The challenges of arts marketing

Painting by Paul Martin. Challenges of Arts Marketing.

Artwork by Paul Martin at Martin Studios

Whenever I begin advising small organisations or artists on their online marketing, I come across one particular challenge more often than any other: over-ambitiousness.

Usually of course, ambitiousness is a quality we should strive for but it can also lead us to set unrealistic goals for ourselves- a frequent cause of work-related stress. Finding balance between focusing on what your organisation actually does as well as promoting it is difficult to do but it isn’t impossible. A strong brand identity should be something you invest in. I recently refreshed the branding for Brighton charity Gig Buddies for Good Mental Health, to be used for both print and online marketing. A recognisable look and feel will have a monumental impact on how your organisation is perceived.

So, how can you face the challenges of arts marketing head on and get the most out of limited time and resources? Here’s a handy mnemonic, cos we all know marketers love a mnemonic!:

Authenticity
Realistic
Togetherness
Scheduling

Authenticity
This is a word often thrown about, its definition being ‘of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.’
It’s highly likely that you work in the arts because you are passionate about them. Transfer this passion into your marketing. Be authentic when you choose how best to get your message out. Don’t be afraid to be creative and try something new! Think about how you personally engage with online marketing- has a particular organisation posted content you have enjoyed? If so, think about why you tapped that ‘like’ button. Did it make you laugh? Had people you cared about shared it? Did it start a conversation? Or was it just a great photo?

If you are already using certain platforms, what kind of engagement rates are you getting from each? This site offers free engagement calculators.

An ‘audit’ of your current platforms is also a great way to see how your current content is performing: this could include follower numbers, engagement rates, how often you post, alongside notes on what kind of content is most popular. Not sure what your audience likes/wants to see? Ask them! Typeform.com is a great tool for creating simple surveys. Tip: add an incentive to encourage people to fill out the survey- a prize, or voucher. People generally like to be asked for their opinions, but offering something in return should help. Often, with small organisations, you are the best person to promote what you do. However, consider investing in hiring a short-term freelance marketing specialist, who may be able to get you off to a good start.

Realistic
Whilst it may seem the norm to have a website, a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok account and a mailing list, do you have the time, staff and resources to maintain and create daily content for all of these channels? It’s great to have goals, but if you’re low on resources, focus on one or two at a time and make sure they’re realistic. Why pressure yourself and potentially put out weak content?

A manageable marketing strategy should be your foundation- once you’ve completed an audit, you’ll have an idea of what might work best, which platforms to focus on and how regularly you think you can post to each one. It’s also worth remembering that your strategy isn’t set in stone: keep tabs on how content is performing at the end of each month, and how manageable it is for you or your team. Return to your strategy after three months, and don’t worry about changing it if something isn’t working the way you want it to.

Togetherness
Marketing- especially online- opens channels for communication. Social media, in particular, is not a one-way street. Know that the more you put out, the more you will get back. Is there someone on the internal end of those channels? If not, how are you letting people know that? You can set up an automated reply in Facebook Messenger, that lets those that reach out know that you have received their message, and how long they should expect for a response.

If there are other organisations you work with, share, like and comment on their content- chances are they are likely to do the same for you. A simple Twitter exchange could be the start of a more lasting relationship.

Scheduling
Scheduling is your friend! It is key to a consistent online presence and investing time in a platform like Hootsuite is worth doing. There are a number of online tools that allow you to schedule basic content at no cost. You can schedule content to your Facebook page within your page Publishing Tools, schedule tweets via Tweetdeck.com, and Instagram posts via Later.com.
Scheduling your content will not only allow you to plan what goes out and when, it will also help you manage your time better.

We’re living in challenging, uncertain times, and this is especially true for the arts. When approaching how you continue to communicate with your audience, remember to be authentic, realistic, promote togetherness and make the most of scheduling.

Kate Shields

 

Kate is an artist and Social Media Manager, based in Brighton. She enjoys using her social media powers for good: helping charities, small businesses and arts organisations be the best they can.
Dance Professionals Fund, Gig Buddies for Good Mental Health, Sussex County Arts Club, Brighton Gin, and various clients with Shake It Up Creative.
Twitter: @kate_shields

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