Sampling – technology makes an old strategy new again

Posted by Deborah Obalil On October - 12 - 2010

Deborah Obalil

In reading the excellent posts by Susannah Greenwood (Questions of Musical Engagement), Mary Trudel (Oh yes – there’s an app for that), and Ian David Moss (Arts participation and the bottom of the pyramid) it becomes very clear that technology is enabling, and to a degree forcing, arts organizations to use sampling as a marketing strategy.  Now product sampling is a marketing strategy that has been around for quite some time.  Marketers have long known that if you get a taste of something good,  you’ll buy lots of it.  It also requires that whomever is producing the product (the artist or arts organization in our case) to go to the people it wants to connect with to provide the sample.  In the not-so-distant past, this was a resource intensive proposition for the arts, especially the performing arts.

Early in my career I was the marketing director for a contemporary concert dance presenter, and we did lots of sampling, we just didn’t call it that.  We called them previews or lecture/demonstrations.  The dance companies we presented would be trotted all over town to libraries and schools, public plazas and community gatherings.  And we would have information at all of these events about the upcoming theatrical performances and how to get tickets.  Since most of the companies we presented were far from household names (even for dance afficionados), giving potential audiences a taste of what the would get for the ticket price was crucial to building audience. Read the rest of this entry »

A Collection of Worst Practices

Posted by Chad Bauman On October - 12 - 2010

Chad Bauman

A couple of weeks ago while sitting on a funding panel, I said to a representative of a very large funder that I didn’t understand why people were so afraid to fail, and then discuss their failures openly so that everyone could learn from them. Especially in the fields of technology and audience development, more advances come out of failure than anything else. The funding representative said that she felt the same way, but heard from companies that they were afraid to admit their failures because they feared it would affect future funding opportunities.

Well, I thought I might get the ball rolling by discussing some of my biggest failures and what they taught me:

Always give the exclusive to your best customers. I have made this mistake a couple of times, but trust me, I have learned the lesson. Every now and again, you might have a big news story that a major news outlet will want an exclusive on. They might even promise you front page or prime time coverage, in exchange for the opportunity to be the exclusive outlet to break the story. In the past to protect an exclusive, I have made the decision not to release any information until after the story broke. However, imagine how your subscribers might feel if they first learn of this news by reading the front page of the newspaper? Do you think they would feel like part of the family? or a VIP? NO! I still work with our media relations staff regularly to negotiate exclusives with major news outlets, but we always inform our subscribers first. It might only be an hour or two before the mainstream news breaks it, but they are first to know. Read the rest of this entry »

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DIGITAL EXTRAS #4: More from the Conversation With Brian Solis

Posted by Brian Reich On October - 8 - 2010

Brian Reich

The latest book from Brian Solis, Engage, is written for champions and executives alike in business, marketing, branding, interactive, service, and communications with a mission to help all aspects of business to the table. But Brian Solis understands how arts organizations work, and how the lessons from his book, and his work with brands all around the world, can be applied to arts organizations.

More from my conversation with Brian Solis:

Reich: Arts organizations are ultimately competing for an audience’s attention just like every other brand out there – and in most cases, the competition has more resources to support their efforts to reach and engage customers. When an organization is small, its focus somewhat narrow, and its resources more limited – how can an arts organization compete?  Are there enough people who are interested in the arts, or who are looking to support a small organization, to justify the time and energy required to truly engage?

Solis: It comes down to the idea of a switch. Imagine that you are hosting an event, a conference. The challenge that arts organizations face will actually be very similar, and thus they will need to approach social media and audience engagement in much the same way a non-profit arts organization would. First, a conference, like an arts organization, is looking for people who are contextually bound – an audience focused on specific topic or theme. Well, one of the most underestimated powers of social networking and that is that you can identify clusters of individuals connected around topics and themes. But, to identify those clusters requires a little layer of intelligence. You need to you to connect the dots without necessarily saying: “I want to find everyone whose interested in, say, arts in Chicago” for example. You have to dig one or two layers deeper and develop a more complete understanding of the individuals you are trying to reach. There are so many different capacities on which you can connect with individuals. So if you’re working for an arts organizations and your job is to increase subscribers or donations, that’s one thing. If your role within that organization is filling seats in that particular house, maybe that’s something that complimentary but more likely the challenge is a little different. And then who you connect with and where are all going to be dictated by the results that come out of that initial searching. So if someone you are trying to reach is active on LinkedIn versus Twitter versus Facebook, that intelligence is there, and how you connect with them will be based on how people are interacting in those communities right now. I used conferences as an example because it is one of the more difficult things that you have to do – filling the seats in a particular house for a series of events in a local area for a very specific event. And then when you book a conference, for example, and you now have people who are connected from all over the world and you interact with them, and everyone is fighting for their attention, the challenge becomes even greater. The similarities to arts organizations are pretty clear. Read the rest of this entry »

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We All Want the Same Thing

Posted by Amelia Northrup-Simpson On October - 8 - 2010

Amelia Northrup

The world of arts management is changing, as all industries are changing, with the proliferation of technology. Especially with the increasing popularity of online media, we as arts managers have had to reconsider the way we see our performances. Is online video footage merely a vessel for our product? Or is it, in fact, our product? Or, can it also be a means to an end?

Many see social media and its democratization of internet content as the tool that will restore relevance to the arts, which critics claim is no longer present.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen changes in the social media landscape that make the issues surrounding performance footage all the more relevant. Twitter is adding video embedding capability. YouTube will soon be able to handle streaming video for content partners. These are signals of a trend that is already in progress—a movement of online video footage becoming not only accepted, but commonplace. Like it or not, online video is here to stay. Read the rest of this entry »

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Navigating the Design Minefield

Posted by Ben Burdick On October - 8 - 2010

If you’ve ever worked in marketing at an organization, or if you’ve ever done graphic design work there, you know the pains and pitfalls of “design by committee.”  And unfortunately, if you’re not running the organization, you will never have the final say in the design of a marketing piece, a logo, a website, etc.  What makes one person happy can be totally wrong for another.  After all, design is subjective.  All the while, if you’re in charge of the design or the process, you can’t take it personally.  But design by committee is something that is almost unavoidable, and having to navigate it within an arts organization can be doubly hard because your colleagues often DO have at the very least a creative personality and a decent eye for art and design.  An article I read recently though, provides some good tips and tools for avoiding the worst parts of design by committee.

1. Clarify the Objective

A successful design starts with a well-defined objective that everyone understands and supports. Without one, it’s nearly impossible to complete a design project on your own, let alone as part of a large group. Be sure you also define and agree upon the target market, business objectives and criteria for success. Once you begin the feedback process, having a clear set of goals will help keep feedback on track and make it easier to disregard suggestions that are not in line with the objective. Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the Marketer

Posted by Chloe Veltman On October - 8 - 2010

Chloe Veltman

The relationship between public relations professionals and (arts) journalists often feels uneven to me. PR people seem to know much more about — and are acutely sensitive towards the needs of — the journalism profession than journalists know are are about PR people, as many PR people have been reporters or editors in the past (journalists rarely come to the profession from a career in marketing). And I think there are a lot of journalists who look down their noses at the PR industry. If a journalist leaves the profession to pursue PR, his or her colleagues will often accuse them of “selling out.”

This is ridiculous, as like it or not, journalists rely upon working with good PR people more than they care to admit.

A few weeks ago, the head of one of the PR firms in the Bay Area, David Landis, asked me to participate in a new feature on his company’s website called “Meet the Media.” I had to answer a few questions about my job and send in a photo. I did what was asked and the result can be seen here.

The exercise made me realize how little I know about David Landis, and most of the other PR people I work with regularly for that matter.

So I decided to ask David if he would return the favor and answer a set of very similar questions to the ones he had asked me so that I could find out about what he does and post the findings on my blog. David obliged.

So here’s the first installment of “Meet the Marketer,” my response to Landis Communications’ “Meet the Media”: Read the rest of this entry »

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The Great Brand Dilution

Posted by Brian Solis On October - 8 - 2010

This blog originally appeared on Click here to visit the original post.

For decades brands basked in the glory of control, control over consumers’ perceptions, impressions and ultimately decisions and ensuing experiences. Or better said, business leaders enjoyed a semblance of control. While businesses concentrated resources on distancing the connections between customers, influencers and representatives, a new democracy was materializing. This movement would inevitably render these faceless actions not only defunct, but also perilous.

Fueled by the socialization of media, content and connections served as the foundation for this new democracy and “we the people” ensured that our voices were heard. Social Media would forever change the balance of power within markets, placing the fate and stature of brands in the words and actions of consumers and the people and groups that influence their decisions. Brands didn’t just “lose” control of defining impressions, businesses lost the ability to govern shared experiences.

Suddenly people enjoyed the freedom to publish their thoughts and the capacity to earn prominence in these fledgling social ecosystems. No longer was it an era of brands saying what they wished us to think; it was now clear that people were in control of their impressions and more importantly, how, where and when they shared them.

It’s no longer about what we say, it’s what they say about us now that counts. Read the rest of this entry »

DIGITAL EXTRAS #3: Examples on How to Engage Online

Posted by Brian Reich On October - 7 - 2010

Brian Reich

1. Publish the production notes from your show as a presentation online and let your audience, as well as others who are staging a similar show, to access the details or add their own ideas.  Provide personal notes about your interpretation of the script.  Share a picture or diagram of the stage layout.  Include the back-of-the-napkin drawings that were first shared with the costume department.  You can create a basic Powerpoint or Keynote file and load it up to SlideShare ( or Scribd (  Integrate the links into all your marketing activities, promote the ‘process story’ to media and bloggers, even consider hosting pre-show discussions or events to discuss the notes that you have provided.  The more information you can provide to help a member of your audience gain greater understanding of the production, and the more accessible you can make those details, the more opportunities you create as an organization to engage people in a meaningful, measurable way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Confessions of a Twitter-Phobe

Posted by Chloe Veltman On October - 7 - 2010

Chloe Veltman

Every day I read articles in the press about how important it is for anyone involved in the arts world (or indeed, any world) to use social media as a way of marketing one’s “product”. I know how useful tools like Twitter and Facebook are from what I’m told by others. And technologies that enable organizations to mail out information to select members of their mailing lists or entire lists at the touch of a button has revolutionized the way we spread the word about what we’re doing, reach new and familiar audiences, generate enthusiasm and even build funds.

What I struggle with though, is finding the time and mental capacity to both keep track of others’ social media outpourings and develop my own. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed about it lately because I keep getting emails from Twitter telling me that someone wants to “follow” me via the tool, but I just can’t bring myself to add tweeting to an already overwhelming amount of daily activities from writing this blog and filing articles to newspapers and magazines to doing all the fundraising, producing and hosting of a weekly public radio show and teaching. Read the rest of this entry »

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Constantly Increasing the Sum of Our Arts

Posted by Clayton Lord On October - 7 - 2010

Recently, I did a big set of interviews for a series of articles that I was writing for Theatre Bay Area magazine on the intersection of mission, community and art.  In the course of these interviews, I often asked questions about the demographics of the particular theatre companies I was speaking to, and in most cases they didn’t have a clear idea of anything more than the most basic stats in terms of butts in seats, percent of house full etc.  What surprised me here is that this wasn’t just with the small companies, which here in the Bay Area make up about 75% of the 300-400 company members we have at any given time.  This was with big companies, very big companies, the biggest companies.  When I asked, the answer that came back was, “well, we use the Big List for those numbers.” Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s missing from most online reviews? Trust.

Posted by Ron Evans On October - 7 - 2010

Ron Evans

I miss newspapers.

No, I know we still have some daily, weekly, and other newspapers around the country (and my hat goes off to those still working in this field. I also miss hats). But the decline of arts journalism has been massive over the last few years. There are only a few newspapers left in the country that have dedicated arts reviewers/writers – writers who can be trusted to at least publicly declare that they continue to follow journalistic standards. And that’s sad.

It’s sad, because nothing good has risen up to replace them.

Sure, we have a million review sites out there that allow citizens to review this service or that theatre company, or this production. But who can trust these reviews? I really don’t. But in an absence of any other information, they influence a lot of people.

I see a lot of fake reviews. A LOT. I’ve caught directors writing fake reviews for their shows under assumed names, people writing in fake reviews when they haven’t seen the performance, people using assumed names and then just trashing individual actors by name – it’s pretty horrible actually. Fake reviews are everywhere – check out this story of a guy who was totally blatent about hiring people to write fake reviews. And anonymity makes fake reviews much more likely – when people can’t be held responsible for what they say, they will throw out all manner of bull. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Writer’s Center has been around since 1976. It has a large following in the greater Washington DC area and, increasingly, nationally (in 2009, Poets & Writers Magazine, a leading trade magazine in our field, named us one of eight “places to go outside academia” to take creative writing workshops). Over the years, TWC has nurtured the careers of many writers, from Pagan Kennedy to 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award-winner Patricia McArdle. In that time we’ve also developed a loyal following of members: they participant in our workshops & events, they donate, they spread word about us to the public.

This core constituency is vital to The Writer’s Center. But equally vital is engaging new members in what we do. The question is: How do you go about doing that? The best way—or at least the way we’ve done it best—is to create new programs that fall within your mission. In the last two years, for example, we’ve added a wide range of new workshop leaders (and therefore new workshops, from graphic novels to writing crime & mystery novels); developed partnerships with local organizations such as Fall for the Book, the Royal Norwegian and Danish Embassies, and the Maryland Humanities Council, etc. In addition, we’ve created new programs such as the Undiscovered Voices Fellowships (which provide opportunities for writers earning less than 25K annually); Ann Darr Scholarships for female veterans and active duty military; and Emerging Writer Fellowships (which honor and support emerging writers with up to 3 published books in their respective genre). To showcase our Emerging Writer Fellowships, we’ve developed perhaps the very best vehicle for reaching new audiences: Story/Stereo: A Night of Literature and Music. At this event we pair our Emerging Writer Fellows with prominent DC musicians (thanks to two musician/curators, Chad Clark and Matt Byars). Read the rest of this entry »

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Cultivating Citizen Critics

Posted by David Dombrosky On October - 7 - 2010

David Dombrosky

For years, I have heard the lament for the rise of “citizen critics” –individuals who use blogs, social networks and other social media tools to share their reviews of performances, exhibitions, films, etc.  I have listened to a number of artists, directors, curators, and other arts managers bemoan the replacement of “true” cultural critics in traditional media with these self-published citizen critics.  The complaints typically revolve around a perceived lack of credentials and lack of understanding for the discipline.

While I, too, bemoan the loss of criticism in much of today’s traditional media, I must point out that citizen critics are not new.  In fact, they have been around for as long as there has been art about which to have an opinion.  To be blunt, we are all citizen critics.  Have you ever told someone your opinion about a work of art, a concert, a performance, etc.?  Of course, you have.  We all have.   And more of us are sharing our opinions with each other (and the world) thanks to rise of the social Web. 

In August, a brouhaha erupted online between two bloggers and an actor from Canada’s Teatro la Quindicina in Edmonton, Alberta after one of the bloggers wrote a critical review of a play in which the actor appeared.   Aside from serving as a case study in how NOT to deal with citizen critics, this online fracas brought to the surface a disdain held by many artists and administrators.

The reality is that citizen critics are not going away.  So rather than lash out at them or quietly complain about them, why don’t we identify ways in which our organizations can cultivate them? Read the rest of this entry »

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Mary Trudel

I’ll be moderating a NAMP session on Saturday, November 13, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm featuring up to the minute presentations by colleagues Rory MacPherson, Ron Evans and Ayokunle Omojola on how arts organizations can harness their creativity to develop apps and use existing mobile platforms to build connections with audiences. We’ll also engage with representatives from Bay Area organizations: the Center for Asian American Media about creating custom applications for the iPhone and  Yerba Buena Center for the Arts which has forged a community of supporters using mobile-accessible Twitter and Facebook feeds.

One concern I’ve heard is that technological ways of connecting with arts organizations might limit or compete with live participation.  But to quote Clay Shirky’s new book Cognitive Surplus:  “The old idea that media is a domain relatively separate from ‘the real world’ no longer applies…to any of the myriad ways people are using social media to arrange real-world action.”  And the latest NEA research report, Audience 2.0, contains surprising, reassuring news: More is Better!  People who engage with art through media technologies attend live performances or arts exhibits at TWO to THREE times the rate of non-media arts participants. Read the rest of this entry »

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DIGITAL EXTRAS #2: Arts Organizations Need to Shift & Reset

Posted by Brian Reich On October - 6 - 2010

Brian Reich

Information moves faster. People are more closely connected. The expectations we all have for what we want to see and hear have changed. The kinds of relationships and the levels of support we want from organizations have been redefined. Our connection to the issues and events that define our world has been transformed.

The ubiquity of technology and the reach of the Internet make it possible to spread a message farther and have it be embraced by more people than ever before. The rise of social platforms leaves no doubt that we are one global, interconnected community and capable of taking action on issues we pas­sionately share. The available tools make it possible for everyone to have a platform from which to speak, and anyone to spark a bottom-up, grassroots-fueled revolution that has power no individual or entity could generate. However, the tools alone will not ensure that an arts organization, or any organization, is successful in communicating with, and engaging, audiences. Read the rest of this entry »

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