Stop Killing Kittens

Last week Drew McManus encouraged arts marketers to break pre-Covid bad habits by renewed his plea to stop using cliched terms like “beloved.”  If you read his post closely you will notice he has been making the plea since 2014 when he created the hashtag #BanBeloved  (Which has probably be co-opted by those that oppose Toni Morrison’s novel of the same name.)

Drew asserts that every time an arts marketer uses the term “beloved,” a kitten dies.

So, you know if you won’t do it for the sake of your general community, think of the kittens.

Drew has identified a number of other objectionable adjectives, but others have reared their ugly heads and gotten over used in the interim. If you search your heart, you know what they are.

Earlier in April, Trevor O’Donnell made a similar plea about considering the language being used in marketing materials, encouraging people to focus on the audience and the shared experience.

Calling it a side-splitting, roll-in-the-aisles romp may be cute and catchy, and it may ring comfortingly familiar to older arts leaders, but it isn’t true and it’s not effective communication.

New audiences don’t respond to frivolous hyperbole. They want clear, honest, useful information that explains why your products matter to them. If what they’re looking for is a fun, stimulating way to create lasting memories with family, friends or loved ones, your job is to sell social experiences that offer lasting memories; i.e. if that memory is about sharing a funny play, you should probably say something like, “You’ll remember laughing together for a lifetime.”

O’Donnell attributes the use of hyperbole and focus on the organization vs. the audience to older arts administrators who are set in their ways. As I had noted a couple weeks back, there are a heck of a lot of advertisements for jobs at arts and culture organizations out there right now, particularly at the President/CEO/Vice-President level. It will be interesting if we see a significant shift in programming, promotional and operational practices over the next five years as a result of all this.

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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