Bright Idea: Freshman Orientation

This week, our youngest attended Freshman orientation at the far-away university she’ll be attending in the Fall.  So, perhaps that’s what sparks this idea:

Have you noticed how so many people who work in the arts & cultural sector – and in marketing and audience-development capacities in particular – have never before worked in the sector.

No matter how qualified they are – no matter how much they have volunteered with a non-profit agency previously – no matter what small or large company or PR agency they worked for previously – no matter what strong connection they had from their work at a foundation, municipality or affiliated industry – no matter their art history major or MFA – no matter their own artistic or business accomplishments - there is going to be a substantial learning curve for someone coming into a marketing or audience development position in an arts or cultural organization.

Where is the arts & cultural marketing equivalent of Freshman Orientation?  Why don’t we offer some assistance in getting up to speed?

Perhaps it’s not a wildly fun 3-day trip offering a first-taste of dorm living and inter-personal bonding exercises.  (Or perhaps it is!  Let’s make a note to explore that some other time.)

How about creating a series of on-line videos and a resource library designed to help a new arts & cultural marketeer get up to speed with their fast-changing profession.  (We are not talking about teaching them how to do the basics of their job – but we ARE talking about how to expedite their way to optimal performance.)

Imagine a 10-12 session on-line video program (each one, say 10-15 minutes) that offered a curriculum and resources that included:

  1. Analyticshow to quickly & firmly grab hold of the revenue expectations upon you and the expense resources available to you.
  2. Accepting Mission - what is an organization’s “mission statement” and why is it so darned important.
  3. Glossary of Terms – what are “paid capacity percent”, “revenue splits,” “adwords,” “UBIT” and many other commonly used phrases & concepts.
  4. Competition and Collaboration – how & when to engage with your region’s arts & cultural colleagues.
  5. The Crisis of Arts & Cultural Journalism – a primer on the changing nature of how newspapers and other media cover arts & culture.
  6. Understanding the Role of your Board of Directors – practical lessons the purpose, function and interaction with non-profit Boards and their committees.
  7. “Required” Reading – what are the books, articles, blogs and other resources that you should be sure to tap into.
  8. How is a Non-Profit different from a For Profit? – and why does (and doesn’t) it matter.

Hey – this list is just a quick & rough start!  Let me invite you to POST A REPLY to this blog entry and suggest what additional topic areas should be covered.

The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas!  In that spirit, AUDIENCE WANTED dedicates this summer to stirring up a potpourri of creative notions & half-baked thoughts around the purpose of growing audiences for the arts & cultural sector.  

Suspend practicality & judgment for the moment.  We are just brainstorming here – with an emphasis on BIG thinking and CREATIVE efforts.  Together, let’s amass a HUGE number of wild & crazy ideas.  

Got a Bright Idea to contribute?  Write it up in less than 500 words (along with a brief self-introduction) and send it to:

And if this happens to be an idea that you’re already doing (or if you know somebody who has the power to make it happen) please get in touch, too! 



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  1. says

    This IS a great idea.

    Maybe adding a category for “who is ‘your’ audience”. What are some ways to identify and assess them. Some ideas and tools for gathering feedback from them, common places to look for research results, useful tools, etc..

    And thank you Matt for starting this brainstorming effort. It has been fun and thought provoking to read the Bright Ideas that you have written about.

  2. Megan says

    I am currently a Masters student in Arts Management and though we talk a lot about the “big picture” (particularly numbers 2 and 8), we seem to be lacking some of the other more practical skills. Frankly, we hope to learn it on the job. Please, offer a class like this and I (and the rest of my class) will be the first to sign up!

    • says

      Megan – thanks for your kind comment. Indeed, I taught a Seminar on Arts Entrepreneurship last Spring at Arizona State University – and I’ll be teaching it again next Spring. Perhaps Buffalo might like to invite me to offer a 1-2 day workshop – or even an “Arts Entrepreneur Residency”!?! I’d love to come!

  3. John Federico says

    Perhaps we do ourselves a bit of a disservice in seeking new talent by assuming that marketing arts and culture programming is SO much different from marketing anything else, with the result that we seek out and offer employment only to people who think like we do. I’ve spent 25 years in nonprofit arts management, mostly in the sphere of fund development, and the best marketing director I’ve ever worked with came to our small LORT theatre from product management and marketing at Starbucks. He’s since gone on to have a major impact on ticket sales and marketing at two theatres on the west coast.

    Having said that, I do agree that the idea that a “boot camp” for people entering the fields of marketing, fundraising or even accounting fresh from college or from the profit-making world has exceptional value.

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