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Content Plan — Reloaded #DigiLab

Image courtesy of Eastern Angles © Mike Kwasniak

Nicky Hand from Shakespeare Birthplace Trust shares her experience so far on the Digital Lab

One of the things I love about my job is the endless potential it affords. There’s always something to learn; a new tool to play with; a process to improve upon. Experimentation is woven into the fabric of what digital is all about, so coming up with ideas for experiments to run as part of the Digital Lab was definitely not a problem. The only tricky part was going to be figuring out which one to pick first…

We were encouraged to identify an experiment that fits directly into our current to-do list. Instead of feeling like yet another thing to fit in, it should just be a version of your day job that happens to benefit from the expertise of a mentor. So with that in mind, I knew pretty quickly that I was going to focus on content.

The way we produce content at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has been changing. Rather than funnelling everything through a centralised team, we’ve been working with individuals across the organisation to skill up a team of ‘content champions’. They might post onto social media, write website content or create videos; the aim is to empower our people to tell the stories relevant to their area of work, direct to our audiences.

As our champions have gained confidence and got to grips with the mechanics of content creation, our attention has been turning to more strategic matters. Introducing a diversity of voices means our content increasingly reflects the living, breathing collective of passionate individuals that makes up the Trust. We see this as a hugely positive thing, but it comes with some practical problems to overcome, and a risk that the overall coherence of our output could be compromised.

To reduce this risk, we use a shared content schedule. By plotting everyone’s plans in a single place we hoped to increase transparency, encourage wider campaign thinking and enable opportunity-spotting for collaborations between teams. In practice, feedback tells us it’s mostly just used to find a gap in which to schedule up a post. It’s a useful reference point for avoiding timing clashes, but not much more. There certainly isn’t any evidence that champions are using the document to inform their analysis or broader planning.

So the focus of my first experiment is to see if there’s anything we can do to change that. After a helpful chat with my mentor I’ve gone back to the drawing board, thinking about what else a content plan could and should offer. Are we capturing all the information that we should be? How can this tool work harder to guide people’s thinking about what to create, not just when to send it out into the world? Is there a format that could offer reporting and insights to people at different levels of the organisation for a variety of purposes?

While I’m working through these questions I’m also on the lookout for alternative platforms that could provide a more flexible solution than our current Google doc. The one that intrigues me most so far is Airtable, which has the familiarity of excel but a lot scope for data interrogation in more visual, calendar-based formats. I’ve run a quick demo of the tool past our champions, and my next steps will be to set up a beta content plan that incorporates the findings of all my thinking so far.

There’s a lot of work still to be done, but I’m feeling really positive about the opportunity to take a fresh look at something that sort of works, but could be better. It’s not always easy to make time for that, but I’m excited to see what the impact of a relatively straightforward change could be on how we manage our content for the benefit of our teams, our stakeholders and – most importantly – our audiences.

Header image courtesy of Eastern Angles © Mike Kwasniak 

The First Time #DMA

Female hand holding a pen and writing a plan in a planner

Katie Walker and Hugh Gledhill from Theatre Royal Stratford East share their experience on the Digital Marketing Academy

We came to our first call with our mentor Ron Evans with lots of different ideas, and Ron was very calm and positive so we came off the call with lots to think about, but also with the assurance that we could reach out to him anytime during the process. We talked about all things digital, and one of my key takeaways was realising my reservations about employing marketing tactics that I don’t personally respond to as a customer (such as re-targeting campaigns). It was useful to recognise that, and I’ve made a mental note to try and work through it! It’s always better to test something and act on what the data, rather than what your gut, tells you.


As a theatre in London one of the challenges we face is lack of loyalty – there are hundreds of arts organisations competing for customers’ time and money, so it can be difficult to persuade people to return. The average London re-attendance rate is less than 20%, and at Theatre Royal Stratford East we feel it more than most because of our varied programming and a lack of disposable income in our local area. Hugh and I had been discussing this since joining the team in 2016, and it formed a large part of our discussion with Ron.

It’s cheaper and easier to retain existing customers than to find new ones, and as TRG Arts CEO Jill Robinson said at the 2016 Spektrix Conference, we should all be in pursuit of pushing customers up the loyalty pyramid (visitors to return, returners to donate, etc). It seems that two re-attendance project options are getting pantomime attendees to return the following year (the larger opportunity because each pantomime runs for two months and the attendance figures are very high), or getting non-pantomime attendees to see another non-pantomime show within a given time period (perhaps more challenging because of the breadth of our programme, but potentially very useful as re-attendance rates are low).


Ron asked about the journey we send customers on before and after they see their first show here, and it reminded me of Robinson’s dating analogy.  You wouldn’t email someone after a first date asking them to rate the experience, but embarrassingly, that’s what we’ve been doing here. If we followed up with interesting articles about the show they had seen then perhaps we could create a warmer, longer lasting memory that would make them more likely to return.


Ron shared a very interesting anecdote from his experience where background reading was included in a pre-show email which wasn’t getting read, but there was a high penetration rate of people going back to read the pre-show email after they had seen the performance. This is definitely food for thought, and time is finally on our side as the theatre is dark for a month over summer. We finished the call with a research assignment regarding how many first time visitors are re-attending within a year (separated into panto and non-panto attendees) over the last three years, and we will report back in our next blog!





Experiments in access #DMA

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

My initial goal for the DMA was to improve the accessibility of the SLG’s website and digital marketing ahead of an inclusive arts festival for disabled and non disabled families. It was really helpful that my project was embedded into my work on the festival so that I had preset deadlines, audience targets and content to work with, and having the festival to work towards was also a great way to motivate my colleagues to collaborate on new projects.

In the run up to the festival I worked with the Learning and Operations teams to create an autism friendly visual story, an ‘Access’ page for the website, and other resources. Having time to do research and testing changed my perspective on all aspects of the festival marketing so that I put it into practice in lots of different areas, from the information in the e-flyers to A/B testing the targeting and imagery on Facebook ads for the event. I’m still working on evaluating and developing these further and thinking about ways that we can raise awareness of the new resources, so just because my project is coming to an end it doesn’t mean the experimenting is over.

Over the course of my project some of my ideas were reshaped by the time and contacts available to me so I had to take a flexible approach. It was great to look broadly at accessibility and explore a range of ideas but if I was going to do the project again I’d probably set out a much more defined test or question I wanted to answer.


Header Image courtesy of Pavillion Dance South West © Farrows Creative — Safe  

Improving Online Access Information #DMA

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

On the 28th of October the South London Gallery is hosting the first ever Making Routes Festival, a free and accessible weekend of arts and play taking place across south London. I’ve been using the festival as a deadline for improving the access information we share online and it’s also been an opportunity to put my accessible marketing research into practice on our website, e-marketing and Facebook advertising.

I wanted to highlight a few of the things I’ve learnt along the way that I’ve used to improve our digital content, and fed into things like the South London Gallery’s webpage style guide. A lot of it might sound really obvious but hopefully will highlight some helpful tools and resources.


  • You can use the WAVE chrome plugin to check how accessible your website is
  • It’s great to keep website text short, clear and to the point, you can use online tools to check the reading age of your website copy
  • When uploading videos try to add in subtitles and audio describe where possible
  • Flag up the resources you have and provide content in alternative formats for example large text versions of gallery guides or word docs as well as pdfs (as pdfs can’t be read by all screen readers.


  • Include photos of disabled visitors and use photos that show off your access provisions on site
  • Always alt-text images you post online so that screen readers can scan them
  • Don’t put text over images

Access information

  • Build a dedicated access page on your website and be up front about your facilities and flag up any potential obstacles by giving thorough information about accessible travel options and your building.
  • For some visitors it can be helpful to describe the experience on site so consider creating a Visual Story or Sensory Map.
  • Providing a named access person at your venue will encourage more people to get in touch if they need to
  • Ask disabled people and people with lived experience to be involved in the process of deciding what is included.


Helpful resources:

Wave Chrome plug-in

Readability Test

Reaching Disabled Audiences guide

Accessible Marketing Guide

5 ways to Connect online with disabled audiences

Access Information recommendations



Header Image courtesy of Puppet Theatre Scotland © Andy Caitlin – The Table – Blind Summit

5 learnings from the #DMA

Hannah Mason – fellow on DMA 4.0 – discusses five key learnings from her Digital Marketing Academy experience so far. 


Finding the time to concentrate on the experiments and the DMA experience is fundamental to achieving meaningful results. A couple of months in and I was thinking “Well I am very bad at separating time for this”. I thought my peers were all dedicating hours to their experiments which would all be going like clockwork and yielding amazing results. Conclusion being I was ‘a bit rubbish’ at this. Which leads me to points 2 and 3 in my discovery…


Of course I was totally wrong about my peers and comparing myself to imaginary versions of them was (and is!) the real waste of time. Our next Action Learning Set taught me this. We were all busy with the day job which was getting in the way of our experiment schedules. Our organisations were changing in ways we could not have envisioned and this was impacting in our ability to do what we set out to. Equally we were being harsh on ourselves. Things do slide but how we bring them back on track makes the difference. The clue is in the title ‘experiment’ not ‘absolute outcome’ so I realised sharing with my peers that it is okay to feel snowed under but if I found time to dedicate solely to the project each week the joy would come back.



I had lined up a series of visits to local galleries and exhibitions where I was going to talk to visitors about the interpretation available and the information they found before their visit. I wanted to ascertain the need for the information I feel is lacking. The first gallery would be at The Art House, where I have curated an exhibition with an artist called gobscure. He has lived experience of mental ill health and his work explores the language of lunacy. Alongside the exhibition I designed a magazine and website as he wanted to share the work not just in a ‘white cube’ but in other accessible ways. The change I wasn’t expecting was that in the gallery there was no interpretation! For various organisational reasons the interpretation was not created. Knocked off kilter a bit, I found this halted my momentum.


For a number of reasons time has played such an important role in how the project is progressing. I need to be flexible in how I gather the information to carry out the experiment. I have audience data from the galleries in a standard format due to the Audience Finder system all ACE-funded arts organisations use. The next step is setting up new visits to the three galleries in the plan and use the lack of interpretation as a tool rather than seeing it as a problem. Use agility to break down these tasks into smaller easy steps.


Or at least a simple version of the tool. The plan for the next phase of the project is to create a simple version of the online tool and share it with a focus group at The Art House. And of course enjoy some experimentation with it.

All images courtesy of Hannah Mason 

Painting by Numbers #DMA

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

I finished my previous blog with the intention to learn the art of making GIFs, so that’s exactly what I did. I invited Adam Koszary from Reading Museum to Waddesdon for a day of discussing digital marketing. In the morning we led an open discussion between the curators and the marketing team looking at the peaks and pitfalls of using animations to highlight the art in the collections as well as their importance in spreading knowledge, understanding and awareness. Then in the afternoon Adam imparted his digital wisdom by teaching the marketing team how to make GIFs. It was an incredibly valuable day, on a practical level but also in terms of creativity, inter-departmental communication and strategy. We’ve shared some of our thoughts in a recent blog ‘Getting giffy with it’.

As the DMA continues so does my understanding of website analytics and our audiences. Following my second session with my mentor, Tom, we decided it would be a valuable exercise to identify some of the main types of visitors to Waddesdon’s website and give them personas to start to paint a picture of who they are. From assessing Google Analytics I highlighted four main groups of people and created web persons based on who they are, what they were looking at, where they had come from and what interests them. On the most basic level this process has helped me to visualise them as people not statistics and has shifted the way I approach putting content together. This has fortunately tied in with broader audience analysis so as a team we’re much more aware of the types of people we need to deliver to. By far our biggest audience is women in their mid-thirties to forties with children.

A key goal of my project is to discover a bit more about our younger audiences, specifically those between 18-24. They make up a meagre 4% of our visiting audience and just over 6% of our website visitors. With another of my aims to prompt more user-generated content, I thought I could achieve both things by inviting young social media influencers and bloggers to Waddesdon for the day. Both organising and executing this day proved to be huge learning experiences. From recruiting attendees to finding a day that worked for the majority was very hard, particularly with such a niche audience. Then getting those interested to commit was also another challenge. We had a list of 20 people interested, 6 acceptances and then 3 people come on the day. I was initially incredibly disappointed about the small turnout, however the day proved to be a huge success and I learnt a lot from it. Logistically, as we took the attendees on a curator-led tour of the house it would have been very hard with any more than 3 people so this needs to be brought into consideration for future events. I spent a lot of time reflecting on this day in my most recent mentor meeting but ultimately the real take away is that, although the sample was small, it was successful. So much so that these types of events will be integrated into our marketing strategy and will be adapted and iterated for audiences needs as well as our own (hello agile working!).





Header Image : Picture of the Dining Room at Waddesdon Manor © National Trust, Waddesdon Manor.  Photo Chris Lacey

How We Increased Donations By 17.5% With This One Small Change #DMA

Devon Smith, co-founder of Measure Creative and Digital Marketing Academy Mentor offers tips for A/B testing

A/B testing is the practice of showing two slightly different versions of the same thing (an A and a B) to two small groups of people, figuring out which version works the best, and then showing that version to everyone else. You can use A/B testing in many different marketing channels – from social media to email newsletters to your website; you could even A/B test conversations that you have all the time (like fundraising pitches to donors)!

There are 7 key steps to any A/B test:

  • Goal: A/B testing depends on having a singular optimization goal that defines which version wins. It could be a click, the open rate, time on page, downloads, or nearly any other singular metric.
  • Hypothesis: Google famously A/B tested 40 different shades of blue to figure out which one got the most clicks, and then changed all links to that colour blue. As arts organisations, we just don’t have that kind of time. So a good hypothesis helps us focus on the things that matter most: the high value goals (ticket sales, fundraising, attendance, etc), and the aspects of the marketing channel that are likely to matter most (images, headlines, big noticeable changes).
  • Segment: A/B tests usually apply to a small segment of your audience – they’re the “test group” that helps you make a decision about which version (A or B) is most effective; it might be 10% of your email subscribers or a “week’s worth” of your website visitors.
  • Split: one half of your segment sees the “A” version, the other half sees your “B” version. It’s important these two groups are very similar to each other (and so we often randomly assign members to A or B)
  • Show: Don’t forget there should be only one small change between your A version and your B version. If you change multiple things at the same time, they’re likely to cancel each other out and you won’t know which test is the winner, or why. Once you’ve got your two A and B versions, you need to show them to the A and B  groups for a period of time. This calculator from Optimizely helps you figure out for how long the test needs to be running before you know the winner.
  • Measure: each of your A and B versions will have their own conversion rate, which equals “success metric” divided by “number of people exposed to the test.” In other words: 14 successful downloads divided by 100 people who saw the version B is a conversion rate of 14%. If version A’s conversion rate is 20%, then version A clearly wins.
  • Change: once you know the winning version, you need to roll it out to the rest of your audience as a permanent change.


Let’s take a look at this 7-step process in action, using the example above.

  • Goal: complete the donation transaction
  • Hypothesis: website visitors pay more attention to the left side of a page and by the time they get to this donation page, they no longer need to be convinced (so the “a gift of hope” panel is distracting)
  • Segment: this test ran for 1-month, to 100% of website visitors to this page
  • Split: visitors to this donation page were randomly shown the A version or the B version, using the tool Google Optimize
  • Show: the single change between these two versions is the reversal of the left and right panels
  • Measure: After 1-month, version A had 7.4% of visitors complete a donation, and version B had 8.7% of visitors complete a donation. So over the course of a year, just by changing to version B we would see a 17.5% increase in online donations ((8.7-7.4)/7.4 = 17.5)
  • Change: after the test finished, we made a permanent change to the donation page (and started a new A/B test!)


For more tips on how to A/B test in social media, emails, and your website, check out this presentation from a recent workshop I facilitated.

Header Image courtesy of Puppet Theatre Scotland © Andy Caitlin – The Logic of Movement – Stephen Mottram

Communication Automation #DMA

All That Fall - Samuel Beckett - Out of Joint - 4 March 2016

Mrs Rooney - Brid Brennan
Christie - Frank Laverty
Mr Tyler - Gary Lilburn
Mr Slocumb - Ciaran McIntyre
Tommy - Killian Burke
Mr Barrell - Frank Laverty
Miss Fitt - Tara Flynn
Mr Rooney - Gary Lilburn
Jerry - Tara Flynn

Writer - Samuel Beckett
Director - Max Stafford-Clark
Sound Designer - Dyfan Jones
Production Manager - Andy Reader
Stage Manager - Sally McKenna
Producer - Martin Derbyshire

Devon Smith, co-founder of Measure Creative and Digital Marketing Academy mentor offers tips for automating your emails to better connect with your audience. 

Everyone likes a little personalized attention. But we’re too busy to give a personal touch to everyone in our audience, right? Email automation campaigns (also sometime called drip campaigns) help solve this problem. These campaigns consist of a series of emails that can be sent to an audience member after a common situation occurs. Like a “welcome series” of emails for each new person who buys a ticket for the first time. Or a “re-engagement series” for each person who hasn’t opened one of your other emails for the past few months. Or an “abandoned cart” series for each person who starts the ticket purchase process on your website, but doesn’t complete their transaction.

You might already be doing something like this on a manual basis, but many email service providers have this automation capability built into their system. You write the email, define your triggers (if X happens, then send Y email to Z person), and then let the magic happen…over and over again, with no further input from you.

There’s a lot of great resources to help you get started understanding what email automations are and how to implement them effectively:

Don’t forget to add drip campaign principles to your email marketing strategy, alongside A/B testing, personalization, and segmentation of course!


Interested in exploring more about personalisation?
Check out Digital Marketing Day 2017 — Getting to Know You on Friday 1 December.


Header Image courtesy of Out of Joint © Robert Workman All That Fall

Small Scale is your Super Power #DMA

Seb Chan, CXO of Australian Centre for the Moving Image and Mentor on the Digital Marketing Academy, talks about how smaller organisations can make small changes with big impacts.

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 

Three Little Words Which Spark Creativity #DMA

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

Every creative act starts with an act of vulnerability evidenced by three little words:

I. Don’t. Know. 

Many state the above as line in the sand, a closing down of conversation, a refusal to explore further.

Others get excited, and lean forwards, hungry for adventure, ready to fail forwards.

These are the creatives!

Whether it be composing an orchestral piece in 10minutes from nothing:


Collaborating on a dance piece when you can’t speak each others language:


Drawing blind to spark an abstract drawing piece:


…this is the imaginative mindset at work.


When mixed with curated ideas and experience plus audacity and mad curiousity, its forms the most delicious path to potential.

Whether you’re starting a business, leading a team, beginning at a new organisation, figuring out the next steps in life, or shaping a city-wide initiative to infuse a city with creative literacies

…saying “I don’t know” more often is a rallying cry to creative action.


Top image courtesy of Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History © CLoé J. F. Zarifian

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