HOW RESEARCH CAN SHAPE YOUR MARKETING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS PLANNING
Updated: Dec 5, 2018
Hey everyone! On my most recent blog entry, I talked about BASIC STEPS TO GREAT MARKETING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS. In this entry, I'm breaking down Step 1: Research.
One of the most significant marketing and public relations problems I see in The Arts is a lack of approaching it from a systematic, analytical perspective. Too often, we "go with our gut" because we want to create a certain feeling or response. That is the essence of art! Unfortunately, that doesn't always lead to great marketing and public relations plans. For instance, what if the messaging or the content you're putting out doesn't resonate with your intended audience? This is where engaging in a bit (or a lot!) of research can really help.
Research can reveal a lot about how people perceive who you are and what you do. It also reveals voids you may be able to fill in programming, services, and/or messaging. Below are two scenarios where research would help diagnose and clarify a problem.
You kicked off the 2018-19 season in September with the announcement of a capital campaign to improve the acoustics of your performance space and enhance the lobby for patrons. However, it's now December, and you've hardly received any donations. Event attendance has been strong, you have a large core of loyal subscribers, and there's plenty of information about how people can donate. If you didn't do it before, engaging in some research at this point would help immensely. Maybe patrons don't understand WHY the improvements are needed? Or, perhaps you just had an extensive campaign for another initiative, and there's fundraising fatigue?
You're organization positions itself as at the cutting edge of avant-garde music in the region to attract a younger and more diverse audience. However, the younger and more diverse audience isn't busting down the doors to come for performances. Why? Maybe your messages aren't going to the right places, and you aren't meeting your audience where they are. Perhaps your audience doesn't exist yet, and you have to build it.
How to research.
Research can take a variety of forms from a traditional audience survey to person-to-person conversations. Below are several examples.
1. Person-to-person conservations. Take a look at your subscription holders and regular single ticket buyers. Group them in a strategic and useful way depending on what you're trying to figure out. Grouping could be by demographics, length of association with the organization, subscriber vs. nonsubscriber, etc. Then, contact them, let them know you want to hear from them, and invite them for a free cup of coffee at a nearby coffee shop. With notepad and pen in hand, ask thoughtful, open-ended questions that stir up the conversation. Listen to what they say without judgment and an open mind!
2. Audience survey. Create a brief (5-10 question) carefully crafted survey that encourages honest answers. It can include both closed and open-ended questions. Make sure the questions get to the heart of what you're trying to solve and that they remain objective.
3. Social media. There are actually a variety of ways you can use social media to reach both existing and potential audiences. If you aren't on social media, that's a whole other topic. But if you are and you use it regularly, it can be a powerful tool in your arsenal of discovery. One function built into Facebook allows you to run A/B test on advertising. Craft two messages with slightly different copy and/or creative, then run an A/B test for a few days on a small budget (around $10 for each version) to see which one gets a better response (determine what you'll want to consider as a "better response" ahead of time, whether it's clicks, impressions, video views, etc.). The one that performs better is likely resonating most with your target audience.
There are plenty of additional ways to gain insights, but the above three are some of my favorites. Honestly, the research stage is probably the most challenging part of crafting a marketing and public relations strategy. Its labor and time-intensive, and it can be difficult to reach the people you want to. This is particularly true when you're trying to figure why people aren't buying tickets or attending your events. After all, if they haven't interacted with you before, how do you reach them? It's for these reasons that many organizations hire an outside company or person to consult on these types of projects. Consultants bring valuable insights gained from experience with other clients, supplement your existing team to increase capacity, and tend to be more impartial when interpreting the data.