Take readers behind the scenes — even while you're setting the stage: A content marketing strategy for arts organizations
Artists and arts organizations are used to putting in long hours in order to present a polished exhibit or performance to their audiences. But opening night isn’t always the only story to tell. “Bring me the story of an artist striving to do excellent work,” said Philadelphia Inquirer editor Bill Marimow at a panel on the future of cultural journalism at WHYY studios in February, emphasizing that the stories behind the art can be just as important as the art itself.
The takeaway for cultural organizations is to pay attention to what happens not just on opening night, but also when exhibitions and performances are in development. Pull the curtain back and reveal the artistic process — on the company blog and social media posts, or even in pitching traditional media outlets.
Publish the process
If you’re open about your organization’s artistic journey, your audience will be more encouraged to submit feedback based on their experience. Plenty of Philly arts organizations are getting this right: Canary client Lantern Theater Company drums up interesting Facebook responses to its posts featuring photos of actors behind the scenes, or staff at a set design meeting. Arden Theatre Company is also active in showing off the artistic process on its blog, writing posts about what it’s like to be at the rehearsals and, for its production of Endgame, calling for creative responses from audiences. Results of the contents ranged from essays, poems and video to ceramics and set models.
Another way to pull the audience into the artistic process is to involve patrons — and people you haven’t even met yet — in creating the art. California dance company Diablo Ballet earned tons of national press for a ballet production that took its setting, mood and dance steps from Twitter submissions.
Here in Philly, arts organizations look for audience input in creating short-term projects or ongoing work. The Association for Public Art put on an installation last fall that made crowdsourcing the center of the art with Open Air, a project directed entirely by participants’ voices and GPS locations. When “Open Air” wrapped up in October, it was the largest crowd-sourced public art project ever seen in Philadelphia. Another Canary client, FringeArts, holds a free performance series called Scratch Night, where selected artists bring their experimental ideas onstage to get audience feedback in developing their work.
If you give your audience a feel for what your organization is like behind the scenes, you’ll not only increase opportunities to promote your process, but you’ll also get the attention of journalists seeking the stories about how the finished product came to be.
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