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Fun for all the family?

Categories: Events, Learning things, Useful/interesting

Supercool postcard – sponsors fo Family Arts Conference 2017

Last Wednesday we went along to the bi-annual Family Arts Conference, this year held at St George’s Bristol and sponsored by our good selves along with Spektrix.

Billed as an exploration of age, diversity and inclusion in Family Arts, it seemed a good fit for us, as for many of our clients their family-focused activity is an important way of expanding audiences.

I guess it's a similar principle to MacDonald’s having Happy Meals, minus any grease or guilt – introducing people to something (in this case 'the arts', rather than salty, extruded potato) at a young age helps build a habit; engraining cultural activity as a regular part of everyday life, and so encouraging a lifelong love of – and support for – the arts.

The conference's opening keynote was great – Estella Tincknel, Deputy Mayor of Bristol and an enviably strong advocate for arts and culture in the city, told us all about Bristol (without glossing over its less impressive side, which was refreshing) and the huge role the arts plays within it.

She proposed that art and culture are important catalysts for change, for challenging what needs to be challenged, and for renewing social cohesion; with families cited as being a key part of this.

Further reinforcing the importance of family audiences, members of the Bristol Family Arts Network relayed some research showing that, although turnout for specifically-labelled ‘family’ events can be lower (initially), engagement is consistently much deeper.

Another stand-out talk was from Kate Organ, who referenced a comment someone had made about – I’m paraphrasing here – local arts attendance being made up of a lot of old, grey-haired people … and their parents.

Rather than this being seen as a problem to be overcome, Kate suggested that arts organisations should be embracing older people. Within the next 20 years 1 in 3 adults will be ‘an older person’, so there are economic – as well as ethical – reasons to engage with all ages.

Thinking about this as a designer, appealing to something as wide as a ‘family audience’ is a challenge – there’s a tendency for briefs about family events to automatically assume promotions should look very child-focused when, in fact, it’s parents who’ll be planning a trip or buying the ticket, not the kids. And mightn't child-like styling be putting off families who don’t include younger people but would still be able to enjoy an event? There’s no easy answer.

In terms of making digital things family-friendly, however, it’s a lot simpler as this essentially means making sure everything’s built to be as accessible as possible (i.e. well-built).

Websites need to be quick to load and to navigate, and work on any device – whether it's being used by a busy parent trying to browse a mobile web page on a rubbish 3G connection with one hand while wrangling an irritable infant with the other; or a Baby Boomer looking for an event that’ll be suitable both for their grandchildren and an elderly parent.

Much of the discussion at the conference centred around what actually constitutes a ‘family’ – with the conclusion being that it covers myriad relationships and age-groups.

We have, however, noticed one common thread that runs through all family-focused arts and cultural events – and that's a very clear and unmistakable focus on encouraging people to experience the arts with others; conveying the arts as a sociable activity which creates shared experiences – and shared memories.

As poet, essayist and visual artist Etel Adnan told the conference – via a recorded message stood in front of a big screen, which was then projected onto another a big screen; INCEPTION! – "The need for human company is and shall continue to be essential. Theatre [indeed, the arts in general] can play a significant role in this area.”

AMA: Influencing upwards

Categories: Learning things, Useful/interesting

(Another in my series of write-ups about this year's Arts Marketing Association Conference which took place here in Brum last week.)

Oooh, this seminar sounds lofty! (And, errrr, sorry but maybe a bit creepy?*) I chose this session as I decided it’d be useful to go to a more generalised talk, rather than something very specifically geared towards arts marketing. Spoiler: it was a good choice.

[My thoughts are bold and in square brackets.]

Influencing upwards

Mark Wright – Director, People Create

– Mark runs People Create and introduced himself as something of a leadership teacher and troubleshooter; often working with people not necessarily open to learning from him. He works for mega corporates, so a room full of arts marketers seemed quite nice. He used to be a sculptor [!]

– People are getting more physically isolated from each other, while at the same time becoming more socially connected through the internet etc. – which makes for a strange new dynamic.

– According to a quick poll using the AMA app, for people in the room, the biggest barrier to influencing upwards (i.e. immediate bosses or higher-ups in the organisation) was that people find it difficult to formulate their thoughts quickly enough. [It’s a shame this wasn’t expanded upon – it might’ve been useful for lots of folks.]

The context for influence

  • Be relevant [Obvious but worth reiterating]
  • Be exceptional
  • Be unexpected [A bit of a crossover with ‘exceptional’ – something exceptional is by its very nature unexpected isn't it, as it's not the norm?]
  • Be visible [Don’t hide your achievements – be proud and take credit for them]

– Mark used the example of a Christmas gift he sent in the early days of his business. Large corporates would send pricey bottles of wine to his clients as a ‘thank you’ for their custom but there was no chance he could do this – it would just be way too expensive. Not just too expensive; he very simply couldn’t afford it. So, he made fudge [or was it cookies?] and got his kids to write personal notes to each client, supplier, associate etc. Awwwww! The gift had a great reaction – and as Christmas approached the following year, people started asking if he’d be doing the same again as they’d loved it last time [They remembered! So he had to make it again …]

Drivers for influence

  • Reciprocity [You scratch my back …] – it’s personal, intimate, characterful, and it takes effort. This creates a predisposition towards, and sense of, obligation.
  • Commitment – stick with your strategy and build it slowly; there’s no need to jump to an end goal right away.
  • Belonging – make people feel it’s okay to take a certain route/decision as others are doing it too.
  • Liking – if people like you, influencing them will be much easier. People decide with emotion, then rationalise with logic.
  • Authority – if you seem in charge, you will instantly be more likely to influence others. Apparently tall extroverts are perceived to be more intelligent. [So a quiet 5’2-and-a-half” person would have to work extra-hard to appear authoritative? Rats!]
  • Scarcity – SELLING FAST! LAST TICKETS REMAINING! etc. You know the deal. A deadline is a driver for influencing – due to fear of competition/missing out.
  • Credibility – if folks trust you, of course they’re more likely to take what you have to say on board. Check out the ‘trust equation’:

The more credible someone finds you, the more reliable they know you to be, and the more ‘intimate’ you are with them – meaning human-like in this context, nothing untoward – the more trust they’ll have in you. But only if you’re not super-selfish.

If it’s all about you-you-you and what you’re getting out of it, that’ll cut into people’s trust in a *big* way.

Types of influence

  • PUSHING INFLUENCES
    Persuading
    – using logic, data, case studies etc. as proof of what you are explaining. Dismantling the arguments of others.
    Asserting – offering rewards, and suggesting negative consequences of not taking action.
  • PULLING INFLUENCES
    Bridging
    – engaging in conversation and finding common ground. Being empathetic, vulnerable and questioning.
    Attracting – sharing a vision and aspirations which describe ideal outcomes. Use of metaphors and stories.

People generally tend to favour one of the above types of influence over the others, but using a mix is most effective – different people respond best to different types of influence. So, cover your bases.

[Which one are you? I’m most certainly a persuading type – I love me a bit of factual evidence! I wonder if that makes me predisposed to being more influenced by others’ persuading?]

– Mark asked us all to create new roles for ourselves within our organisations; we should all aim to become Direktor Grundsatzfragen. It’s a German term which roughly translates as Director of Fundamental Questions. Ask the stuff no one else is asking. [Cue slide featuring an image of an elderly gent with long grey hair and a wise-looking beard. NOTE: Funny pics of old guys get the laughs.]

– He points to a Brazilian psychologist [if I’ve found the right guy, he’s actually Chilean] Marcial Losada’s research which, very quickly explained, shows that high performance teams and individuals are the ones who ask the most questions. Good questions – i.e. open questions – which actually tease-out information. Frequent good questioning leads to improved performance/results.

[I’ve found some further reading about Losada’s project with Barbara Frederickson, aiming to find a mathematical formula for happiness. Zoiks!]

– Okay, so now we were running late. Mark put up a slide saying Apter’s Motivational States but had no time to talk about it, so I wrote it down. [I've subsequently found a link about it: http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Reversal_theory – I can see why we skipped past it; that stuff is going to take some explaining!]

– To sum-up: ask good (open) questions, use different types of influence, be relevant, exceptional, unexpected and take credit where credit’s due. Okay!

===

 

Afterthoughts:


*My fears of a slick snake-oil salesman were unfounded; he seems like a nice guy. Or at least he influenced me to think he was! I even forgave him the fulsome use of clipart …

Having live-polling of the audience via the Guidebook app didn’t work brilliantly smoothly (we were pretty rushed, so the results weren’t discussed) but as an idea to get folks involved, I like it.

Perhaps because this was all new stuff to me, and/or because to was generalised rather than arts-marketing specific, I felt like I got quite a lot of useful, practical stuff from it.

===

Up next: (Very brief) Keynote notes on a stupid f***ing lobby experience and an expensive yet loyally-frequently-attended living museum …

In the meantime, you might find my write-ups from the AMA Conference 2013 useful:
David Carlin, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
Kim Mitchell, MoMA
Owen Hughes, Wolff Olins
 

AMA: Adapting your message …

Categories: Learning things, Useful/interesting

Arts Marketing Association 2015 conference banner

This year's Arts Marketing Association conference was held just down the road from Supercool HQ at The REP (plus a drinks reception with our friends at mac birmingham).

In the spirit of sharing and learning and stuff, here're some tidied-up notes on the first session I went to – I thought this'd be a useful one as we have several clients with a very similar core audience demographic to Northern Ballet.

[My thoughts/asides are in square brackets.]

===

Adapting your message to reach different target groups

Laraine Penson – Director of Communications, Northern Ballet

“Focus on the user and all else will follow” Google Truth

– Northern Ballet’s current core audience are middle class, middle aged, white, well-off Telegraph and Daily Mail readers who shop at M&S and Waitrose. 1.9m households in the UK fit this MOSAIC profile so it’s an important demographic. MOSAIC is a good segmentation tool to use as it’s used by corporates – so if you’re looking to partner with corporates, you're making it easy to compare audience/client profiles.

– Print and email are most liked by this demographic; though their presence is growing on social media. Northern Ballet would’ve liked to advertise in Waitrose magazine, for example, but the cost is prohibitive so instead they advertise in car parks near M&S and Waitrose stores. [Think laterally]

– Learning more about the audience included finding their primary reason for attending arts and cultural stuff:
    - Captivation
    - Emotional engagement
    - Appreciation of artistry
    - Shared experience
    - Visual spectacle
    - Anticipation
    - The ‘afterglow’

– Northern Ballet have been sending short emails a couple of days before people come to see a performance with info such as character profiles. This help build people’s anticipation, and helps them to feel better informed about what they’re about to see. A huge barrier with ballet [and also classical music] is “What if I don’t understand it?” / “Will I get it?” [I love the idea of giving people these added extra bits of information in advance, so the experience starts a bit earlier. Deeper knowledge = deeper engagement with the company/venue etc. Giving people a clear idea of what to expect also takes away some of the risk of committing – though in this case they’ve already bought a ticket.]

– 5 years ago Northern Ballet rebranded with the main changes being to imagery and tone of voice. They’ve invested a lot in very high quality photography – which Laraine says has really paid off – and they now make sure every show has a professional-looking, high quality set of ‘emotive’ imagery. [The core thought being “show, don’t tell”, which I wholeheartedly agree with.] They also have this sort of info. on their website. Another branding change was to overhaul their copy and tone of voice to be more ‘experiential’ [rather than explanatory and/or salesy].

– To expand audience, they experimented with reaching out to new ACE-defined audiences who should (according to Culture Segments segmentation) be receptive to them; Fun, Fashion and Friends, and Dinner & A Show (nearest crossover with core audience). They ran an ‘experience’ for glossy mag journalists, supported by a range of corporate partners: East Coast trains brought people to Leeds; they had a Great Gatsby-themed make-up demo by MAC cosmetics, lunch at Harvey Nichols, saw The Great Gatsby ballet, and stayed in a partner hotel for the night. It cost Northern Ballet nothing but the tickets, and the time it took to put the package together – everything else was covered by partnerships. They got coverage from every publication invited, including a follow-up piece on Vogue’s website with a competition (to win a ‘package experience’) which reached approx. 2m people.

– The secrets of effective messaging: keep it short (no more than 30 words), truthful, credible, relevant and clear. And repeat it. Repetition makes sure it’s heard, reinforces and reminds people of core message/s. [Repetition makes sure it’s heard, reinforces and reminds people of core message/s … wink]

– Consistent messaging across diverse channels = engagement.

photo of Laraine Penson's talk

[No need to squint – the text from the slide pictured is below]

–  Some internet-related stats:

  • The average Brit checks their phone 50 times a day
  • 46% of 18-24yr olds check their phone every 15 minutes
  • 77% of adults in the UK have broadband
  • 20% of viewers abandon video after 10 seconds (so put your most important message first)
  • YouTube is the second most popular search engine [Hmm. More accurately, it has the second most popular search function on the internet – I dispute it being a ‘search engine’. Though I can be a bit of a pedant …]

– Northern Ballet tried making some 'teaser' trailers, and they didn't perform anything like as well (in terms of views) as trailers or snippets of film of the actual productions. [Again; showing people exactly what to expect is popular]

– Direct mail is still a very effective form of communication – as long as it's well targeted and well designed; specifically for the people you're talking to.

– Provide moments of magic to make your offer the easy choice for people.

===

Up next: Notes on Influencing Upwards: Asking the Right Questions by Mark Wright of People Create.