This is part of a series of blog posts in conjunction with TRG Arts on the interrelationships among marketing, development, fundraising, and community engagement. (Cross-post can be found at Analysis from TRG Arts.) The point of the series is that they are all rooted in relationship building and maintenance.
Can’t wait to see where I’m going with this, can you?
As I understand it, fracking is a technique to get at hydrocarbon reserves that have been untapped by traditional extraction methods. My concern in this post is not with any environmental hazards of fracking but with the potential to get more out of something by using new methods. The old approaches left a lot of oil (etc.) in the ground, apparently.
Over the last few years I’ve come to understand that traditional, self-focused arts marketing efforts are only successful in reaching those who know they want to be reached. (“Getting the word out” is only effective in reaching those waiting to hear it.) My principal woodshed tutor has been Trevor O’Donnell (Marketing the Arts to Death), but he is not alone. What I have learned is that more consumer-centered marketing can reach people who are not waiting for the word. There are more out there who might buy tickets if it were demonstrated to them that doing so might be uplifting, enjoyable, even–dare we say it?–entertaining.
Seen this way, consumer-focused marketing is to traditional arts marketing as fracking is to regular oil drilling. There are ways to get a lot more by employing different, more sophisticated methods. (Nice analogical trick, huh?)
But the real point of this post is an extrapolation of that analogy. Eventually, the hydrocarbons will all be out of the ground. And, while there is much near-term potential for bringing more into the arts fold with better marketing, at some point, the market for the arts’ status quo programming will be tapped out. The need to grow the base will be never-ending because of always increasing costs and the shifting demographics of our country. At some point, relationship building (aka community engagement) that generates understanding of new communities must come to influence (not dictate) new approaches to programming.
For me, the takeaway here is that while we are developing the relationships that will support us in the long term (kinda like fusion power?), better (some would say more professional) marketing is a great way to help us get from here to there.