Posts tagged ‘Australia Council’
The recent research and roadshow from the Australia Council will have probably swung past your neck of the woods in recent days. Titled Connecting; it examines the behaviours of arts audiences on the digiwebs, specifically how they engage with their “arts journey” online. It’s pretty detailed, and should give arts marketers a solid foundation for which to develop a digital marketing strategy that suits their company. Shortly after the Sydney Forum I wrote a broad response to what I feel are the strengths and weaknesses of this research (here) – although I strongly recommend people look through the paper and the blogs and decide for themselves. Loosely speaking it’s a terrific resource for folks who otherwise are completely bewildered by social media strategies and how to incorporate it into their larger communications plan. Without putting too fine a point on it – there are a couple of key things missing. And it’s no fault of the research, but as I alluded in the earlier post, the arts are a special case. The very breadth of scope in style and content of what we produce means any such examination of audience behaviour can only scratch the surface. More importantly, to apply this information appropriately we must recognise that arts product is much, much more than attendance at a gallery or event.
Far be it for me to suggest that this research should – or could – offer that granular degree of complex analysis on arts audiences. I really don’t want to take away from what is a hugely important step in allowing arts companies to reach people. But as Christy Dena argues in one of the better blogs on the OzCo page; a deeper engagement happens when we create content to build communities, rather than just promote our box office. It’s not that the two are mutually exclusive, by any shot – but I know as an audience member I prefer being a part of something. Attending an event and being treated like cattle does nothing to enhance the experience – you wouldn’t expect that from your front of house staff, so taking a purely numbers-view on social media usage and marketing is just a little shallow. It’s a very dangerous path for an arts company to take up all these highly powerful mediums and use them for broadcast only, when they are, after all, mediums for conversation, for listening: a digital extension to the theatre foyer.
Which is how I have always characterised my own engagement in social media with the arts. It’s more difficult than it looks, going from event to event to keep up with what’s going on in the industry, making small talk amongst the canapé guzzling arts elite. And as I mentioned last week, there is nothing so vulgar as a crowded room full of people talking about “The Art”. But that conversation is the lifeblood of our industry, contrary to popular belief – it’s not ticket sales. It’s chit-chat. And until recently, getting access to that conversation was nigh impossible unless you were a part of the insider clique. It’s why the arts has such a horrible reputation for elitism… but I digress. By getting onto the twitters and the facebooks and the wordpresses, suddenly I can enhance my audiences’ understanding of who I am – to the nth degree. I have developed and applied a specific strategy to promote my own work, and so far reached people to whom otherwise I would be simply another face in the crowd. And that’s just one man making a statement about what he feels needed to be said about the arts community, and listening to what others have responded. Imagine the potential for an organisation with profile and budget; what they might add to the conversations, should they choose to enter it.
Importantly, to integrate social media into our communications strategy, it’s necessary to take a mature approach about it. Getting your intern to handle it is the equivalent of attending the biggest opening night of the year and handing out flyers. Not really that cool. Would you send the most junior member of your organisation to represent at a party with the head of every arts agency in the country in attendance? Just because they’re all over the twitter all the time – it doesn’t make them an expert – much like having a massive DVD collection doesn’t make one a master film director. It simply doesn’t translate. Think about who you are as an organisation, and have someone handle it who is completely on board with your creative vision, can articulate it well, and has the right attitude to respond to broader debates within the industry as they occur. Tell the story of your company, and partake in others’ stories too. That’s Community.
After all, we’re in the world’s biggest foyer. Let’s talk about the art. Now where’s that plate of sushi…?
One could almost hear the collective salivation at the mention of an opportunity for building audiences. It is, after all, touchstone of the OzCo charter and a Light On The Hill for arts marketers across the land. While the report looks extensively at how current audiences are using technology – there’s a bit of head scratching around how exactly we can get our box-office mitts on that elusive new audience…
…after the furore of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards had settled (has it?); it occurred to me that there was a writer’s festival on, and I really should get a wriggle onto being there. And maybe tell a few people what happened. But that’s a story for another day, as one conversation lead to the conclusion that We Need to Talk About Funding, Kevin – what’s thirty grand in the scheme of things when Ms Blanchett asked for thirty million back in February and scarcely got a mention in the Federal Arts budget? Apparently business as usual is good enough for those of us struggling to get a snifter of a wage in creating new Australian theatre.