Using my day job skills to be a better writer

Posted by Gemma Irish On June - 12 - 2014
Gemma Irish

Gemma Irish

The following is an article originally posted on Minnesota Playlist, written by playwright Gemma Irish, in which she describes how her daily work in marketing at a Fortune 500 company has made her a better artist.

Writers are notorious procrastinators. We would rather do the dishes, read the entire internet, eat a sandwich, or meet friends at the bar than sit down and write. When we finally get down to work (probably because we have a deadline looming, and/or we’re disgusted with ourselves) we drink sherry, we write while reclined, or standing up, or at a café, or in absolute silence. We need just the right conditions, the right pen, the right atmosphere in which to write.

I have to be honest with you: I am guilty of cleaning my entire kitchen instead of re-writing a play, and furthermore I am guilty of getting caught up in the mystique of Being A Writer. “This is how I’m supposed to act! I’m supposed to be a total weirdo and drink too much coffee and put off revising this draft by cleaning my apartment and researching serial killers! It proves that I am a Real Writer!” Read the rest of this entry »

5 Reasons You Should Launch a Website in “Beta”

Posted by Kimberly Hedges On June - 6 - 2014
Kim Hedges

Kim Hedges

The day we planned to launch the new AmericansForTheArts.org website, everyone on staff was ready for a party-a pizza party to be exact–to celebrate all our hard work and the debut of our beautiful new site.

While the web team was humbled by staff’s faith in us and their palpable joy about the new site they helped create, we were a little less ready to celebrate.

Yes, technically, we just needed to make one DNS update on that day to point traffic from our old site to the new one and viola, a new site is launched.

But, it’s actually not that simple.

Yes, we had spent weeks testing the site and getting everything in order, but the traffic of 10 people testing a site just doesn’t match the traffic of your daily visitors. When you open your site to that increased traffic, they stretch it in different ways, interact with it differently, and a new level of testing begins.

And that’s the testing that really matters-whether you acknowledge it or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Kick Your Content Up a Notch with Multimedia

Posted by Raheem Dawodu On June - 5 - 2014
Raheem Dawodu

Raheem Dawodu

Caitlin Holland

Caitlin Holland

Earlier in this blog salon, we discussed the ten ways you could improve the website you already have, as well as the ways you could  create engaging content for your website.

In both of those posts, we briefly highlighted the use of multimedia – graphics, video, animation, audio – as a way to make your content more interactive.

But, what is multimedia? And what is the best way to use it to tell your organization’s story? Read the rest of this entry »

The Design Process: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Posted by Elizabeth Van Fleet On June - 5 - 2014
Elizabeth Van Fleet

Elizabeth Van Fleet

Stop. Before you start thinking about the pretty wrapping paper you’re going to use for this awesome new website you’re about to give your audience, make sure you’ve done your research, organization, and started working with staff on content.

Why do you have to do that first?

Because to get good design you have to answer the hard questions; you have to know WHO you’re designing it for and WHAT message you want your design to send to your audience.

As Manager of Publications and Communication at Americans for the Arts, part of my job is to manage the design process for many of our printed and online materials. I work with a variety of vendors on a regular basis, and I was part of the team that decided on the design direction for our new website. Read the rest of this entry »

Raheem Dawodu

Raheem Dawodu

The time has come. You’ve done your research to find out your audiences, figured out how to create great content to meet their needs, and you’ve convinced your organization’s staff and leadership that it’s time to build a new website.

Now it’s time to involve your staff in the process – since they are the issue experts that should work with you to create or revise your website’s content. At Americans for the Arts, though everyone on staff has an interest in the success of the website, only some of the people on our 70-person staff are what we call “content creators” – the ones who write the content. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Documents You Need for a Successful Website Redesign

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 4 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

We’ve already talked about how important it is to do your due diligence when taking on a website redesign – figuring out your audiences, securing buy-in from your leadership, selecting good partners and vendors, the importance of quality content for your website – and we’ll be diving in deeper later in this blog salon about working with staff to create and revise quality content.

As you continue to bring together all these great resources, it will be helpful to compile them in a format that will be useful to your team and your vendors. During our website redesign, we ended up creating a number of documents that helped us fully scrutinize and contemplate all of our options. No stone was left unturned, which helped our stakeholders feel more comfortable with some of the drastic changes we were suggesting. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Ways to Improve The Website You Already Have

Posted by Joshua Jenkins On June - 3 - 2014
Joshua Jenkins

Joshua Jenkins

Who doesn’t love a good list?

I’m Joshua Jenkins, Americans for the Arts’ Website Coordinator, here to drop some hints and tips on website improvement. I started at Americans for the Arts in the summer of 2013, and played a large role in the final push toward the website launch in December.

In a perfect world, you’d snap your fingers and a shiny, new website would appear live on the internet. However, as you’ve read already and will continue to read during this blog salon, there are a lot of important resources you need on-hand when redesigning your website.

Sometimes, a complete website redesign may not be in your organization’s budget, or you may have recently redesigned your website and can’t commit to a full design update just yet. Good news: these circumstances don’t have to stifle your ability to improve your users’ experiences while visiting your organization’s website.

Take a look at these simple, effective best practices that you can implement to offer your users the best experience – whether you’re fixing the site you have, or just starting the redesign process. Read the rest of this entry »

Content is King

Posted by Caitlin Holland On June - 3 - 2014
Caitlin Holland

Caitlin Holland

As Bill Gates famously said in 1996 at the dawn of the internet revolution, “content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

Almost two decades later, his predication rings true. Winning websites have quality content that is compelling enough to grab and hold readers’ attention.

As the Communications & Content Manager for Americans for the Arts, my role is to do just that – I identify, create, and distribute valuable messaging and stories from each of our programs to attract, acquire, and engage Americans for the Arts’ constituents.

Content improvement is a constant job – as soon as you make it through one section of the website, it’s time to tackle the next. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for creating quality website content – or the sometimes-more-difficult process of working with others to create quality web content – but here are some tips and general rules that worked well for our staff. Read the rest of this entry »

The First 3 Steps to Your New Website

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 2 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

So, you’ve figured out that you need a new website, eh?

Whether you came to that conclusion on your own, or with the help of our quiz, you’ve now realized that it’s time to give your website a little TLC.

But, where do you start? Do you call a vendor immediately? Do you start on a new design? Do you just delete everything you dislike as fast as you can, in the hopes that no one notices?

And what if you have yet to find the all-important funding in your budget for the aforementioned TLC?

Well, I have good news: the first few things you should do when you’re ready to overhaul your website are absolutely free. They take some time, but they’re important and they’re free

1. Take a look at your stats.

Hopefully you already have Google Analytics set up on your website. (If you don’t, get on that ASAP! There are great tutorials online, and once you install the tracking code, you can view reports within 24 hours.) Read the rest of this entry »

How to Build a Winning Website

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 2 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

Welcome to the “How to Build a Winning Website” blog salon – the first blog salon written entirely by Americans for the Arts staff!

I’m Danielle Williams, the Website & New Media Manager at Americans for the Arts.

You may not know this, but Americans for the Arts has quite a few websites. Aside from our “main website” (AmericansfortheArts.org), we also manage:

This week we’re talking about AmericansForTheArts.org – which re-launched “in beta” this past December. Read the rest of this entry »

Shaking Up Employee Volunteer Programs

Posted by Maura Koehler-Hanlon On April - 24 - 2014
Maura Koehler-Hanlon

Maura Koehler-Hanlon

The following is an article originally posted on VolunteerMatch, written by vice president of Client Services Maura Koehler-Hanlon, in which she describes how she recently challenged the existing system of employee volunteer programs, and argued for an overhaul of the field. Visit VolunteerMatch for more articles about volunteering and corporate social responsibility.

Earlier this month I hit the road with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch’s VP of Engagement & Strategic Partnerships. We headed up to Portland to present to Hands On Greater Portland’s Corporate Volunteer Council to share our expertise with employee volunteer managers about how to keep your employee volunteer program (EVP) fresh and exciting. Leading up to the presentation, we had a tough internal conversation which amounted to this: how controversial did we want to be? What would happen if we just came out and said that we think EVPs should be doing more? We decided to go for it – those Portlanders are a tough bunch with all that fresh air! And it worked: when we asked the room of EVP managers “how many of you feel like your employee volunteer program is as strong as it can be?” we (not surprisingly) didn’t see a single hand. Read the rest of this entry »

The Sweet Side of Arts and Business (from the pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Stephanie Dockery On January - 23 - 2014
Stephanie Dockery

Stephanie Dockery

According to the 2013 BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, 66% of businesses who do not currently support the arts report that they have never been asked to do so.

ProjectArt, an organization aiming to close the “access” gap in youth arts education, has taken that lesson to heart – and is now celebrating an innovative and successful partnership with Jacques Torres Chocolate for holiday and Valentine’s Day promotions that grew out of an exploratory phone call: ProjectArt asked.

Children and candy are a natural link, and the giving season is the perfect time to advocate for ProjectArt’s programs, which include art instruction, promoting art access through public libraries, and gallery exhibitions for their pupils, largely from low-income areas. Stickers attached to containers of the Jacques Torres malt balls promote that “one box of chocolate covered malt balls = one free art class for a child.”

Affectionately known as “Mr. Chocolate,” Jacques Torres founded his company in New York City in the year 2000. In 1988, he emigrated from France and became the corporate pastry chef for the Ritz-Carlton, then served as executive pastry chef at Le Cirque from 1989-2000. Jacques Torres Chocolate is headquartered in New York, and the chocolate in manufactured in Brooklyn, establishing him as the quintessential American dream. A supporter of New York nonprofits, Jacques Torres has a personal passion for supporting youth initiatives, making ProjectArt’s proposal a perfect fit. Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections on the National Arts Marketing Project Conference 2013

Posted by Erin Marie McDonald On December - 11 - 2013
Erin Marie McDonald

Erin Marie McDonald

Over the past few weeks, I’ve reflected on the 2013 National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Portland, Oregon. This was my first year attending NAMPC and I left with more than I imagined. Although the conference was filled with brilliant colleagues and inspiring sessions, my biggest take-away and learning experience came from an unscheduled, happenstance moment in the Speakers Prep room with an Americans for the Arts staff member.

First, let me provide a little context: I work at an art organization that was founded five years ago. As the newest addition to the now five-person team, I’m holding down the first communications/community engagement position in our small, yet dedicated office.

At the conference, I was scheduled to assist Danielle Williams, the website and new media manager at American for the Arts, with an interview for its blog. Unfortunately, the interview subject did not show up. However, this turned out to be an ideal opportunity for me to see ideas from many of the workshops put into direct action. Following the canceled video interview, Danielle had another appointment planned; it was a website user experience test for the new American for the Arts site. Read the rest of this entry »

Social Media Strategy: Find the Cool Kids

Posted by Alex Davis On October - 11 - 2013
Alex Delotch Davis

Alex Delotch Davis

Social media marketing seems to run the gamut of potential impact — from exponential success, a la Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, to screaming in the dark and bargaining for likes.  It’s tricky business.  Social media “gurus” make it sound like a science that you’re not analytical enough to understand or don’t have the time to keep up with, both of which are probably true.  Whatever your experience has been with social media marketing, here’s what I know for sure: it’s valuable, it’s not going away, and it’s time-consuming.

Allocating the right mix of platforms and the right amount of time to maximize social media can be difficult to manage for arts organizations with already stretched budgets.  However, engaging people that are not only savvy, but popular on social media presents a wonderful opportunity to expand your audience and check off social media on your marketing to-do list.

Adly, a startup that matches celebrities willing to post with consumer brands, calls this “amplifying” your content.  Rather than working your poor intern to death trying to get your twitter followers up, retweeting, posting, and sharing your little heart out – identify and engage the socially savvy in your community.  There are most certainly people in your immediate reach, who have a huge following on twitter, Instagram, and Vine (Facebook is so 2 hours ago) that can push your content out to the audience you want to reach. Read the rest of this entry »

The Advantages and Strategies of Marketing Arts Products Online

Posted by Michael Marchetta On October - 11 - 2013
Michael Marchetta

Michael Marchetta

If you want to show customers service that surpasses their arts-related wants and needs, you need to go beyond just the standard “bricks and mortar” museum or store and create an established online presence.

Today, this means not only having an interactive website but also utilizing social media – Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and more – to their fullest potential. Tech-savvy customers can easily search and find artwork and supplies that interest them, complete with product reviews. The more venues you provide for them to discover your offerings, the better your chances for a sale or inquiry about your collection. Additionally, your online accessibility will help interested customers learn more about all of your artwork and related products and services, and it will encourage them to retain your business for future transactions.

With a good interactive website and strong social media presence, you can interact instantly with your followers to understand what artwork they want and how to assist them. Marketing online with tools like Google Analytics provides the data you need to create personalized service strategies that help you deliver relevant artwork and cultivate a high level of engagement with clients who know you understand and respect their desires. You can use the data you collect to design customized recommendations and other content for your followers, and to develop a long-term strategy for including artwork in your collection that meets your customers’ needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.