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Brainstorming kills creativity #ADA

Hema Teji from Watford Palace Theatre has much to share about her experiences of doing that ‘thinking-about-the-audiences-first’ thing as part of the Audience Diversity Academy.

I’ve noticed common themes when tasked to develop audiences. Most audience development roles are often temporary and I’m creating new ideas of work or projects often without setting the context of why I’m doing this work and how it’s connected to organisational strategy. In developing new audiences you are more likely to be in the midst of creating organisational change but without initially consulting stakeholders. Buy-in from all staff such as front of house, technical teams, marketing, development etc. is integral to the success of developing audiences. Without understanding why and who we are doing this work for, individuals and teams often work in silos and the principle of embedding diversity and equality into the hands of a few people always seemed a little, well unfair to me and against the very ethos of diversifying audiences. I wanted to examine how to create and embrace a culture of change using the Agile process, and the starting point was an organisation staff meeting, delivered through a series of individual and group brainstorming exercises.

I often find brainstorming sessions uninspiring and draining and sought to research ‘agile’ ways of brainstorming. I discovered Google Venture’s ‘Note and Vote’ , ‘open space’ , and these two separate articles on how ‘brainstorming kills creativity’.  I took inspiration from what I thought were key principles of agile brainstorming: to set the rules of brainstorming, prepare the participants, give opportunity for individual and group responses, build on ideas and give space to reflect on questions.

I asked staff to prepare by setting three tasks to complete in six weeks before the staff meeting. It should be noted I had planned a post-meeting exercise but was quickly dropped after the feedback from the pre-exercise. What were the successes in designing the exercises this way? I received honest, brave and thoughtful insights to my questions. It saved time! I built on the answers given and designed the session accordingly and used the precious time I had with the staff to work on practical solutions. As a facilitator I was less stressed as I wasn’t constantly analysing and assessing answers. The staff could see they were part of a process as I was practically building on their answers and the session was dynamic with lots of positive energy.

What I learnt is that I needed to create buy-in for this exercise as many people found my delivery in setting the tasks (via email) to be alienating. As I became aware of this I offered help but my offer wasn’t really taken up. It raised questions such as; did they see the value of the exercise, did they understand the tasks (to me they were quite clear) or was it just down to lack of time? When we embed good audience development practice, staff will have to do things differently and communication models will change. I learnt that I made them step out of their comfort zone but is that a bad thing? After all, this is what the future will bring.

Getting into the experimental state of mind #ADA


Rachel Grossman, Ensemble Director of dog & pony dc and a Mentor for the Audience Diversity Academy offers some guidance on audience building.

I approach my work with an experimental state of mind and tend to forget, as we all do, that not everyone shares my world view. In a session with one of my academy fellows, I was reminded how intimidating the word “experiment” can be. That word alone was holding her back. It was her kryptonite. Every time she heard “experiment” she thought “laborious and detailed,” “precise and sterile,” and “complicated, boring, and HARD TO DO AND NO ONE WILL WANT TO DO IT INCLUDING ME.”**

And it doesn’t matter if you pair “experiment” with terms like “agile” because the predominant narrative or implicit bias is the one around “experiment.”

So step one is to change the narrative; step two is to put yourself in the experimental state of mind.


Picture a cartoon chemist in her lab. She’s wearing big owl-eyed glasses that hang from a beaded chain around her neck and a white lab coat. The light-filled lab is packed with colourful liquids in glass flasks connected by tubing. The chemist carefully pours solid-coloured liquids from two different test tubes into a beaker and it yields–a rainbow coloured result! And then explodes with sparkling smoke and leaves her hair all wackadoo. “That wasn’t what I expected,” she exclaims and makes notes on a pad. She’s smiling, because experimenting is creative and fun. It’s a creative and fun activity that’s designed to teach you something. This is the change in the narrative that my academy fellow needed to make first and foremost. Whenever you see, hear, or say “experiment” replace the word with “learn something in a creative and fun way.” “Creative and fun” is also the fundamental principle for the “experimental state of mind,” especially for all of us working in the arts. Why would we want it any other way?

(And “fun”? It’s a flexible term, obviously. But I’d wager we can agree that completing a written survey via email or paper with Likert scale questions is neither fun nor creative.)


For the academy, the AMA created a great form called a “progress record” for the fellows to track their experiments. (Forms–not commonly considered creative or fun, but incredible handy none the less.) When shaping an experiment in the context of systemic change (like diversity) and asked to track progress, suddenly there’s an overwhelming feeling that the experiment needs to be long, interconnected series of events with a (positive) growth outcome. This is not the way to exist in an experimental state of mind. Get zen and think small. Remember that an experiment is a planned activity from which you hope to learn something. Any intentional divergence from the status quo could be considered an experiment. The way you facilitate one meeting could be an experiment. The types of questions you ask during that meeting could be an experiment. The method you collect answers can be an experiment. It can feel a bit silly when you’re working systemically and long term, thinking tactically and practically IS the experimental way.


When you adopt the experimental mindset and the emphasis is on what you’re taking away from each of your activities the emphasis is always on what you learned. You line up the experiments, one after another. What did I expect? What happened? What did I learn? What will I do differently next time? Then repeat! This means the emphasis is on the quality of the learning not the execution of the experiment. I believe that’s why experimenting in the arts is often labelled “working scrappy” and can bring about a little experimenter shame. Eff-that! Trying to be perfect is antithetical to the experimental state of mind. It means you already know the answer; it means people might mess up your experiment. Our experiments in the arts around audience and diversity all have people at the centre and therefore must be inviting. (See point #1 about creative and fun.) More importantly, we should not ever expect to know what the answers will be. Experiments begin with a question or a hypothesis, and we should expect to – even be excited about – discovering our previous understanding was completely off base. That we were wrong. This means we were “failing.” Hooray! Now we can “fail forward,” learning from our experiment and, we hope, make improvements. Learning is winning.

To wrap up, the experimental state of mind is not for everyone. Some of us come from a fixed mindset rather than a growth one. Fixed mindset folks like established routines and avoid challenges; nothing wrong with that at all. Those of us who are looking for change could stand to adopt some experimental practices. Remembering to think small and look for opportunities to experiment everywhere, emphasise the learning no matter to outcome, and permit yourself to be creative and fun will flip the script of what creating experiments is all about. Now what are you waiting for – get to work!

**On the other hand: some will think that if you’re only doing an “experiment” it’s not real or valid work. That it can’t amount to anything, build a foundation, or propel you forward. Not so at all. It’s the foundation of a growth-mindset environment in which you are working responsively to the world around you.

Our First Ever Relaxed Performance #ADA

It’s never too late to relax, even whilst trying out a new experiment with your venue’s audiences.  Audience Diversity Academy Fellow, Sairah Rehman, explains how she achieved this at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.

We had already confirmed that we would be doing a relaxed performance next year during our panto run earlier in 2016. However, just before my taking part in the Audience Diversity Academy (ADA), HighTime, one of our Springboard Companies (emerging artists that we support through providing training opportunities, office space and assistance in developing productions), received funding to do a relaxed performance of one of their shows. An opera company that works to make theatre more accessible to everyone, HighTime was excited to be doing something new – relaxed operas are not nearly as common relaxed pantomimes, for example.

A relatively short lead up to the performance and no time to spare, I began a process of getting in touch with various disabled groups around Coventry and Warwickshire. Utilising all of my community contacts, I started trying to get the word out – and as with all relaxed performances, there were special prices for this show, with additional special offers that we talked through in our department.

Slightly complicating things was the fact that this was not a home-production in the traditional sense, but one we were working on with a company. This meant that we had to co-ordinate and work together to get audiences for this show. Pooling resources was very helpful, and being able to bring a more personal touch to getting in touch with people was invaluable.

We were lucky in that the person who ran our relaxed performance training is also very well connected with special schools and disabled groups across Coventry and Warwickshire, and we were also able to consult him on how to connect with different groups. The training itself went really well, and staff ended up a lot more comfortable and confident in how to best support those with autism in particular.

A final push at our half term family day, where we invited families in to the theatre for free activities and had staff telling families about the performance, meant that we were able to play to a sizeable audience (considering that we had to reduce capacity for the relaxed performance to be relaxed).

The performance itself was a success, and puts us in a much stronger position for our larger relaxed performance of panto next year. Staff reported lovely responses to the show, including some who were happy to be able to bring their child to a show that was catered to their needs.

An immensely rewarding experience, all of my experiments on the ADA have left me feeling that I have done some good for our local community, and the Belgrade’s first ever relaxed performance was no exception.

Audience engagement and (other people’s) shoes #ADA

As Mentor for the Audience Diversity Academy, consultant Sarah Boiling, has been encouraging her Fellows to walk in their audiences shoes to gain a relevant perspective to their experiments.

For the Audience Diversity Academy, I am mentoring Fellows from three very different organisations – The Royal Collections Trust, Ilkley Literature Festival and East Durham Creates (a Creative People and Places project).

So, I have been pondering the implications of experimenting in two, out of these three, different contexts; the commonalities and the differences.

At East Durham Creates, my mentee has a flexible role in a project that is all about action research and trying new approaches (Creative People and Places, in case you haven’t come across it before, is an Arts Council England funded programme of place-based, community-led arts engagement). So it’s pretty easy to try new things. Maria has experimented both online – creating and posting trailer videos for events, plus a series of ‘Inspire my week’ Facebook posts encouraging everyday participation – and offline – promoting and taking part in a series of weekly percussion workshops.

One of the areas we talk about when we get together is the why? question, unpicking what the objectives are for that particular initiative and thinking through how they might best be achieved – is this the right mechanism? the most appropriate message? how does what we are trying to do fit with the lives of people living in East Durham?

At the Royal Collections Trust the situation is very different, and my mentees Jenny and Neepa need to follow a rigorous (and newly introduced) process to get approval for the experiments they want to undertake (offering the museum as a venue for ESOL sessions along with Community Exhibition Previews). Here there is no shortage of strategy and objectives, and the need is to get senior colleagues on-side to support the team’s ideas. In our most recent conversations we have focused on internal issues – how to win over hearts and minds, how to demonstrate that new ideas aren’t too frighteningly new and that they have sound foundations, and showing how these ideas help to deliver the broader aims of the organisation.

So, very different organisations, very different roles, very different experiments and very different levels of professional experience.

One of the common features across both sets of conversations?

A reminder of the importance of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes; of stepping outside of our own experience, and considering the people we are trying to build a relationship with. Whether they are senior managers or local families, if we take the time to talk to – or rather listen to – the people we hope to engage with our ideas, we are much more likely to be successful (and we might even discover a much better idea than the one we had originally thought of…)

A Spectrum of Possibilities #ADA

At De La Warr Pavilion, Ashley McCormick is organising a more long-term approach to her experiments to nurture different audience types.

As our Mentor, Sara Devine recognised we have a long list of audiences with whom we want to build relationships. During our first meeting we talked about three possible experiments to target each audience type:

1. older audiences
2. refugee communities
3. new migrant communities and low income families.

On reflection, I realise we cannot commit the required attention and resources to three experiments and have spent quite a bit of time rethinking the impulse and the focus. Our strategy is to first engage each under-served audience; increase a sense of belonging to our venue and to build curiosity and confidence.

The plan for the second experiment was to deliver outreach activity and a building tour/exhibition visit with creative activities and opportunity for reminiscence utilising stories of the origins of the building (which had been designed by a refugee and immigrant) and Peter Blake/ Fiona Banner exhibitions as a spring board.

I began with two visits to the LINKS project which were incredibly valuable and enlightening.  I have come to realise that this group, perhaps more than others, demands a slower approach, a greater sense of security and a longer view. Since their circumstances are so very fragile, they are not able to make any commitments themselves. It will take time to build trust and a mutually beneficial relationship with participants of the LINKS project, so although we are intent on developing work with them, an agile experiment is not the appropriate approach. Initial meetings with another potential partner, The School of English at Sussex Coast College, were very positive and we will develop learning experiences and resources for ESOL students and staff. However, we need to fit with the course timetable, so relationship building and resource development will, again, happen at a slower pace than the Audience Diversity Academy experiments allow.

Experiment three’s objective was to engage low income families in the Heart of Sidley, which began at a summer fayre in Sidley. I facilitated a creative activity to make lion masks and promote the outdoor screening of The Lion King. The event was useful to meet families and learn that most people are actually aware of and attend the screenings (De La Warr Pavilion was not aware of this, as outdoor screening audiences are not surveyed). Those who told us they do not attend the outdoor film screenings said the cost of public transport was the main barrier.

The creative activity was repeated on site with audiences gathering for the film screening. Although I, and one volunteer, engaged 100 children (and their families), the experiment was not productive because we did not have the capacity to record postal codes, or how people heard about the event, or execute a survey. This was a real missed opportunity as well over 1000 people attended the film screening, but the audience diversity was not measured and analysed.

Any experiment will involve entering a zone of uncertainty, to test new ways of working and benefit from genuine learning. And so it is that experiment four has emerged as we are working together to prepare to launch a new website. Several iterations of copy have revealed different ideas about the language we use to define and communicate with particular audiences. We are negotiating categories and phrasing, “Shall we use the heading ‘Young People’ or ‘Youth Voice’ to signpost our intention to develop a Youth Forum?”

Referring back to advice from our mentor Sarah, we need to put the audience first. Working with 21 year-old arts student Joshua Speer, who has been volunteering with the Learning & Participation programme since February 2016, we intend to engage young people to critique and advise the organisation.

The challenge has been to develop experiments in collaboration with colleagues because of different priorities, schedules and approaches. But this experiment is seen as beneficial to the whole organisation and will be delivered by marketing and learning teams working in collaboration.

“Welcome” #ADA

Thanh Sinden, Strategic Audience Development Manager at Culture Conventry, is on a mission to provide a place of sanctuary for her audiences.

Being a fellow of the AMA Audience Diversity Academy and talking to my mentor, Monica Montgomery, has been an empowering experience for me. I have faced challenges to carrying out the Equality and Diversity Action plan and getting my audience experiments underway.

Since I’ve joined the academy my experiments have been around engaging with new communities and refugees to our city and growing a disability audience for our Nature Notes exhibition.

I worked with the Curator for Nature Notes to focus on the disability audience seeing a great opportunity to widening the appeal of this exhibition with a series of access tools that not only aided participation with the exhibition but also serves as a statement of intention of our organisational commitment to creating greater access. We worked with children with autism and visually impaired audience to embed access and inclusion in the exhibition. I promoted the exhibition to various disability networks on social media and groups we worked with. We tweaked things within the exhibition as we went along and as we attracted a bigger disability audience it gave us more access issues to think about and address. This agile approach showed that within an exhibition that’s already been installed there are things that can be changed to enable a better visitor experience. We had a weekly target of 800 visitors. The actual weekly average was 1211. Within this we did a survey and found that 20% of visitors stated they were disabled. This survey was a snapshot of visitors to the exhibition at the beginning over a two week period. Interestingly the survey data and observational staff data showed contrasting results in how many people with access needs visited and used the access aids. However, this number is more than double our benchmark of 8% disabled visitors to the museum.
Working in partnership with Coventry Migrant and Refugee Centre, Curatorial and Learning teams we did a ‘Welcome Tour’ with a group of Syrian families. I very much wanted this to be about a warm welcome to our spaces and to state our intention that they are an audience we want visiting our venues. This went very well. Two of the group’s translators said that they have been in the city for two years helping refugees resettle and integrate. Until my invitation to the centre to engage with refugees to bring the new group they were helping to resettle to visit us, they did not know where we were and what was inside our buildings. The newly arrived families expressed their thanks for welcoming them and would love to take their children to visit now that they know what’s available.
Following on from this I am setting up a partnership agreement that we support the CRMC as part of integration support for people new to the city we’ll be doing ‘welcome tours’ and family workshops with Syrian families. This links in with a wider mission of Coventry as a City of Sanctuary and Peace and Reconciliation. As major cultural providers and visitor attractions we play an important part in promoting the values of our city.


Energized by Agile #DMA

Sara Devine, Manager of audience engagement and interpretative materials, Brooklyn Museum and a mentor for the Digital Marketing Academy talks agile. 

I returned to Brooklyn this week with a spring in my step from a great AMA Digital Marketing Day. I had the privilege of sharing the stage for the morning keynote with Belinda Waldock, an agile guru, and a stellar outgoing AMA chair, Jo Taylor, and I regaled attendees with an explanation of how we used agile at the Brooklyn Museum to develop our app, ASK. I spent the afternoon running two workshops with a total of about 60 fearless individuals who wanted to try their hand at agile planning. They did a fantastic job, and hopefully walked away feeling empowered to deploy some iterative thinking in their next project. I met some amazing people, was inspired by how other institutions are using agile thinking in their projects, and shared a glass (or two or three) of wine with the awesome members of the AMA staff and two of my fellows (shout out to Alison and Cat) at the after-party. All-in-all a great way to spend the day!


Selfie with Belinda Waldock (left) and Jo Taylor (centre)


For the workshops, I prepared five scenarios inspired by projects undertaken by DMA fellows that I felt encapsulate the trends we face in the cultural sector and that I’ve heard during my time with Digital Marketing Academy and Audience Diversity Academy.  Working in groups, participants planned an initial experiment to address their selected challenge: content, delivery method, audience, motivations, or resource allocation. Not surprisingly, the biggest struggle for many of the groups was clearing away the many ideas for solutions to the challenge and instead focusing on defining the challenge and then planning an experiment from there. This is, for me as well, the most challenging part of agile. So many of us are problem-solvers and idea-generators. You give us a challenge and we will rattle off half-a-dozen ideas for how to address it. That’s not quite what agile is about. It’s about eliminating the noise and tuning in to the single frequency, that single issue, and building from there. To that end, I provided the workshop participants with a “cheat sheet” for agile planning that encapsulates the thinking we used at the Brooklyn Museum. I share it below in the hopes that it will be useful for you too.


Agile Planning Tips & Tricks

Don’t be intimidated by agile planning. Like any process, breaking it down into steps will help as you learn how to adapt this approach to your next project.

Going through the process of thoughtfully building out your experiment can be very useful for shaping your thinking. Ideally this can be done in a small working group (no more than 5 people) comprised of those who will participate in running the experiment and/or are stakeholders in the results. If there are individuals that “must” be included, consider a small working group to plan the experiment and a small advisory group to act as a sounding board and help finalize the details. The most important questions to answer while planning any experiment are: How are you defining success? How will you measure it? A good experiment has a clear definition of success and a measureable outcome, at least in part.

To build your experiment, address the questions below starting with the first one. The others can be addressed in no particular order over the course of the planning session. Writing your responses on index cards or post-it notes can be useful here as a reminder to keep it scrappy.

  1. What are you trying to determine? Answer this in a single sentence or pose single question. Keep it focused. The answer goes on a card by itself.
  2. What are you not testing? This can sometimes be really helpful in defining what you are testing. For example, a test on delivery method will require content, but you are not testing the content itself so don’t let that be a distraction. The answer goes on a card by itself.
  3. What are the risks of the test? These are known factors you should consider as you plan your experiment. Ricks could include high traffic causing a web crash, incomplete analytics based on what you are testing, or a negative visitor experience due to potential confusion. It’s important to get these down on paper in part so you can plan how to address them if they come up (and can be addressed). These go on a card together.
  4. How will you run the test? In full agile-mode this is the story, and is often written from the user’s point-of-view. You are welcome to take that approach. The important aspect of this is answering, in detail, how you will run the experiment. Think simple, think scrappy. Include any A/B testing if required. You may need multiple cards for this portion.
  5. What do you need to accomplish the test? Realistically, jot down all the resources (time, money, staff, supplies) do you need to execute the test. Be inclusive. This is a chance to tweak the test to match available resources. You may need multiple cards for this.
  6. What are potential next steps? This is your chance to think one step ahead. If this happens, then you want to test x, but if that happens, you want to test y. Of course, z might happen, which is why you run tests to begin with! This should be one card only so you don’t get carried away thinking too far ahead.


Bring it on! #DMA

Helga Brandt, Pavilion Dance South West shares her involvement as a Digital Marketing Academy (DMA) Fellow.

I’m a bit at a loss what to write for my last #DMA3 blog. I would have loved to present clear outcomes of my experiment with a well-developed strategy how to implement them into our ongoing audience development.

But, as we say in Germany: “Erstens kommt es anders, und zweitens als man denkt” – things never turn out the way you expect. Not surprisingly maybe, I didn’t finish the three(!) experiments I set myself. In all honesty, I didn’t even finish the first one. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as I did a lot of learning along the way. And as for the implementation – well, that’s a longer-term project anyway.

So, what are the key outcomes from my #DMA3 experience?

  • Less is More: Yes, I should have concentrated on one experiment rather than allowing myself getting pulled in too many directions. But I think I felt just concentrating on creating more engaging content on Twitter wasn’t really weighty enough for a “proper” experiment. Turns out I was wrong – it still keeps me occupied! I also learned a lot from other Fellows, who concentrated on one “smaller” experiment, but were then able to drill down deeper into the analytics and gain valuable insights.
  • Don’t be scared to make mistakes: for a perfectionist like me the sheer thought of allowing myself to fail rather than planning everything meticulously in advance has little appeal. It was therefore interesting to learn about the “agile” project management approach and thinking about where I could use it in my work at Pavilion Dance South West.
  • The most important lessons I take away about Social Media use: It’s called world wide web for a reason – be international, not UK-centred. Be more human. Be interested in what other people have to say and engage with their content. Don’t make it all about Us, Us, Us, i.e. constantly pushing content about our shows, our classes, our projects… I haven’t done this consistently enough to see some permanent change but we’ve recently seen our engagement rate and profile visits on Twitter go up slightly, and I believe that this trend will continue if we keep being more engaging.


And what next?

Well, I definitely want to explore more of our Social Media use. Ultimately, I would like to achieve an organisational shift – I would like all staff to embrace the fact that Social Media is not (just) a marketing tool but a tool to engage people on a personal level rather than pushing out sales messages to them all the time – and they are certainly not a firefighting tool for when a show doesn’t sell.

I will continue to explore Tumblr and its suitability as a tool for content creation and internal communication. One of my aims for the future is to engage and encourage more staff members outside the marketing team to contribute to our digital communications. If it works, it will make it easier for everyone to contribute to our monthly newsletter and for us to produce it, as we will all leave and take content at and from a central source. I have to confess that I am still trying to figure out how this could work, but I’m determined to give it some more time.

I am also planning a review of our website – it’s three years after we re-launched it – and I would like to use an agile approach.

And I will certainly re-visit the notes from my mentoring meetings, as they are so full of interesting ideas and tangents.


Everything Is Beta #DMA

DK, digital marketing expert and a mentor for the Digital Marketing Academy offers his thoughts on mentoring.

For the past three years I’ve been honoured to be mentoring ‘fellows’ from the cultural sector via the the Arts Marketing Association, Digital Marketing Academy.

Fellows are invited to devise, test, develop and share digital marketing experiments with the help of a leading digital specialist as their Mentor. The experiments are developed on real audiences in order to trial and adopt good practice and achieve new ambitions and perspectives in digital marketing.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Lincoln

Every year, I’ve been working with three fellows and although many experiments have seen fruition, like using printed flyers to promote digital offers, connecting schools with arts and cultural organisations online and using online data to drive digital efforts, the most important learning is that everything is beta.

Ideas don’t follow a neat, linear pathway to actualisation, there are just too many factors which influence things, like resources, time, other projects, literacies, organisational culture etc. Developing pathways to action is sometimes more about understanding deeply the causalities of the hurdles and / or clearing the route rather than walking them.

The two most common challenges facing the fellows during my time as mentor is that of capacity and expectations. The first relates to simply the amount of ‘other’ in the professional portfolio the mentee is juggling. Space for reflection let alone experimentation is rare so even being part of this initiative is a fantastic opening of potential. The latter is obviously an internal, softer set of attitudes which the organisation manifests. Again, another ongoing, sometimes abrasive hinderance to the intent of the projects, which is specific and is tackled by rephrasing or positioning the efforts in a digestible and values / outcomes based manner.

Without at least attempting to address these factors then experiments rarely gain deeper traction.

Put another way, the axe needs sharpening first.

Big thanks to my mentees this year: Rachel and Ryan from the digital team at Barbican Centre plus Helga who’s heading up the marketing team at Pavilion Dance South West.

Facebook Triple-Bill #DMA

Nicola Mullen, Company Chameleon, shares her involvement as a Digital Marketing Academy (DMA) Fellow.

When I set out on my DMA journey in May, I had no idea what my learning would look like on the other side in December.

My initial primary objective for taking part in the DMA was to increase the number of people who engage with Company Chameleon through stronger digital marketing. Very quickly and after a mind-blowing first mentor session with Tom Beardshaw, I realised that this objective was far too broad, considering the size and scope of the digital marketing landscape that was out there to explore.

So one month in, I changed my primary objective so it was more focused. My new objective simply stated – to make better use of Facebook, and wow, the psychological difference this made had an instant effect. I no longer felt overwhelmed with everything I didn’t know and instead felt excited about everything I could know and learn more about through experimentation.


Six months on, I’ve made many discoveries, and in writing this third and final blog, I’d like to share with you the discovery, which I’ve found most exciting.

Company Chameleon is a dance theatre company which tours across the UK and internationally. In 2016, we performed in over 30 different venues in cities and towns across the UK and Europe. With this programming – performing in front of 30 different audiences in 30 different locations – comes an audience engagement and development challenge.


With limited resources and one part-time marketing lass, how do we start a conversation with each of these 30 audiences in the different locations ahead of our performances to generate interest and awareness? Additionally, once audiences have seen us perform, how do we continue the conversation so we can build audience relationships?

Through my learning on the DMA, I’ve discovered that Facebook might just have the answers to these questions, and on that note, I’d like to share three ways in which touring companies can maximise on Facebook as a marketing tool.

1) Audience targeting
“Audience targeting helps you show your ads to the people you care about” says Facebook. In marketing Company Chameleon’s autumn UK tour of Witness, Facebook has excelled as a marketing tool because of its targeting abilities.

Not only have I been able to target six geographic locations separately and all together at the same time, I’ve also been able to target adverts in relation to age, gender and interest.

The premiere of Witness took place at The House at Plymouth University. I knew from talking to the University’s marketing team that their students compose a large percentage of their audiences. This meant in the build-up to the premiere, I could promote content via interests to people on Facebook who listed their university as Plymouth, thereby targeting the students who go there.

For other venues such as Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal and The Lowry in Salford Quays, the venue provided me with postcodes so I could target audiences geographically, which I teamed with an interest in contemporary dance.

In January, Company Chameleon tours and performs at the Purple TanzFestival in Berlin and for the first time I plan to use Facebook to raise awareness ahead of the shows in Germany. Thanks to dance being an international language, our video content should spark interest among potential audiences, just as it would here in the UK. The key is to talk to the right audiences and we can do this through targeting people interested in contemporary dance.

For touring companies, Facebook enables you to engage audiences that live in the many geographical areas that your touring programme encompasses. Whether you’re performing in Plymouth, Kendal, Salford or Berlin, Facebook gives you the power to reach out and engage the exact audiences that you want to talk to.

2) Pixel codes
The Facebook pixel is a piece of Javascript code that once embedded on your web-site, enables you to target the people who have visited your website, on Facebook. As a touring dance company, we have fleeting interactions with audiences around the UK and abroad so capturing audience data as we tour is a challenge.
However, through Google Analytics I’m aware that there is an increase in the number of visitors to our web-site during busy touring periods, plus, there is synergy between the touring geographical locations and where the website visitors live. This would indicate that ticket bookers are visiting our website before / after seeing performances.

Through using the Facebook pixel on Company Chameleon’s web-site, an advert can be set-up on Facebook, which targets website visitors and asks them to ‘like’ our Facebook page. Once people ‘like’ our page, we can start building a relationship with them through sharing quality creative content, which deepens engagement.

For touring companies the Facebook pixel creates an opportunity to continue the conversation with audience members once a show is over and to build relationships with audience members who have expressed further interest in the company by visiting the website.

3) Market research
Unlike venues who can hold focus groups with their audiences to inform market research, such research is more difficult to conduct for touring companies. However, through setting up an advert set on Facebook, you can test ideas – focus group style – quickly and at very little cost.

My DMA experiments to date have focused on testing what is the most cost effective way to get quality likes on Facebook. In my last experiment, I tested six different images keeping the other variables the same – the copy/messaging, time of publication and target audience.

Within 48 hours of the advert set going live, the results showed that one image was clearly outperforming the rest. This prompted me to turn off the other five adverts and keep the strongest one live, so we could maximise on our investment.

Facebook gives you the means to carry out dip-stick research with your audiences quickly and cost-effectively. Whether it’s a front cover image for a new season brochure, the title of a new production or a campaign key message, Facebook gives you the ability to make decisions based on data not hunches.

So these are three simple ways that touring companies can use Facebook to engage and develop audiences. Of course, this activity needs to be integrated with other comms and intelligence, such as segmentation research from Audience Finder, for maximum impact. But Facebook has undoubtedly changed the game for touring companies in relation to their marketing and audience development.
I find this truly exciting and my learning will underpin Company Chameleon’s marketing strategy for 2017. Thanks to my time on the DMA, next year’s strategy is looking very different to last year’s – and this is a good thing, as Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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