Are you an AMA member? please login

Cultural space for the community

When the Roundhouse opened as an arts venue in 1966 in Camden, London, it was seen as a vital space within its community. This remains true today and the Roundhouse’s local community is a big priority for the organisation. With the latest issue of JAM — the AMA’s journal of arts marketing — focusing on community engagement, we invited Tina Ramdeen to write about the Roundhouse’s youth and community engagement work.

Since reopening in 2006, following a huge refurbishment, the Roundhouse now works with 6,500 young people each year and 44% of those are from Camden. We’re proud that the young people we work with are also reflective of the city in which we sit — 41% of the young people are BAME and 58% live in the areas ranked as the most deprived in the UK.

We find that the barriers preventing young people from engaging in organisations are multifaceted and we are working to better understand that. For instance, you cannot always expect people to come to you. One of our key priorities is going out into our local community. Our street circus programme does a huge amount of work out in local housing estates in Camden. We take the art form to them in the spaces where they feel comfortable in order to build trust with us and our staff.

We take the art form to them in the spaces where they feel comfortable in order to build trust with us and our staff.

It is important there is a level of trust between other organisations involved in a young person’s life too. That is why we run a Community Network comprising 70 local organisations including housing associations, youth services, mental health specialists, youth and community centres, and homelessness organisations. The Network comes together once a quarter to share experiences, work towards shared goals and provide referrals for young people into the Roundhouse and externally when they need additional support. It also helps to build a picture of the bigger issues facing young people in our borough. We work with these local partners to deliver taster and developer sessions for young people, providing an entry point into our projects. Working in this way provides holistic support for each young person.

We run two projects each year — one music and one spoken word — where all the referrals are made by our community partners. OnTrack and Wax Lyrical are for 16 to 25-year-olds not in education, employment or training and throughout six weeks the group develop their skills, culminating in a final showcase of their work. Many young people have gone on to further training or found a job but it is the transferable skills that are transformed because of the network of support around the programme — allowing young people to be creative in a safe and supportive environment.

Our programme of work in schools also cements us in our local community. We know resources in schools and youth organisations have reduced but we are fortunate that we have the staff, industry equipment and a unique space to support local organisations and schools in addressing the gaps. If a local school wants to do a DJ workshop, we can facilitate that, we can host them here — it’s mutually beneficially to both of us — but ultimately young people get the chance to be creative and develop their skills. We see young people who have taken part in projects with their school, continue to come here independently, long after they leave school.

We have done a lot of work to recognise what culture is to our local community, ensuring that our space and offer is reflective of what they want — and this is often in tandem with local schools and community groups. Arts organisations often discuss the need to engage communities in our spaces but we need to recognise that people are already engaging with creativity, just in different spaces.

Earlier this year we worked with Battersea Arts Centre, NoFit State and Queen’s Crescent Community Association to present ILINX — a show created with 50 young people, combining circus, hip hop, beatboxing and DJ’ing. It was a specially created show that shone a light on the power of a community coming together whilst giving young people a safe space to express themselves through creativity. It offered us a real chance to respond to the challenges young people are facing in the borough and connect with the local community at a difficult time.

It offered us a real chance to respond to the challenges young people are facing in the borough and connect with the local community at a difficult time.

Whilst the Roundhouse may not be considered more diverse than the city it sits within, through our community work we do bring young people together who reflect our society. We want to give young people the opportunity to work alongside other young people who are different to them so they can learn and share experiences. This will ultimately encourage greater understanding of one another and push creative boundaries.

Head shot image of Tina Ramdeen from RoundhouseTina Ramdeen is Head of Youth Policy and Engagement at the Roundhouse.

Read the latest issue of JAM on community engagement. You will need your member login to access.

Watch out for AMAculturehive’s Community Engagement takeover, which will be taking place in January 2020 — in the meantime read more about community engagement on AMAculturehive.

 

Image courtesy of Roundhouse. Performance of ILINX presented in association with Battersea Arts Centre, NoFit State and Queen’s Crescent Community Association. © Cesare De Giglio.

Take a break from your computer screen and consider this…

The AMA is delighted that Creative Freedom and Art Fund have once again joined forces to create a space for conversations about mental health and wellbeing at this year’s Digital Marketing Day — Beyond Digital. Colin Beesting starts the conversation by considering the impact social media can have on the mental wellbeing of those working in the creative sector.

Social media is a wonderful thing. It has enabled us to make friends with people who share our passions and keep in touch with distant family. It has also given arts organisations the opportunity to connect with audiences and find new ones.

But with all good things, there tends to be a downside.

A number of studies have found an association between social media use and depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating issues, and increased suicide risk. People can develop unrealistic expectations of their body or their lifestyle by viewing life through the edited lens of social media.

For those whose jobs combine social media use with the pressured environment of the workplace, a number of wellbeing risk factors collide — and out-of-work social media habits may not be helping. Abstention is unrealistic — but being proactive in finding mitigations might be. Offline conversations and time out to enjoy culture are both great ways to promote wellbeing.

For those whose jobs combine social media use with the pressured environment of the workplace, a number of wellbeing risk factors collide — and out-of-work social media habits may not be helping.

The Art Fund’s wellbeing report ‘Calm and Collected’ suggested that galleries and museums were an under-used resource for taking time out for ourselves. They’re a resource we know well — and many of us work in them — but are we using them to support our wellbeing? Maybe we should.

Creative Freedom was born out of a desire to change the conversation about mental health in the cultural and creative sectors. Talking about mental health can be difficult. If you’ve ever been concerned about the wellbeing of a colleague, but not spoken to them about it for fear of saying the wrong thing, you’ll know this. It’s a common fear — but one that could get in the way of someone finding the help they need.

If you’re thinking about how you can support your own mental health and that of your colleagues join us for a chat at the AMA’s Digital Marketing Day — grab a free cup of Pukka tea and let’s continue the conversation.

Drop in to the Wellbeing Hub at Digital Marketing Day — Beyond Digital on 5 December and chat to Creative Freedom and Art Fund about ways (cultural and non-cultural) to boost your wellbeing.

Head shot image of Colin BeestingColin Beesting is Founder of Creative Freedom.
Creative Freedom offers Mental Health First Aider training targeted specifically at the creative and cultural sectors, led by those with direct experience of working in the sector.

 

 

Image AMA conference 2019 © Marion Botella.

Smash and Build — taking the lead to diversify and challenge audiences

What is it about?

projects / data / policy / holistic practice / partnerships

Harpreet’s work focuses on embedding cultural practice into key areas including diversity, gender equality and climate change, locally and globally. In this session she will take you in-depth through an activity that will highlight how your work, ideas and decision making can connect with your audiences. Through the process, you will develop your practice to deliberate on what you do that has an impact on audiences.

Arts programmes and audiences do not exist in isolation — the socio-political context impacts both content and consumer. When political views are increasingly polarised, and extremist views gain ground, how can we address the challenges that this brings? When, how and where should people like you, who work with audiences, be challenging, adapting or diversifying in response? How far can you influence the parameters you are working within?

View more information on Inclusivity and Audiences Day 2019 and book your place.

What will I gain?

— A set of SMART objectives and actions for you to run with as soon as you return to your day job, that take into consideration the challenging political climate we need to navigate

— Identify and challenge your blind spots and barriers to inclusivity

— Tips to link your leadership and values to your role and responsibility

Who is it for?

This is a practical session for those wearing many hats in an arts, heritage or cultural organisation or those whose work seems to straddle conflicting outcomes.

Speaker

Harpreet Kaur | Harpreet Kaur Creative

Harpreet works within a cultural and international development context to facilitate social and global change. She has a portfolio career as a researcher, consultant, facilitator, and arts manager that focusses on embedding cultural practice into key areas including diversity, gender equality and climate change, locally and globally. Harpreet has worked with arts organizations, NGOs, charities, artists and policymakers from different cultures from all corners of the globe. A cosmopolitan globe trotter, Harpreet has mastered remote working and adapting to different environments and contexts rapidly. In the last five years, her focus has been on researching artists exploring climate change through a diversity lens. Her research and work has taken her around the globe with funding from Arts Council England, British Council and Creative Europe.

Harpreet is a former Powerbrokers International Leadership Programme Fellow (Cultural Leadership Programme 2008). She has lived and worked in Europe, Asia and Australia as an arts manager on projects, events and festivals since her career began in 2001. Clients include Southbank Centre (London), Beijing Modern Dance Company (China) Mindspace (Budapest), Regional Arts Victoria (Melbourne) and Jagriti Yatra (Mumbai). She is an Artistic Quality Assessor for Arts Council England and has recently consulted for the national heritage, outdoor arts and community climate action sectors. Harpreet achieved an MSc in Gender and International Relations in 2014 and is an advocate for cultural diplomacy.

In 2014 Harpreet was awarded an International Anita Roddick Award by the Body Shop Foundation for her voluntary work, particularly with Initiatives of Change, a world-wide movement focused on trust and peace building. In 2017 Harpreet was selected as a BBC Expert Woman and has appeared on numerous media channels including BBC World News to share her expertise in Culture and Development. She is an experienced speaker on air and at international conferences about culture, security and development presenting for global audiences in numerous cities including London, Paris, Kiev, Vienna, Bucharest, Berlin and Melbourne.

Image courtesy of Harpreet Kaur (c) Marcin Sz

 

#AMA25 — celebrating 25 years of the AMA

25On the 22 October 1993 the Arts Marketing Association was registered as a limited company and the AMA was officially born. Over the past year we’ve been celebrating with a series of #AMA25 stories and the 25th and final story —  AMA’s 25-year timeline — has been published today.

A lot has happened in the world and in the arts and cultural sector since 1993 and this is reflected in the journey the AMA has experienced with its members over the past 25 years. Scrolling through the AMA’s 25-year timeline you can see the significant changes that the AMA and the wider sector have experienced in particular the impact digital has had on arts marketing and the way we communicate with our audiences.

The AMA evolved out of the need to help our members develop their marketing skills and knowledge and to professionalise this area of the sector. We’ve established supportive networks and we continue to help share latest thinking and good practice through our training, events and resources. In recent years we’ve started to help the sector to become more audience-focused, resilient and inclusive in its approach. And the collective #AMA25 stories reflect this ongoing evolution.

#AMA25
Our 25 stories aim to capture the essence of the work that the AMA does to support our members. We’ve shared the passion that drives our members to do the work that they do and their thoughts on the next 25 years. We’ve included stories on touring, music, dance, theatre, museums, libraries and festivals to show the breadth of art forms and organisations that our members represent. And we have stories on digital, fundraising, press and PR, ticketing, families and community engagement as well as a focus on the building blocks of arts marketing.

We capture the highs and lows of becoming a freelancer, explain why audience-focused leadership is so important and consider how the arts and cultural sector can make itself available and accessible to everyone. We spoke to AMA members from around the globe, celebrated the history and growth of AMA conference, invited past and present JAM editors to reflect on their time as editor and we launched our first AMA Member Benchmarking Survey.

Looking forward to the next 25 years of the AMA, in AMAculturehive’s first podcast —  Six Degrees Podcast — Carol Jones asks Cath Hume, AMA’s CEO,  what key challenges are facing the sector and how the AMA will help meet those challenges. And with the AMA’s new role as a Sector Support Organisation (SSO) AMAculturehive launched an ongoing series of interviews with SSO’s working right across the sector.

Check out all the #AMA25 stories. 

Audiences: to leave or to remain

What is it about?

leadership / collaboration / socio-political context

If great leadership is connected to arts programmes and audiences, then why is the synergy between these three elements often broken by policies and the socio-political context? And who gets left behind?

Using Harpreet’s leadership insights into how arts professionals evolve over their career, this provocation will explore how audiences develop their tastes and evolve, and the distinction between the two. Can the arts, heritage and cultural sector keep up with changes in tech, sustainability and social policy?

From Kala Sangam in Bradford to Shrewesbury Folk Festival, Harpreet will share how arts leaders and audiences are collaborating to respond to the rise of extreme political views and exploring ways to adapt and diversify programming.

View more information on Inclusivity and Audiences Day 2019 and book your place.

Speaker

Harpreet Kaur | Harpreet Kaur Creative

Harpreet works within a cultural and international development context to facilitate social and global change. She has a portfolio career as a researcher, consultant, facilitator, and arts manager that focusses on embedding cultural practice into key areas including diversity, gender equality and climate change, locally and globally. Harpreet has worked with arts organizations, NGOs, charities, artists and policymakers from different cultures from all corners of the globe. A cosmopolitan globe trotter, Harpreet has mastered remote working and adapting to different environments and contexts rapidly. In the last five years, her focus has been on researching artists exploring climate change through a diversity lens. Her research and work has taken her around the globe with funding from Arts Council England, British Council and Creative Europe.

Harpreet is a former Powerbrokers International Leadership Programme Fellow (Cultural Leadership Programme 2008). She has lived and worked in Europe, Asia and Australia as an arts manager on projects, events and festivals since her career began in 2001. Clients include Southbank Centre (London), Beijing Modern Dance Company (China) Mindspace (Budapest), Regional Arts Victoria (Melbourne) and Jagriti Yatra (Mumbai). She is an Artistic Quality Assessor for Arts Council England and has recently consulted for the national heritage, outdoor arts and community climate action sectors. Harpreet achieved an MSc in Gender and International Relations in 2014 and is an advocate for cultural diplomacy.

In 2014 Harpreet was awarded an International Anita Roddick Award by the Body Shop Foundation for her voluntary work, particularly with Initiatives of Change, a world-wide movement focused on trust and peace building. In 2017 Harpreet was selected as a BBC Expert Woman and has appeared on numerous media channels including BBC World News to share her expertise in Culture and Development. She is an experienced speaker on air and at international conferences about culture, security and development presenting for global audiences in numerous cities including London, Paris, Kiev, Vienna, Bucharest, Berlin and Melbourne.

Image courtesy of Harpreet Kaur (c) Marcin Sz

Discovering the wonders in communities

Mercedes Kemp from WildWorks shares her thoughts on the issues raised by the latest JAM — the AMA’s journal of arts marketing — which focuses on community engagement. 

Reading the latest issue of JAM I am heartened by the serious approach to ‘community engagement’ represented in each of the articles. I sense the concerns of the writers, that community engagement might have become a surface approach, a superficial relationship that is useful in obtaining funding but fails to produce meaning or legacy. The importance of an ethical, inclusive approach is evident throughout.

Imrana Mahmood is passionate in her valuing the cultural currency of communities deemed “hard to reach” and the importance of artistic ambition. This is something I have encountered time and again in my twenty years as a socially engaged arts practitioner. She highlights how: “active listening (is) paramount to creating work that (is) resonant and it was also an effective mechanism in building long-term relationships.”

The importance of an ethical, inclusive approach is evident throughout.

I think it is also key to establishing trust and discovering the wonders in communities. And there are wonders. I worked on a CPP project in Sunderland some years ago. WildWorks ‘A Great Night Out’ aimed to give a platform to the voices and talents of a community that had undertaken massive changes in the past 30 years or so. For a year we travelled regularly to Sunderland, made connections, attended local gigs and events, engaged artists and musicians, both professional and amateur and, above all, we listened to the people who wanted to be heard: ex miners, ship builders, women’s support groups, football fans, youth groups.

A temporary community was created that worked in a spirit of mutual generosity to create an event, effectively to make a strong statement of collective pride. The importance of strong partnerships is key to the strength of the work and its legacy. It was important for our work in Sunderland that the local team that was coordinating Creative People and Places would take up the baton after the event and continue to support the people who had participated on ‘A Great Night Out’, so the capacity that had been built through the event would continue to grow. The arts do indeed continue to thrive in this location.

I admire National Theatre Wales’s (NTW) approach to co-creation and the way they place communities at the creative centre of the work. I was Community Director in ‘The Passion of Port Talbot’, the final production in NTWs inaugural year. ‘The Passion’ a three-day non-stop event that involved over one thousand local participants and an audience of 22,000 would not have been possible without the fierce commitment, support and ambition of NTW, led at the time by John McGrath. We really felt as if we were at the beginning of something. Now, eight years on, it is wonderful to read how the TEAM model of participation has strengthened and developed mechanisms to enable communities to participate in every stage of the creation process, including: “leadership, creative activism, intensive engagement and peer learning.”

It reminds us that it is our duty to keep learning from each other as well as from the communities we partner.

This issue of JAM acts as a catalyst for artists working with socially engaged practices. It outlines potential pitfalls and highlights best practice. It reminds us that it is our duty to keep learning from each other as well as from the communities we partner.

Photograph of Mercedes KempMercedes is a WildWorks founding artist with specialty in community and research, and is a senior lecturer in Fine Art at Falmouth University.

Read the latest issue of JAM on community engagement. You will need your member login to access.

Audience interaction through social media #DigiLab

In this #DigiLab blog Charlotte Angharad from Metro-Boulot-Dodo (MBD) talks about her third experiment to develop Instagram Stories and the impact the Digital Lab has had on the organisation’s approach to social media.

Our third Digital Lab experiment was originally going to be based on community interaction through our website related to a project that we’re doing to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing. Unfortunately, the project has been delayed until October so although we still plan to undertake this experiment, we needed a new experiment for Digital Lab.

So instead, our third #DigiLab experiment is an Instagram one. Although I lead on MBD’s social media I don’t know much about Instagram or Instagram Stories — as a result we’ve just been posting on Instagram rather than developing stories.

We have at the moment a fantastic intern, Silvia Campanile, who knows a lot about Instagram. Silvia is a design graduate from Naples who’s working at MBD for four months as part of the Erasmus Programme, which is a European work placement programme. Silvia is working on some of our VR projects, as well as on design and 3D animation. She’s also been helping us with our social media, in particular Instagram.

Silvia has started to develop MBD’s Instagram Stories — she’s been posting content and developing interaction with followers. Our experiment is evaluating that work.

Silvia’s made a real difference to our Instagram and we’ve seen an increase in followers. It’s also made a difference to how we view our audiences. We originally started 22 years ago as a touring theatre company so our audiences were in the room with us when we were performing. We could see audience reactions to our work; hear their clapping and experience a real-life interaction.

However, these days we do a lot more work online and using Virtual Reality (VR). We do work that’s site specific, for example audio heritage trails in historic properties. As a result, we’re not always there when our work is happening so we’re not seeing the reaction of our audiences and we’re not talking as much to our audiences. We miss that interaction.

So the work that Silvia’s doing with our Instagram Stories is creating more interaction. Throughout the working day people will ask questions through Instagram about the work that we’re doing. They’ll ask questions such as: what’s a difficult day in the office? Or, what we’re working on next week? It gives us an opportunity to directly interact with our audiences and that’s a really good resource that we’ve previously not tapped into.

It’s changed the way all of us in the team are thinking. It’s made us more aware of our audiences on a day-to-day basis.

Silvia is also imparting her knowledge of Instagram to the rest of the team and training us up to the level that she’s at. So that when she leaves we’ll be able to carry on the stories.

As a result of the Digital Lab programme, we’re now developing ‘tone of voice’ guidelines for our social media platforms so that we can have a consistent organisational voice across all our channels. We’re also defining which platform we want to use for which type of content — so that we know what type of post we want to put on each platform. #DigiLab has opened our eyes to how best to use our social media channels and how we can implement that across the whole organisation.

Read Charlotte’s previous Digital Lab blogs: Paid social media advertising #DigiLab  and Digital Advent Calendar #DigiLab.

Images courtesy of Metro-Boulot-Dodo ©.

Four key lessons from #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellow Kim Osborne from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre shares the four key lessons she’s learnt from the projects and experiments she’s undertaken as part of #DigiLab.  

So, we’re at the end of Digital Lab now, and this blog post is a good opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt over the last six months or so. Here are four key lessons from the projects and experiments I’ve carried out; some expected, some not! But they’re all great things to keep in mind when planning future digital projects.

1. Always take time to work out ‘why’ you are doing something.
I spent a long time at the beginning of Digital Lab trying to work the ‘why’ of the project. I had lots of ideas about exciting things I could make and test, but my mentor Ron Evans really made me drill down on why I should do these things. I eventually decided to make a series of films to gain audience feedback via email and Facebook, but initially I had just wanted to generally increase engagement on Facebook using film. Spending time thinking about why we needed engagement, and what types of engagement would help the Museum, enabled me to develop an idea that involved asking our audiences specific questions, the answers to which would be useful for many Museum projects.

This approach helped me step back for a second to develop some well-considered ideas and eliminate some ideas that might not be so beneficial.

I now find myself taking more time at this stage with other projects and plans, and it’s made a difference to how I communicate my ideas too.

2. Don’t operate in a silo — make the most of all those around you.
Because the feedback I was looking for was potentially useful for various Museum projects, it meant the I needed to talk to people across the Museum team. This helped me to understand their views on the content I was creating, and we worked together to devise a set of mutually beneficial questions. These conversations also gave me more ideas and insights, gave me a greater understanding of the Museum as a whole, and led to the development of future projects. Win, win!

3. Planning ahead makes perfect sense!
This is kind of covered in point one, but I don’t think it can be overstated, especially for me — planning is key. I can be a bit too eager to get on with things sometimes, and always in a rush to tick things off my list and get on to the next thing. I do plan, but probably don’t always take enough time on the planning stages, so for this project I made sure I thoroughly and methodically went through each stage. This was helped by the two points above, but also on my mentor’s insistence on making storyboards for my films, which I have to admit not only helped me when it came to making them, but also helped me to share those ideas with others. And helped me to develop a new skill, which is always handy.

4. Don’t underestimate email.
The biggest surprise of the project for me was the response to the emails I sent. Although my focus was on sharing films on Facebook, I set up a test on our email list initially. This was so I could split my audience up fairly and test film and non-film content alongside each other.

After all my storyboarding, filming and editing it turns out that my emails with plain text questions were more successful than those with embedded links to my films. In fact, they were also more successful than the films I posted on Facebook. I had so many replies to my emails despite our relatively small number of subscribers — some people writing up to 300 words — that it made me think about the untapped potential of our email list, something I’ve definitely overlooked.

So, based on these results my next steps are: 1) think about email — what can we do with this audience to help us achieve our goals? And 2) what can we do with film on social media? What kind of content will deliver the results we’re looking for?

Now for some more experiments…

Read Kim’s previous Digital Lab blogs: Remember the why #DigiLab and All about the making #DigiLab

Images courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum © The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

AMA research finds it’s tough at the bottom

The AMA has published the results of its first benchmarking survey. Following a fantastic response — over 500 members completed the survey — the data has been assessed and the results published in the AMA Benchmarking Survey 2019 report.

The full report includes email open rates and social media benchmarks, and is available for AMA Members. For highlights from the report, sign up to receive the Executive Summary.

The research looked at key benchmarking factors for members to use in their daily activity and planning including: budget breakdown, email open rates, social media channel, and website trends. Details of this can be found in the full report.

It also explored how members feel about their roles and organisations. This data was then broken down against the geographical location of the organisation, culture and art form, and career stage of respondents.

The results show that only 50% of early career level members agree that their organisation is open to change — other highlights from the report show that:

The more senior the role, the more likely respondents are to agree that their views are heard, and that they feel valued by their organisation. Only 50% of early career level members agree that their organisation is open to change – compared to 75% of senior career level members, which may reflect this knock-on effect of whose voices are heard within organisations.

33% of early career members do not agree their views are heard in their organisation, whilst in contrast 30% of senior career members strongly agree that their views are heard.

The research suggests work/life balance varies heavily between career levels, but there are encouraging signs of a growing shift to a cross-organisation approach to building audiences. Although marketing and digital is cited by all levels as being very important in developing relationships with the community — it is notable that there is strong agreement across all art forms that it is a whole team effort encompassing Front of House, CEO, artistic director, fundraising and outreach. 

“The number of early career stage respondents reporting lack of investment in role specific training supports the perception that organisations are not valuing their early career employees”, says CEO of the AMA, Cath Hume. “Combined with feeling that their views are not being heard, there is the real risk of disenfranchising talent at the early career stages, making the sector a poorer place. We know there are challenges within the arts and culture sector in diversifying the workforce, with many barriers in place before even landing your first role. It’s important that we support people’s development in their early roles to help them thrive. It’s about making sure that everyone’s contribution is valued.”

“We hope that you find this research report useful. Whether you want to check how you’re doing against the email open rate benchmark, or compare how your team feels compared to others in similar organisations, we hope you’re able to use and apply these findings to support your work, or make a case for change.”

To read highlights from the full report in the AMA Benchmarking Survey 2019 — you can sign up to receive the Executive Summary. AMA Members get access to the full report.

AMA members can find the full report here: AMA’s Benchmarking Survey Report 2019 — member report. Please note that you will need to be logged in as a member to access this report.

Image AMA conference 2017 © Elaine Hill Photography.

Getting out of your comfort zone #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellow Danny Evans of the Royal Shakespeare Company explains in her second #DigiLab blog how drawing a video storyboard pushed her out of her comfort zone.  

Working on this project has made me realise how much our jobs push us out of our comfort zones. A colleague excelled at maths and science in school but has ended up a very successful Marketing Manager.

I always loved words, so I pursued a career where I’d get to write them. The two subjects I was least comfortable with at school were maths and art. Fast forward lots of years and here I am, Content Manager at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Words are still a big part of my job, but I spend hours at a time analysing web stats, arranging spreadsheets, and doing algebra. And now, for this project, I have to storyboard my video. I have to DRAW some pictures.

The project
Like many organisations we’ve long since used our YouTube channel as a repository for all our videos, not a curated channel. We have so many skills at the RSC — carpenters, hairdressers, costume makers to name just three — I wanted to find out if we had something valuable to offer a YouTube audience.

My research question: is there an appetite for bespoke content, designed solely to appeal to our YouTube audience?

First up, I interrogated our YouTube stats, looking at what worked and what didn’t work, what content our audience wanted more of, and who this audience are. Here are a couple of key insights:

  • Most of our YouTube audience are aged 18-44 — that covers several key audience segments for us
  • We’re based in a small Warwickshire town but most of our audience aren’t — 32% watch in the UK; a matching 32% watch from the US; the other 36% come to our videos from all over the world. So YouTube could be the key to bringing our content and our brand to the US and lots of other places in the world.

Storyboard
I decided to use a tried and tested YouTube format for my experiment — the ‘how to’ video. I got our Wigs and Make up team on board and we decided that the video would be on wig fitting and we set a filming date. All I had to do was storyboard the video, and we’d be ready to go. That’s all.

This filled me with dread. It had to be stickmen, because that’s all I’m capable of, but it’s still terrifying. Even my stickmen are somehow more rubbish than everyone else’s. You will be able to see, immediately, what an artistic disaster I am. If you can draw you probably won’t understand — but there’s probably something comparable that you would avoid at all costs. First thoughts:

  1. Is there a way around this? Do we really need it? Can I just not do it? Can I do words instead? No, they need a storyboard, I should give them a storyboard — with pictures.
  2. Is there a tool on the internet that will do this for me? Yes there is, but by the time I‘ve figured it out and downloaded it I probably could have just done the storyboard on paper — I mean all it needs to be is a few squares explaining what I want to happen, with stick people.
  3. How hard can it be? Just get on with it!

So I finally put pencil to paper. I wrote a list of the steps I needed to show, divided a piece of paper into six squares, with a space for a caption under each one, and set about drawing a person, some hands, a chair, a mirror and a stand for a wig. It’s a very simple storyboard. It took about four drafts and a bit of rubbing out before I was satisfied that it was neat enough to do the job. But it does the job. And that is all it’s supposed to do.

I did it! And you know what? It wasn’t actually that hard. Like a lot of things — it looks big and scary, but if you start small, you can always learn.

By getting out of my comfort zone and drawing out the storyboard for my video, I’ve learnt a new skill.

I’ve taken lots of insights away from this project, which I hope will have a big impact on our YouTube strategy over the next year. But if there’s one piece of advice I’d give, it’s this: get out of your comfort zone, do the things you thought you couldn’t do. There will be no stopping you!

Read Danny’s first Digital Lab blog How to win at YouTube.

Image courtesy of Danny Evans and Royal Shakespeare Company — Van Gogh eat your heart out! The dreaded storyboard becomes reality.

Change of details?

If you would like to change your contact details or organisation please get in contact with us.

Hello

As an AMA member you can access exclusive member-only content including sector jobs, online resources and training.

Login


Not yet an AMA member? Find out more.

Get a free summary of AMA’s 2019 Member Benchmarking Research:

Send me a copy