Help, I’m Marketing and I Can’t Get Up

Posted by Ms. Norah G. Johnson, Mar 22, 2018 0 comments

Queue up that social media post. Write that blog article. Respond to a bajillion emails. Check your site’s Analytics dashboard. Adjust the Facebook ads budget. Check in on your Google AdWords account.

If you’re an arts marketer, this to-do list might feel all too familiar. If you’re not, it might leave you feeling overwhelmed or maybe just a little checked out. But how many of us are walking a line between both extremes? Nowadays it seems as if dual and blended roles are becoming increasingly the norm for all except the largest arts and cultural organizations.

Seth Godin once wrote, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” Like so many things, this is easier said than done. There’s a sweet spot out there, or so we all hope. We aim to distinguish ourselves from the crowd, meaningfully demonstrate our organization’s value, and drive people to want to experience our product (be it a performance, service or any number or related arts and cultural activities). But with ever changing and emerging media platforms and advertising modes, it can be difficult to figure this all out or, let’s face it, have the time to even think about figuring it out.

Awareness of issues stemming from this growing imperative for marketing expertise and the reality of capacity limitations inspired the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to team up with Americans for the Arts’ National Arts Marketing Project to develop Arts Marketing and Audience Engagement in the 21st Century: Building the Capacity of Pennsylvania’s Cultural Sector (AMAE21). This training initiative aims to equip Pennsylvania arts and cultural organizations with the knowledge and ability to build and engage with audiences, address systemic issues of declining arts participation and audience loyalty, and assist organizations—particularly those within diverse communities—to attract and retain broader audiences.

Signature characteristics of the program include a two-person team structure (per organization), tailored curriculum, and a two-year training arc.

The team structure (usually the marketing person and a “decision maker,” like the executive director or a board member) is designed to ensure that participating organizations absorb learnings and methodologies in such a way that both the why and how are understood in terms of why prioritizing this work is so important.

Each cohort begins by participating in a three-day “boot camp” to ensure they have a baseline knowledge set on which to build. Curriculum is then tailored around the needs and interests of the specific cohort. From this process, some of the training topics from year one included: branding; developing a marketing plan; diversity, equity and inclusion; and web assets and SEO.

In terms of qualifiable benefits, the program outfits participants with, and makes them a part of, a network of peers. In the same way that attending a niche industry conference gives you the chance to connect, learn, and—let’s be honest—commiserate with people who are dealing with the same challenges and experiences as you, AMAE21 cohorts work together closely over two years, building deep relationships while sharing challenges, successes, and tips along the way.

I realize this is a lot of information, but the long and short of it is that we all need help sometimes, right? Or in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” So, if this program sounds like something that would help you and your organization (and you’re based in Pennsylvania), you can find out everything you need to know here. The deadline to apply is April 27, with notification by May 18.

And if you’re not in Pennsylvania and thinking “Well, thanks for nothing!”, fret not—you can bring this program to your state too! Contact Americans for the Arts’ Local Arts Advancement team to learn more.

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