Leaders Build Lasting Relationships

We have more artistic confidence to do a wider and more challenging range of material than ever before. The conversations we have internally about new seasons have changed from the ones we had five years ago, when there was more of a consciousness about the presence of new vs. established plays during the season. That’s no longer on the table. Now our programming conversations revolve around the exploration of art and ideas, what projects the artists want to do, what our writers are trying to do. Thinking this way has given the artists a stronger platform in which they do not feel manipulated or smothered by management. (Building Deeper Relationships, p. 42, http://tinyurl.com/7x5fbqk) #

That’s not dumbing down. That’s smarting up. And as the relationship develops, both the audience and the institution are growing. #

About Bob Harlow

Bob Harlow has written 2 posts in this blog. #

Bob Harlow, PhD, develops custom research programs that help organizations identify how to engage key audiences. He has held senior and management positions at IBM and at the market research consulting groups Yankelovich Partners, RONIN, and KRC Research. He currently leads his namesake market research consulting organization, and has partnered with marketing managers and senior executives at some of the world’s largest companies and leading nonprofit organizations to build and target brands, offerings and marketing strategies. He has a PhD from Princeton University in social psychology and completed the post-doctoral program in quantitative analysis at New York University’s Stern School of Business and Graduate School of Arts and Science. He is the lead author of the four reports in the series, Wallace Studies in Building Arts Audiences. #



  1. Bob: You say that: “Arts organizations are in a unique position to provide moving experiences that are unavailable elsewhere. That ability is perhaps their greatest asset in attracting public attention, inviting public interaction, and building lasting relationships. When we give up any part of that, we surrender our greatest asset.”

    Isn’t the point that that “unique” position has been eroded? Certainly, formerly arts organizations filled a singular role, but is that really true anymore? There are many ways to get cultural experiences that are meaningful, depending on our own tastes. You seem to assume that arts institutions have a corner on this, when I’m not sure they do.

  2. Hi Jorge. It’s not that I think that arts institutions have the market cornered on cultural experiences. I think that it is precisely because there are, as you say, a lot of ways to get them, that we need to provide strong, unique experiences in order to compete for leisure time. Arts organizations need to stand for something to stand out, and I don’t think we can achieve that by following. But that’s a very strict definition of “following”. I think that even those of us who say we need to lead believe that we also have to take cues from the publics we hope to serve. The sweet spot is finding out how our missions intersect with how the public wants to experience art, without giving up who we are, as in the Steppenwolf example I provided.