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Where music meets #DMA

Angharad Cooper from Sound and Music shares her experience on the Digital Marketing Academy

With the British Music Collection fast approaching the big 50, I think it’s fair to say that we are feeling particularly kindly towards it, proud of how far it has come over a life with as many up and downs as anybody else (including a few years ensconced in a storage facility somewhere near Southend…).

The British Music Collection consists ‘IRL’of over 60,000 scores and recordings, based in state-of-the-art archive centre Heritage Quay at the University of Huddersfield – Huddersfield having a rich history of new and experimental music, thanks in part to its annual festival. In 2014 the archive opened its doors once more to the public and for the first time in its history finds itself completely cleaned and catalogued thanks to a generous HLF grant and brilliant, dedicated archivists. No mean feat!

Online, it exists as a discovery platform for UK art-music (that is to say, music without a commercial focus – many composers will quite rightly make a living from the works within, but you probably won’t find Ed Sheeran…) with a focus on drawing out the contents of the collection to as wide a global audience of composers and curious listeners as possible. We are doing lots more work on how to better articulate, or even illustrate, the relationship between the digital and physical – something the forthcoming Digital Marketing Academy experiments have been designed to help with.

It is a fascinating time for the collection. The online content grows and grows, becoming more and more varied in subject and form, which in turn spurs us on to become more adventurous curatorially. Our focus for the future is firmly on diversity (if the collection was a person, it would no doubt be a 50 year old white male). This is an opportunity to expose the lack of diversity, to prise apart and shine a light into the cracks, using them as a space for play, provocation and experimentation. In doing so we can communicate what needs to change, at the same time as taking the first few decisive steps along that path.

For International Women’s Day 2017, we created an online campaign asking women composers to add their work to the British Music Collection, actively redressing the gender balance. A key part of the campaign was an online intervention whereby we ‘hacked’ (okay, with full permission and a professional web developer) the site so to turn the names of male composers white on a white background – rendering them temporarily invisible. This is exactly the kind of thing we can do at this point in time (in advance of a planned, large scale redevelopment). Perhaps it is in some ways akin to an online form of direct action – a slicker, more commercialised platform may be less able to pull this off.

I am incredibly lucky to have the inspiring Owen Valentine Pringle as my mentor. Our two sessions so far have really helped to further my thinking (as well as imparting heaps of knowledge!) in terms of strategic planning for the project – supporting me to think at a more zoomed out level, which feels like a perfect and timely approach in terms of suitably celebrating this big, brilliant whole.


Image courtesy of Sadler’s Wells © Hugo Glendinning Gravity Fatigue by Hussein Chalayan

A warm welcome #DMA

Freya Jewitt from South London Gallery shares her experience on the Digital Marketing Academy

We recently received this post on the South London Gallery’s (SLG) Facebook page:

‘Just home from my first ever visit to the gallery even though I live across the road from it. I went for a specific reason, to meet artist Jessie Brennan about a project she is doing. I was given a short tour as mobility is a problem for me. It made me look at art galleries differently…The welcome was so warm from everyone present. People were eager to talk to me about art and what it means to them… I will definitely return at another time…’

Reading this comment made me feel very happy to be part of the SLG. It reflects the organisations’ welcoming attitude and long term commitment to artist led programmes with our neighbours. I love arts marketing because I believe that arts and culture have something to offer everyone. When audiences have experiences like this it motivates me to reach out to more people and find ways to break down the barriers to entry.

Receiving this feedback at the start of the Digital Marketing Academy (DMA) inspired one of my project goals. I want to make the digital experience before you visit as welcoming, personal and positive as when you walk through the door. I’m planning to do this by improving the access content on our website in time for Making Routes, an inclusive youth arts festival we are hosting in October.

At the SLG we have an access and diversity staff forum where we meet every two months to discuss ideas for improvements we can make across the organisation. These can be great for identifying issues and making changes but often there isn’t time to progress ideas into projects. I’m really pleased to be taking part in the DMA as it gives me the opportunity to realise some of these ideas, but also to test and improve them in a structured way.

By the end of the Academy I hope to have created an informative and clear access page that includes a visual story and a short video on how to find us. The aim of this content is to be a helpful resource for families of disabled children and young people who are planning to visit the Making Routes festival.

So far I’ve been doing a lot of interesting research into the accessibility of website design and creating digital content and having helpful conversations with my colleagues, the action learning set and mentor. We’ve identified that the biggest challenge now is deciding how to evaluate this project. I’ll be able to look at analytics to see whether content is engaging users but I know that consulting disabled people for feedback will be the most valuable way to improve it. Now I need to work out how and when to do this and what will be our measure of success.

Planning and preparing… #DMA

Jenny Babenko from Adverse Camber shares her experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

I work for a small scale touring company with a small staff base, located in a rural area, therefore the opportunity to take part in the 2017 Digital Marketing Academy is something quite exciting!  My opportunities to benefit from peer support and networking are limited and so the DMA seems like it can provide great opportunities to learn from experts and to be part of a conversation with colleagues who have varying levels of knowledge with whom I can share experiences and ideas with.

With the DMA I hope to learn more about and experiment with different ways of engaging with our audiences in-between our live performances in more meaningful, regular, consistent and interesting ways. We would like to develop and build customer loyalty, generating confidence in our audiences that we have something unique and interesting to say. I would like to experiment with using film to do this.

One month in, the DMA has made an impression on me, after one online seminar, one Action Learning Set and one meeting with my mentor, how amazing to be able to meet with such a variety of people from the UK, the United States and Australia all from my office!

Through the Action Learning Set we got to know the other fellows in our set and it became clear that learning from each other would be fairly easy just by listening to each other’s experiences and asking pertinent questions. So, not only will we learn from our own experiments and experiences, but from each others’ experiences, too.

My first meeting with my mentor Seb Chan was really interesting, he has so much knowledge and experience, a short conversation opened my eyes to many different ideas that I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up! Seb has already made a couple of simple and practical suggestions, for example some easy ways of making better use of Facebook, along with sending me links to some really engaging and quirky digital content!

Next I have to make some solid plans…


Header Image courtesy of Courtyard Centre for the Arts © Russell Lewis – Theatre of Doom

Joining the Dots #DMA

Abi Jenkins from Music for Youth shares her experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

I applied for the Digital Marketing Academy knowing full well it was going to be a challenge. In fact, that’s exactly why I applied.

On looking over blog posts of previous fellows, it’s somewhat comforting if a little saddening to see just how universal the time constraints and pressures of arts organisations are in impacting on the process of innovation and creativity. For me, my first big learning in this process has been getting comfortable with the fact that in a small, busy organisations like Music for Youth it’s OK to deal in fits and starts of progress, just as long as you keep joining the dots. Particularly in these small organisations there can be a feeling of constantly being in delivery, especially when one role encompasses so many different facets of work. However, in learning to prioritise actual, no-bones-about-it delivery, and starting to automate and refine other processes in new, more efficient ways, even just adapting to accommodate my Digital Marketing Academy experiment within my existing workload has already been hugely beneficial.

I think the key to this whole process is honesty. Even in these first weeks of the DMA the outside accountability of Action Learning Sets, and a brilliant mentor, while sometimes inducing a guilt-ridden anxiety, are invaluable in being able to fight for the headspace to ensure that you’re not wasting others’ equally valuable time as well as your own.

It’s with all of this in mind that I’ve set up a dedicated DMA 4.0 Trello board. While potentially unintelligible to an outside viewer, it’s my mental saving grace. Having one, centralised yardstick which is ready to revisit whenever possible has become invaluable. Some weeks it looms heavy with neglect, but it’s definitely net positive in being able to stoke the embers of momentum while the particularly busy periods take hold.

My fantastic mentor Ron, while helping me to pin down my main focus for this process in our very first meeting, reminded me that no matter what happens, at the end of this, I, along with my work will have to stand up and be counted in the final presentation. Working backwards from a concrete milestone like that has really helped, and though my experiment is still in its infancy, I’m excited to keep nurturing it.


Header image courtesy of Roundhouse © Ellie Pinney

The Google Inquisition #DMA

Olivia Parker from Waddesdon Manor shares her experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

My ultimate aim to engage younger audiences with our art collections has begun with a journey of diving deep into our online audience and their behaviours. My first mentoring session with Tom Beardshaw was somewhat enlightening and I discovered, much to my shame, that I hadn’t been using Google Analytics to its full potential.

In November we launched our shiny, new website which not only reflects the beauty of Waddesdon but has a much more user-friendly interface. Great! But how do I get more people to it and engage with the content? It’s now my responsibility to find a way of doing this – in fact this is true of our social channels too. It’s a key organisational objective to get our digital audiences to engage with our art collections, both new and existing, and an audience we are really missing a trick with our 18-24 year olds.

Waddesdon website screenshot

Image Courtesy of Waddesdon Manor website © National Trust, Waddesdon Manor


Following my initial mentoring session, armed with Tom’s expertise in Google Analytics, I have started creating audience segments to dig down into understanding our website users, giving me actionable points from the data. I have been asking questions like, what is it that prompts our audiences to come to our website via social media? And are they visiting our collections pages? In doing so, my hope is to use this information to make some considered changes to our social content.

Our social media is quite eclectic to represent the many aspects on offer at Waddesdon: these include the art collections, our Aviary (interestingly also a registered zoo), exhibitions, gardens, wine cellar and tastings, online shop, and events which can be anything from big food and arts festivals and cinema screenings to kids camping and Christmas. Currently our best performing posts are beautiful pictures of the Manor or gardens, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, we want to raise the profile of our art collections. We already post a fair amount about the collections but the engagement is comparatively low and I need to find a way to increase it.

When I got accepted onto the Digital Marketing Academy I was excited because so often I feel like time runs away from me, and though I deliver sound marketing campaigns, they’re not as creative as I’d like them to be. So for me, the key to my project is creativity and having fun with it.

Therefore, to target our younger audiences, our plan is to begin by trialling playful and humorous content based around our collections that we hope captures the imaginations of 18-24 year olds. A huge inspiration for this approach has been Adam Koszary who used to Tweet for the Bodleian Libraries (now at Reading Museum). He created funny content that not only brought the collections to life but also showed the intention of the art works. I highly recommend giving his blog a read if you’re thinking about how you can jazz up your content.

Next step, learn how to create GIFs!


Header image:  Image courtesy of  Parterre, Waddesdon Manor  Photo Chris Lacey © National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Small Steps Lead to Big Changes #DMA

Katie Moffat, head of digital, The Audience Agency and Digital Marketing Academy Mentor, talks change. 

In the digital world there is always a buzzword or phrase of the moment and currently it’s, ‘Digital Transformation’.

Digital Transformation is about adapting the culture and operating systems of an organisation to work more effectively with new technology.  Often Digital Transformation requires significant changes to the mindset and skillset of all staff, including senior management and the board.  It’s about much more than what tools and tactics you employ. Digital Transformation has a useful and valid role to play in helping organisations adapt to, and thrive within, our digital era, but let’s not forget that there can also be huge value in small but significant changes.

When Sir Dave Brailsford became the performance director of British Cycling he started by breaking down all the elements of a successful performance into smaller parts. He believed that if it was possible to make a 1% improvement in each area the overall gain would lead to a significant positive difference (and ultimately success). This approach is known as ‘marginal gains’, and thanks to Brailsford it’s now much more widely recognised. History tells us that his approach resulted in huge successes for the British GB cycling team, transforming a sport that had been languishing in the doldrums.

But the effectiveness of the marginal gains approach is one that can thrive outside of sports. For example, Google and Facebook are constantly undertaking small scale data and platform experiments in order to discover areas where tweaks can be made, changes which collectively add up to great impact.

I’d argue it’s a way of thinking that arts and culture organisations should adopt more often, and it’s frequently a feature of a Digital Marketing Academy experiment.  For example, a theatre looking at whether sending out a follow up email to a booker the day they attend makes them more likely to book for another event than if the email is sent out a day later. Or whether prompting people to sign up to an email newsletter in person is more successful for certain audiences that an online prompt.

Large, transformational strategies are sometimes important and necessary to ensure momentum but let’s not forget that the marginal gains approach can be incredibly effective.

Header Image courtesy of Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra © Richard Jupe

Looking back on the #DMA

Charlotte Gross and Clare Campbell from Scottish Ballet share their experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

Charlotte and I have come away from the DMA with a genuinely new outlook. After a few frank conversations and an eye-opening workshop on Agile Working in the first weeks, our DMA experience changed from one pre-determined project with an end goal to a series of discussions, experiments and learnings which, put together, have changed our work culture for the long-term – in a way that a single open and shut project might not have done.

With the support of our Mentor Tom Beardshaw, we have grown our digital knowledge and output in many ways, but particularly in our use of digital tools to test theories and make informed decisions, and to analyse ROI. We now use digital tools to plan non-digital strategy, using a small budget to test what images and language work ahead of big spending. As a ballet company, our visual is hugely important and audience research has told us that brochures and posters are a key factor in their decision to book. We chose the visual for our most recent contemporary tour based on the CTR results of an A/B test of two Facebook promoted posts each with the same copy but a different image. It went on to be our most successful contemporary tour in a number of years.

As a touring company, we are concerned that a weakness in our customer relationship is a lack of contact. Their loyalty lies with our venues and not with us. We have been able to consider how we improve relationships with our audiences – part of our initial challenge – in ways that we might not have on our initial path. From simple things like A/B testing email content to using the “see think do care” model to develop our social media strategy, these are small changes in our behaviour which are becoming embedded in our daily working lives. We have conducted a number of online surveys in the course of our DMA Fellowship and are now looking in more detail and over a longer time frame at what we should ask and who we should ask to draw the best feedback to tackle our biggest problem – low repeat attendance.

During our time at the DMA, we took the first steps in selling tickets for our tours directly through our website. While the technical set up of selling our own tickets was a huge digital task in itself, we hoped that having the full buyer journey on our website would allow us to track their behaviour and determine their loyalty to us through repeat visits to the website, a longer time spent on our website, more engagement on social media or other measures. In reality, this project made clear to us limitations based on our Google Analytics set up and also our knowledge of how to draw data from it. In the few months since selling the tickets, we have set ourselves goals and events, created and revised dashboards and improved our e-commence tracking. I am also starting the Google Academy in January. We have also become less reliant on the agency which manages all of our paid digital advertising. We can now tell them when something isn’t working rather than waiting for a fortnightly report.

The DMA has both changed our outlook on how we use social media and digital advertising but has also led us to re-evaluate how we incorporate digital into larger strategies. With clear and easily acquired results, digital advertising offers a confidence and security that spend on traditional marketing cannot. I always compare reading a Google Analytics report from the comfort of your desk to chasing a bus with your advert on the side down the street, asking everyone who glances at it what their age, interests, family make up and social grade are… I know what I’d rather do…

Header Image courtesy of National Football Museum © Chris Payne

Reactions #DMA

Ron Evans, Group of Minds and a Mentor for the Digital Marketing Academy offers thoughts on the end of DMA 3.0

As we wrap up Digital Marketing Academy 3.0 and I look at the fine work that my mentees have accomplished in their experiments, I’m reminded how many advantages we have today as experimenters that weren’t possible just a few years ago.

Take product testing for example. Up until recently, product ideas would likely be tested in a focus group. A facilitator would gather together some target audience members in a room, cue up the two-way mirror with the company wanting the feedback on the other side, and ask a lot of questions about how people felt about the different product options.

Now, I like a good focus group as much as the next guy. But they are not great for innovation, because when you ask people the equivalent of “how can we innovate so that you’ll buy this,” people often don’t know what they want. On the topic of innovation and the creation of the automobile, Henry Ford is often quoted as having said “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.” Turns out he apparently never said that, but you get the idea – it’s hard for people to break out of their boxes and come up with a more innovative solution. Also, people often make confident but false predictions of their future behavior for potentially all sorts of reasons: a wish to please the moderator, or the fact that their lunch is disagreeing with them. You just never know. So what’s an arts marketer/experimenter to do?

At the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Austin, Texas, U.S. this past November, I was happy to sit in on a session called Embracing Dynamic Frameworks To Drive Organizational Change led by Arts Marketing Association rockstars Cath Hume and Carol Jones. In 60 minutes, they gave the crowd a working knowledge of agile marketing methodologies, and the idea of doing small and rapid product tests, analysing results, making changes, and testing again. Agile is sweet, and it just so happens that it is one of the backbone concepts of the Digital Marketing Academy.

In a nutshell, rather than asking people how they would react to a product in the marketplace (with all of the challenges listed above) we instead see how they actually respond to that product being in the market, through small tests such as Facebook ads or Google Adwords, clicks on “buy now” buttons, analytics, and more. “Would you buy this” leaves a lot of wiggle room for people. Actually seeing who buys is a more accurate predictor of future behaviour. Through rapid testing, several ads can be tested for response, and the best one picked to move forward.

That’s where the advantages we have today come in. Before digital media, the cost of running these tests was often prohibitive. You might have to mail a ton of postcards to see which message worked, and pay for each postcard. In digital advertising on a per-click basis, you only pay if there is a response… you literally can try as many versions as you like. This simply allows for a level of testing sophistication – by observing actually buying behaviour – never before possible.

This is a glorious time to be a marketing person in the arts, because there are so many options available, and the ability to tailor campaigns and rapidly modify to improve them over time is something the generation before us could do, but at a much slower pace. So pick one of your marketing messages and change it up. Try something wickedly different and measure your results. Most of all, have fun with it. Studying human behaviour is a fascinating and rewarding process, and we may never fully understand what makes us tick, but we can learn a little more each day.

My thanks to the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy and the Arts Marketing Association for their facilitation of another round of fantastic learning and experimentations by some of the most interesting cultural organisations in the UK!

You don’t have to pay Facebook #DMA

Giant Picnic 2010

Hannah Fiddy shares her involvement as a Digital Marketing Academy (DMA) Fellow.

My second experiment was as part of a different organisation: London Flashmob. Part of my marketing is through the Facebook page, which brings together a community of people who are interested in finding out about flashmobs happening in London. I have never paid to advertise, so due to changes in Facebook algorithms over the past couple of years, posts are being seen by increasingly fewer people, despite the size of the page growing. Therefore I wanted to find out how to get Facebook to show my posts to more people without paying, which would hopefully also increase engagement.

Hypothesis: Facebook favours content uploaded to its site over links to external content, even if the content is identical.

To test this, I ran a Throwback Thursday campaign over a six-week period, posting one status a week, each at 8:30am on a Thursday. Three of those were videos of past flashmobs uploaded directly to Facebook. The other three were hyperlinks to videos on YouTube.

As you can see from the graph below, posts including a video directly uploaded to Facebook reached over double the number of people as links.

In this instance, there didn’t seem to be a link between the number of people viewing the content and the amount of engagement. My most successful post was status number 5, which reached very few people. The reason it was most successful was because unlike in the other statuses, I asked people to like it if they wanted me to organise another event of the same type. Asking for engagement worked, with more likes and comments with positive feedback. It’s interesting to note that despite having a lot of engagement, Facebook still didn’t choose to show the content to more people, perhaps because it contained a link to an external site.

Due to the shortness of this blog post, this is a very simple overview of the experiment and there are many more variables that could be tested. There could have been other factors affecting the Facebook view numbers (e.g. the amount I was posting outside of the Throwback Thursday campaign), but my tips from carrying out this experiment are:

  • To get more views on a post on Facebook, upload the content directly to Facebook rather than directing people away from the site. This not only includes videos but also pictures, events, etc.
  • Don’t be scared to ask for engagement – it can be very successful!

    Header Image courtesy of People United © Zoe Maxwell

A Live Tweeting Comedy of Errors #DMA

Langham Research Centre - The Dark Tower. Barts Pathology Museum. 13 June 2016.

Hannah Fiddy shares her involvement as a Digital Marketing Academy (DMA) Fellow.

I started the DMA course with an experiment that turned out to be a comedy of errors. My aim was to encourage engagement from audience members on social media during a concert. In my capacity as Marketing Manager at Spitalfields Music, I was preparing for a performance in a pathology lab (Bart’s Pathology Museum) with Langham Research Centre, an ensemble performing electronic music using obsolete technology. We got off to a great start by selling out so that was the first hurdle out of the way!

My idea was to experiment with live tweeting programme notes during the concert. It seemed a good opportunity to test this approach as it attracted a very mixed audience and had an informal set-up: there were no chairs so audience members were encouraged to walk around the space throughout, and, as it was based in a pathology lab, there were numerous body parts in jars (!) to scrutinise while enjoying the music.

In advance of the performance, I scheduled tweets to go out at regular intervals, announcing what was being played and including interesting facts about the music. I also created signs featuring our Twitter handle and questions about the music to be placed around the space, encouraging the audience to engage with us online.

However, upon entering the venue, I came across a vast number of problems:

  • The pathology lab was within a hospital with limited signal, so accessing Twitter was difficult.
  • The performers asked everyone to turn off their phones as the signal would interfere with the technology they were using.
  • Photography was not permitted within the lab, so it was difficult to allow tweeting but no photography.
  • The entire venue had glass cabinets around the room (containing medical specimens) and there was a rule banning signs on the glass. I managed to put up a few of my carefully prepared signs but they ended up in places that weren’t very visible.
  • Despite telling each audience member when entering that they were encouraged to walk around during the performance, most people decided instead to sit on the ground, and therefore didn’t see any of the signs anyway!

 The upshot of all of this was that no-one was tweeting during the concert, let alone reading my programme notes. Afterwards we did have an influx of tweets about the concert – more than was usual – but it’s impossible to say whether that was in any way influenced by the signs.

If you want to try out this experiment, my tips would be to:

  • Check in with Production about the venue stipulations and artist requests.
  • Visit the venue beforehand if possible.
  • Include your Twitter handle in physical/digital programmes, and mention it during the pre-concert announcement.

This is just one of the struggles born out of being a non-venue-based organisation, but at least we learned a few lessons!

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