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Climbing Access Mountain – from base camp to summit the long way round #ADA

The Audience Diversity Academy may seem like a long way to the mountaintop.  In Fellow Emma Oaks’ final blog-telling, the triumphs always outweigh the challenges.

The trip was planned, the teams were briefed, and as long as there was a clear leader everyone seemed keen to find a way to the summit.

However, it soon became apparent that there are several different rival camps on our own little mountainside. Camp A was in the village community, disapproving of the climbing party and of the perceived elitism of where they had come from, scoffing at our team of aging but willing Sherpas and seemingly expensive equipment without realising that it was fraying at the edges. Camp B stayed at basecamp and neither moved up or down the mountain, daunted by the scale of the climb and the potential cost of the attempted journey, after all no-one was making us climb it and we could just move the tent a few feet closer if they did. Camp C could see the summit from where they had pitched their tent and would have loved to see the view, but couldn’t summon the energy to climb, choosing to read the guidebooks instead. Finally there was a quiet little group starting out at the bottom of the hill, faintly exhausted but with a determined stride.

To make things that little bit more interesting, those at Basecamp would never admit to such a thing, preferring to make the journey just a little bit more difficult in the hope of quashing any enthusiasm, metaphorically chucking snow over our tent and telling us there’s an avalanche. Little did they know, we’ve got our crampons on and we’re heading to the summit, no matter how long the climb, reassured in the hope of meeting other climbers along the way.

My first SOS call was in autumn 2018, throwing myself on the mercy of our team of trusty Sherpas. I showed them my map, pointed out the peaks that I hoped to pass and the gullies I was trying to avoid. I wondered if anyone could help me plot an easier route to the summit? or if anyone would like to join me on my epic climb? No offers of help were forthcoming, but a few did point me in the direction of other paths, dozens of paths in fact, all leading in different directions.

A new group of climbers was what we needed, untainted by the memory of failed climbs. For safety we decided to attach a rope between the climbers, to avoid anyone slipping back down the mountain side to basecamp, or worse still falling into one of the numerous time gullies that ran alongside the path. This group would be armed with some previous mountain experience and up-to-date training and would be keen to learn from one another and push ahead with courage and fresh eyes. Together we drew a new map of our route to the summit, planned how we could avoid obstacles along the way, imagined the view from the top and inspired each other to get training in preparation for what was to be a long but rewarding climb.

Together we drew a new map of our route to the summit, planned how we could avoid obstacles along the way, imagined the view from the top and inspired each other to get training in preparation for what was to be a long but rewarding climb.

The training started in earnest in November 2018. And even in training I have lost my footing, plummeting briefly into time gullies that threatened to suck me off the path. I hit severe weather in mid-January that put a halt to any training, and I had no option but to wait patiently for the storm to clear before I could continue.

If training goes to plan, the date for the start of the climb has been set for 16 March 2019.

Climbers roped together = 15

Time gullies = eleventy billion

Severe weather = 1

Avalanches = 0

Targeted Experiments #ADA

Fuel Theatre Twitter screenshot

Sustaining an audience development campaign can only be done once the framework has been designed and tested as Audience Diversity Academy Fellow, Emilie Wiseman explains.

Last time I wrote about our experiments as part of the Audience Diversity Academy, we had just appointed two key ambassadors to help us reach out to young people aged 16-25, refugee communities and people from Afro-Caribbean heritage. We were embarking on our experiments and focussing our efforts on very targeted activity and personalised approaches to key groups local to the venue for the show: Ovalhouse in the Oval/Brixton area of London. This type of activity was also supported by targeted invitations on social media. 

Fuel Theatre Twitter screenshot

Our objective was to ensure that at least 30% of our audience was booking tickets following those approaches. Refugees were offered free tickets while young people and people from Afro-Caribbean heritage were offered heavily discounted tickets (£5 against a standard ticket price of £15). As ever, our audience engagement commitment needed to be balanced with our financial targets and although we were hoping to sustain the offer across the two week run of the show at Ovalhouse, we could only offer it for the first four shows. In a way, this enabled us to focus our attention and resources.

We also offered free meals and workshop options in a bid to further incentivise attendance from our target audience groups.

These ambassadors were so well connected that they enabled us to reach out to key target groups.

We were all very excited by the offer we had at our disposal and the amazing ambassadors we had managed to contract for the show. These ambassadors were so well connected that they enabled us to reach out to key target groups. A special push was done for the press night and we feel that this was the most successful night. A local group of refugees who had recently made their way from Calais came to the press night as well as young people from a local poet group.

We’re currently gathering the venue’s box office reports and our feedback cards to see how we’ve done against our targets but simple observation at the first three performances indicate that we have probably reached some of our targets. The response to the show on social media also seems to support this.

Fuel Theatre Twitter screenshot

This is all very hopeful but the real challenge will be to sustain this work throughout the tour and outside London in particular, where we are less connected to local communities.

Remember the WHY #DigiLab

 Kim Osborne of the Roald Dahl Museum walks us through her thought process for creating films in the Digital Lab

When I began Digital Lab it seemed that I knew what I wanted to do, but not necessarily why.

The area I wanted to focus on was film. I’d started making films for the Museum over the summer during an unexpected closure due to a flood. I’d created a little project to help us reach our audience during a time when we were physically inaccessible to them. The films had come out quite well – I’d taught myself Premier, roped in people on the team to take a starring role, asked Learning and Collections to help with the content and then shared them with the world. Colleagues thought they were great, people online liked and shared them. Success!

So now we’re back up and running it seemed like the obvious thing to capitalise on all the work over the summer and use Digital Lab to help us to create and test more films, didn’t it? But my initial conversations with my wonderful mentor Ron always led back to one question – why?

Well… everyone is making films now, every blog I read says you need them, they are great for engagement – we need more engagement, right?

But why? Why do you need more engagement?

Um, because likes – duh!

What I’d failed to address was the basics. What do we want these videos to achieve, what’s our ultimate goal? I’d got swept up in the “I saw another Museum post a video of a cat falling off a shelf, and that got a thousand likes – we should be doing that!” mentality.

After a lot of thinking and chats with Ron I focused on an area that video could potentially bring real benefits to the Museum – audience research.

The Museum is gearing up for a major refurbishment, and another closure period (don’t worry, it’s not for a while). We’re potentially re-designing the whole of the Museum content, and re-thinking all of our spaces. It’s an exciting time, and we know the value of asking our visitors for their feedback along the way. We’ve planned to use focus groups and surveys, but hadn’t considered using our Facebook audience for their opinions. Until now.

After speaking to the Galleries Project Manager and other members of the team it became clear that there’s real potential in using Facebook this way, and a lot of support for the project. We’ve focused on key questions to ask, and I’m now beginning to plan and create a series of films to test. There’s also the possibility of engaging with our online visitors this way throughout the whole project – from asking for feedback, to allowing people to help us make choices during the process.

Digital Lab has really helped me to think differently about the digital content we produce – not just for these experimental films, but across everything else we produce. By working with other departments in the Museum it’s not only helping me realise the potential of using film and social, but also helping the wider team to understand how it could help other projects (maybe I’ve created a monster!?). The main challenge now is maintaining momentum, and finding the time to create the content, so careful planning and preparation is key!


Find out more about the AMAculturehive Digital Lab and information on how to take part.

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

Finding that golden nugget among a hoard of treasure #DigiLab

In her first #DigiLab blog, Digital Lab Fellow Rachael Williams explains how she’s kept things simple (but pleasantly effective) for her first “scrappy” experiment.

Inspired after webinar number one with the fantastic Rachel Grossman from dog & pony dc and fresh from the first chat with my amazing mentor Sara Devine from the Brooklyn Museum, I wanted to get my first little experiment into action pretty swiftly.

I’ve been working on a social media campaign which highlights what the British Library calls its Treasures Collection — as well as showstoppers like Magna Carta and Jane Austen’s writing desk — these also include the hidden gems; the unexpected treasures perhaps less well known but certainly no less spectacular.

The aim of the campaign? To keep an always-on message present within our social media so that a) people know that we have a free gallery to visit, and b) to drive traffic to our Treasures microsite. Handily, the campaign also ties in with the airing of season two of Treasures Of The British Library on Sky Arts — a programme which sees famous faces pick six ‘treasures’ to capture their life, career and passions.

To start, the social media posts designed drum up a buzz around the #BLTreasures in the series included a combination of glossy portrait images, animated GIFs, trailers and the mentioning of the breadth of the collection. But they just didn’t seem to be capturing our audiences’ imagination as much as we’d hoped.

The copy in the first couple of posts highlighting the TV series and the accompanying website articles took a more generic angle. The first post tried to weave in the many areas presenter Fiona Bruce explored within the collection (‘From Charlotte Bronte to a cake fit for a queen’…), which I thought would have a broader appeal. While the Hanif Kureishi promo perhaps assumed too much prior knowledge about the collection item and presented the content in a rather ‘flat’ way — in hindsight playing on why this manuscript is so important to Hanif, and the significance of E R Braithwaite’s handwritten revisions, would have possibly captured people’s attention much more.

Earlier social media posts promoting #BLTreasures and the Sky Arts series.

The numbers on these posts were healthy (the Facebook post here received 28k+ impressions and 40+ link clicks, while the tweet received 27k+ impressions and over 300 engagements — but ideally we’d like to see at least 100 likes on a tweet/Facebook post). However there was room for improvement and in terms of engagements and we wanted to drive more comments.

Time for a slight change in approach to try and unearth the ‘why’; why should people care?

At the mid-point way in the series, I crafted posts which focused on one showstopper picked by actor Andrew Scott, rather than use the approach of previous posts which tried to tell the whole journey of each celebrity. It seems that drilling down into one chapter rather than attempting to give a whistle-stop tour of the entire story, was a good idea. These posts picked one item of Scott’s to focus on, explained why he’d chosen it and why it was so relevant to him personally, and told a rather intriguing story that explained why this item was so unique. Each celebrity picked such a wonderful array of interesting items with captivating tales behind them, it was tricky to select just one to highlight, but it was a little risk worth taking to see if people’s attention and imagination could be better captured.

Facebook and Instagram posts using more focused content approach.

It may have been the dream team combination of Shakespeare and Andrew Scott, or maybe it was telling people something they didn’t already know; finding that little hook which intrigued and triggered an emotional response in our audience. (Perhaps it was a lucky combination of all of these things — it’s always hard to pinpoint one single reason for any moment of success on social media).

But these posts were received very well by our audience, our second-best performing post of the month in terms of engagement and comments on Facebook, and over 7000 likes and 50 comments on Instagram (our top-performing post of 2018 so far). Deepening engagement with users is something we’re trying to improve — creating posts which drive emotional interactions and comments — so this was a massive step in the right direction. We also saw a nice spike in traffic to the microsite web page.

Snapshot of Instagram account showing difference in reception to posts.


Selection of positive comments from audience across social media channels.

The posts were sent at similar times on a Wednesday or Thursday morning, to the same audiences across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It seems that the more specific angle of picking one collection item to focus on with an intriguing and perhaps unknown backstory, rather than giving an overview of an array of collection items, really helped the later posts get picked up and stopped our audience in their tracks while scrolling through their busy feeds.

Was it pot luck or are we closer to better understanding what makes our audience tick? Bring on Scrappy Experiment Number One, Part II*.
*Cool snappy name still a work in progress.

Scrappy Experiment Number One, Part II
Surprised by a leap in response to Part I of the experiment on social, I wanted to try a little A/B testing with our email audience. I created an email that gave a roundup of the TV series and directed people to the new content on our website where they could discover digitised collection items and the stories behind them.

Would the famous faces with an overview of their individual journeys attract more clicks, or would a more single-treasure-focused approach work best as it did on social? We sent two emails with slightly differing narratives and content to test the click-throughs and drive collection items consulted on the website. Would our email and social audiences respond differently? Would a less-traditional approach persuade or put off our audience?

Version 1 (single-treasure-focused) left, Version 2 (overview approach) right.

The whole email list was made up from people signed up to receiving marketing with a ‘What’s On’ preference from us. They like to hear about news from the Library, particularly around events, galleries and exhibitions. To create the two separate lists, this main list was simply cut into two. As a result, the lists were of equal numbers and included people with the same opt-ins. They would be used to receiving emails from us telling them about our latest displays, how they can get involved in the Library, and culturally exciting additions to our website. Both email lists also received the same subject line, it’s only when they opened the email they would see different content. The serving of each email to each list was done randomly, but each version was delivered to the same number of people and audiences of equal ‘warmth’ to our brand.

Cue drum roll…

Okay, a huge celebratory fanfare isn’t quite needed for this. But still there were lessons to be learned.

Somewhat disappointingly there was no clear statistical winner from the testing in terms of opens (25.2% for version 1 vs 25.0% for version 2) and click-throughs (8.6% for version 1 and 8.0% for version 2). Interestingly version 2 (the celebrity/overview-approach version) did best on revenue, with version 1 (collection item version) doing much better when it came to collection items consulted (30% higher rate of consultation). Did the glossy celebrity shots appeal to spenders, while the manuscript images appealed to those who want to delve deeper into the collection? As the lists would have included some people opted into retail marketing and those interested in research and news about our microsites it makes sense that these journeys took place from the email. I think it could be a safe conclusion to suggest that the collection-item-led approach did whet people’s appetite for pursuing the items further (as the stats confirm).

This little experiment has given me a taster of the small iterations and gradual changes that can be made to better understand our audience, what they want to see, how they want content delivered and how they want to digest it.

Maybe I’ll even be a little bit bolder with my next scrappy experiment…

Rachael Williams is Content and Community Officer at the British Library.

Images courtesy of the British Library ©.








Come Together

AMA Member Rep for the North East & Yorkshire, Hannah Mason, shares her thoughts on the issues raised by the latest JAM — the AMA’s journal of arts marketing — which focuses on health and wellbeing.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (The wonderful Maya Angelou)

What struck me most about the latest issue of JAM was the optimism and connections in every story. Being a well human is a lifelong occupation that spans our physical needs and our emotional ones. Having other people to be with while we improve our health seems to be the key to success.

From the article on the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra working with people with dementia (page 5), to the Silver Swans at the Royal Academy of Dance (page 9) and the launch of Lyric Life (page 12), being connected to the arts and to each other brings phenomenal results that medicine alone cannot.

Each article has a focus on helping people with particular health needs for example Parkinson’s, falls prevention, mental health/depression, dementia, but they also tell us inspiring stories about tackling isolation and loneliness by giving people a place to go to with others in the same or similar situation as themselves.

There are some frightening statistics out there about the detrimental effects of loneliness and isolation. A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross reveals over nine million people in the UK across all adult ages are either always or often lonely. The Campaign to End Loneliness says that some of the health risks include being “more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression” and that “Loneliness is worse for you than obesity”.

Having the opportunity to connect with people over creative activities opens the door for conversations that are much broader; improving self-esteem and confidence. As part of the Creative Alternatives programme in St Helens (page 15) they “aim to provide a safe space where they can meet like-minded individuals and where judgements are left at the door.” I love that because it resonates with everyone, not just for people working in the creative arts, but for groups of all shapes and sizes.

As a freelancer, working from home, I sometimes find myself neglecting my physical and emotional self. Hunched over a computer all day, not talking to another human and only getting up to get another cup of tea (or go to the loo!) I am hardly getting the right kind of exercise and mental stimulus. JAM has made me think twice about how I spend my time. Should I wait until I am actually ‘silver’ to get out there and make connections? Working for yourself can be an isolating experience. Not having people to be accountable to can make for a sedentary existence.

“My ladies frequently meet for coffee …. even though most of them came knowing nobody else, they have created wonderful friendship groups thus combatting loneliness and promoting wellbeing” (JAM 72, page 9).

It’s never too late or too early to make new friends, learn new creative skills and truly take good care of yourself.

Hannah Mason, Founder of The Content Managers, is an experienced cultural producer and communications director with over 10 years’ experience in the arts, education, public and private sectors.


For more on Health & Wellbeing read the latest issue of JAM. You will need to be logged in as a member to access.

3D modelling made by participants of a Creative Alternative workshopImage courtesy of Creative Alternatives ©

6 reasons why…#AMAconf

With less than 4 months to go until the AMA heads to NewcastleGateshead for AMA conference 2019 — Rewire: culture, audiences and you, now is the perfect time to bag your place at one of the biggest events in the cultural sector’s calendar.

There are discounted rates available for AMA members, including Freelancer and Small Organisation members, plus 35 bursaries available that cover up to 100% of your delegate cost, but why should you part with your budget to come and join us?

1. Theme: Rewire — culture, audiences and you

This year’s theme is about making better connections. Creating collaborations that are greater than the sum of their parts and realising stronger relationships with audiences.

To bridge gaps, join up our thinking and move away from silos, we need to get creative and have some honest conversations. How can we do this constructively? How do we explore the skills and innovation needed to ensure our organisations can respond to change?

  • Come away feeling inspired — session topics include culture-led regeneration, co-production and placing audiences at the heart of your organisation
  • Gain new skills and perspectives — you could gain confidence in your communication skills at a practical workshop or learn from case studies on social media success and writing for digital platforms
  • Create connections with your peers — join forces with your peers in group exercises
  • Discover new ways to connect with your audiences  —  and discover how organisational partnerships can create new and exciting ways of connecting with more diverse audiences

2. Over 50 Speakers

2019 will play host to international speakers, experts from across the UK and inspirational marketers who are already practicing what they preach.

  • Learn from speakers who are experts on a variety of topics and take away practical tips to implement in your organisation — from poets to strategists, cultural producers to content designers, our speaker line-up offers something for everyone
  • Gain inspiration from your peers — from organisations such as Tate, Curious Arts and Peak
  • Receive up to date, practical training from people who have first hand experience — thinking about creating a pop-up event? Penguin Random House and gal-dem have you covered. Interested in cities, towns or boroughs of culture? Sam Hunt from Waltham Forest, London Borough of Culture 2019 will share his experiences (to offer just two examples)
  • The conference sessions are suited to a variety of learning styles, from intimate breakouts to conceptual keynotes

3. A variety of ways to get involved

There’s much more to AMA conference than the great mix of inspiring keynotes and breakout sessions. You’ll also have the opportunity to take part in:

  • Rewire: the culture debate — have your say on some of the most important issues impacting the cultural sector today
  • The Big Marketing Challenge — join a team, get collaborating and stretch your imagination to solve a creative challenge posed by the facilitator in just 75 minutes
  • Freelancer lunch — whether you’re already a freelancer, freelance consultant or you’re simply thinking about going it alone, come along to our Freelancer lunch for networking, support and advice
  • Ideas Lab — work with your peers to help find the solution to one of the cultural sector’s biggest challenges
  • AMA Connect Pods — ask the experts for support with your own personal and organisational challenges
  • Exhibition — discover some of the sector’s leading suppliers and what they can offer you

4. Connect with your peers

AMA conference 2019 offers you the chance to meet and collaborate with over 400 professionals from across the cultural sector, based throughout the UK.

  • Make connections and partnerships through networking — discover how partnerships can offer access to new audiences and then get the ball rolling by creating your own
  • Stay up to date with the sector — keep up to speed with best practice, new innovations and strategical considerations
  • Have face to face, meaningful conversations with your peers — put faces to the names of people you connect with digitally throughout your working week

5. Food and social events

AMA conference 2019 isn’t just about what you’ll learn, it’s about what you’ll experience too.

  • Lunch and refreshments are covered in the cost of your conference place
  • A variety of social options are available to delegates to experience the local arts and culture scene
  • Make new friends and connect with old ones in an exciting setting

6. In NewcastleGateshead

  • Spend two days in a vibrant cultural city
  • Great location and easy to get to with lots of train connections and an airport
  • Allow yourself time away from the day-to-day


For more information and to book your place, please visit the AMA conference 2019 web page.

Challenging assumptions #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellows Mária Konyelicska and Olivia Robinson from Nottingham Lakeside Arts have taken the first steps towards creating a social media guide by challenging their assumptions. 

Since deciding what our experiment was going to be a few months ago, we’ve taken the first steps in our journey towards better understanding our audiences and creating a social media guide. We always had some assumptions on who it was who was following us on social media and what type of content they wanted to see, but part of this process was finding out whether we were correct.

Our assumptions:


  • 20-35 years
  • More female followers
  • Engaged by visual arts
  • Single images work best, as well as stories


  • 25-50 years
  • 50/50 gender split
  • Engaged by theatre and dance
  • Image led tweets with hashtags and links work best


  • 25+ years
  • More female followers
  • Engaged by folk & classical music and family theatre/events
  • Video works best

Our actual findings:


  • 35-44 years are actually the second biggest group
  • 75% women
  • Not programme specific works best, but if it has to be programme based then visual arts are the most engaging
  • Single images work better than carousel or videos
  • Using hashtags helps


  • No age data available
  • 46% male / 54% female gender split
  • Engaged by music, talks, family events and general performing arts, so very varied
  • Topical and non-programme-specific tweets work best and not necessarily with an image
  • Hashtags and links are always useful
  • Retweets by influential accounts help endorse us


  • 72% women
  • 35-44 years is the top group, followed by 25-34 years and 45-54 years
  • Music and family are the most engaging art forms
  • Live content and video perform best

We decided to focus on the campaign promoting our art exhibition Harold Gilman: Beyond Camden Town (17 November 2018 — 10 February 2019, Djanogly Gallery) to test some of these findings.

The data we found on our social media followers and the performance of various post styles, we identified a few social media post types that we thought would perform better for the campaign. We used these as guides while scheduling all the posts related to the Harold Gilman exhibition from 22 December 2018 onwards; using exclusively the specifically tagged URLs for easier measurements (we added the data of the posts without hyperlinks). We benchmarked our reach and engagement levels against our previous campaign for the Rana Begum exhibition (7 July — 30 September 2018, Djanogly Gallery).

Guide for each platform:


  • No tagged URL
  • Use of single images, behind the scenes content, and hashtags to bring in new followers
  • Aim for a high-quality, stylish photography look


  • Use tagged URL
  • Topical posts, rather than inviting people to see the exhibition: more experience focused in content, i.e. photo of the lake, mention there’re two cafés on site, children activities on weekends, etc.
  • Use fun facts about the exhibition or specific works, e.g. that David Bowie owned one of the exhibited artworks
  • Use of #BeyondCamdenTown if appropriate
  • Tag other accounts in who might share our tweet, e.g. Things to do in Nottingham, What’s on Notts, Leftlion, Uni of Nottingham accounts, etc.
  • Tweets don’t necessarily need to contain an image


  • Use tagged URL
  • Focus on the ‘day out’ aspect to appeal to the family audiences: we have the park/playground, café, it’s free to see the exhibition. There is a Gilman activity sheet and drop-in craft events on Saturdays for children and families (AIM). Mention they can leave feedback in the visitor book and have conversations with the Gallery assistants.
  • Post many videos and when not possible, always use image(s).


Listen to Mária and Olivia’s first #DigiLab podcast Our Digital Lab journey and watch their #DigiLab vlog Social media audiences

Images courtesy of Nottingham Lakeside Arts ©.

Blog Block #ADA

Blog Block

Nobody said that it was going to be easy.  ADA Fellow, Emma Oaks from Buxton Opera House, explains her challenge of getting her experiments down on the page for all to learn from and enjoy!

Wait a minute, three blogs?! Yes the ADA paperwork definitely said three blogs. My heart sank a little. Not only had I never written a blog before, I genuinely though I might be able to pass the next 20 years or so into retirement without ever having to think about writing one. That’ll teach me to read the paperwork properly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love reading blogs – the witty, the frank and the thankfully short, I just didn’t think I had one in me, and I especially didn’t want my rambling thoughts on any kind of public forum. So I did what every grown up would do, I ignored it. My colleague reminded me. My mentor reminded me. I had email reminders from the AMA. I stuck my fingers firmly in my ears and then swapped and covered my eyes like a toddler – ha! I couldn’t hear them now.

My first attempt was a disaster. How I envy those people who can just sit at a keyboard and write whatever comes into their heads and it reads like a highly polished, copy-written, proofread and ready to publish piece. My first 500 words sounded like a teenage angst-written letter to the problem page of a magazine. I usually love people with all their little quirks, but that really didn’t come across in my blog, it sounded like I hated everyone and had years of frustration bubbling up from my very core. That snide little comment in paragraph three – would Sian recognise herself as the ‘surly colleague’ that I’d referred to? Nope, that would never do, especially if it was going to be public.

Attempt two. Well, I’ve been sat here a while, I better keep an eye on my word count. Hmmm… 27 words. I’ll re-read the guidance notes and see if that inspires me. Ok, this here blog doesn’t seem to fall into any of the topics on the suggested list, maybe I should re-start it? Nope, definitely haven’t got time for that. Maybe I should try a vlog instead, that’s got to be quicker …if only I could bear to see myself on film.

So, I guess I’ve inadvertently written my first blog, exposed myself as a secret people-hater who writes like a teenager and doesn’t read things properly. Oh and it might be public.

Exit stage right, whimpering dramatically.

Dig Deeper to Diversify #ADA

In this blog Mel Larsen reminds us of the layers that underpin the Audience Diversity Academy.

If you are working in an organisation that has been exclusive of certain audiences or has been perceived as ‘not for me’ by large sections of society, when you commit to diversifying your audiences you are embarking on a journey of change that is likely to go a lot deeper and require much more of you than you initially expected.

A long-established organisation has a known way of operating that is effective in relation to the audiences they already attract. But when you start thinking about the needs of new audiences you have to think and act differently and that can often impact you as an individual as well as a team and a brand.

This is a journey where mindset and strategy are intertwined. What often begins as a conversation in the Marketing department (or if you’re lucky, at CEO level) can take you also to into the realms of Leadership, Psychology, History, Language and Power.

You may start by wondering why your organisation doesn’t attract ‘Audience X’ and end up digging into the history of why ‘Audience X’ has been historically and systematically under-valued or ignored and how that seeps into modern-day consciousness and what you are going to do about it.

For example, you may start by looking at why exactly is the information for your audiences with disabilities so sparse and hidden away on your website? You may even find yourself digging deeper and exploring for example how people with disability were grossly treated and even feared in previous centuries and how that still significantly impacts language, attitudes and access today.

There is so much for us all to learn: there are nine protected characteristics in the UK – age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation – plus socio-economic status is a key factor to consider, especially now that UK poverty is rising and there are many, many other facets of identity and access to consider too.

Within the safe, supportive space of the Audience Development Academy, delving into this rich diversity makes for a fascinating and enlightening conversation for all concerned. I am always inspired by how the participants jump in fully, ready to learn and challenge both themselves and others. As their blogs show, the results they achieve show this is a journey worth taking.

How to win at YouTube #DigiLab

Danny Evans of the Royal Shakespeare Company keeps us up to date with her Youtube experiments on the Digital Lab


We have 500+ videos on our YouTube channel. Although we create a lot of really great content, some of which does really well, I wondered if we were getting the most out of our channel.

I set out to explore this and to do something we’d never done before – create a piece of content specifically for YouTube that targeted the audiences on the platform that we wanted to attract, and to work out ways to make our channel work harder for us.

Before I could create the content, I needed to work out what it would be – who I was targeting and what would work well with them. I talked it through with my mentor, Seb Chan. He asked me a big question.

“What does success look like?”

Seb asked me to look at our YouTube channel and find out which video was the most successful. This sounds easy – so I’ll just go and do that now…

YouTube doesn’t have a ‘which one is best’ section in its Analytics. We look at stats for individual videos, but don’t often make comparisons. I rummaged around and learned all sorts of interesting and useful things about our videos. But which one or which format was best?

  • Is the most popular video the one that gets most views?
  • Is the most popular video the one that people stay watching for the most time?
  • Or is it some kind of combination of these?

We’ve long known that our ‘most popular’ video on RSC YouTube is the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. It’s no surprise – arguably the most iconic scene by the world’s most famous playwright, loved by people and taught to children all over the world. It was posted way back in 2011, but still consistently comes out as our most watched video – depending on how you define ‘most watched’…

The 2011 Balcony Scene video is 12 minutes long, and although hundreds of people have watched it from all over the world, most of them don’t stay to the end. On the other hand, our trailers for upcoming shows, which are often about 30 seconds long, receive fewer visits, but are generally watched through to the end. How do you compare a video that is 12 minutes long but people drop off after three minutes, with one that is 30 seconds long and they stay to the end?

I decided that the most popular video was probably some kind of a mash-up of these two figures. And in doing this I gave myself a world of pain (maths). We (I got help) looked at these stats:

  • Length of video
  • Average % of video viewed
  • Number of views

We put it all on a spreadsheet, combined the figures, and it spits out a relative ‘popularity’ value (z) that by itself is totally meaningless and bewildering (The Balcony Scene gets 70.47). But when we compare all the videos together the value starts to mean something. Ordering the spreadsheet by this column, gives us a list of our videos in popularity order.

What does success look like?

Looking at the videos at the top and bottom of the table to see what works well and what doesn’t work so well, this is what I saw:

  • Our top 6 videos are all trailers
  • Video #7 is a skit on the To Be Or Not To Be speech, featuring a number of celebrities
  • A recent behind the scenes timelapse comes in high at #11
  • All the other high-ranking videos are trailers or scenes from shows (The Balcony Scene comes at #17 out of 500)
  • With the exception of The Balcony Scene, all the top 20 videos are under 2 mins
  • All our lowest performing videos are over 3 mins
  • The majority of low performing videos are talking heads

With 500+ videos on our channel, anything that comes in the top 100 is doing OK. That’s what success looks like. And if we want to make it work, we should probably make sure it’s under 2 minutes long and not a talking head.

So now I just have to decide what I’m going to do (and win at YouTube)…

Image Courtesy of Stellar Quines ©


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