Small arts organisations struggle with almost everything – except, it seems, direct connections to their supporters and communities. Often it is the small organisations that know every second face that comes to their performances and their shows. Yet they are also frequently the ones that feel most ‘challenged’ by digital marketing. Encouraged to ‘scale’, there is a tendency to forget that their small scale is also their super power – and that word-of-mouth is also the ‘original social media’.
For this year’s AMA Digital Marketing Academy, I’ve been mentoring Jenny Babenko at Adverse Camber. Adverse Camber’s work is interesting, accessible, and tours regional and rural towns – bringing their storytelling and music to many different communities. The challenge for them, given their tiny staffing, is to maximise their marketing reach and effectiveness at lowest possible cost, so that everything they have can go into their productions.
As with almost every performing arts company, their challenge is to get people to experience a performance – so that they become advocates. To that end, my sessions with Jenny have largely worked through issues around ‘representing the experience’ better to potential audiences, and then secondly, doing quick and dirty research with people who have just experienced a performance to understand what they felt was different, memorable, and how they might describe the experience to their friends. Adverse Camber’s work is highly experiential and is not easily captured by action photography, trailers, or even 360 video. But audience reactions are.
The idea has been to get beyond the (very real) tactical challenges of ‘why is Facebook rarely showing my updates to potential patrons?’ and ‘does my website need a redesign?’ (invariably, yes) and on to the sorts of actions that are achievable, manageable, and give broader insights with a skeleton staff and minimal budget.
Small changes – based on a better understanding of what existing patrons love about your small companies’ work – will give a much better platform on which to build new audiences from, and potentially also inform other ‘non-digital’ marketing and advertising outputs as well.
Are you leading a small-scale organisation with ten staff or less in England? Find out more about our Small-Scale Development Programme.
Image courtesy of Puppet Theatre Scotland © Andy Caitlin – How the Light Gets In – Laura Cameron-Lewis & Shona Reppe