Potential Audiences Say, “I want to be found, look for me.”

About a month ago I attend an audience building workshop where one of the sessions was called Meet the Patron. A random panel of audience members drawn from participating arts and cultural organizations was assembled to talk openly about their experiences. The panel was economically, racially, and gender diverse. The purpose of the panel was achieve two goals:

  • Achieve an actionable understanding of the audience
  • Look for data points that will lead to skill building for organizations

What did the organizations learn from this exchange?

  1. Audiences aren’t always knowledgeable about the organizations in their community that serve them.
  2. Younger college students have disposable income, but need to have the information about an event put in front of them. They don’t have time to go search for it.
  3. Audiences prefer to receive their information via email. Traditional mailers aren’t very effective for most age groups.
  4. If organizations want to grow their audience they can’t keep talking to the same people over and over.

“I want to be found by your organization, but you have to come and look for me. I don’t have time to find you.”

The big takeaways from this session for me were:

An organization’s network is more important than ever. While most organizations spend time complaining about the audience they have versus the audiences they want, their current audience is valuable as if offers an opportunity to expand through the audience that is already attending. Turn your current audience into brand ambassadors for your organization to attract new audiences.

To build audiences you can’t keep going to the same well over an over. It was interesting that college students on the panel said the best way to get in front of them was through instagram! Though technology will change in the years to come it is important to recognize where people are getting their information. We are way beyond newspapers and postcards here!

Digital communication is here to stay. Sure, there are people who don’t like to be emailed or who just won’t give you their email address. That number is dwindling everyday. The key to effective email communication is to convey information that is useful to the recipient. Don’t bombard them with ticket offers or banal newsletters that don’t communicate anything of real value. Think before you type!

An interesting anecdote told at the panel concern Johnson & Johnson when they came out with the flesh colored band-aid. They spent thousands of dollars in research and development, but in the end they were only talking to a small cross-section of their audience. Think of all the people that don’t match that flesh tone?

For organizations, that are truly seeking a new audience, moving beyond their comfort zone and actively seeking to engage new audiences is a process that requires careful and thoughtful development. Done successfully new audiences will be found and engaged.

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