by Keith Diggle
Product Publicity tries to deliver persuasive, convincing, information about the art events that you want your Available Audience to experience. The intention is to convey an exciting ‘picture’ of the event and to provide all the other information that will not only make purchase easy and appear to be affordable but also an act that should be completed as soon as possible in order not to be disappointed.
Sounds fairly easy? It all depends on you, the organisation. Examine your own reaction when someone tries to sell you something. A good friend has something he wants to sell and he suggests that you buy it. He tells you about it. It is something that you could use and his price seems fair. Put a stranger in that same situation. He says the same words and asks for the same price. What is the difference? The difference is that you trust your friend and you don’t trust the stranger. Your friend wouldn’t tell you lies. A stranger might.
The way you assess a proposition is governed by the credibility (in your eyes) of whoever is making the proposition.
So it is with the arts organisation. If you have been working in the community for some time and have built up a good reputation then your audiences will believe you when you tell them that something you are about to present is good and worth experiencing. If you have only just set up then don’t be surprised that in spite of all your hard work with Product Publicity the audiences don’t flock to buy tickets.
From this simple idea we learn that the organisation – what I call the Product/Producer Amalgam in the A.D.A.M. Model – needs its own publicity. It needs Public Relations and, from time to time, it needs Advertising. Successful organisations are not modest; they set out to tell as many people as possible about their achievements, their aspirations – and even their problems. Members of the organisation are visibly part of the community; they join groups representing local business, advisory panels for local schools and colleges and so on. They present prizes. They give talks. They host receptions. If the organisation has its own building they welcome into it other organisations so that they may use its facilities.
The more of this kind of activity the better. If the community becomes familiar with the name of the organisation and what it does and with its personnel, it will feel on friendly terms with it and so trust it when it puts out its Product Publicity messages.
Good Corporate Publicity – for this is what I am talking about – builds up and reinforces the Available Audience and it also does much to break down unfavourable attitudes amongst the Unavailable Audience. In a community where an arts organisation practises Corporate Publicity as an on-going activity it is sometimes remarkable to find people who do not actually attend the performances speaking highly of what they clearly regard as being an important part of the life of the community.
Look again at the A.D.A.M. Model and see the arrow pointing from Corporate Publicity towards Educational PR. With Corporate PR creating this sense of overall community approval, the dissemination of information that is more specific about the ethos and artistic policy of the organisation via the Educational PR function will have an even more marked effect upon the attitudes of those in the Unavailable category. It is then for the Educational PR function to create specific ‘door-openers’ for those whose appetites have been so whetted.
A final word on the subject. Arts organisations are organic things. They start and they grow and they can achieve considerable success within a community. Then the magical mix of personalities changes or the economic climate worsens – or both – and things start to fall apart. No longer is the organisation ‘the place to be’ . No longer will members of the Available Audience try out new things on the say-so of its old friend. This happens.
It is here that the importance of good, sustained Corporate Publicity, is more important than ever before. Those pulling the strings within the organisation must be constantly assessing its standing in the eyes of the community looking for signs of slippage and taken steps to get back on track when it is detected.