ArtsAlive.ca – Persuading Presence

Marketing the Arts

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Large arts organizations, like the National Arts Centre, typically have many departments, including Marketing. The job of a marketing department is to sell (market) events to various audiences. It employs a number of strategies, typically divided between publicity and marketing.

Publicity involves eliciting unpaid media attention to the upcoming event. The goal is to maximize media interest so that the public hears about the event in a number of different ways including radio, television, Internet, newspapers, magazines, etc.

The position most responsible for organizing publicity is that of the publicist.

A publicist’s main tool is the press release, an announcement to the media that an event will take place, including the following important information:

  • what is being performed
  • who is performing
  • where the performance will take place
  • when the performance will take place (dates and times)
  • how much the performance will cost

The press release is sent to a tailored list of media contacts whose news beat is the arts. The press release alerts arts journalists to the event and seeks to attract their attention to the newsworthiness of what is being presented. The hoped-for result is that reporters will cover the news through stories, articles and reviews.

An effective press release also results in media interest in the form of preview articles (usually appearing before the performance, possibly with a picture); attendance at a press conference or photo call (again to stimulate publicity); and a critical review of the performance.

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A publicist not only maintains a list of media contacts, but also follows-up personally with these contacts (news editors, reporters, and more recently even bloggers!) via telephone or email to keep the publicized event at “top of mind.”

Marketing involves:

  • organizing paid advertising, which includes buying television/radio spots, newspaper/magazine ads (and often overseeing the creation of the ads, which may mean hiring designers, actors, photographers, etc.)
  • maintaining electronic media: the company’s website, partner websites, email newsletters, online advertising
  • overseeing the creation of printed materials: posters, direct mail campaigns (flyers, postcards, letters mailed directly to peoples homes), flyers/handbills distributed around town.

The position most responsible for organizing the above is that of the Marketer.