It’s no news that the pandemic has affected most aspects of our lives. One thing that has been changed for good, is the way we communicate with one another. Whether that be with our neighbours, colleagues, or digital audiences, the way we share and consume information has shifted considerably. As arts organisations, we have the opportunity to expand our audiences and increase engagement. As theatres and galleries reopen, and we enter this so-called post-pandemic world, how exactly do we do that?
One essential tool available to us all is collaboration. With communities gaining more importance than ever during the pandemic (this goes for virtual communities too) our digital strategies and digital spaces need to reflect this. Collaboration is an accessible and, when done thoughtfully, highly effective way to maintain and expand our digital audiences.
Understanding your organisation’s aims
Take some time to outline your organisation’s key goals for that period. You may already have annual or quarterly goals that are specific to digital marketing. These goals, for digital marketers, might include things like increasing engagement and reach, growing a following, and selling out shows. These are of course very important things, but what about the more longer term goals? How are you going to engage your audience beyond this specific campaign? How will you retain the audience you’ve worked hard to cultivate?
Say, for instance, you’re an experimental theatre company currently devising a piece about reproductive rights in modern Britain. For this specific campaign, the key themes you are engaging with might include gender, family, medicine, technology and political freedom. From here, draw out some social and political issues and key messages you wish to explore through your organisation’s work. If you’re exploring these in your work, this should be reflected through digital marketing. From gender and family, you might want to look at the gender pay gap or maternity leave. From medicine, you might want to look at the issues surrounding the contraceptive pill.
By thinking about these issues, you can spark conversations that are firmly rooted in your work, but go far beyond it; your audiences are likely to remain engaged and come back to you again.
Identifying other organisations
Having done this internal work, you can begin to source and connect with other organisations with similar goals. And the key word here is similar. When contacting organisations, you don’t have to be searching for carbon copies – instead, look for commonalities. Which arts organisations also explore gender through their work? Which political groups have reproductive rights at their core? Which organisations are also experimental theatre companies?
Collate these contacts in a centralised system – we like using Google Sheets. To avoid sending out generic messaging, make sure you are clear on what you want to achieve through these connections. These aims can differ vastly, and you are likely to want different things from different organisations. Start by outline two or three aims. For example:
- Share our posts on their social media accounts
- Enter a discussion about how we can support each other’s work
- Create a programme of collaboration
In the above examples, we have three ‘tiers’. The first is a simple asking of getting the word out about your work. Let’s continue with the experimental theatre example. You might want other similar arts companies, freelance artists and local digital publications to share this work. The second aim is to invite a conversation between your organisation and theirs. You might wish to target organisations with stronger thematic ties to your company: reproductive rights groups, socially engaged contemporary dance companies, devised theatre companies exploring gender and sexuality. These more specific connections are more likely to lead to mutually beneficial relationships. How can the two of you work together? Are there any common goals you are striving towards? The third aim is to create a programme of collaboration, such as a series of digital talks about your pieces, a shared content strand on Twitter, or the authoring of a joint article. This aim is likely to arise from a conversation – as in the second aim – and will require work from both ends. That being said, collaborations like this are much more likely to gain engagement, and to expand your audience.
Reap the results
Digital collaboration has the potential to be hugely powerful in fostering meaningful connections, provoking discussion, and expanding audiences online.With a clear idea of what your organisation’s values and goals are, you are in a position to plan and deliver an effective ‘sharing is caring’ outreach plan.
So, Get started by understanding what you want to achieve, and from there you’ll be equipped to make the most out of connecting with other arts organisations in a post pandemic world.