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Stay Curious

Jane Hartshorn, Marketing and Press Coordinator at Glasgow Film, attended the Arts Marketing Association Conference in Birmingham in July with the aid of a Film Hub Scotland bursary. Here are some key ideas that she took away with her...

We are in the relationship business, not the transaction business, and communities are our active partners and co-curators.

In July, I travelled down to Birmingham for the Arts Marketing Association conference. Entitled ‘Stay Curious’, the conference examined the changing relationship between audience and organisation, and explored the ways in which the organisation can communicate with this new curious and participatory audience. Over the 3 days, I attended many inspiring and informative keynotes and seminars, however, rather than regurgitate exactly what was discussed in each seminar, I’ve decided to pull some of the ideas and snippets that interested me from across the conference, and amalgamate them in some coherent form.

There needs to be an unwavering commitment to audience value. Organisations must work to ensure that there is meaning outside of markets, and that programming is not completely supply led. Due to social media platforms, blogging and a changing web culture, the audience has more of a voice. Because of this, the arts organisation is no longer the arbiter of good taste, but has to listen to the needs of its audience. To complicate matters further, the audience now has its own audience, and can influence behaviour within peer groups through online channels. Therefore, we must regard social media not only as a means to increase clicks and drive sales, but as a vehicle to connect, engage, and create value outside the organisation. We need to provide a platform where the community can become curators and, as marketers, we should focus on curating online content, not necessarily creating it. It is our responsibility to find out what other people are talking about, and join in. We need to take more of an active role; share what our audience are saying, and promote the work of other organisations. As arts marketers, we should be focused on building communities, not just audiences. We are in the relationship business, not the transaction business, and communities are our active partners and co-curators. 

This attitude should also be applied within the organisational structure. It’s important to remember that staff are communities in their own right. We need to empower them and create mechanisms to allow people to generate ideas and take them forward. There must be a clear line of sight from usher to trustee, and vice versa. There should be reporting up and down; everyone should be part of the conversation. For instance, minutes should be taken at board meetings, senior manager meetings and circulated to staff. There must be complete transparency. All levels of staff should feel that their contributions are valued, and that they have the potential to develop within the organisation.

In the face of deadlines, it’s important to slow down in order to speed up. We need to cultivate a reflective learning environment, notice what is going on around us, and listen to one another’s ideas. We must value the anecdotal, and be aware of skills our colleagues have which might not be getting utilised in their current roles; a person is not the sum of their job title. It’s important to ask for ideas and input from other departments. Making time and space to connect with colleagues helps to recharge creativity, as finding time to innovate can be hard when working to deadlines. One way the organisation can overcome this challenge is by creating a series of spaces or platforms where different perspectives can come together and discuss; where systems can be challenged in a constructive way; and where there is space for connection. We need to build upon internal capacity and ensure that this is not only fostered over short projects, but that there is long-term cultural change.

24 August 2015

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