I spent the beginning of this week with my fellow arts marketing peeps at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Louisville. For a person who does most of her work in a home office surrounded by cats and books, it was great to be in the same room with so many amazing people with great ideas. It was also great to be able to tweet at the dinner table without subterfuge, but that’s another post. . .)
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
I had every intention of coming home from this conference and sharing what I learned in great amounts of detail.
I’ll pause for a moment to give those of you who spend a lot of time at conferences time to stop laughing.
Let’s just say it was amazing, you can get some of the flavor of the event from the #nampc twitter hashtag, you can download many of the presentations here, and watch the archived versions of the keynote speeches here.
But really, you had to be there.
Focus on Being Awesome
We’ve all met the sales person who says he can sell “ice to Eskimos” but that trick is getting harder and harder all the time. Plus, even if you could work it out, do you really want to be that guy? Do you want customers you’ve tricked into buying your product? Do you want an audience full of people sitting in seats resenting the money they’ve spent on their tickets? Especially since those people now have the power to broadcast their unhappiness to the world?
It doesn’t have to be that way. The same tools that make it easy for unhappy patrons to complain, also make it easy for the people you delight to share their experience with their friends.
So instead of focusing most of your energy on how to make your work look awesome, focus on creating work that is awesome. Then make it as easy as possible for the people who love you to share with their friends.
For more on the “Be Awesome” theory of marketing, check out Scott Stratten’s opening keynote.
Marketing is a Filter
It’s bordering on criminal to distill Oliver Uberti’s amazing presentation* down to this one idea, but this post (and your marketing efforts) won’t be complete without it. Just promise me you’ll watch his whole speech when we are done here, ok?
Once you’ve got something awesome to share, you need a way to get it to stick in the brains of your people. Good marketing can be that binding agent, but first you need to filter out the parts that don’t make sense out of context, and highlight the pieces that are most likely to resonate with your audiences.
- Oliver and his design team at National Geographic do it with unusual objects and ideas photographed or drawn in surprising ways.
- Eric Booth does it with entry points.
- Pretty much everyone on the internet does it with infographics.
Your filter will be unique to you, your work, and your audience. You’ll know you’ve found it when your right people can’t get your work out of their heads.
Zoom Out to Include your Community
If I could only pass on one lesson from this conference it would be this:
To make and share great art** You need more than you.
In the short run, it feels like there isn’t time, money or energy to include outside people and organizations in the creation of your work. It feels like the audience isn’t big enough to go around, and that there is never enough money.
It turns out, the opposite is true: We all have more when we share.
Because this idea permeated the whole conference, I can’t point you to a particular presentation that teaches this lesson. I can tell you Shoshana Fanizza at Audience Development Specialists kicked off one of the best breakout sessions of the weekend with examples of collaborations she’s helped arts organizations create, so setting up a time to talk with her is a good place to start.
Also, Sam Read wowed everyone with the work he’s doing with Arts Crush, and David J. Loehr of 2AM Theatre (2AMt) and I led roundtable discussions about ways artists from different organizations can work together to create vibrant arts communities through the #neverbedark model.
In the end, great partnerships are unique and personal. You know your people, you know your community, you know yourself. Give yourself the space, time, and permission you need to imagine new ways to integrate your work into the fabric of your community, then don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You’ll be surprised by who will say yes.
*seriously, we were all speechless, and not just because he’s adorable. The Uberti Effect was alive and well in Louisville.
**we were talking about art in the conventional sense at the conference, but in terms of this point, Seth Godin’s broader definition might work better.