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Get back and go forth (BNW15)

Rachel Kinchin considers the Glasgow experience, from art to heart … Blog 9

So here I am, sat at my desk a week after my fifth AMA conference (and my third as the AMA regional rep for South Wales).

Every year I go through a range of feelings and emotions at the conference including excitement, inspiration, fear and exhaustion. Then I feel overwhelmed and then follows more excitement and inspiration.

First stop is the Citizen M hotel. I wouldn’t usually mention the sleeping establishments in a blog about a conference, but wow-wee. This place needs a mention because it was so super duper it became a hot topic of conversation. Those who were staying there spoke of the now mythical giant square beds that filled half of the room and gave you a giant cwtch [Welsh word for an ‘affectionate hug’, Ed] all night long until the mood lighting woke you gently in the morning.Those who didn’t stay there looked on in envy and listened to the joyous tales of four types of croissant for breakfast and the like.

The main reason I felt the hotel deserved a mention though, is the quirkiness and the way they engaged their audience. The marketing and customer service was pretty ace and there was an incredible attention to detail that I’ve not experienced in these sorts of commuter hotels before. In the context of the conference, it was a lovely reminder of the importance of attention to detail and customer service.


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Brilliant American women I wish were my boss (BNW14)


Steven Hadley is on the board of the AMA. Here he reflects on joining the Temple of Russell

Blog 16 So now Russell Willis Taylor joins Diane Ragsdale on the (not very long at all but still quite significant) list of Brilliant American Women I Wish Were My Boss. The list, a relatively new subset of the (slightly longer and no less significant) list of Brilliant Americans I Wish Were My Boss/Parents/Uncle/Friend which includes such luminaries as Alan Alda’s character in M*A*S*H, Michael Stipe, David Byrne (though he’s actually Scottish) and Mark Rothko, is filling me with excitement.


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Keeping the feeling (BNW13)

Issy Patience was attending an AMA Conference for the first time. Here are her reactions to Brave New World one week on …

Blog 16 Back in the office after the conference and all the keynotes and seminars from last week seem like a distant memory. Russell Willis Taylor’s closing speech on the Thursday afternoon was the perfect way to end the conference, filling us all with confidence and enthusiasm.

How can we keep this feeling going this week and for the months to come?

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Fringe benefits (BNW12)

What makes a good conference? Inspiring keynotes, useful breakouts, enjoyable social events? If you are lucky enough to go to more than just one conference, it’s clear that as well as the above points they are also crucial for developing, maintaining and renewing relationships.

Blog 17
It is especially important for consultants, freelancers, funders, agencies, suppliers etc that rely on meeting a number of people for their work. It is partly for this reason that the AMA has made its breaks longer than at many comparable events (which, like intervals in theatres and concert halls, are usually far too short).

This year, a number of people were encouraged to come together in the Island Bar around certain networking themes. I was only able to make the Tweet Up so can’t vouch for their success personally, but it seems like a great idea and the feedback on these has been good.

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New week, new world (BNW11)

Judging by the activity on Twitter and the number of views of AMA COMMONS, plenty of people were 'at work' on Friday. Even if you were, today probably seems like the beginning of a new week. For the AMA staff, the conference is such a key point in the year that it seems like the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Work has already started on next year's conference - which, as you probably know will be in Brighton (10-12 July 2012, Brighton Dome). Book your deckchair now.
Blog 18But this is the week when we can put into practice all those things we picked up at the conference (not just the free pens, bags and usb sticks). Will we be ROARing, telling stories or trying out our own lipsync community singing projects?

Keeping the momentum is a challenge, but there seems to have been plenty of inspired people, judging by Twitter:

AMA conference 2011 images: Leo Cinicolo

@Matt_ntw: '#amaconf Art changes lives and tells us the story of ourselves it has intrinsic value for our soul. Shout this louder in a #Bravenewworld'.

Or, @EmmaMcDoofus: 'Inspiring last keynote at #amaconf a rallying cry to not use recession as an excuse for cultural inertia and irrelevance. Let's crack on!'

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Cult siting (BNW10)

Is arts marketing a cult? Mel Larsen speculates …

Just in: photographic proof that the AMA is in fact a dangerous cult:

Blog 18 This week, over 500 arts marketers gathered at a not so secret location, and in sight of the twin peaks recited a mantra known as 'The Six P's'  until mass hysteria broke out.

Once sucked in, unsuspecting members are encouraged to attain ever increasing levels of excellence.

It is said that many members have been persuaded to go on an 'AMA retreat' and have returned from this closeted week of intense training suspiciously energised and enthusiastic about their career.

It is commonly thought that crazed hordes will gather again in Brighton next year to resume their strange rituals. AMA members are known to be experts in recruitment, trained in encouraging total strangers to engage, participate and even purchase, all in the name of an esoteric practice that insiders call 'Art'.

Anyone who is approached by an AMA member is advised to exercise extreme caution.

Question Time (BNW9)

Mel Larsen reflects on questions at the conference and poses some questions (and answers) of her own …

It’s difficult to analyse and manage a new, challenging situation when you are smack bang in the middle of it. If I had a penny for every time I’d heard someone say, ‘We live in interesting times’ in the last few years, I’d be in receipt of some serious funding by now.

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Niche marketing (BNW8)

Issy Patience works for an interesting organisation – see her biog – part of the wonderful diversity of delegates at the AMA Conference…

As a first timer to an AMA conference I did not imagine being met by such a large number of delegates from such a variety of organisations!

Striding Out It’s great to be with other people who have travelled from all over the UK to Glasgow to share ideas, successes and failures about the ways in which they involve the many different audiences that engage in their art form.

Picture: AMA Conference 2011 images: Leo Cinicolo


I work for an artists agency, Art for Architecture and whereas other larger theatres/operas/museums and galleries are faced with the difficulties of selling tickets and marketing shows and exhibitions, my immediate challenge is to target prospective clients who need original beautiful artworks for their projects.

Segmenting audiences to target specific marketing materials was something we discussed in my first seminar session, but the best thing I learnt about yesterday was the benefits and practicalities of video marketing in a round table session [by Onescoop, ed]. By opening up the processes of our artists we represent who is hidden away in studios all over the UK, many in remote areas. It will be an extremely accessible way for us to promote their artistic expertise and appeal to the projects we are targeting. This is a practical step that can benefit all types of arts organisations.

This leads onto my only criticism of the conference so far which is the heavy emphasis on advice aimed at ticketed venues, shows and exhibitions rather than advice for smaller organisations.

It would be great to see a few sessions next year for arts and cultural organisations that are marketing artwork and arts events to different clients and breakout/roundtable sessions would be the perfect opportunity for this in depth discussion. The keynotes about the wider principles on how marketing can thrive are inspiring and connect us all, however some attention to the smaller niche organisations would be a valuable addition to the AMA Conference 2012.

To have great poets, there must be great audiences too (BNW7)

Fruitmarket Helen Blackis speaking at the AMA Conference. Here, she reflects on her experiences so far …

Day one down, I guess one and a half if you count Tuesday night’s reception in the rather beautiful Fruitmarket. It’s always nice to get a glance at your own city through the eyes of visitors and this year has allowed me just that.

Thanks to Culture Sparks for a packed Sightseeing Bus Tour and the much appreciated Tunnock’s Teacake, which acted as my celebratory treat after our breakout session on persona generation.

A couple of years ago, our web designers Mark Boulton Design, took us through a process of persona generation in preparation for the re-design of the Citizens Theatre website. Since that time we have used this technique and applied it across almost all of our decision-making in the marketing department.

My colleague, Alison Martin and I presented our work on personas to a busy breakout session in the Strathclyde Bar – Doing Less Better. Despite having arisen from one specific area of our business, this technique has proven itself to be useful in saving time and money when it comes to everyday decision-making and in the creation of well-targeted projects.

Today [Thursday] we get the chance to pretend to be keynote speakers as we deliver it again in the main auditorium!

Thinking back over a day of thought-provoking keynotes, the message that screamed out at me from pretty much all of the speakers was that of collaboration and co-creation with audiences. Jerry Yoshitomi quoted a recent conference in Salzburg, saying we should ‘do things with not for the public’.

Matthew Cain encouraged co-creation during his excellent insight into Arts broadcasting and Will McInnes cited the San Francisco Fire Department’s ‘resident as reporter’ idea as an example of the new way to view our audiences. We must see them as creators, not just consumers. Will’s rousing call to grab new opportunities afforded by technology, acts as a timely directive that should galvanize us to seek out new ways to harness the creative abilities of our attenders.

‘To have great poets, there must be great audiences too’; Mark Robinson reminded us of Walt Whitman’s wise words, before reiterating that our audiences have changed. They demand relationships and interaction; ‘The audience can be a key asset, a creative asset’.

Are you offering your attenders creative opportunities to engage with you? I think one of the most empowering messages of the day was that we, as marketers, should see ourselves as producers of cultural value, not just the department that gets an audience for someone else’s work.

We must step up to the plate, exercise leadership and create exciting opportunities to participate in a meaningful way. The prevalence of free tools, a desire to experiment and some good targeting could reap valuable rewards. So let’s get thinking…and more importantly actioning our ideas.

Tricks worth learning (BNW6)

Toby Chadd is attending the AMA Conference for the first time …

There’s something completely liberating – purgative, even – about the seven-hour train journey up to Glasgow from Cambridge: the day-to-day routine of the office, emails and short-term deadlines fades into the background as the landscape grows wilder and, to this born-and-bred-southerner, the accents more incomprehensible.And to be greeted at the conference’s opening dinner by a drum troupe that promises to provide an ‘almost religious experience’ only serves to further set the stage…

Since then there’s been networking galore (both of the organised, ‘speed’ variety and the more spontaneous over-a-coffee sort), and more ideas than I could even hope to digest in 12 hours, let alone summarise in a short blog-post. This conference is about open-ness and a sense of common purpose – and, consequently, the range of hypotheses, examples and experiences is simultaneously stimulating and bewildering. And it’s not about competition, but collaboration. ‘If I knew the answers, you’d hear them for free here and then I’d go and monetise them elsewhere’ was the slogan of Will McInnes in an engaging keynote. Rather than giving answers, it’s about sharing ideas and providing inspiration.

Will Innes


Will McInnes Keynote: Picture: AMA Conference 2011 images: Leo Cinicolo

And talking of inspiration: Shelley Bernstein’s seminar ‘Learning from mistakes’ is an object lesson in bouncebackability, marketing fused with the sort of life-lesson I’d imagine you’d find in a Tibetan monastery. This is a ‘closed door session’, and so you won’t find any revelations here about what was said (unless NOTW was tapping the mics, that is). But this wasn’t the sort of session where concrete ideas emerge; it was more a lesson in taking projects forward whatever their outcome. As Shelley puts it, it’s never a complete failure if you’ve learnt something from it. This might sound something of a consolatory truism but can – in the hands of someone of Shelley’s imagination – mean that the ultimate result is actually better because of the mistakes you’ve made.

Now that is a trick worth learning.

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