Marketing is an afterthought for a lot of art organizations, something that occurs after the ‘real work’ of assembling a season. It happens outside of the programming discussions and often utilizes a completely separate team, working in a whole other room, far from the central action. There can be a wide chasm between the inspiration to design a particular program and the inspiration to fill the house for that program, when these initiatives really ought to be one in the same. Or at least, integrated, running concurrently, rather than one taking a back seat to the other – especially in regard to calendar.
As it is, the marketing team is left scrambling, often times last minute, trying to understand the value of a program and how to convey that value to the public. And this disjointedness can result in an unnecessary disadvantage for your marketing efforts, relaying messages that may come off as inconsistent or disingenuous, which affects your turnout and ultimately your ability to fulfill your organization’s mission. How can you expect the public to get excited if your own team is lackluster? But the solution is simple, of course. Invite conversations on marketing to happen at curatorial meetings, encourage people to raise questions (perhaps even to gently challenge ideas), and brainstorm community engagement options during the conceptual stages of program development.
It’s what goal-setting gurus call “beginning with the end in mind.” It’s so obvious that it’s not.
The result would be a more unified front, wherein your Marketing team feels confident about their job, they are knowledgeable and articulate in describing the programs, and best of all, they are as PASSIONATE as the Curators who created the programs, i.e. They BUY IN. This latter point is critical. Who better to evangelize for an organization and its great productions – first and foremost – than the people who work for the organization, and especially the people who are tasked with spreading the word? Your most potent cheerleaders aren’t some rare minerals that need to be excavated somewhere “out there”. They are right under your nose, the people closest to the business: your employees, your volunteers, and the artists you’ve booked. Essentially, the people that make it all possible to begin with.
These need to be your chief believers. This is where you will first cultivate that sense of relationship that we talked about in Part I. (And if they aren’t your chief believers? Then you may need to seriously consider your priority and technique in rallying the troops earlier and more effectively. Or else, consider Jim Collins’s bus metaphor and revisit whether you have the right people on board and in the right seats to begin with.) Once you have these core evangelists plugged in and in sync, radiating their excitement out into their respective circles and beyond will be more organic and credible… And more powerful.