Well one way of looking at it, is that it’s a means of raising profile for something, be that a brand, a person, an event or an exhibition through digital technology. When myself and Jamie Wooldridge from Live at LICA (based in Lancaster) applied to be part of AMA’s Digital Marketing Academy we envisaged that up-skilling in this area of arts management would be the central opportunity. By joining together, we also envisaged an opportunity for us as colleagues to embed learning at both senior and delivery levels. I’m the Director of Live at LICA and Jamie is the Marketing and Communications Manager. As we approach the last weeks of the Academy I’m happy to report that this pilot cohort has indeed been what we pictured it would be but it’s also been a much richer experience. I thought therefore that I might touch on this for this blog entry.
Two of the big positives from our experience as DMA Fellows has been the time and space the Academy has afforded us to learn and the fact that neither Jamie or I has needed to update the other on that learning at any point. The actuality of us both learning the same things at the same time has meant we haven’t required the ‘catch up’ line manager/line managee sort of meeting where one often updates the other on recent matters. It’s been very refreshing to discuss digital topics following our DMA sessions without the need for one of us to continually try and picture what the other is suggesting. We know immediately the basis of what the other is talking about and have then been able to action applications of our shared learning there and then with confidence. It’s been really productive too (I think!) to have the Director of the organisation in close proximity to the learning process in such a way that the person in charge can look to instigate learning that’s perhaps more relevant to strategic thinking faster than someone knitted into the delivery cycles of the day to day marketing of the operation. For example, I have been able to organise workshops with all of Live at LICA’s staffing body to pass on some of the methodology our fellowship has uncovered around audience development; and I have taken part directly in some of the digital marketing ‘experiments’ that we’ve conducted as Fellows on the course.
Perhaps the best aspects to come out of our Academy experience though have been the more unexpected moments of learning. Realising, for instance, that before we could become excellent digital marketers, we would need to get to know our audiences better. Realising that social media, though effective as a tool group to help us get to know our audiences better, are but one part in a suite of methods that all require a human touch when building a better rapport with our digital communities. Realising that current visitors and audiences, and potential visitors and audiences, using social media are publishers and tastemakers in their own right who can inform us about the world just as much (if not more so) as we can inform them about what theatre show they should see next or exhibition they should visit. Realising that not only should we be paying attention to what audiences think of us, but that we should know what sorts of people our audiences are too. And I don’t mean that simply in terms of audience profiling either, I mean sharing in an experience together online or in person and genuinely getting to know each other.
These wake up calls – skilfully negotiated by our mentor Tom Beardshaw – led us to identify through social media (and real life flesh & blood encounters) a range of experiments that might generate signs and indications that people are genuinely engaging with our programme. For an in-depth update on these please see my colleague Jamie Wooldridge’s blog but as an example one of our most useful sessions with Tom involved building bespoke (perceived) profiles of our users as a basis to go on and identify ways to grow that user base through platforms such as Weibo. We have plenty of international students attending Lancaster University for instance, that we feel would want to explore our programme if we could attract those locals popular on Weibo to come along and post info about us. However to track down the most influential Weibo users we had to start by imagining the habits and motivations of these persons and how we could make friends with them. Pen and paper stuff you might think, but our imagining would often start in our sessions with Tom using digital technology creating digital documents between us. We had some good times with Tom as this picture indicates (he’s the attractive one in the middle) and I can’t thank him enough or the AMA for the opportunity.
l-r Jamie, Tom and Jamie “generate actionable insights”
These last weeks, in light of our learning on dialogue and customer exchange, we’ve instigated more of a publishing personality of our own in our twitter feeds and elsewhere broadcasting news, ideas and conducting interviews. This is in no way new, but the missing link for us has been the discovery that developing and forming a personality or persona (even as a brand) makes for a much deeper relationship with your online public. Following on from the DMA I will be organising some workshops with all staff to get them into the practice of fostering online relationships and to grow everyone’s confidence in the use of new media and why.
Digital marketing for all its modernity and screen based interaction is intrinsically about people in dialogue with each other (be that visual or text based or other), as equals in a new era of publicity, publishing and news sharing. Furthermore those relationships can be built in new, fresh and exciting ways thanks to today’s and tomorrow’s enduring platforms. I may not know where Tom Beardshaw lives for example (all DMA mentoring and learning sessions have taken place online) but our time together in cyberspace has been insightful. Here’s hoping that Live at LICA can have similarly qualitative relationships with all of our users going forward as technology provides us with the tools and means to do so.