Marketing Begins At Home

I do a lot of talking about how marketing is the business of everyone in the organization, not just the department bearing that name. Everybody needs to be invested in the organization and its goals. I often use the example of telling your organization’s story while you are in line at the supermarket.

A lot of what I and others write about in this vein stresses the importance of relating your story to external audiences. But I have slowly come to recognize the success of those efforts really depends on your success in relating that story to internal audiences first.

Even if the whole organization is supposed to be responsible for telling the story, its likely that the story may only remain fresh and alive for the people in the marketing department who deal with it everyday. They are the ones that have to take the full page press release and compress the information and concepts for consumption on webpages, social media, 30 second PSAs, posters and print ads. They are constantly having to distill information in order to maintain its essence.

Something I have noticed in my own experience is that staff and board members who helped with the programming and writing of brochure descriptions don’t seem to know as much about the performances as I do. Then I realized it was because I am interacting with marketing materials and having conversations about opportunities for interesting education services on a weekly basis.

Despite being deeply involved with the process for a fair amount of time, other board and staff members end up months removed from their efforts.

Arts organizations advertise and send out emails to remind the general public about events we previously announced in an effort to engage them as the time approaches. There probably needs to be a corresponding internal effort as well. You can send staff emails, briefing sheets and talk about events in board and staff meetings, but emails get deleted and people often just want to get out of those meetings.

However, people often have a tendency to avoid work, right? Water cooler type conversations about why upcoming events are going to be interesting can make a deeper, more lasting impression on people and help to make them better advocates. Especially because instead of receiving a general announcement, they are getting the message customized for them.

Even if other employees are insiders to a degree, they can often serve as the initial sounding board/guinea pigs for approaches you will use with the general public. Volunteers may especially be valuable in this regard since they are probably invested enough in the organization to provide feedback, but may be disconnected enough from the inner workings that they are only slightly more aware of the organization’s activities than the average attendee.

In many respects, marketing definitely begins at home. Even if everyone is working together to make every event a success and are clearly invested in seeing everything come off well, it is far too easy to assume everyone is equally as knowledgeable about the value of the event.

Marketing may be the business of everyone in the organization, but there are always going to be people who know more and are more passionate about events than others. Whether they are officially part of the marketing or artistic team or not, it is always going to be incumbent on them to pass on the knowledge and instill the passion in the other employees to enable them to be effective representatives.

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the 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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