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I Like it. What is it?

Chloe Milne, Marketing Officer at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA), took part in The Audience Agency's Grow: Strategic Audience Development course with the help of a Film Hub Scotland bursary. She shares some of her learning here...

It was so good to hear where other organisations were in terms of their research, audience data and audience development plans. It was particularly reassuring to chat about marketing best practice, and learn that we’re all facing the same challenges.

I recently began Grow, a five-month audience development course run by the Audience Agency. Split into two 1-2-1 surgeries, with two group workshops in between, the course has been a brilliant experience so far, and should leave DCA with a brand new shiny audience development plan - as a marketing team, we can’t wait!

If you haven’t visited us before (you should come and say hello!), DCA is an arts centre which is home to a gallery, two cinemas, a print studio, shop, café bar and an education programme, amongst many other wonderful things. With a lot changing and happening just now in our city, it definitely feels like the perfect time for a new look at audience development, which is where the Grow course comes in. Also, as a marketing team that wears so many hats (contemporary art exhibitions, films, courses, workshops, family events, festivals, and lots more), it’s always good to get away from the office and focus on your audiences - after all, they’re the reason we do what we do.

The first three sessions of Grow took me across the border to Newcastle (BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art), Sheffield (The Crucible) and Nottingham (Nottingham Contemporary). The views from the train are always pretty good, and it’s also nice to take a look around other venues; working in marketing, I do like to see how other people do things in terms of user journeys, customer service, signage, and, of course, I pick up lots of nice print!

Grow involved a varied group of people, all working in marketing, from a mix of organisations - small one-person marketing teams to large cross-venue trusts and many more in between - and me, the Scottish girl from the only venue with a cinema. It was so good to hear where other organisations were in terms of their research, audience data and audience development plans. It was particularly reassuring to chat about marketing best practice, and learn that we’re all facing the same challenges. It was also nice to share some of the things DCA is doing and see people taking notes - a positive sign that we’re doing some good things.

Over the course of the two group workshops we worked through the process of how to write an audience development plan, starting at DCA’s vision and mission statement, looking at what audience research we had (or needed to undertake), and beginning to set our audience goals, objectives and first step action points. As well as undertaking a clear and thorough process of preparing DCA’s audience development plan, the course also sparked my imagination and got me thinking about new marketing ideas and activities that our team could implement - to increase audiences; engage more, and better, with existing audiences; and ways to go out and find new audiences. It was also just nice to have the space and time to focus on the bigger picture.

I have one final session to go (another 1-2-1), where I will work on finalising DCA’s audience development plan and set out our next steps. This new plan is vital to allow us to continue doing what we are doing well; ensure we keep improving our offer; effectively communicate with existing and new audiences; grow audiences; and prepare us for the changing landscape of Dundee.

When I was leaving Nottingham Contemporary after the second workshop, I had a look around their lovely shop. I saw an awesome print by Anthony Burrill that simply stated, ‘I like it. What is it?’ - it just about sums up ‘audience development’ to me. It sounds great, like something you definitely want to be involved in doing, but, it is something (and I think most organisations are guilty of this) that we don’t always sit down and think about, or do enough of - until now!

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