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21st July 2011 Sara Lock

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.

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