Getting the word out

On the first day of arts marketing class, we learn the three phrases that are forbidden:

  1. “We need to get some free advertising.”  (Like lunch, there is no such thing)
  2. “We need to get younger audiences.” (Define young, please.  Younger than we are? That would be average age 50)

But the number one taboo is #3: “We need to get the word out.”

The biggest mistake made by arts organizations is the assumption that all that needs to happen to market your event is to inform people that it’s happening – to “get the word out.”  Many of us spend a great deal of time sending press releases, putting up posters, and placing ads in the newspaper.  To me, this is like sending out birthday cards to your all of your friends on the chance that today is actually someone’s birthday.  Why are we reluctant to spend any time in marketing thinking about who is most likely to be interested in our events and making sure they receive their “birthday card” when they need it, with the information they need to know?

Many arts organizations, Facebook has become the Holy Grail of marketing.  It’s free! (#1 solved).  Young people use Facebook! (#2 solved).  And we can send out notices about our upcoming events! (three for three!).

There are a couple of problems with thinking about Facebook as a way to get the word out.  The first is that, depending on how you set up your page, people may not even be getting your messages unless they specifically look for them.   Go to your Facebook account and click on your profile.  See the tab on the left that says “Updates”?  How many entries are there?  Did you know they were there?   Are you really communicating with your fans or are you posting updates that nobody is seeing?

The more important reason to eliminate the phrase “get the word out” from your social media marketing vocabulary is that simply posting news on Facebook doesn’t take advantage of the unique features of the medium.  When you have all of the tools available to you — inviting people to events, encouraging friends to spread your message, offering opportunities for interaction, getting input from your fans — why would you choose to do nothing more than send a birthday card?


About Ellen Rosewall

I am Professor and Chair of Arts Management and author of Arts Management: Uniting Arts and Audiences in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2013). I believe that arts and culture are undergoing a profound change in the 21st century, and I love talking with people about how we continue to bring arts to our communities and individuals give the brave new world of social media, technology and economic changes. Join the conversation!
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4 Responses to Getting the word out

  1. Margaret Burton says:

    “…To me, this is like sending out birthday cards to your all of your friends on the chance that today is actually someone’s birthday.”

    I love this. 😀

  2. Jean Wentz says:

    You may already know about this website, but it’s various tools to measure your internet marketing success, specifically for Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.

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