival in Portland, OR. The event was intended to bring technologists and artists together to explore new ways of working that are possible on the internet. Most of the attendees work in the tech sector, but a few brave artists decided to attend. I, for one, am very glad that they did. Artists need to be a part of this discussion.

There is a lot that the arts and technology sectors can learn from each other, about developing an audience, about transformative experiences, and about how to communicate with large groups of people. There are lessons to be learned on both sides, and I look forward to future events that can bring these worlds closer together.

A New Role: Community Manager

The role of community manager is a great example of something that we in the arts can learn from the technology sector. The job title has sprung into existence in the last few years, primarily at consumer facing tech start-ups.

These companies need to develop and serve a base of users for their products, and the community manager’s job is to understand the needs of that community, to talk to them, and to connect their needs with the development of the core technology product.

Inside the company, the community manager’s role is to speak for the users. There’s a single person responsible for understanding and representing the needs of everyone who doesn’t work at the company. Because of that structure, there’s always someone in meetings who can talk about the experience of the people you serve. And if the community doesn’t have the answer you need ready, it’s their job to find it, and make sure it’s part of the company’s process.

These structures for tech companies on the social web have emerged organically along with the companies themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Sara R. Leonard

It’s that time of year. Promotions are popping up left and right offering audiences the opportunity to “Subscribe Now!” at deeply discounted rates.

Our arts organizations are looking for audiences: new audiences, loyal audiences, committed audiences, and in some cases, any audiences. We believe in our art. We believe in our organizations. Surely all we need to do is tell people about the work we’re doing and they’ll see the value and come running, right?

Sadly…wrong.

As leaders and marketers in arts organizations, we often seem to operate on the assumption that people should and do want to attend the arts, and it is the practical matters of time, money, location, and the oft-lamented competing leisure-time options with which we must wage war in order to bring those people into our venues. But is it true? Well, on the one hand, yes!

Research from the RAND Corporation’s A New Framework for Building Participation in the Arts shows that, for people already inclined toward participation in the arts, practical barriers are indeed an issue. Strategic use of promotional and other tactics that address these barriers to participation is important as we make sure that those who are inclined to attend the arts do, in fact, buy tickets and attend. And, with any luck, your excellently designed efforts might just entice them to attend your organization rather than another.

But is that enough?

The flip side of the research tells us that practical barriers really only come into play once people decide they are interested in participating. Until people reach that point, addressing practical matters won’t have much of an effect on them. If that’s true, how are we supposed to diversify our audiences and bring new people into relationship with the arts, not to mention with our arts organizations? For that, we have to address the other barriers, the perceptual and the psychological. Read the rest of this entry »

Will Lester

In the digital age, many marketers are fond of pronouncing the death of direct mail. Yet the data is clear—the environment has changed, new techniques have emerged and smarter approaches to direct mail are getting superior results than in days gone by.

Why? It comes down to increased trust, better targeting, and integration with online channels.

Trust

The contents of the typical American mailbox have changed dramatically in the last few years. Online bill pay options, increased digital and social marketing, and the spiraling costs of postage (6 price hikes in 6 years, but who’s counting?) are some of the reasons why overall mail volume has dropped by almost 20% since 2006. These changes correspond to exponential increase in the daily volume of our email inboxes.

Recent research shows that many consumers prefer and trust mail more. Epsilon’s 2011 Channel Preference Study showed:

•    75% of consumers say they get more email than they can read
•    50% of consumers prefer direct mail to email
•    26% of all U.S. consumers said they found direct mail to be the most “trustworthy” medium, an increase from prior studies, which even includes the 18-34 year old demographic.

This makes sense, particularly when we stack these findings next to the consistently positive results TRG sees in direct mail response analysis. Mail is getting opened and getting results.

Our take? Digital communication is free or very cheap. It’s easy for anyone to send email. While many legitimate companies use it liberally, scammers are even more prevalent. Just this month I received a seemingly legitimate email from my bank requesting that I follow an embedded link. It seemed a little fishy and in fact turned out to be fraudulent. (Fear not, I didn’t click through.) Read the rest of this entry »

(Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 25, 2012 as part of Michael Granberry’s regular Dallas Morning News column.)

The Business Council for the Arts has been around for 25 years, building “corporate investment and opportunities in the arts.” It became apparent [September 25] that its new partner, Mayor Mike Rawlings, shares that mandate.

In his state-of-the-city address, Rawlings touted his “business/arts initiative” as “an opportunity to forge ‘friendships’ between small, medium and large business and local arts organizations.”

The mayor called the arts “one of the most powerful economic generators for the community,” noting that during the 2009 fiscal year, arts and cultural organizations contributed more than $1.06 billion “in economic impact to the North Texas economy.”

Katherine Wagner, the CEO of the Business Council for the Arts, calls it “a win-win situation,” applauding the mayor for believing “that every business that makes its home here and makes its money here also has a responsibility to foster the city’s culture.”

Gold Metal Recyclers, she says, is an example of a local business already committed to the partnership. It’s teaming up with Creative Arts Center of Dallas, Wagner says, to merge the materials sold by the business with the talents of those at the center. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from the Ballpark

Posted by Doug Borwick On October - 4 - 20122 COMMENTS

Doug Borwick

Last month I was minding my own business attending a minor league baseball game with friends, thinking not a whit about the arts. Then something remarkable happened.

Between innings, a young girl who had endured multiple open heart surgeries that saved her life was recognized, along with her family and doctor. She then ran around the bases as part of a program by the ball club called “Home Run for Life.”

This girl’s story had nothing to do with baseball. The program is clearly an effort on the part of the team to connect with its community. So that got me thinking…

What was the mindset that led to this promotion?

Clearly, it was about the team’s interest, for pragmatic reasons to be sure, in being seen as a responsible, caring member of the community. What really got the wheels turning was trying to imagine something similar happening in the arts.

Some of you may say that such a program would not be appropriate for an arts organization, and I am certainly a stickler for focus in adhering to the mission. This specific example is probably not a helpful model. But it’s the mindset that led to the “Home Run for Life” program that intrigues me.

What sorts of activities might come from a view of the “arts self” wanting to connect with the community, even ones that were not directly related to the arts?

After I started down that road, I began to look at the other activities at the ballpark that evening. There were fan participation activities, singalongs (including, of course, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), contests, and fireworks at the end. Many of them were silly to the point of being embarrassing. Many (most?) had little or nothing to do with baseball. I would certainly not advocate for toddler races in Symphony Hall! Read the rest of this entry »

Jenifer Thomas

Every time someone questions the value of data mining, I can’t help but hear the Gold Rush-era adage, “There’s gold in them hills!”

The wealth of information gleaned from data analysis can provide great guidance in decision making, especially in relation to pricing. And if you’re a data junkie like me, you might enjoy data mining, too.

Analyzing data gives insight into how the audience values our product. We can then price according to that value.

For example, an organization may assume that its box seats are the best in the house, and price them accordingly. But as the first performances near it’s clear that total sales are increasing, but the boxes aren’t selling. Often this prompts a frantic decision to discount those seats to encourage sales. But hold steady! A more reasoned approach is to ask a few honest questions:

  1. Is the box ticket price too high?
  2. Is our perception of the value of a box seat too high?
  3. Are the range and relationship of the prices out of whack?

Here’s where data comes in—mining into where people are choosing to sit in the house and what they are paying often gives answers.

For example, if we look at the data and see that demand is actually strongest in front-and-center orchestra radiating out, and there is little demand for the boxes, then the audience is spelling it out for us. They value the orchestra seats more and are willing to pay a price they deem reasonable for that value. The box seats are not as valuable to our audience, and the pricing is not reflecting that difference in value. Read the rest of this entry »

Nina Simon

A lot of conversations I have about audience development with organizational leaders go something like this:

“We want to find ways to make our institution more participatory and lively.”
“Great!”
“We want to cultivate a more diverse audience, especially younger people, and we want to do it authentically.”
“Fabulous!”
“But our traditional audience doesn’t come for that, and we have to find a way to do this without making them uncomfortable.”
“Hm.”

Audience development is not an exercise in concentric circles. You can’t just start with who you already have in the middle and build infinitely outward. In most cases, growth means shifting, and shifting means that some people leave as others come.

This is incredibly scary. It requires trading a certain history for an uncertain future—a nerve-wracking prospect no matter the situation. It’s particularly scary if your institution relies primarily on private donors, members, and gate sales to cover operating costs. When funding is tied to a specific subset of your audience, you get protective of them, even if they are not the people most likely to ensure viability and sustainability in the future.

When I took on the director role at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, we were in a dangerous situation. We had a small cohort of members and donors who loved and supported us. Outside of that, our bench was very thin—no brand recognition, no up-and-coming audience, no big funders with an eye on the future of the organization.

Now, a year later, we’ve more than doubled our attendance, increased membership by 30%, attracted national foundation funders, and gotten great ink locally. Our audience has gotten younger and they come more frequently. Read the rest of this entry »

Adrion Porter

Is your brand being heard and not just seen?

That is the question that companies should answer with an emphatic YES! Yet many marketers focus their time and resources primarily on visual stimuli to create brand awareness. As the marketplace is becoming more crowded, brands are challenged to break through the clutter and distinguish themselves from the competition.

This calls for a need to embrace innovative methods of reaching consumers beyond the eyes, but also through the “ears.” Here lies one of the most powerful, yet under-utilized branding tools—sound.

Why is Sound Essential to Brand Performance?

One word…Emotion.

Research has proven that sound has a direct path to the emotional and memory parts of the brain. Think about those special moments when music and sound have altered our mood, enhanced feelings, and guided us to places long forgotten. Hearing the sound of birdsong in the morning; an opening theme from a television show; or the sound of our mother’s voice.

As more consumers make purchase decisions driven by emotion rather than function, having sound as part of an identity system allows for brands to resonate in ways that visuals cannot. Audio branding communicates those intangible brand associations that pull at the heartstrings and create unforgettable experiences.

Some brands have been successful market leaders at harnessing the power of music and sound with great effect. McDonald’s “Ba-da-ba-ba-baah…I’m Lovin It” is just as recognizable as the golden arches.

The start-up sound of a MacBook Pro provides an emotional trigger to Apple enthusiasts.

Along with the peacock, the NBC three-tone chimes are the network’s brand assets. Read the rest of this entry »

Giving PBS the Bird

Posted by Tim Mikulski On October - 4 - 20123 COMMENTS

Photo via Prince.org

Well, you had to have known this post was coming after seeing the debate last night, reading about it, or catching the highlights on the news.

Also, I can’t believe I’m blogging about Sesame Street for the second time in six weeks.

As a political scientist by schooling, I had to wonder who on the campaign decided it would be funny, smart, or a good idea to throw in something quippy about firing Big Bird or Jim Lehrer when once again referring to a policy of not borrowing money from China to pay for PBS (or the National Endowment for the Arts as was mentioned in a magazine article a few months ago).

First, you automatically make a ton of enemies by putting the image of Big Bird being evicted out of his Sesame Street nest in people’s heads.

Second, you are simply catering to hardcore fiscal conservatives who don’t seem to understand that public television was only allocated $75 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the FY 2012 budget (plus about $222 million in direct grants to individual public television stations)—that’s it. Guess how much was spent on national defense ($716 billion), health ($361 billion), and energy ($23 billion).

Some would argue that PBS stations should start airing commercials to generate more revenue or that there could be stations that cover more than one city or combine into regional networks. Okay, I can give you that, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the small amount of federal spending goes such a long way to help PBS leverage those pledge drive (without quality programs partially funded by the government would people still pay?) or corporate dollars.

Others say we should just privatize all PBS stations. You might want to ask folks in New Jersey if they feel their NJTV lives up to the formerly state-run NJN when it comes to covering the affairs of a state trapped between two giant media markets with no other statewide network.

Oh and then there’s Kansas. Remember when someone tried to privatize the state arts agency claiming that it could and should run without government support? That didn’t turn out so well. Read the rest of this entry »

Shoshana Fanizza

Every time I send out an email or post to my blog, I end with my signature, “Cheers to happy and loyal audiences” and a quote by James Stewart, “Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”

I am a firm believer that building a happy and loyal audience is exactly where our focus needs to be, and treating your audience as a partner is one of the many management shifts we can make in order to create a happy and loyal audience.

So, you want an audience that supports you, and you want them to be loyal to keep them coming back for more. What are some actions you can take to make this happen?  Here are my top 5 suggestions to get you started:

1. Begin with knowing yourself.

If you don’t know who you are and what your art is all about, how will you be able to attract the right audience for you and your art?

This step means defining who you are down to the letter so you can brand properly and set up your marketing messages to speak clearly about who you are, what your art is, and provide the exact image that matches you and your art.

This is a crucial step. I have seen many artists and arts organizations that are not well defined, and their brand is mainly a copycat of their industry at large. What makes you unique is a better objective and will attract the best audiences for you.

2.  Get to know your audience.

When I start a session to discover information about a client’s audience, I mainly ask both demographic and psychographic questions. I am finding that most of us know the demographics. However, when I ask what the main hobbies their audience enjoys or what other art forms they go to or if they have any issues with your venue, I usually get the answer “I don’t know.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ron Evans

2012 has been an awesome year so far.

It seems to be the year that the majority of arts groups have hit the tipping point on understanding online marketing, where they now feel really comfortable experimenting. Or perhaps executive directors are feeling more comfortable giving the ok for experimentation.

Either way, the collective knowledge level has risen substantially, and that is allowing us to have deeper, higher-level conversations as a sector. It’s a wonderful thing!

There is a dark side to this experimentation that I am seeing pop up more and more—organizations will launch a new marketing channel, get busy with other things, and then forget about them. But these new, forgotten channels still pop up on search engines, patrons go to them, and then are disappointed to find no recent updates. That can easily send the wrong message to your patrons.

I’m all for experimentation—it’s ok to try out something new, and you should be—but in the case where a new channel is abandoned, it can really dilute the brand. I recently worked with an arts organization that had twelve—count ‘em TWELVE—Facebook pages. And they only knew about seven of them.

Most of them were set up by well-meaning volunteers, or now ex-employees, and if you did a search on Facebook for this organization, you wouldn’t know which page was the “real” page. We heard reports from audience members who were very confused about which one to connect to.

Starting a new marketing channel is like owning a new puppy. Photo by Indiana Adams.

I like to think that a new marketing channel is like getting a new puppy. That puppy needs attention—it needs to fed, watered, played with, and cleaned up after. It’s a big responsibility, and you should really know you want one before you get one.

To continue this metaphor, you may want to borrow a friend’s puppy first to get to know the lay of the land before deciding if that new puppy is the best for you.

It is easy to be attracted to the “newest, greatest thing” in regards to social media or other online marketing channels. And if you’ve got the time, set up a new account and play around. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Hubbartt

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I shared a hobby with other Generation X-ers: I made my own mix tapes. Simply pop a cassette in the dual tape deck, and tape songs heard off the radio, from compact disc, or even vinyl.

Younger generations would find this procedure outdated. Dead, even. Yet the art of the mix tape isn’t dead, entirely. It is the technology that’s changed.

Now instead of tapes we use playlists generated from sources like iTunes that are synced with iPods or other such devices. Music lovers today simply need to grasp the new tools at hand to make your own mix tape.

The same can be said about the Marketing Mix. I’ve been in the arts marketing field for over a decade, and in recent years I’ve heard variations on a theme. Advertising is dead. Direct mail is dead. Subscriptions are dead. Even Marketing itself is dead.

However, it is also the case that technology has evolved, giving us marketers even more ways with which to communicate the products we have to offer our audiences, test new tactics, and analyze the results. One individual marketing tactic may not make or break your ticket sales as they once had; it is all about your Mix.

The trick is to figure out the tools best suited for your audience, find the right beat, and strike the appropriate balance for your organization’s Marketing Mix, taking advantage of the new tools at hand.

Some points to consider the balance of your Marketing Mix, which has helped my many campaigns move and groove into ticket sales and audience development:

Who is my audience? Who else could we/should we be serving? This can help you make decisions for your price, packaging, and messaging throughout your advertising and social media engagement. Read the rest of this entry »