Winning over your local press
Katie Dulake reports on the Arnolfini’s battle to win over the local press. This article was first published in JAM (issue 25 / April 2007).
Between September 2003 and 2005, Arnolfini was closed for major refurbishment to improve accessibility and visitor facilities and to increase the quality and number of project spaces. I was often asked during this time what we were doing – surely we were just sitting around with our feet up? In fact this period was incredibly valuable, giving us the time and space we needed to address key strategic issues.
One such issue was our lack of a cohesive PR strategy. It had never been so crucial – we had to ensure we were communicating the project’s progress and that our audiences returned when we reopened. Also, research conducted pre-closure showed that while national and arts press thought Arnolfini was a great asset to Bristol (and could only bemoan the fact they couldn’t get out into the sticks more often to see us), local press frankly thought we were a bit of a joke. Local journalists described Arnolfini as ‘faceless’, ‘elitist’, ‘exclusive’, ‘niche’ and ‘irrelevant to Bristol readers’. For them the only time we proved newsworthy was when our programme contained something particularly shocking or outrageous. There was a real risk that local press would be negative about the multi-million pound redevelopment.
It was clear that we needed to forge better relationships with local press if we were going to be able not only to maximise visitor figures upon reopening, but to win Bristol people over towards the new-look Arnolfini.
To read the full article download Love thy neighbour.