This seems to be a common viewpoint at the moment. At the Arts Council of Wales' Marketing Symposium last week, it was the title of Andrew McIntyre's keynote speech. He made a convincing case for why we need to stop thinking like marketers and start thinking about nurturing communities. He's not the only one - I've heard 4 or 5 speakers say similar things in recent weeks.
My question, though, is why aren't we paying attention? It's obvious we need to change the way we do things but what's stopping us as marketers? Obviously different organisations and different people are all working in different ways but the industry as a whole does still seem bent on sending direct mail letters to people who already attend.
Is it the Artistic Director not giving permission? Is it working out how to fit a budget? Is it other people's expectations? Fear? Skills gaps?
It would be interesting to hear people's thoughts.
Jen. It is hard to change years of ways of working, so for many people - conditioned by social structures, language and procedures, it is knowing where to start. I'd start with how we talk and think about what we do ... for one get rid of words like 'targeting' 'segmentation' and 'audiences' ... and starting talking and thinking about - how, where and why we are 'conversing' with 'people/communities' and the 'experiences' we co-create together to pick up on Lisa Baxters keynote at the Symposium ...
It is a lot easier to do what you have always done ... a lot more work to change the 'way' we work and think.
Online at least I think there is something in the DNA of arts organisations that makes it difficult to embrace the slightly formless way the web likes to work. There's a great article here about restaurant websites and while not all of the points raised transfer, there is a valid point about controlling peoples experiences.
Traditionally in theatre, you have a definite path that needs to be followed - a script and cues and a very linear path. The web doesn't work like that and the number of times I've tried explaining that the home page is not necessarily the first page doesn't bear thinking about.
Where print has been the main medium for communication, the illusion of that control still exists. An a4 page will always be an a4 page and there is a first and last page. But anyone in publishing will tell you that right hand pages are more valuable ad space because even in print people skip through and scan and randomly drop in to the content.
I think it's about a shift in attitude and a loosening of that control.
Marc, I totally agree with you. :-) especially that it is an 'illusion of control', not actual control. Hope you are keeping well. :-)
Oum Pradutt put forward a very interesting argument at the Bangalore Dance Symposium last week when he said 'we should all not just be artists, but also marketers. No-one knows your art better than yourself'.
Of course, putting the responsibility of promoting a show entirely into a performer's hands isn't the most practical idea. For a start, artists have enough work to do as it is and it would be a shame to dilute this focus. But do you think there's some logic to the idea that we're under-using a certain creativity when we try and place our productions into public knowledge? Do we need to change our focus in order to resuscitate our little corner of the industry?
I'd be keen to gather your thoughts...
I would definitely agree with this. I think that's where organisations (National Theatre Wales of course springs to mind, but there are others doing similar things) are starting to bring 'engagement' and 'marketing' together as one. The 'old' model would be the engagement/education department running a workshop with local kids and some of the cast of a show, and the marketing team making a poster from information provided about cast and plot, with neither department speaking to the other.
The 'new' model is things like director's blogs, backstage images, interviews with creatives, etc, and participatory events shared online or through press. These are all a way for the creative people involved to sell the show, and demonstrate that they know it best, with the content then curated by people experienced in marketing and promotions, who distribute it in the optimum way.
Jake Orr recently wrote a blog post imploring arts organisations to use their creativity on Twitter rather than just push marketing messages, essentially the same principle as we're talking about here.
Great stuff Jen! You might also want to check out Peter Economedies work in my post about branding and digital media - the conversation economy. He has worked with some of the best and he speaks volumes about the importance of conversation and participation over marketing. A point though. Most marketers focus too much on 'selling tickets' and 'the box office' ... that they forget the importance of people, participation and sharing. :-) Smiles Kel.