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Arts marketing: a content revolution?

Photo of some online content
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AMA executive director Julie Aldridge says it’s time arts organisations mastered the art of online content marketing.
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I’ve been thinking about the skillset that arts organisations need in order to make best use of today’s digital opportunities to reach and engage the public.  I’m coming to the conclusion that there’s a crucial new skill that we all need to master.
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There are many great-looking websites in the arts and cultural sector. Lots of arts marketers can brief web developers, write online copy, manage email systems and social media sites, and work with photographers.  But as the world of online and offline continues to blur, do we also need to become great ‘content editors’?
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The content we share online – whether via our websites, email, or social media – defines our audiences’ digital experience of our organisations.
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This might be:

Deciding whose responsibility is it to plan and develop online content – a digital specialist, a marketer, a programmer
or curator – ultimately depends on the size and culture of your organisation. However,
if we want to offer digital experiences that reinforce the live experience, this
must be considered at a senior level and across the organisation.

Have you had this discussion within your own organisation?  How are you deciding what gets produced, written, and shared online and when?

Who needs to be involved in:

  • defining what you’re trying to achieve with digital content – who is it for? what impact do you want it to have?  what do you want people to do as a response to it?
  • selecting the content – which audience stories, press quotes, video promotions, artist interviews, curator viewpoints, participant photos etc. will you use and how will they work together to deliver your aims?
  • finding the right media (and right mix of media) to convey your message and content?
  • the meticulous process of fine tuning, correcting, proofing and condensing the content?
  • considering how and when to share it?
  • thinking about how to re-purpose it for a range of other platforms?
  • and getting the measurement in place to track what works and what doesn’t?

To do this well, we as arts organisations will need to develop staff with good, old-fashioned editing and publishing skills. Editing requires strategic thinking, creativity, a great ability to work with and influence others, an incredible attention to detail, and an organised, timetabled plan.  And we need to ensure that this is done in a joined-up way across the organisation.  There is much to learn from the publishing industries about how best to achieve this.  For example, check out the Three Little Pigs video created by the Guardian which highlights how they see their new role in publishing and sharing ‘the whole picture’.

Earlier this year, at the AMA conference, Ryan French, director of marketing and PR at Walker Art Gallery, described how their website has recently undergone a major rethink.  The What’s On details are still there, but they see this as just one fifth of their site. The rest has become focused on exploring current issues around contemporary art through news items. Often, they will tie into something that’s happening at the Walker, but not necessarily; it might be from another arts organisation, or just something that has interested a curator.

 

Screenshot of the Walker Art Gallery website

 

There are eight feature stories on the homepage which rotate all day, usually getting swapped around a couple of times a week. Much of it is re-purposed content from other places like blogs, or from their magazine that goes to members, videos from their archive or collection catalogues. Ryan described how this re-purposing has become a key characteristic of the way their online material operates.

Creating great content is tricky, and doing this consistently – keeping it fresh and interesting across all platforms – takes time and skill. However, a great content marketing strategy could really help you to inspire your audience, to increase awareness and ultimately engagement with your organisation.

You can also read a full write-up of Ryan French’s presentation on the Walker Arts Center from the AMA 2012 conference.

– Julie Aldridge, Executive Director, AMA

Arts ambassadors – a new screencast

We are very pleased to present a brand new screencast on arts ambassadors, created by Helen Ball. This video guide is split into seven parts, and is available free of charge to everyone, as part of our Audience Focus commission to share effective arts marketing practice.

The main reason people try a new arts activity is when trusted people recommend it. And that’s where ambassadors can help you. Ambassadors can build a bridge between your organisation and your audience. They are well networked, trustworthy and have access to people and places that we just don’t have. 

In this screencast, Helen Ball will talk you through three inspiring case studies of successful ambassador schemes to explain how they can help you promote your offer, develop your audiences and produce cultural events.
The main reason people try a new arts activity is when trusted people recommend it. And that’s where ambassadors can help you. Ambassadors can build a bridge between your organisation and your audience. They are well networked, trustworthy and have access to people and places that we just don’t have.
In this screencast, Helen Ball will talk you through three inspiring case studies of successful ambassador schemes to explain how they can help you promote your offer, develop your audiences and produce cultural events.

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