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Arts and Culture Public Officials Breakfast 2015


News and Events


Trends in Audience Engagement

Arts and cultural marketers and market researchers from across the country gathered in Memphis last weekend to learn and share. The conversations about arts marketing at the NAMP Conference naturally ranged as wide as cultural audiences themselves. Four days were devoted to sharing ideas to acquire and retain participants in arts and cultural activities. More people with deeper experience in the arts is better for everyone. We caught a few trends to share that we hope will resonate in Cleveland. Add your thoughts on these or anything that is missing in the comments.

1.    Memphis barbecue is on point.

This isn’t a marketing trend but seriously, they do not mess around. Let’s give credit where it’s due. 

2.    Risk management and a culture of failure go hand in hand.

Sometimes marketers are blamed for a flop and get little credit for a sellout. Taking thoughtful risks is important in promoting any organization, and we have a strong supply of risk takers.  Nurturing an office culture that accepts and mitigates their potential failure is another story. There is a ton of literature on office culture, failure and risk-taking so we won’t get into it; we’re just planting the seed. 

3.    Research is easier now and just as important as ever.

The key to taking smart risks in any decision is the information you can acquire beforehand. With so much of marketing transitioning to digital, you have tools. You can do A/B tests (two versions of the same campaign to see which works better), track conversions and assess your strongest media channels. Focus groups can help you see what motivates people and improve you messaging and programming. It’s overwhelming! The best place to start may be with just one specific and simple campaign. An A/B test on an email subject or “from name” is one example that’s usually built in to email software. The more you do, the better you get, the deeper you go, the stronger your message…sounds a little like Yoda on a rant, but it’s true. Be careful, though; calling something “qualitative” does not a credible research make. Sample size, diversity, behavior types and leading questions can skew your results.

 4.    There are better ways to solve problems.

Fun news: we can use the creative process to solve administrative issues! Let’s get better at knowing which problems we can solve and defining problems instead of jumping to solutions. There is a lot of asking “why?” in this process. For instance, we may not need to change A and B if the problem is really Z and the best way to address it is J. A great method to get to this is called Design Thinking: Empathize, Define (the problem), Ideate, Prototype, and Test. If you have an hour, Stanford has a great training video on the topic. 

So which “problem” do you solve? As you think through the path of engagement, marketers might make a bigger impact in the bookends of an overall arts experience. In other words, you know a person typically experiences the arts through a similar series of steps as anything else (grocery shopping, school, gaming):

Entice, Enter, Engage, Exit, Extend

While we may not have influence (or expertise) in how participants Engage or interact with the art, artists or collections, we might be able to offer a better wind-down, exit experience and invite people to share or come back. For every idea, take it through the design thinking process.

5.    Inclusion means a lot of things, but don’t lump them all together

Racial inclusion deserves its own, ongoing discussion. Accessible arts and culture for people with disabilities deserves its own, ongoing discussion. Gender, culture, religion, age, lgbtq and power dynamics deserve their own discussions. Having one “diversity” item as a catchall is not acceptable. Be aware of who is in the room when having those discussions and practice emotional intelligence. Elena Muslar said it well, “an inclusive environment is always diverse, but a diverse environment is not always inclusive.” It’s not easy, but it’s where we find ourselves.

Just a few quick resources that came up in the conference convos:

This song by Memphis’s Artistik Approach helped ground me toward the end of conference:

Categories: accessibility, audience, marketing, Race, research, resources


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