Getting your Priorities Straight

Posted by Ms. Kate Brandt, Oct 15, 2018 0 comments

This post is part of our “Optimizing Your Arts Marketing Practice” blog salon.

Every new season at a performing arts organization is like a road trip to a new destination. We’re experienced enough after taking these trips for years to know how to prepare and what to pack. But since the trip changes every year, there are still plenty of adventures (and challenges) to be had. Extending the metaphor: for those of us in arts marketing, the destination may be our sales goals and our detailed marketing plans are the GPS telling us when to turn and where to find gas. But there’s one more step we should take before leaving the driveway. Decisions need to be made about what is important to us as we embark on the journey. Are we taking the fastest route possible and driving through the night—or do we want to take the scenic route, allowing plenty of time to explore along the way?

This prioritizing phase often gets skipped—and that can lead to a rough road and perhaps even missing out on reaching the destination entirely. This travel plan becomes the foundation for the trip and ensures that all travelers are in agreement about what the priorities are. And now, I’m going end the road trip metaphor, lest this become a post for a travel blog instead of a useful tool for arts marketers.

Smart, hard-working, and well-intentioned staff members can actually be working against you if you have opposing priorities. So, before you think about who is going to get your brochure and where you’re going to advertise, start by defining those priorities. Once these are set, everyone on your team will be rowing in the same direction (wait, I thought we were on a road trip?!), and decisions will be easier when you have clearly articulated priorities to guide you.

Here are some recommendations for embarking on the important planning process of setting your priorities.

  1. Write them down. You’re less likely to forget or change on a whim if it’s on paper.
  2. Think big picture. This isn’t the time for specific tactics—keep your points broad (see examples below).
  3. Keep it brief. If you have two dozen priorities, then they aren’t priorities. What are the 4-6 areas you really want to focus on?
  4. Share. This only works if everyone on your team knows what the priorities are—and why. Be sure to bring new employees up to speed when they start. Also share with other departments so they know what you’re up to and efforts can be coordinated when appropriate.
  5. Update annually. Your needs and priorities are going to change each season. Reevaluate and adjust. Last year’s priority might now be so ingrained in your processes, that you can put your energy elsewhere.

Every organization will have different priorities, but here are some items that I have put on lists over the years to give you some ideas. Ultimately your priorities will be based on the strengths and weaknesses of your organization and your goals.

  1. Branding. Do you need to better define and represent your brand? This isn’t just your logo, but the entirety of how you present yourself to the public through your visual identity, as well as how you talk about the organization.
  2. Customer Service. Are you providing the right level of customer service? Do you make it easy for your customers to find you, buy a ticket, or find their seat? Prioritizing customer service can lead to new training procedures, new policies, or even a new website structure that makes it easier for your patrons to interact with you.
  3. Breaking down silos. Are you sharing information with the right people in your organization and are they sharing it with you? Are patrons receiving mailings from more than one department on the same day? Not all priorities need to involve the customer directly, but ultimately they should all help you reach your goals.
  4. Making data-driven decisions. No matter how sophisticated your operations or how large your staff, there is data available to you from sources including your ticket database, website, and social media channels that can help you make smarter decisions.
  5. Optimizing your budget. Are you spending your money wisely? Do the right people actually read the newspaper/listen to the radio station/drive by the billboard where you’ve allocated your limited budget? They might, but be sure before you commit to it.
  6. Creating strong content. Do you need to focus on improving or expanding the content you share? Perhaps you want to prioritize the quantity or quality of your videos, blog posts, or social media engagement. Make it a priority if it needs to be.
  7. Training & Documentation. Are you prepared for turnover? What would happen if your staff pitches in for a lottery ticket that wins big, and they all retire to the tropics at the same time? This could be particularly important if you’ve recently made changes to your website, customer database, or made other significant software or policy changes. Or if you have a particularly lucky staff.

Think about what priorities could guide your team this season. What kind of changes to your collective mindset and practices will help you reach your destination and enjoy the journey?

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