Stuff To Ponder: Oh The Hats You Will Wear

The Non-Profit Quarterly had an article this week, “Why Every Nonprofit Has a New Job Title: Publisher.” It really resonated with the way I had been feeling lately. Back when I started in my arts career, I didn’t do so much writing as I do now. Sure, as the new guy I had to write press releases and brochure text, but that was on occasion and scheduled by the marketing calendar.

Now I am writing everyday. It isn’t just this blog. I am creating social media updates, composing emails¬† , no make that designing emails given their highly graphic nature these days, writing press releases, brochure content, web site content, uploading images to other social media sites. Some of it is produced on a schedule, but more frequently it is produced spontaneously as events unfold so that the information is timely and fresh.

There are a lot of tools which make it much easier for people to connect with what we do from wherever on earth they may be. Servicing them is a lot harder than it used to be.

There seems to be something of a confluence of discussion around this topic lately. Thomas Cott circulated a series of posts about the media arts organizations use to communicate with this week. I was particularly interested to learn email is still more valuable than social media as a marketing tool.¬† I reminisced a little reading Trevor O’Donnell’s recollection of the 80s as a simpler time for creating marketing materials.

Don’t believe John McWhorter’s claim in the New York Times that “in the proper sense, e-mail and texting are not writing at all.” Maybe he ain’t doing it right, because it certainly feels like I am investing as much time as required when I do it on behalf of my venue.

Even in an increasingly visual media environment, you have to be a skilled writer and do much more of it than in the past. The talent required now is bringing writing, video, images, music together to tell a compelling story. People who made movies may claim this is old hat for them, but this sort of production is no longer their sole province. Now people like you an I can participate in production in places where highly paid professionals once walked.

It is probably good for all of us to remember that last bit as we look askance at Pro-Ams encroaching on our performing and visual arts territory thinking they can produce and participate in our sphere as well as we can.

Truth is, we are probably doing the same thing in respect to graphic design, music and video making among other areas. We now have the confidence to experiment ourselves. We aren’t necessarily as good as the professionals we used to/might have had to pay for the same service, but we are satisfied we are making a good show of it.

(Apologies to Dr. Suess)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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