Arts communication series part 3: strategies
What is the role of the arts communicator? How do we get audiences to step into concert halls or sign up for a talk by a writer? If art defamiliarises the everyday, arts communicators don’t just re-familiarise things, but instead draw out the beauty, confusion, and even anxiety of the unfamiliar — and then use this to build bridges between people, and educate audiences on the value and relevance of what may initially seem strange.
The psychographic approach to audiences
We have already established the complexities involved in determining the most appropriate and relevant types of content for different types of audiences. It is essential to move away from demographic factors alone, and to understand audience psychographics. Two important parts of audience psychographics for the arts are: (i) problems that audiences have with accessing, understanding, and/or enjoying the arts; and (ii) and pre-conceived notions about the arts. Segmenting audiences based on these factors will likely reveal some demographic overlaps, but also some issues that span demographic indicators such as age, income, education, technology habits, or cultural group. Asking relevant questions will help to create psychographic profiles of audience segments, which can then be used to plan and create content. These questions include: (i) What problems do these individuals have with accessing, understanding, and/or enjoying the arts? (ii) What problems do these individuals have in general, to do with their lifestyle and goals? (iii) What prevents these individuals from seeing the arts as a way of addressing some of the issues in question ii? (iv) How can the content itself (not arts events / experiences) address and solve some of these issues?
Building flexibility into content
Not all audiences are willing to commit a significant portion of their time to experiencing an arts event in person. Using content, we can create opportunities to reach out to audiences who are willing to commit less. By distilling an arts experience into a short video, blog post, image, or list, we can use content to create smaller transactions of trust. The key to this approach is that what we give the the audience in return for their time, attention, or data, has to feel worth it to them, so it can’t simply be promotional information about an event, or a feature about an artist or speaker. We need to give audiences something more: information, value, entertainment, inspiration, education, or anything that addresses the needs identified in the psychographic analysis. This approach can also be extended to relate to things that audiences already know, meeting them at a current level of knowledge, and then helping them to grow in understanding.
Arts communication is arts education
Artists themselves are not only artists any more, they are educators who, in the words of Eric Booth, “can effectively engage a wide range of people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.” Arts communicators are the same, and must meet audiences as educators, involving them in the interdisciplinary, rich, and valuable experiences and knowledge that the arts have to offer. Marketing departments in arts organisations often focus on selling, fundraising, and media relations; focussing on public education, on the other hand, opens up opportunities to create communities that involve people who have diverse understandings of the arts.