Dear Arts Marketing Director...
Lots of direct mail letters started landing in the autumn of 2021 as theatres, orchestras and galleries came back to life… So I wrote one of my own.
Re: Your NEW Autumn-Winter Season 2021/22
Many thanks for your recent letter which arrived with your new autumn season brochure this morning.
It looks great. Nicely designed, easy to read and that new photoshoot really paid off. (OK – I know the letter wasn’t actually signed by you. But I also know that whatever draft your CEO/Artistic Director/Chair sent you needed quite a lot of polishing. Am I right? Nice work.)
Now that things appear to be opening up again, hopefully a world with Covid really can become something we all learn to live with. I know you’re looking back at the last 18 months of horrific news, grim chaos, endless changes, redundancies, readjusted (and re-readjusted) plans, shifting sales targets and reducing budgets… and wondering just what sort of new normality might be coming your way.
Will audiences be ready to return, or will their confidence be too fragile? Might they not have missed your live shows as much as you hoped? Or perhaps they’ve been wooed by some new distractions for their time and money? Will you now have to juggle not just live shows but a raft of new digital activity – even though you still have your doubts about the long-term value and appeal of cyber-arts?
I used to be in your shoes at the coal face, but working with a wide range of arts and charity clients I feel equipped to really help you and assist your recovery towards some sort of new success. Stay with me, and I’ll run four top tips past you. It’ll take another three minutes and fifteen seconds from here:
TIP 1: DON’T JUNK THE LOGO
So…’Brand’. People often wonder what it really means. Is it just the logo, is it a witty strapline, a pantone? How can anyone justify spending time and energy on all that when there are tickets to sell, donations to chase, and new arts ministers to placate?
Well, in truth your logo and graphic style might need nothing more than a design refresh, a quick makeover and some new clothes. If it’s well known, why change it and add to your woes as audiences struggle to find you in an ever more crowded market? But if it’s not working let’s find out why and do something about it (spoiler: this may require junking the logo). I can help you with that. After all, any design is only as good as the brief – and I’ve written quite a few in the last 18 months. Perhaps because of my distance from the everyday, my design briefs have really helped organisations communicate in refreshed and effective ways.
But there is another strategic side to Brand: positioning. In a nutshell, try The Ritson Test – ‘what are the things you want people to think when they think about your business?’ Let’s talk about it – there’s lots to share.
TIP 2: LISTEN TO YOUR LOYALISTS
Those closest to you most will have some insightful opinions about what you do. They may be over the moon with everything, though I doubt it. More likely they’ll be pretty upfront about what they don’t like. But there is no way some of this stuff would ever be shared directly. It really pays to use an intermediary, someone detached and confidential who can take in the full picture – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I’ve worked with several brave clients who have taken the plunge this year, and my practical summary feedback of how the ‘voices they value’ really feel about their future direction has been a useful wake-up call. It stimulates honest debate with Senior Team and Trustees, it brings everyone round the table without any finger-pointing, and can fuel any repositioning exercise.
TIP 3: LISTEN TO THE FRIENDS YOU’RE YET TO MEET
However popular you are, there are many more thousands who just don’t engage at all. Why is this? Already happy with one of your competitors, perhaps? Just not interested? Never get round to it? Actually feel a bit intimidated (although unlikely to admit it)? Maybe you’re just not good enough value for money. But how can you find out?
I’m working with a few clients now using online panel interviews (like YouGov and others) of culture lovers not on their databases. We’re probing attitudes, opinions, competitor engagement, readiness to purchase, sources of info, and other preferences to build a really interesting picture enabling strategic brand growth. It’s an essential step towards building a funnel. And more affordable than you might think.
TIP 4: TRY SOME VOCAL WARM-UPS
I’m talking tone of voice here. This is really about your copywriting skills, not gargling before an assault on the Queen of the Night. Your brand speaks to people. And while your voice needs to be recognisably consistent, your tone needs to flex appropriately. How is that done – especially if some of your colleagues are not exactly confident writers?
If you’ve read this far (thanks!) you’ll see I’m pretty passionate about copywriting. It’s hugely under-rated as an effective and distinctive skill that can really help your brand claim differentiated territory. Think about how many great graphic treatments are less effective because of predictable, lacklustre copy or an obscure call-to-action. How many arts and charity brands have the same robotic tone? If you sound and look like everyone else, who will spot you waving in a ‘sea of sameness’?
Like I say, thanks for the letter. I know you’re busy and things never seem to calm down. There’s lots of reasons why this direct mail from me might not hit the spot immediately. Just remember, it’s a long hard slog and can be pretty lonely on your own.
So, if you find yourself needing:
- a training buddy or sounding board to keep you on track;
- to offload frustrations, or some of that bottomless inbox;
- some new perspective or a different way of attacking a challenge (or preparing for one),
…give me a call and we can have a chat on 07702 713772.
Now where’s that autumn brochure of yours? I need to book some tickets.
Best wishes and good luck