Monthly Archives: March 2014

Branding on tour

Branding for presenter venues who host many different touring companies each year, and for the touring companies who are only in each town a short time, can be challenging. Increasingly, touring companies are striving to establish more of their own brand on tour, asking themselves how they can strengthen their relationship with the audiences they meet on tour.  How can venues establish a strong brand of their own, when what they present is actually made up of lots of other people’s brands? And how can touring companies begin to establish their brand in local markets, when they might only visit a town once every couple of years, and they’re presented within a season which is strongly branded by the venue? These are issues being discussed around Australia right now – it would be great to learn about how people are dealing with them. What’s your experience? In this article from the UK, branding-touring-companies-and-venues-jam35-jon-bradfield-2009, Jon Bradfield of touring theatre company Out of Joint contemplates their situation and describes some of the ways they’re trying to address the need to establish their brand and stronger links with touring audiences.

Diversity builds resilience

If you attended one of the Mark Robinson forums presented by BoardConnect in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in late 2012, you’ll be familiar with his concept of adaptive resilience. More from Mark and colleagues now, on how diversity in organisations can help build organisational resilience – definitely worth a read: diversity_and_adaptive_resilience_public-1

If you didn’t attend one of Mark’s forums, then you should investigate what he means by adaptive resilience, in his original article: making_adaptive_resilience_real, before you read about how diversity can help get you there. In this article, Mark lists eight characteristics of resilient arts organisations:

• Culture of shared purpose and values rooted in organisational memory
• Predictable financial resources derived from a robust business model
• Strong networks (internal/external)
• Intellectual, human and physical assets

Adaptive skills
• Leadership, management and governance
• Adaptive capacity: innovation and experimentation embedded
in reflective practice
• Situation awareness of environment and performance
• Management of key vulnerabilities: planning and preparation
for disruption

.. definitely food for thought in advance of your next business planning day, don’t you think?

13 Practical Marketing Lessons

If you don’t already know about the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) in the US, you should hop on their website now and have a good look around. It’s full of great resources, and you can sign up to their newsletter which will alert you to recent additions and current issues. I’ve just been reading through their 13-part Practical Lessons in Marketing. It’s great, and should be required reading for all arts marketers. If you’re starting out, don’t miss it. Even if you’ve been in the business for years, there are great reminders here of what’s important, which will help refocus and re-energise  your efforts:

Articles on Audience Development

I’m embarking on a campaign to stimulate conversation around the linkages (or lack of them) between programming and audience development. Here are some of the articles that have inspired my campaign. What’s your take on this issue? (I’m also looking to build a collection of Australian case studies on audience development and programming, so do let me know if you’re working in this area.)

All the World’s a Stage, Alan Brown, 2012

A New Framework for Building Participation in the Arts, Kevin F. McCarthy and Kimberly Jinnett,

RAND Corporation, 2001

alan-brown-speech-on-artistic-vibrancy-in-programming, an address by Alan Brown, November 2013

Building Demand for the Performing Arts, for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Alan Brown,

October 2012

Building Arts Organizations that Build Audiences, Wallace Foundation conference proceedings, 2012

Research into Action: pathways to new opportunities, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, 2010

‘Audience Development is primarily a programming challenge’

According to US arts researcher Alan Brown, in a speech on ‘Artistic vibrancy and creativity in programming’ that he gave in November 2013, audience development is primarily a programming challenge:

‘Artistic excellence has been conflated with creativity in programming. Too often, excellence is used as a defensive shield to dismiss creative programming ideas, as either ‘off mission’ or ‘dumbed down’, when in fact they are neither. Attaining higher levels of creativity in programming is not about dumbing anything down, but about applying ourselves to an even higher standard than excellence. Good marketing is absolutely strategic to the arts, and we can always do a better job of marketing and communications. But audience development is not a marketing problem. Drawing new people into the arts and replenishing the constituencies for the art forms is, first and foremost, a programming challenge.’

I used to think that my job as a marketer was to get people into the theatre, and the artist or artistic director’s job was to make them want to come back, by supplying an amazing experience. I was wrong. We can’t expect to get people in to the theatre if we don’t program experiences that are relevant to them. The more I’ve researched and listened to performing arts audiences, the more I realise that it’s the frequent attenders who are more likely to have a spirit of adventure about the artform. They are more likely to have established a relationship of trust with the artistic director or the ‘brand’ of the venue. Infrequent attenders, and first timers, on the other hand, are more likely to need something familiar or reassuring to entice them.

I’m now exploring the relationship between programming and marketing, in audience development. It’s looking increasingly like this relationship needs to be incredibly close, to be successful. To achieve real impact for arts organisations, programmers/artistic directors and marketers need to work together, to program and market experiences aimed at attracting particular audiences. The audiences for some experiences will be larger or smaller than others: that is fine, and as long as it’s factored into the overall strategic and financial planning of the organisation, should be no barrier to organisational success. But the essential message which is developing from my explorations is that if you want to attract and grow particular audiences, you need to program work that is relevant to them, market it well, and do it for long enough to build loyalty.

What do you think?