Tips for Arts Organizations Engaging Tech Communities
In a conversation on “How Tech Companies Think About the Arts” at the 2017 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Francisco, artists and arts organization had an opportunity to connect with philanthropic representatives from Silicon Valley companies to learn and exchange ideas on how to better engage one another.
It became clear within just a few minutes of discussion that tech companies certainly value creativity within their employees. They are hiring liberal arts majors more liberally than one would assume for four tremendous reasons—the ability to listen, be creative, empathize, and develop a vision are essential to their future.
On occasion, tech companies even commission artists to create works of art. Facebook’s artist-in-residency program has cultivated the success of emerging artists like Jet Martinez, who engages conversations on culture, community, and immigration—fitting topics for a company that brings in workers from all across the globe and touches billions across the planet.
However, there is one key question that remains: How can arts organizations partner with tech companies on a more personal, individualized level—turning employees into active community arts participants?
To build relationships—business or otherwise—one needs to be a problem solver. However, as was gathered from the discussion, sometimes arts organizations are perceived as aloof to the needs of the tech employees they desire to serve.
Below is a summary of main takeaways and action items from the conversation geared towards inspiring arts organizations in forging stronger relationships with the tech community.
Mind the (Geographic) Gap
Commuting in and out of Menlo Park, California, for work can understandably create a weak sense of accountability, responsiveness, and interest in the local environs. Tech employees are often brought from far-flung nations or states to isolated business campuses that are physically and culturally distanced from the nearby Bay Area metropolitan hub. The very notion of “community” is obscured, especially when tech employees see their constituencies and services as global in nature, not limited to the surrounding area.
Speak the Same Language
Employees hailing from all over the planet are not necessarily attuned to the importance of attending a local Shakespeare performance or art museum event unless it is made crystal-clear what they will get out of it. Arts organizations must learn to see from a tech employee’s point of view. Try building a clear value proposition targeted towards the lifestyle of the employee.
When probed, tech employees at the panel said they would love after-hour mixers in the surrounding area. They are curious about what their new environs can offer their children, partners, and families, who also have relocated and are seeking to build relationships, too. Tech employees seek interest groups and desire to meet people outside of work.
Say No to the “Mr. Moneybags” Mentality
“We feel like we are just seen as Mr. Moneybags,” said a tech representative during a discussion on employee engagement with arts organizations. Rather than coming to tech companies asking for a hand-out, arts organizations should first cultivate relationships by re-orienting themselves towards prospective patron needs and wants. Focus on offering solutions to issues that most immediately impact employees. As stated by a representative of TRG Arts, “Buyer cultivation is like dating. Patrons must like the organization before they love it enough to commit to subscriptions, membership, and donations.”
Use Herd Mentality to Your Advantage
As mentioned by a panel representative, “Why would I go to your arts event if none of my friends will be there?”
If arts organizations truly want to connect with tech employees, they will need to appeal to the herd, becoming a part of the networking circle to gain social-buy in.
Engaging employee groups on their terms (i.e. common watering holes, employee resource group meetings and events, on-campus lunch spaces) makes it easier for employees to seek out a repeat interaction with the same organization later on.
The arts have tremendous potential to serve tech employees and, in turn, create enduring partnerships with the tech industry at large. Let the arts be a bridge-maker between tech workers and their surroundings.