17 things all arts marketers should do now to prepare for reopening

17 things all arts marketers should do now to prepare for reopening

By Kizzie Burkett, AKA


Kizzie Burkett, Account Manager at the international arts and live entertainment marketing agency AKA outlines 17 productive and real actions you can take now to enable you to put your best foot forwards before reopening.

As marketers, we love to be busy. Even with our venues closed, there is a lot to do as we prepare to reopen in another, completely new marketplace. It is now clear that we won’t be returning to the ‘old normal’, but will need to once again adapt our craft to understand new audiences, behaviours and spaces. And those who do adapt fastest and most effectively will be at the forefront when the time comes to attract an – at least initially – reduced audience back to our venues.

1. Redefine your audience

Audiences have changed. The biggest factor affecting visitation now is level of concern. This is not a viewpoint that neatly stacks onto any demographic factor, and is variable even within the same household. This has implications for your segmentation – generic segmentations based on gender or age are no longer sufficient for understanding audience behaviours. We are yet to see the impact of vaccinations on public confidence. However, initial ALVA research from the end of January (wave 6 report) suggests that those who had been vaccinated at that point were still much more cautious than the general population about visiting attractions – vaccinations do not remove anxiety. Use the time now to review your segmentation, and really understand who visited pre- and during the pandemic. Bear in mind that social distancing rules mean that visits will be far less spontaneous, which again has implications for how you speak to your audience and what options you need to provide them with – don’t forget those who don’t have internet access or aren’t IT-literate.

2. Identify your core and periphery audiences

Your core audience will return. Numerous reports have shown that heavy arts and culture visitors pre-COVID are desperate to return to venues. Where we need to focus our attention is to those on the periphery, who likely enjoyed the occasional visit but have found cheap and easy alternatives in in-home entertainment, and therefore need some gentle persuasion to return. Helping them to return does not necessarily mean financial incentives – ALVA research has shown that this is not a major determining factor in visitation, and the Bank of England have reported that
savings are at a record high – but on the ease and enjoyment they can find in visiting. However, it is evident that the pandemic has unevenly affected people: 44% have had their finances negatively impacted due to COVID, going up to 60% of 25-34s (Kantar). Consider if you can support these people; the pandemic has proven more than ever that culture is an essential right for all that can support mental health and general wellbeing.

3. Identify where your audience come from

Know your visitation maps pre-pandemic, and how they have changed since. This will inform your positioning (for example, are you talking to loyal locals or one-off tourists?) as well as your campaign geotargeting so that you can minimise wastage from paid activity.

4. Localisation has surged, as consumers’ spheres have reduced to where they can travel on their own two feet (or two wheels).

There is also a strong desire to support local. Consider how you embed yourself in the local community, and how you can use your voice to support local residents and businesses. Fostering a thriving local community where people want to spend time is good for everyone.

5. Geographical barriers have also disappeared, as the internet opens up the culture available at our fingertips

We are no longer constrained by what is in our town, county or even country, but purely by awareness and, in some cases, language. Take the time to consider where your virtual audiences lie and the cost of reaching them, as this is a trend that is here to stay. Invest in translation services or the technology you need to deliver standout opportunities to them, such as through virtual exhibitions or high quality live streamed events. However, this reduction in geographical barriers also opens you up to new competition from across the world – understand who this competition may be, and reassert your USPs against them.

6. Simultaneously, new geographical barriers have been introduced

As our worlds have been made larger through new virtual opportunities, they have also been made smaller through travel restrictions or anxiety. Public transport is still a major concern amongst the British public, with confidence only seeing a slight growth in the previous month. Understand walking, cycling and driving travel times to your venue, and what facilities you need to provide such as secure bike racks, lockers and affordable parking; ensure that this is clearly communicated to your potential audience.

7. Prepare for a boost in domestic tourism

With a complex international picture, international tourists are set to be negligible in the UK until at least the autumn, with pre-pandemic levels not forecast to return until 2025 (Visit Britain). Of those set to return, tourists from long-haul destinations like China and the USA are more likely to visit than some of our typical close European tourists. In the meantime, 2021 is set to be a bumper year for domestic tourism, with audiences of all backgrounds set to safely explore the UK in its entirety. This will not be limited to tourist hotspots, as people seek to escape busy locations or look to stay near family and friends they’ve been unable to visit. Ensure you are positioned to appeal to these new tourists, such as by enhancing your local signage, being prominent on TripAdvisor, working with local tourism partners, making contact with new travel influencers, and reviewing where your advertising is placed and what it says.

8. Forecast, and reforecast your visitor targets and objectives as we gain a clearer picture about reopening

This means that everyone in the organisation is working to the same objectives, and are able to understand what success looks like.

9. Review your media strategy

Media consumption has changed with technological developments and forced behavioural change. Working from home, whether full or part-time, is here to stay, and increases the importance of in-home advertising channels – particularly digital. This has in turn decreased the correlation between how younger and older generations can be reached (IPA Touchpoints 2021), meaning a more nuanced approach is needed to reach a full audience. However, we know the media landscape is never static, and so keeping your finger on the pulse is essential.

10. Stay top of mind

Maintaining both above and below-the-line marketing presence during the lockdown makes you an easy option for when venues can reopen. This is essential when the likely willing arts-going audience will diminish immediately after reopening, but competition will be just as fierce. Kantar research has found that strong brands that are able to continue investing in advertising where competitors have cut back (driving an excess share of voice), disproportionately benefit when they do then become available. Whilst budgets may not be available at the moment, even maintaining good and relevant presence through your social and content strategy can be a starting point, particularly if you can support this with an always-on post boosting budget

11. Get your website data in order

With uncertainty about who will return to our venues, using the data we have becomes more important. Ensure your website tracking is set up to maximise the ability of all paid channels to retarget, lookalike model and exclude people based on granular actions will maximise success and reduce wastage. By then reporting on these granular actions, this will in turn help to build up a picture of who is really taking the actions that matter to you, rather than relying on previously constructed assumptions.

12. And don’t forget your CRM data

Ensure that your CRM data is segmented in a way that is relevant to the current climate, and also useful for paid advertising. As the advertising landscape looks to become cookie-less in 2022, first party data will be ever more important. Review your privacy policy now to ensure that data can be safely collated and uploaded in GDPR compliant ways (such as via LiveRamp and as Facebook custom audiences) to retarget, lookalike model and exclude. For example, excluding Members or recent bookers means your paid advertising can focus on prospecting for new convertors.

13. Know your values, and make sure these are an essential part of your organisation’s brand
There is growing demand from the public that organisations have purpose, and one that is meaningful and authentic to them – one that seeps into their long-term vision and is pervasive in all actions taken and communication. 94% of consumers told Kantar in 2020 that it was important for the brands they engaged in to have purpose, whilst Zeno found that consumers were four times more likely to purchase from a brand with a strong purpose. Arts organisations are in a powerful position to communicate through culture to the public, and is a responsibility that should be taken seriously. Use this time to identify what it is you stand for, and how you can use your voice effectively; this will also help you to portray your difference against competitors and create a memorable brand.

14. Audit, audit, audit

Use this downtime to review all assets and channels to ensure that they are representative of your brand now and what you want it to be once you have reopened. Review your social channels to learn what content performs best against your differing objectives, and to look ahead at what content you can create now to appeal at key moments throughout the year. Review your website, your print materials, your signage, even your email signature. Review your tone of voice, your imagery and your video assets. Are these representative of you as a brand, the audience you have, and the audience you want to attract? What assets are still relevant in a COVID world, and what will be relevant post-pandemic?

15. Update your copy to reflect the current situation

Stay abreast of research from organisations such as ALVA, YouGov and Kantar to ensure that your messaging is reflective of the concerns of your audience, and supplement this with research amongst your own audience where possible. Safety is set to undoubtedly be the primary concern of audiences as lockdown eases. Actively communicate the hygiene measures that you have in place to reassure your audience of their safety, and ensure that the measures you take are meaningful. Coming out of another lockdown, people will also be desperate to safely mix with others. Find opportunities where, once possible, people will be able to safely mix with friends and family, such as on-site cafes and outdoor spaces. Moreover, what makes our industry unique is the opportunity to share experiences with others. We need to remind people that, whilst virtual experiences are a good and viable option, these supplement rather than replace the in-person experience; nothing can ever replace the buzz in a theatre as the orchestra warms up, or the snippet of information a guide provides in a museum.

16. Connect with other organisations

Building strong connections with others in the industry will ensure that, during these unprecedented times and beyond, everyone can share learnings, support one another and build a resilient arts industry – a strong and appealing industry is good for everyone. Reach out beyond the industry to build contacts with and take inspiration from others in order to innovate, such as sporting events, conferences and cinemas.

17. This is the last lockdown, but anything is possible

Know your organisation’s closure policy, cancellation terms with media owners and customer refund policy so that you’re prepared for anything. We must bear in mind that it is our role as marketers to stimulate demand. Our audiences will not magically return by themselves, but will not coaxing, reassuring, and simply reminding that you are an easy, enjoyable and safe option for spending leisure time. Our competitors are no longer just others in the sector, but a plethora of in-home entertainment options and general social activities. Marketers who use their time proactively now will be in the strongest possible position for when we can reopen, and will help to fly the flag for our vital industry.

Kizzie Burkett, Account Manager AKA

Resource type: Articles | Published: 2021