It’s commonplace to talk about the need for “audience engagement” – but what does the term actually mean?
Let’s pick up from yesterday’s discussion…
Here again, I’m delighted (and grateful) to offer the insights of respected friends and colleagues on this question:
What is the meaning of the word “engagement”? And how does an arts organization know if it is succeeding?
Doug McLennan – Founder & Editor of ArtsJournal
Audience engagement? In its simplest form it’s getting the attention of a crowd. And who doesn’t want that? Except. Audience engagement ought not to be the goal; it’s the vehicle. So what’s the destination? It’s surprising how many people don’t seem to be clear about the goal of the engagement they’re trying so hard create. Successful engagement doesn’t have to be about numbers; it doesn’t have to be about a complex result. It is simply the transaction on the way to an idea.
Jill Robinson – President & CEO, TRG Arts
The arts industry is evolving as a field. We’re becoming more focused on academic rigor, on data, and on business model transformation. As practitioners, researchers, and funders lead innovations in our field, conflicting definitions are bound to emerge. For years, terms like “audience development,” “engagement,” and “community outreach” have been conflated. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. To me, each of those terms comes down to one thing: relationships. Arts administrators are in the business of building relationships with patrons. Your engagement strategy might aim to deepen relationships, broaden them, or diversify them-or some combination of those three. Regardless, in 2015, arts leaders must face the reality that they are running a business that’s fueled by the audience’s passion for their art. Harnessing the power of those relationships-and yes, engaging audiences-is everyone’s greatest challenge and biggest opportunity.
To me, the most exciting movement in our industry right now is an increased focus on measurement and data. Data can tell you, in hard numbers, where you are and how far you have to go. That’s scary and, at the same time, exhilarating. While we’ve entered a new era of accountability and ROI-driven thinking, there’s also incredible creativity and data-driven innovation. There are now many, many ways to measure success. (We’ve detailed our top six in a recent video series.)
I’d say that, if your goal is to grow audiences and the revenue from those audiences, start there, with those simple metrics. By what percentage would you like to grow total audience members each year? By what percentage would you like to grow revenue from tickets, subscriptions/memberships, and donations each year? Then find what drives those numbers and get to work. I always say that data-driven hard work…works. If you’re guided by data and work hard at the problems that data reveals, you’ll start to see results.
So, what is YOUR definition of “audience engagement”? Please post your comments below!
Stay tuned… there’s even more coming tomorrow!
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