Bob Harlow

 
Bob Harlow is a social psychologist and statistician who develops market research programs to help organizations understand their target audiences. Bob has partnered with marketing managers and senior executives at some of the world’s largest companies and leading nonprofit organizations to develop brand, communications and operations strategies.

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Research and Self-Reflection Help Strengthen Community TiesGP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​​​About 10 years ago, staff at Fleisher Art Memorial recognized that the organization was not keeping pace with demographic changes in its Southeast Philadelphia neighborhood. Although Fleisher had off-site community and school programs that served the neighborhood’s growing number of residents of Latin American and Southeast Asian descent, this population was not well represented among the approximately 4,000 students taking on-site classes. In 2008, Fleisher received a Wallace Excellence Award to identify barriers to their attendance and launch programs to eliminate them. The school then saw a subsequent increase in the perception of Fleisher as an inclusive organization and experienced an uptick in enrollment of area youth in its classes. That effort is described in <a href="/knowledge-center/Pages/Wallace-Studies-in-Building-Arts-Audiences-Staying-Relevant-in-a-Changing-Neighborhood.aspx">a 2015 case study</a>.</p><p>Because audience diversification can take many years to accomplish, we were eager to revisit Fleisher and see how things now stand. We found an organization that is not only attracting an increasingly diverse audience but is also asking more questions about itself and inviting its community to help provide answers.</p><p> <strong>Engaging the Community</strong></p><p>Fleisher Art Memorial was founded in 1898 in Southeast Philadelphia, which has been an entry point for newly arrived immigrants throughout its history. For most of the 20th century, Fleisher students came from a patchwork of nearby communities of European heritage. In recent decades, however, those populations have been replaced by newcomers from Latin America (mostly Mexico) and Southeast Asia, groups that Fleisher staff came to realize were not signing up for classes. </p><p>Though many of newly arrived immigrants had practiced art in their home countries—and it continued to be an important part of their lives—they did not know that Fleisher could provide them with art-making opportunities. Fleisher’s research revealed that even though the institution was committed to making art accessible to everyone, regardless of economic means, many of the new immigrants believed the school was for wealthier people of European descent, and in the absence of other information, they assumed they would not be welcome. Therefore, the staff put aside their original aim to engage community residents by offering new programs and instead focused on the need to challenge an inaccurate perception. </p><p>With that in mind, the school launched a community engagement initiative that integrated Fleisher activities into neighborhood daily life. New programs included:</p><ul><li> <a href="http://fleisher.community/programs/color-wheels/">ColorWheels</a>, a van serving as a mobile art studio that allowed the school to bring art-making to dozens of neighborhood parks, festivals and schools; </li><li>“FAMbassadors,” two local residents who joined the staff to raise awareness of Fleisher and notify the institution of areas where its programs could complement and enrich celebrations and other happenings; and </li><li>Expansion of ARTspiration, its annual day-long street festival, to make it more inclusive of various community groups.</li></ul><p>At the same time, staff members underwent cultural competency training to create a more welcoming environment on-site. They also participated in workshops on topics such as: building relationships, collaborations and partnerships; marketing and messaging in the community; and developing strategies to work with local agencies. After the staff did this groundwork, the neighborhood’s impression of Fleisher as elitist softened considerably, with visitor surveys showing a sharp increase in the perception of Fleisher as committed to serving non-English speakers and people born outside the United States. Moreover, the school began to serve more students from the neighborhoods immediately surrounding it.</p><p> <strong>Continuing Existing Programs and Creating New Ones</strong></p><p>Since the 2015 case study, Fleisher has continued, and in some cases expanded, its engagement programs in these ways:<u></u></p><ul><li>The ColorWheels van still brings art-making throughout the neighborhood, with funding in part from the <a href="https://www.pnc.com/en/about-pnc/corporate-responsibility/philanthropy/pnc-foundation.html" target="_blank">PNC Foundation</a>. </li><li>ARTspiration has grown and become more of a family festival. Last year, more than 7,000 people visited, a far cry from the less than 2,000 who came just five years ago. The organization still invites vendors and performers who reflect the community’s diversity. According to former director of programs Magda Martinez, ARTspiration has been one of the most effective ways of introducing large numbers of people to Fleisher. </li><li>As part of their orientation, new staff and board members learn about the community research and engagement work to help them understand its objectives and how they link to Fleisher’s mission.</li><li>Fleisher has hired its first communications director, translated promotional and registration materials into multiple languages and hired bilingual staff and faculty.</li><li>A new video-rich website, <a href="http://fleisher.community/">Fleisher.community</a>, highlights Fleisher’s activities throughout the neighborhood.</li><li>With the departure of one of the original FAMbassadors and the organization’s changing relationship with the communities, staff members are rethinking what role these liaisons will play in the future. </li></ul><p>The following charts show youth- and adult-program enrollments and the percentage of those enrollments that draw from Southeast Philadelphia (defined as zip codes 19147 and 19148). The greatest growth has been in youth programs, with young people from the neighborhood now making up 38 percent of total enrollment, confirming research findings that suggested that residents wanted art for their children. While growth in adult programs has been slower, neighborhood residents now make up a larger percentage of such enrollment than in the past. </p><p> <em>Youth Class and Workshop Enrollment</em><br><img alt="Fleisher-Youth-Enrollment.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Research-and-Self-Reflection-Help-Strengthen-Community-Ties/Fleisher-Youth-Enrollment.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /></p><p> <em>Adult Class and Workshop Enrollment (incomplete data from 2013 and 2014 not shown)</em><br><img alt="Fleisher-Adult-Enrollment.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Research-and-Self-Reflection-Help-Strengthen-Community-Ties/Fleisher-Adult-Enrollment.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /></p><p>One new program forging relationships with neighborhood residents is the celebration of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos at Fleisher. Over several weeks each fall, a working artist and community members gather to create the art used for the festivities at Fleisher, including a large thematic altar (an “ofrenda”) that honors those who have passed away. There are also workshops to make papier-mâché sculptures and paper marigolds. The celebration culminates with face painting and a parade in the streets surrounding Fleisher (with music from community artists) and a gathering at the school. </p><p> <em>Altar Created for Día de los Muertos at Fleisher</em><br><img alt="Fleisher-altar-dia-de-los-muertos.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Research-and-Self-Reflection-Help-Strengthen-Community-Ties/Fleisher-altar-dia-de-los-muertos.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /></p><p> <em>Día de los Muertos Parade and Celebration at Fleisher<br><img alt="Fleisher-altar-dia-de-los-muertos3.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Research-and-Self-Reflection-Help-Strengthen-Community-Ties/Fleisher-altar-dia-de-los-muertos3.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><br></em></p><p> <em> <br> <img alt="Fleisher-altar-dia-de-los-muertos2.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Research-and-Self-Reflection-Help-Strengthen-Community-Ties/Fleisher-altar-dia-de-los-muertos2.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /></em> </p><p>Images by Gustavo Garcia, Colibri Workshop </p><p>The Día de los Muertos celebration began six years ago when Fleisher FAMbassador Carlos Pascual Sanchez connected Exhibitions Manager José Ortiz-Pagán with a local merchant hosting an ofrenda. The merchant, in turn, connected Ortiz-Pagán to local artists, dancers and community leaders involved with other Día de los Muertos festivities around the city. They formed a volunteer committee to create a large-scale ofrendaat Fleisher, inviting the local Mexican community and others. Ortiz-Pagán notes that the school did not invite an artist to come in for just one weekend and build an ofrenda. Instead, it asked the community to inform every step of the process, start to finish, in order to better nurture a long-term relationship. </p><p>Run by an autonomous committee of eight community members who create the budget and plans, the festivities have grown to become one of the largestDía de los Muertos celebrations in the Northeast. Fleisher provides space, materials and expertise such as fundraising and grant-writing support. Last year the observance also included a community fundraiser. Staff members say it was welcomed by neighborhood residents, who wanted to play a larger role in supporting the effort, and by Fleisher’s board and donors, who appreciated the event as an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding about the cultural tradition of Día de los Muertos.</p><p>Ortiz-Pagán sees the commemoration as emblematic of Fleisher’s commitment to being an integral part of Southeast Philadelphia by supporting communities to manifest their cultures, a mission reflected in other art-based partnerships as well. Such partnerships include a new Bring Your Own Project initiative funded by the <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en">Pew Charitable Trusts</a>, which invites artists to Fleisher to work with surrounding communities and the social service organizations that represent them. Says Martinez, “Instead of the artist coming in with a project already set, the artist spends time meeting the community, and we prepare participants to talk about what’s important to them and if they see art playing a role for their concerns in their community and if so, how?”</p><p> <strong>Working as Part of the Community</strong></p><p>Stemming from the first period of research and program development, programs like Bring Your Own Project represent a rethinking of the institution’s approach to engaging with the community. In reaching out to the people they hope will be involved, staff members pose questions and try to learn about neighborhood needs before acting. They also constantly ask themselves why they want to take on a particular initiative and how it will have an impact on the community.</p><p>Martinez notes that the questions are the same regardless of whether the work involves community engagement or other Fleisher programming. In thinking through a new program for older adults, for example, Fleisher has reached out to a predominantly Latino immigrant–serving health agency to identify what art forms most interest its older clients, what kind of engagement would be best for them and what Fleisher can provide that would enrich their lives and is not available elsewhere. This inquiry has led to a new ceramics curriculum designed to promote story sharing and reduce social isolation among the elderly in immigrant communities. </p><p>This way of developing programs is a significant shift for the institution. “Questioning is now an intrinsic part of Fleisher’s culture. I’m not so sure we were good at that ten years ago,” says Martinez. “We now question ourselves, what we’re doing and why. We’re more aware of what’s happening in the city and on a national level.” </p>Research and Self-Reflection Help Strengthen Community Tieshttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Research-and-Self-Reflection-Help-Strengthen-Community-Ties.aspx2018-08-22T04:00:00ZThe Fleisher Art Memorial builds on its success in connecting with newly arrived immigrants in South Philadelphia
Showing Young People They Belong at the BalletGP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) has been bucking the odds. At a time when teen and young adult attendance at ballet is declining, PNB audiences have grown—and at a healthy clip. “It is now well established that part of the PNB experience is seeing young people in the audience,” says Executive Director Ellen Walker. </p><p>That situation is the result of ongoing efforts to build teen and young adult audiences (up to age 40). The work started in 2009 out of concern with nationwide declines in teen and young adult attendance. During a four-year Wallace Foundation-funded initiative, ticket sales to teens doubled to more than 2,000 annually, and sales to adults under age 25 rose 20 percent. Since then, PNB’s success with teens has only continued, and the company is placing renewed emphasis on research and programs to build traction with the 20- to 40-year-old audience that has not been as responsive as teens. </p><p> <strong>The Early Years: Letting Audiences Know “There’s a Place for You Here”</strong></p><p>Walker believes PNB’s greatest challenge with younger audiences has been breaking through perceptions of the company as what she calls a seemingly inaccessible “castle on the hill”—and showing potential patrons that “there’s a place for you here.” Initial research, described in <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/wallace-studies-in-building-arts-audiences-getting-past-its-not-for-people-like-us.aspx">a case study of the earlier initiative</a>, revealed that many culturally active young people were open to ballet itself. But a lack of familiarity with PNB, combined with stereotypes of the performance hall experience as boring and stuffy, kept them away. Participants in that research also said that PNB’s website and advertising failed to communicate the excitement of a live performance and did little to invite them in.  </p><p>In response, the company—which presents 100 performances a year to a combined audience of over 250,000, and also runs a ballet school—developed a plan to make PNB more accessible on multiple levels. For starters, it introduced reduced-price ticket programs including:</p><ul><li> <strong>25 & Under:</strong> two tickets for $25 (or one for $15) to Friday performances for patrons age 25 and below;</li><li> <a href="https://www.teentix.org/"> <strong>TeenTix</strong></a><strong>:</strong> a partnership with this Seattle-based teen program providing its members $5 day-of-show tickets and an active online forum to share their experiences;</li><li> <strong>Backstage Pass:</strong> a membership program for patrons ages 21 to 39, offering discounted subscriptions and social events; </li><li> <strong>Teen Night:</strong> a teen-only preview of PNB’s annual choreographers showcase with a $5 ticket price (in 2018, that changed to free admission); and</li><li>Half-price rush tickets and discounted subscriptions (10 to 15 percent off) for university students.</li></ul><p>PNB also overhauled its communications, including:</p><ul><li>A redesigned website with easier navigation and more audiovisual content;</li><li>Increased Facebook activity to build ongoing dialog about PNB’s artists and work. Over the four-year grant period, the organization's Facebook page grew from 2,000 followers to more than 90,000; </li><li>More visually impactful images in promotions to communicate immediacy and excitement; and</li><li>A series of videos showing everyday goings-on in PNB studios and classrooms which, after a slow start, were viewed more than five million times in their first four years. </li></ul><p> <img alt="PNB-dancers.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/showing-young-people-they-belong-at-the-ballet/PNB-dancers.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /> </p><p class="wf-Element-ImageCaption" style="text-align:left;"> PNB dancers discussing new work being presented at Teen Night, 2018 © Lindsay Thomas</p><p> <strong>Continued Success with Teens</strong></p><p>PNB’s momentum with teens has continued. TeenTix, for example, sells thousands of tickets annually, even as patrons age out of the program and are replaced by new ones. (A dip in 2016–2017, according to Director of Marketing and Communications Lia Chiarelli, was probably due to relatively few well-known classical works, the biggest attraction for teens new to ballet.) </p><p>The ability to tap TeenTix’s community has been critical to encouraging teens to give PNB a try. In fact, many TeenTix buyers are new to PNB; TeenTix is the first purchase for nearly half (48 percent) of the trackable TeenTix households (that is, neither those teens nor their parents had bought in the past). What’s more, 40 percent of those first-time purchasers return to PNB—a remarkably high level given field-wide estimates that 80 to 90 percent of first-time performing arts patrons never come back. Many also appear to be staying with PNB once they age out of TeenTix. Two-thirds (66 percent) of those returning first-timers eventually purchase a ticket outside of TeenTix—either without a discounted offer or through programs targeting older patrons, such as 25 & Under. </p><p>The size of Teen Night audiences varies but they’re often near capacity, mostly attracting teens who already know the company (such as those in PNB's school). Chiarelli suspects that’s because PNB hasn’t found a partner able to attract an outside teen audience. Still, she says, Teen Night is important for strengthening bonds with existing PNB devotees.</p><p> <img alt="PNB-Case-Study-Update-FINAL-chart.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/showing-young-people-they-belong-at-the-ballet/PNB-Case-Study-Update-FINAL-chart.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /> </p><p> <strong>Digital Marketing Evolves</strong></p><p>Since 2013, digital marketing has become increasingly competitive, as the amount of digital content has grown and social media companies have exerted more control over distribution. At the same time, PNB’s needs have changed, so the company is using digital media differently. “Four or five years ago, getting exposure on social media was free and easy; organic content was sent to a large audience,” says Chiarelli. “Our audience is bigger now, but reach is less because it is at the whim of social media companies.” PNB has expanded to other platforms to boost that reach, including <a href="https://twitter.com/pnballet?lang=en">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/pacificnorthwestballet/?hl=en">Instagram</a>, where it has more than 200,000 followers, even more than on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/PNBallet/">Facebook</a>. </p><p>The company still creates videos regularly but they serve a different purpose now. Initially, the goal was to familiarize young patrons with ballet and the company. But because many videos now exist to do just that, this is no longer a focus. Instead, videos showcase programs currently in the works, with a trailer, rehearsal previews and performance clips. The videos are featured prominently online where patrons can purchase tickets, in part to drive those purchases. That sales motive, however, is not the primary one. Says Chiarelli, “Our driving principal is to produce content that is true to PNB and to the program, and highlights the artist and work in a positive way.”</p><p> <strong>New Efforts to Attract 20- to 40-Year Olds</strong></p><p>Like many performing arts organizations, PNB finds the 20- to 40-year-old audience more of a challenge—but also sees engaging that group as critically important. PNB is now targeting this cohort with new ticketing initiatives and programs, which are being supported by funding through The Wallace Foundation’s <a href="/how-we-work/our-work/pages/building-audiences-for-the-arts.aspx"> <em>Building Audiences for Sustainability</em></a> initiative. </p><p>To that end, PNB replaced the "25 & Under" reduced-price ticket program with The Pointe, an e-mail-based program for patrons age 40 and under whose members receive reduced-price, single-ticket offers for every performance. (Earlier, people age 25 to 39 could buy reduced-price subscriptions, but not single tickets.) Sales from The Pointe are increasing, though they have yet to reach the peak levels of 25 & Under. The Backstage Pass program is now “Young Patron’s Circle,” offering the same reduced-price subscriptions and social opportunities as before. </p><p>But PNB’s latest research suggests that “castle on the hill” perceptions remain for many in this age group, and reduced-price tickets alone aren’t enough to break through. To challenge those assumptions, the company has started staging new kinds of performances, such as free contemporary dance in Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park in 2016 and 2017, and on the lawn outside the performance hall in 2018. It also began offering one “Beer & Ballet” performance with each program, targeting 21- to 45-year-olds with $29 tickets and beer specials. This program is growing in popularity, selling 248 tickets when it was introduced in the second half of the 2016–2017 season, and 917 by spring of 2017–2018. </p><p> <strong>Ongoing Evolution</strong></p><p>PNB also continues to monitor young people’s expectations, to ensure its future relevance. “There’s a place for you here” means different things to different generations, which need to be engaged on their terms. For example, in a recent round of focus groups with millennials, participants voiced fewer perceptions of PNB as elitist and stuffy than in the past. But they did comment that the audience was overwhelmingly white.<a name="_ftnref1" href="#_ftn1"><sup>1</sup>​​ </a> “Young people’s sensitivities are different now. They are looking for a community to be equitable and inclusive and for ballet to evolve,” says Walker. “That’s important to us too. Our audience and company are more diverse than before. We are moving in the right direction.” </p><p class="wf-Element-ImageCaption" style="text-align:left;"> <a name="_ftn1" href="#_ftnref1"> </a>1 Young people’s sensitivity to diversity and inclusion is not unique to PNB’s research; it also surfaced, for example, in California Symphony’s conversations with millennial and Gen-X audience members; see Aubrey Bergauer, <a href="https://medium.com/%40AubreyBergauer/orchestra-x-the-results-ec12e48f28fb">Orchestra X: The Results</a>.</p>Showing Young People They Belong at the Ballethttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Showing-Young-People-They-Belong-at-the-Ballet.aspx2018-07-27T04:00:00ZFollowing success attracting teens, the Pacific Northwest Ballet is working to draw 20-to-40-year-olds
A Range of Opportunities Brings New Audiences to Decades-Old Ceramics StudioGP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​​​​​​The Clay Studio in Philadelphia welcomes more than 30,000 people every year to its ceramics classes, workshops, gallery and retail space, including thousands who are first-timers to the studio and to clay itself. The organization’s popularity with newcomers ​seemed impossible 12 years ago when The Clay Studio (TCS) was on the cusp of its 30th anniversary. Despite the studio’s international reputation for excellence in ceramics, visitor growth appeared to be stagnating. Its core audience of college-educated professionals and retirees was getting older, and few newcomers were signing up for classes or making purchases in the shop. The solution, senior staff determined, was to find opportunities among Philadelphia’s large population of young professionals.<br></p><p> It was no easy feat. Staffers were used to serving an older audience of ceramics devotees and were unsure how they could attract the next generation of participants, who, they suspected, had little or no experience with clay. An Excellence Award from The Wallace Foundation gave them leeway to experiment with new programs and marketing strategies over four years (from 2008 to 2011). After a year of experiments that had mixed success (as described in a <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/wallace-studies-in-building-arts-audiences-opening-new-doors.aspx">2015 case study</a>), the organization hit on a winning formula: programs that provide new angles for discovering TCS, combined with more inviting marketing. Since that time, innovations using that formula have continued to deliver a steady stream of new audiences. </p><h2 class="wf-Element-H2">Finding New Ways for Young Audiences to Get to Know TCS<br></h2><p>TCS’s first attempt to bring in young people was a series of gallery-focused social events. When those efforts failed to bring in as many as TCS hoped, the staff tried instead to tap into young people’s desire for more participatory experiences and surmised that classrooms and workshops might make an appealing entry point. TCS’s primary class offering in those years was a relative bargain—10 weeks of lessons for $300—but audience research suggested that the time requirement and expense were too much for people unfamiliar with either TCS or ceramic art.</p><p>In response, TCS introduced shorter workshops such as <em>Date Night, </em>a three-hour after-work event—with a $35 price tag—that gave newcomers a chance to work with clay in a social setting with food and beverages. <em>Date Night</em> ticked all the boxes for Philadelphia’s young professionals who were looking for unique experiences, and it became a hit, selling out weeks in advance. The staff followed up with a range of formats to suit a variety of schedules and propensities to commit, including weekend workshops, five-week classes and more. </p><p>To draw this new audience to its programs, TCS’s marketing materials got a full makeover, guided by findings from research. The staff heard from young professionals in focus groups that TCS brochures and promotional materials were directed too much to an insider audience, with jargon that went over their heads and images of ceramics they weren’t equipped to appreciate. The staff then shifted to more accessible language and images of people working with clay, pictures that the focus-group participants found more enticing. </p><p>The direct appeal to newcomers, combined with the new programs, delivered results. During the five years from 2007 to 2012, enrollments tripled and revenue from classes and workshops doubled (see chart below). That growth came not only from the new programs but also from rising enrollment in the 10-week classes.</p><h2 class="wf-Element-H2">New Programs Build on Momentum</h2><p>The Wallace funding has ended, but many of the programs created during its tenure live on, as does TCS’s experimentation with new formats. <em>Date Night</em> is still held on most Friday evenings and continues to sell out in advance. To meet demand, the staff introduced <em>Let’s Make! </em>in 2013—Saturday-afternoon workshops similar in length to <em>Date Night</em> but without food and beverages, a nod to the fact that not everyone wants an overtly social experience. These workshops regularly sell out as well, serving 250 to 300 enrollees every year. The new programs have fueled revenue growth, which has continued to rise at a healthy clip.<br></p><p><img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/A-Range-of-Opportunities-Brings-New-Audiences-to-Decades-Old-Ceramics-Studio/school-revenue-enrollment-chart.jpg" alt="school-revenue-enrollment-chart.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p class="wf-Element-ImageCaption">Note: Enrollment data before 2006 not available.​<br></p><p>Jennifer Martin, executive director of TCS since 2018, has served in a variety of roles since joining the organization in 2007, including vice president from 2012 to 2018. She believes the key to bringing in new kinds of visitors is providing different avenues to get to know the organization. Take the <em>Hand Crafted</em> event series, for example, which was developed in 2015 after staff members noted the rising interest in local craft movements and recognized that TCS lacked options for people who appreciate handmade products but don’t want to create them. Over three hours and for a fee similar to <em>Date Night </em>($35 to $40), <em>Hand Crafted</em> participants hear local food and beverage artisans and ceramic artists discuss how their products are made and interrelate. Following an exploratory three-year period supported by the Barra Foundation, the program now continues every quarter and hosts an average of 20 participants. Chief Operating Officer Josie Bockelman notes that the goal of the program is to break even financially while promoting TCS, its artists and the pleasure of having handmade objects. Martin sees <em>Hand Crafted </em>as providing “a way to educate our audience about clay without making them feel like they’re in a class; they’re having an experience with us in a different way.” </p><h2 class="wf-Element-H2">Serving Multiple Audiences</h2><p>One tricky balance is welcoming newcomers while maintaining the commitment to fine ceramic arts. Chris Taylor, who served as TCS president from 2011 through 2018, does not believe those goals are incompatible. Instead, he says TCS has become more inclusive, noting that the organization “serves the community, and that includes artist communities and it includes kids, equally.” Some long-term supporters expressed concerns about the commitment to fine arts as they began to see in the social workshops a large number of new audiences of “weekend warriors.” But Taylor notes that unease has dissipated as TCS has continued to support artists and exhibitions through such programs as an ongoing roster of 12 artists in long-term residencies and by providing studio space and resources for 14 early-career artists and 35 local artists every year. That’s in addition to hosting approximately 20 exhibitions annually, ranging from retrospectives of established international artists, to group shows highlighting relevant concepts in the field, to work from emerging artists.</p><p>It’s only natural that some newer visitors will look for a different kind of experience from the one the established audience enjoys. Taylor notes that contrast led to considerable discussion about the visitor experience and whether shorter workshops like <em>Date Night</em> were education, entertainment, a gateway or something else. For his part, Taylor takes a pragmatic stance, saying, “Some may go on to take classes, but if they don’t, that’s OK. They had a nice night, and we don’t have to judge them on their continued involvement or not.” </p><p>As it turns out, some new students do move on from shorter workshops to TCS’s longer five- and ten-week classes. The number is small (around 2 percent), but because those programs bring in hundreds of people, the impact is significant. Between 2014 and 2018, 95 students who first came in through <em>Date Night </em>reengaged with TCS. Specifically, 20 took a one-day weekend workshop, 25 enrolled in a five-week class and 50 took a ten-week class. It’s no surprise, then, that the longer formats have grown alongside the new programs, with five- and ten-week classes selling out in the prior three years. </p><p>Similarly, <em>Hand Crafted</em> events are creating a new audience of ceramics buyers whose engagement extends beyond the event. That wasn’t the intent, but it appears to be a natural outgrowth of the program’s objective of fostering an appreciation for handmade objects. Bockelman notes that many participants go on to make purchases in the retail shop, where sales receipts are several hundred dollars higher on days when <em>Hand Crafted </em>events are held. </p><p>Somewhat counterintuitively, the organization’s departments, with all their growth, have become more—not less—integrated. That’s in part because conversations regarding the visitor experience and lifecycle have led the staff to be more intentional in thinking about how people move through the organization. One significant shift is that TCS has stepped up communications between staff in development and in the earned-income programs, whose plans are now more in concert with one another. Martin notes, “Things were somewhat siloed earlier on. The school did its thing, the development department did its thing, everyone did their own thing. I feel like we’ve made a conscious effort as a staff and team to look at the organization holistically and think about how our programs can interact with each other, how we can funnel people through the organization, and the user experience from the time they walk in, to the time they leave.”</p><h2 class="wf-Element-H2">Growing into a New Space<br></h2><p>The organization’s programs are now filled to capacity, leaving the staff to find makeshift solutions to accommodate demand. To better serve its multiple audiences, TCS will relocate in 2020 from its 21,000-square-foot space to a newly-designed 31,000-square-foot facility farther north in South Kensington, a former industrial area that in recent years has become home to increasing numbers of local artisans and artist studios. The new location is providing an opportunity to design the building to fit what TCS has become, with more flexibility to host classes as the staff envisions them, instead of having the space define their capabilities. It will contain more and, in some cases, larger classrooms that can accommodate different instruction models, as well as additional space for artists and a classroom dedicated to youth and children. The retail shop and gallery will remain roughly the same size. </p><p>Beyond better accommodating specific programs, TCS also is designing the new facility to host a more integrated institution. In its current home, programs are on separate floors that, for security reasons, have separate access privileges. In its new location, TCS has designed and created spaces that encourage opportunities for interaction. Says Martin, “I envision all of these people across programs, from different walks of life, different ages, interacting, being social and experiencing the material and sharing that joy with each other.”​<br></p>A Range of Opportunities Brings New Audiences to Decades-Old Ceramics Studiohttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/A-Range-of-Opportunities-Brings-New-Audiences-to-Decades-Old-Ceramics-Studio.aspx2019-05-30T04:00:00ZYour source for research and ideas to expand high quality learning and enrichment opportunities. Supporting: School Leadership, After School, Summer and Extended Learning Time, Arts Education and Building Audiences for the Arts.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum Is Now (Also) a Family DestinationGP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p><em>​​​This post is an update of a </em><em><a href="/knowledge-center/pages/converting-family-into-fans.aspx">2016 case study</a></em><em> of The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s Wallace-funded efforts to attract larger numbers of families with young children. It is one of a series of bl​​og posts exploring how organizations' audience-development efforts fare once Wallace funds run out. It does not include a thorough analysis to determine whether the financial benefits of the efforts described are commensurate to their costs.</em></p><p>San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) presents a continuously changing program of exhibitions about Jewish art and culture to a diverse audience, approximately half of which does not identify as Jewish. In 2008, it moved from a 2,500-square-foot, single-gallery exhibition space to a 63,000-square-foot facility with room for multiple exhibitions shown simultaneously. Leaders of The CJM believed the expansion opened up a promising opportunity: to attract more parents visiting with children, who could fill the space with intergenerational conversations and vitality. To that end, the museum set out to engage this audience in large numbers. </p><p>That aspiration brought The CJM into largely unfamiliar territory. The museum had not previously targeted families, who made up about 10 percent of the museum’s 10,000 to 13,000 annual visitors in the two years preceding the move. What’s more, more than half of family visits occurred on just two free days each year during Christmas and Purim. As described in <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/converting-family-into-fans.aspx">a 2016 case study</a>, a four-year Wallace Excellence Award helped change this picture. Between 2008 and 2011, the museum developed programs and partnerships that bring in more than 12,000, sometimes as many as 20,000, family visitors each year. </p><p>Eight years after that grant ended, the museum continues to draw large numbers of families. While The CJM no longer sees the runaway success of the early years, visitor response has been enthusiastic enough to build a stable base of family patrons, even as kids age out of the target audience each year.</p><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">The CJM Builds a Family Audience </h3><p> The original family initiative included several elements:<u></u></p><ul><li>Exhibitions of work by well-known Jewish authors and illustrators, such as Maurice Sendak (<em>Where the Wild Things Are</em>), and Margret and H.A. Rey (<em>Curious George</em>), designed to appeal both to adults and children;<br><br></li><li>Year-round programs every Sunday, including (1) “Drop-In Artmaking” for parents and children every Sunday and (2) special family programming on the second Sunday of each month during the school year, consisting of a “Preschool Gallery Hour” in the mornings for preschoolers and their families and tours later in the day for families with older children; <br><br></li><li>“ArtPacks,” kits with activities connected to exhibitions on display and available to check out anytime, to help families explore on their own schedules;<br><br></li><li>Free admission to all visitors under age 18;<br><br></li><li>Several family days with special activities;<br><br></li><li>Partnerships with local libraries, including educator-led art-making in public libraries and a “Library Day” where library-card holders were allowed free admission; and <br><br></li><li>Partnerships with a small but diverse group of public schools, which included both classroom instruction and parent/child art-making, with 300 to 400 children and families taking part each year. </li></ul><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">Marquee Exhibitions Bring in Large Audiences </h3><p> With the opening of the new building, total attendance grew more than tenfold, with considerable variation each year (largely driven by blockbuster exhibitions featuring work by household names such Maurice Sendak and the Reys). Family attendance increased as well, and at a faster clip. As shown in the table below, families visiting with children made up about 10 percent of the visitors in the years leading to the move. In the first years of the initiative, they made up between 13 and 19 percent of general admission visits. Additional programs outside general admission brought in between 1,000 and 3,000 more family visitors each year. </p><p>The exhibitions of well-known children’s book authors were the biggest draw. In the first six years in the new space, families made up a larger proportion of visitors (18 percent) when those exhibits were on view compared to times when they were not (8 percent). Family visitors also made up 15 percent of all attendees on Sundays throughout the year, with especially large numbers visiting on second Sundays. <br> <u> </u><u> </u></p><p><img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/CJM-attendance-wallace-funded-years.jpg" alt="CJM-attendance-wallace-funded-years.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">New Gateways into the Museum</h3><p> Wallace funding ended at the close of 2011, but according to Fraidy Aber, who is Constance Wolf director of education and civic engagement, the museum remains committed to continuous innovation to build on its success. “Families have changing habits and needs,” she says. So The CJM’s staff continuously experiments with more efficient and effective ways to attract new families and create experiences that bring them back. </p><p>One opportunity came in 2013, when The CJM built on the popularity of an exhibition of the work of author-illustrator Ezra Jack Keats by launching what would become an annual “Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition.” Children from public schools across the city design and write their own books in a competition juried by a panel of illustrators, curators, librarians and writers. The competition, now in its seventh year, is a less costly alternative to the museum’s previous school-outreach program, in which CJM educators traveled to area schools to lead artmaking sessions.  Activities for the new program are now largely managed by the schools, which submit student-made books to the museum. More than 800 children from 19 public schools participate. The competition culminates with a showcase of the children's books, attended by more than 400 students and their families (visitor surveys show that 45 percent are first-timers). The museum has recently begun a separate program for Jewish schools, hoping to recreate the culminating showcase with the Jewish community. </p><p>The CJM has largely shifted away from presenting exhibitions of children’s book authors and illustrators to focus more on contemporary art, though it still schedules a show every fall with content designed to appeal to both children and adults (including, for example, a 2018 exhibition exploring the work of Rube Goldberg). </p><p>Even so, these exhibits do not bring in the large numbers of family visitors attracted by those earlier exhibitions of authors with household names, and the staff is using other programming to attract new family audiences. For example, in 2016 it broadened the audience for the second-Sunday programming beyond families with preschoolers. The museum invited older children and their accompanying adults to attend and added age-appropriate art-making, storytelling, and entertainment to the day’s programs. Visitor surveys in 2017 revealed that second Sundays had built an audience of repeat visitors; up to 95 percent of attendees on those days had visited previously. The strong repeat attendance signaled to the staff that it was satisfying those who came, and also had considerable potential to expand its audience. </p><p>With that potential in mind, The CJM introduced a bigger, more highly promoted event in 2018. The new “Sunday Family Artbash” offers five hours of art-making, story-telling, music, entertainment, tours and dance movement connected to the exhibitions. The museum boosted advertising and publicity for those days and offered free admission for up to two adults accompanied by a child. That larger scope has required a reduction in frequency—four times a year instead of eight—but early results suggest the strategy is delivering. Family attendance regularly reaches 400 visitors and beyond (compared to 100 to 200 for the original second-Sunday program), and surveys show that 40 percent are first-timers. </p><p><img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/CJM-photo.jpg" alt="CJM-photo.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><br><span style="color:#666666;font-size:16px;text-align:center;">Multiple generations p</span><span style="color:#666666;font-size:16px;text-align:center;">articipate in Drop-in Artmaking at The CJM's Family Artbash; photo by Andria Lo​</span><br></p><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">“Hands-On” Visits Create Positive Experiences<br></h3><p> In 2014, The CJM opened the Zim Zoom Family Room, an interactive, activity-filled space housing artist installations, artmaking facilities, a screening booth and more, accessible any time. Focus groups in 2016 showed that attendees enjoy visits more when they include hands-on activities involving parents with their children, so the museum continually refreshes the Zim Zoom Room with new installations and activities. A major section of the space is devoted to an interactive artist exhibit, which changes each year. Past installations included interactive digital projections, an infinity room of mirrors that changed as children added objects to it and a piano that added paint to a canvas whenever anyone pressed a key. Visitor research shows the typical family visits the galleries for half an hour, then goes to Zim Zoom to play for an hour and finishes with lunch in The CJM’s café. Aber believes the Zim Zoom Room and regular family Sundays are cementing The CJM’s reputation as a family-friendly art museum. Visitor data show the institution attracts a consistent family audience year-round, not just when certain exhibitions are on view. </p><p>The CJM’s research revealing the importance of hands-on activities has also reaffirmed the museum’s commitment to offering Drop-In Artmaking for families every Sunday in the education center. When that research also suggested that families appreciate having educators in the gallery near the art itself, The CJM introduced a mobile “Art PushCart” with activities suitable for galleries (i.e., without markers, glue or other wet materials used in Drop-In Artmaking). That immediacy allows educators to help families connect more directly with works on display. Artists featured in exhibitions have even donated in-progress pieces to the Art PushCart that children can explore in the galleries. Drop-In Artmaking still happens on the first and second Sundays of each month; the Art PushCart is offered in galleries on Sundays later in the month. </p><p>Space and material constraints limit Art PushCart activities, and families spend less time with that program than they do with Drop-in Artmaking. But staff observations suggest that the Art PushCart serves more people, because families don’t need to make a special trip to the education center. </p><p>The museum has settled into an annual family attendance of between 10,000 and 12,000 since the Wallace-funded learning period ended. Approaching its eleventh year targeting families, the staff is starting to see signs of a generational cycle of participation. “We’re now part of the lifetime of people’s connections,” says Aber. “We’re beginning to have museumgoers who came as young adults through our teen programs now attending with their own kids, continuing on that life journey.”<br></p><p><img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/CJM-attendance-post-wallace-funded-years.jpg" alt="CJM-attendance-post-wallace-funded-years.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><br><br></p>The Contemporary Jewish Museum Is Now (Also) a Family Destinationhttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/The-Contemporary-Jewish-Museum-Is-Now-Also-a-Family-Destination.aspx2020-01-07T05:00:00ZNew strategies and a new space have helped the museum welcome young visitors and sow the seeds for future growth
For Steppenwolf Theatre the Connection’s the ThingGP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A little more than 10 years ago, Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company shifted its relationship with its patrons by offering them face-to-face conversation with the company’s performers and artistic staff. The new approach came about after Steppenwolf used an Excellence Award from The Wallace Foundation to develop a series of online and in-person programs that supported a vision of the company as “a public square”—a forum where audience members could participate in discussions with artists and one another about the meaning of a work they experienced. </p><p>The goal for Steppenwolf, which produces plays for more than 200,000 audience members every year, was to promote ongoing dialogue that would strengthen audience members’ connection to the company—and even encourage them to attend performances more often. This three-year effort (from 2007 to 2009) helped move the company towards its objective as described in <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/wallace-studies-in-building-arts-audiences-building-deeper-relationships.aspx">a 2011 case study</a>. </p><p>We recently revisited Steppenwolf to see where the programs stand today and found the company not only continuing to engage audiences through lively discussions but also expanding opportunities for more of them. </p><h2 class="wf-Element-H2">2007–2009: The Public Square Launches, and Expands</h2><p> Steppenwolf began creating its public square through three engagement tactics: </p><ul><li>Post-show discussions after every performance during which members of the artistic staff posed questions to the audience (not the other way around) and everyone shared reactions as a group. Over the first three years, 52,000 audience members, or approximately 14 percent of the audience, stayed to take part in these conversations.<br><br></li><li>A free-event series called “Explore” that introduced visitors to settings, playwright histories and themes related to Steppenwolf plays. Held in a social environment featuring immersive live entertainment, food and beverages, these events were separate from play performances—in Steppenwolf’s smaller theaters and rehearsal spaces—and each hosted between 50 and 230 attendees.<br><br></li><li>An extensive collection of printed and online content in which ensemble members and artistic staff shared conversations they were having with one another about work as it was being produced. Video and transcripts of those conversations included dialogue about Steppenwolf artists’ own questions regarding meaning and artistic intent—questions that sometimes remained unresolved. Over the three-year grant period, the videos and podcasts were accessed more than 750,000 and 175,000 times, respectively.</li></ul><p> ​While the public square forums attracted large numbers of audience members, they may have also encouraged repeat attendance during the grant period. In fact, the number of nonsubscribers who purchased tickets to more than one performance per season grew by more than 61 percent from September 1, 2007, to August 31, 2009. Subscription rates, which were already above industry trends, rose as well. </p><h2 class="wf-Element-H2">Continuing the Public Square </h2><p> Since that time, the theater has found many programs worth extending. Post-show discussions still follow every performance, and between 10 and 25 percent of audience members (14 percent on average) stay to take part. A 2016 survey revealed that more than 80 percent of participants say the conversations help them better appreciate the work they have seen, and what they enjoy most is the opportunity to reflect on the play immediately after seeing it. </p><p>The company also still produces a wide range of videos, including ensemble and staff reflections on artistic intent and meaning. Increasingly in recent years, the staff has also tapped audience members’ post-performance reactions to a work. One tack is to approach attendees in the lobby after the show and ask them to share their observations on video. Those clips are then edited and posted on the company website or included in production-related e-mails. The reactions are not of the “I love it, go see it” variety used strictly for promotion; instead, they are more personal reflections about specific elements that an audience member finds moving.</p><p>In a similar vein, Steppenwolf has also begun asking attendees to share personal experiences at the theater through social media, which was in its infancy when the original case study was published in 2011. For example, some audience members at a recent performance of <em>A Doll’s House, Part 2 </em>had seats at the back of the stage and they were prompted to post selfies once they took their places. That strategy of encouraging user-generated content may be one reason Steppenwolf has one of the most popular Instagram accounts among not-for-profit theater companies, with nearly 16,000 followers.  ​<br>​​<img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/For-Steppenwolf-Theatre-the-Connection’s-the-Thing/IG3.png" alt="IG3.png" class="wf-Image-Left" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p> <p class="wf-Element-ImageCaption">To promote interaction among its audiences, Steppenwolf Theatre encourages visitors to post images on social media, such as this post on Instagram.​ </p>​ <p>As for the Explore events, former Marketing Director John Zinn notes that a new performance series and a recently added in-house café (both described below) provide opportunities to continue dialogue in a more flexible and ongoing way. As a result, the company has​ discontinued the Explore programming. </p><h2 class="wf-Element-H2">Creating More Conversations and Opportunities to Have Them </h2><p> Even as its leadership has changed, Steppenwolf's commitment to discourse remains a defining feature of how it engages audiences. In 2015, ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro took over as artistic director from David Schmitz, who moved into the role of executive director. Under both, the company expanded audience opportunities to participate in conversations at Steppenwolf that suit the lifestyles and circumstances of different groups.</p><p> The recognition that not everyone wants to have a conversation inside the theater itself was one motivating factor behind the 2016 opening of the Front Bar. A hybrid bar and coffee shop connected to the Steppenwolf lobby, it was designed as a gathering place post-performance or throughout the day, with the hope it would be a space where patrons could mingle with one another and with the artists. Marketing Director Kara Henry notes that within three years the cafe has exceeded all expectations, becoming a place where ensemble members and visiting artists mingle with patrons after a performance and during rehearsals. At other times it serves as an impromptu workspace for theater artists from communities and companies across the city, many of them performing in or drawn to programming in Steppenwolf’s more intimate<u> </u>black-box theater.</p><p>Encouraged by the success of the Front Bar, the company plans to create other kinds of gathering spaces as it expands its campus into a new building now under construction. In that same spirit of reducing distance between audience and artists, Steppenwolf is designing the theater within the new space to be more intimate by bringing patrons closer to the stage.</p><h2 class="wf-Element-H2">Telling More Stories </h2><p> The artistic staff at Steppenwolf believes its mission, first and foremost, is to tell narratives that are relevant to Chicago. It is now expanding what that duty means as well. Increasingly, the company is looking beyond audiences who are already coming to the theater and is focusing on new ones, what Henry calls “a commitment to creating more stories for more of Chicago.” She adds, “Our invitation to theater patrons must be wide, with programming that reflects Chicago’s diversity. As we see the composition of Chicago change, we have an obligation to have our work reflect that.” </p><p>With that in mind, the company has featured a more diverse array of voices on the main stage. In 2016, it launched LookOut, amulti-genre performance series in its black-box theater, which provides an intimate cabaret-like setting. LookOu<em>t</em> programming draws from a wide range of Chicago-based artists, and its smaller scale allows for a greater diversity of shows to be presented within any one season. On select occasions the company has featured work that complements main-stage productions in order to build on conversations happening there. To date, LookOu<em>t</em> has featured 1,190 visiting artists, who have presented 146 shows in 422 performances to an audience of 29,005. That audience skews younger than the traditional Steppenwolf visitor: 46 percent are Millennials, according to the theater's ticketing database, and another 20 percent are Gen X. </p><p>Ultimately the company hopes that giving audience members multiple means to connect with its work and artists will create stronger, more personal bonds and include broader segments of Chicagoans. Henry sees the engagement strategy as supporting Artistic Director Shapiro’s intent to “make connections that transcend ideas onstage, with experiences that seek to enhance the lives of every person who walks through our doors.”</p>​<br>For Steppenwolf Theatre the Connection’s the Thinghttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/For-Steppenwolf-Theatre-the-Connection’s-the-Thing.aspx2019-06-11T04:00:00ZIn the past decade, the Chicago theater company has grown its audiences by cultivating a “public square” and connecting with patrons.
Ambassadors, Advice and Strategic Discounts Bring Newcomers to Minnesota OperaGP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p> <em>This post is an update on <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/wallace-studies-in-building-arts-audiences-someone-who-speaks-their-language.aspx">a 2014 case study</a> of Minnesota Opera’s Wallace-funded efforts to attract new opera fans and supporters. It is one of a series of blog posts exploring how organizations' audience-development efforts fare once Wallace funds run out. It does not include a thorough analysis to determine whether the financial benefits of the efforts described are commensurate to their costs.</em></p><p>Those unfamiliar with opera often assume the art form is for a different kind of person; they may think of someone older, wealthier, with different sensibilities and maybe even a bit pretentious. For the marketing staff at Minnesota Opera, the key to bringing newcomers to the performance hall requires, first and foremost, challenging that assumption. One tack has been to enable trusted opera devotees to act as ambassadors and encourage others to give the art form a try. Assisted by a four-year (2009 to 2012), $750,000 Excellence Award from The Wallace Foundation, the organization successfully enlisted an influencer with a wide following who attracted new ticket buyers. When a medical condition forced that influencer to retire, the staff empowered other groups in its audience base to cultivate new attendees.  </p><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">Tapping Local Partners</h3><p> The company, which produces five operas per year for an audience of nearly 45,000, first experimented with this idea in its 2008–2009 season, with a Bring-a-Friend program. Through that effort, its roughly 3,000 subscribers could receive a free companion ticket to a performance, which they were asked to give to a friend who had never attended Minnesota Opera. Staffers were discouraged when fewer than a fifth of subscribers took advantage of the offer but took heart when half the invited friends later bought tickets themselves. That high return rate got the marketing staff thinking about how to expand the model by tapping into a trusted advocate with greater reach. </p><p>As detailed in a <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/wallace-studies-in-building-arts-audiences-someone-who-speaks-their-language.aspx">2014 case study</a>, the company launched a partnership with Ian Punnett, a longtime opera attendee and host of a morning drive-time pop-culture radio show. In show banter and in ads, he told his audience, which was made up mostly of professional women, what they would find enjoyable about specific Minnesota Opera productions. Avoiding esoteric references, he emphasized the drama, spectacle, pageantry and passion on stage. Over the four years of Wallace Foundation funding, more than 1,000 new households redeemed free tickets received in promotions on Punnett's show, in line with the company’s projections. What’s more, 18 percent of these newcomers returned on a paid ticket, well exceeding the 10-percent return rate documented in <a href="https://www.oliverwyman.com/content/dam/oliver-wyman/global/en/files/community/Pro%20Bono%20Program/Solving%20a%20Classical%20Mystery/OW_EN_PUBL_2008_AUDIENCEGROWTHINITIATIVE%281%29.pdf">a 2008 study of first-time visitors at nine American symphonies</a>.</p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Ambassadors-Advice-and-Strategic-Discounts-Bring-Newcomers-to-Minnesota-Opera/Traviata2.jpeg.jpg" alt="Traviata2.jpeg.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /> <br> </p><p>The radio partnership was just one component of the strategy. A local afternoon TV talk show also distributed free tickets to all members of its 50-person studio audience. But the show’s hosts lacked Punnett’s connection to opera and couldn’t speak as compellingly about it. Further, audience members received tickets whether they were interested or not. Few redeemed tickets and the partnership was scrapped in its second year. </p><p>The company also conducted research into audience motivations for buying tickets and, importantly, what prevented first timers who had come through the radio promotion from returning a second time. The research revealed that, although those newcomers may have enjoyed attending the performance, when they were considering a return visit, they didn’t have Punnett to steer them toward another opera. Marketing brochures were designed for traditional audiences, lacked Punnett’s accessible style and had references that newcomers did not fully understand. What’s more, the decision to return not only involved choosing an opera, but also selecting a seat in an unfamiliar hall. Consumer psychologists have long noted that <a href="https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/what-predicts-consumer-choice-overload">too many options can overwhelm unfamiliar consumers</a>, causing them to avoid choosing anything at all. Minnesota Opera’s research suggested that this tendency may be at play among its prospects. They needed help and sometimes a push to identify when and how to return.</p><p>These insights gave rise to multiple marketing strategies to overcome that purchase inertia. One tack was to simplify the decision-making process by creating offers for tickets in a specific seating section, eliminating the need to select where to sit. These promotions typically offered configurations such as “Three tickets for $75,” and produced about 100 new subscribers when they ran in local newspapers. Another approach was an impulse-buy promotion offered at two or three performances each season. First-time subscribers received a discount on a new subscription if they signed up before leaving the performance hall. Approximately 100 new subscribers did so each evening the offer was made available.</p><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">Turning to Existing Ambassadors</h3><p> Severe tinnitus forced Punnett to retire from radio in early 2013, bringing Minnesota Opera's partnership with him to an unexpected end. The company sought a similar partner who shares a love of opera, a large audience and a relatable personality—critical factors that drove the program's success—but was unable to find one. The staff therefore tried to deputize different groups within its audience base. “When a friend recommends going to the opera, it’s very different than being served a marketing message," says Marketing Director Katherine Castille.</p><p>The company still runs its Bring-A-Friend program but has had to pare it back as its popularity has grown. Minnesota Opera has approximately 3,000 subscribers, and an open offer to all of them meant that the company could potentially hand out more than 500 tickets per production. It therefore offers Bring-a-Friend tickets for just one production each year to the approximately 200 subscribers who automatically renew their subscriptions before the next season’s titles are revealed. The approach provides an incentive to auto-renew while also attracting a small number of newcomers to the performance hall. </p><p>Bring-a-Friend<em> Redemptions and Returning Households<br></em></p><p> <em><img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Ambassadors-Advice-and-Strategic-Discounts-Bring-Newcomers-to-Minnesota-Opera/bring-a-friend-chart.jpg" alt="bring-a-friend-chart.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /></em><br> </p><p>Beginning in the 2016–2017 season, Minnesota Opera also began offering complimentary 'loyalty tickets' to some subscribers, not just to show appreciation but also to help introduce their friends to the company. The group that receives the offer varies. That way, no one gets used to relying on free tickets and the marketing team can target larger or smaller groups depending on the number of seats available. For one show, free tickets might be offered to weekend subscribers; for another, they could go to new subscribers or those who have subscribed for more than ten years. Unlike Bring-A-Friend, these tickets do not need to be given to someone new to the company, but many are. Some preliminary results (below) show that the program is providing a very low-cost way to bring in new audiences; 183 (25 percent) of the 720 new households that came through the program purchased tickets themselves afterwards. </p><p> <em>Loyalty Ticket Redemptions and Returning Households<br></em></p><p> <em><img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Ambassadors-Advice-and-Strategic-Discounts-Bring-Newcomers-to-Minnesota-Opera/loyalty-ticket-chart.jpg" alt="loyalty-ticket-chart.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /></em><br> </p><p>The staff is aware of the arguments against offering free tickets: They can deflate perceptions of the operas’ value and, if used too liberally, teach people to expect them. For that reason, it distributes loyalty tickets in a highly targeted way. For starters, the company offers at most one free ticket to each patron each year and, to capitalize on patrons’ social connections, asks the recipient to invite a friend. The company typically makes these tickets available only in circumstances where sales are likely to need a lift—e.g., less popular showtimes, hard-to-fill seats, less familiar titles and shows early in the season that don't have much time for advance sales. </p><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">Offers and Messages to Encourage Ticket Purchases</h3><p> Relying on insights from its research with first-time attendees, the company still offers impulse-buy subscriptions following certain performances. It provides a discount of between 30 and 50 percent to single-ticket buyers who opt for these offers. The company targets well-known titles and performances outside of the subscription series, because those evenings are likely to have the most non-subscribers in attendance. Over three nights at the end of a run of <em>La Traviata</em> in May 2019<em>, </em>the company sold 160 new subscriptions, together worth approximately $25,000. The year prior, it ran the offer at two performances of <em>Rigoletto, </em>bringing in approximately $14,000 through 90 new subscribers. </p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Ambassadors-Advice-and-Strategic-Discounts-Bring-Newcomers-to-Minnesota-Opera/Traviata.jpg.jpg" alt="Traviata.jpg.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /> <br> </p><p>The company also tries to point newcomers in the direction of operas they might like, much as Punnett did on his radio show. The practice began when the staff heard in focus groups that people who had not returned to the opera missed Punnett’s guidance. Staffers initially responded by rewriting season brochures to signal which works were “perfect for an opera newbie” or “perfect for an opera buff.” But they nixed the strategy after one season; staffers became concerned that the phrasing might sound as if they were suggesting “opera smart” or “opera dumb.” </p><p>The need to help newcomers pick an opera was still there, however. “We have to find new ways to help people relate,” says Castille. “The seemingly natural reaction seems to be, ‘It’s not for me,’ and we need to make it more approachable.” </p><p>Now, communications targeting single-ticket buyers, who are more likely to be newer to opera, provide guidance on who should see what opera by including references to similar works and pop-culture. For a recent production of <em>Marriage of Figaro, </em>for example, audiences were told that it would be perfect for people who like <em>Downton Abbey, Amadeus </em>and <em>Cosí Fan Tutte. </em></p><p>In all communications Minnesota Opera also targets misperceptions about opera more directly. The company always promotes the fact that tickets start at $25, as it has done for the past ten years, because people assume opera is expensive. It also shows simultaneous English translation during performances, and has consistently communicated that point in print, TV and radio advertising for more than a decade. Even so, misconceptions have proven to be resistant to change (that’s true for other art forms as well). The company recently completed focus-group research and, Castille says, “Those perceptions are still out there—that opera is super expensive, it’s stuffy, it’s exclusively for much older people, I have to know a different language. The work is never done."</p><p><em>La Traviata, 2019. Photos by Dan Norman courtesy of Minnesota Opera.</em></p> <strong></strong><p></p>Ambassadors, Advice and Strategic Discounts Bring Newcomers to Minnesota Operahttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Ambassadors-Advice-and-Strategic-Discounts-Bring-Newcomers-to-Minnesota-Opera.aspx2020-01-21T05:00:00ZA midwestern company taps its networks and carefully crafts promotions to introduce new audiences to opera.
New Media Gets New Audiences into an Old Art FormGP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61 <p><em>This post is an update on a <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/wallace-studies-in-building-arts-audiences-extending-reach-with-technology.aspx">2015 case study</a> of Seattle Opera's Wallace-funded efforts to determine whether technology can help enhance the opera experience. It is one of a series of blog posts exploring how organizations' audience-development efforts fare once Wallace funds run out. It does not include a thorough analysis to determine whether the financial benefits of the efforts described are commensurate to their costs.</em></p><p>Seattle Opera, which produces five operas each year for an audience of more than 100,000, was early among arts organizations to use digital and social media to engage audiences. Its use of those tactics was given an early boost by a $750,000 Wallace Foundation Excellence Award, which provided funds for four years of experimentation between 2009 and 2012, as described in this <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/wallace-studies-in-building-arts-audiences-extending-reach-with-technology.aspx">2015 case study</a>. Those efforts were largely focused on deepening participation among those already attending, using technology to create opportunities to interact with the company and its productions. </p><p>The opera used audience research to guide development of a variety of tools and activities and evaluate each tactic post-launch, with annual surveys examining what was accessed, by whom and with what impact. This research led it to develop easily accessible audiovisual content that could help audiences better understand what goes into producing opera. The tools became more effective each year as the staff learned what did and did not work and adjusted its approach accordingly. Since then, the company has continued to develop and share digital content with the aim of helping audiences develop a deeper understanding of its work, and more recently, encouraging ticket sales. </p><h3>2009-2012: Honing a Digital Approach with Wallace Funds</h3><p>In the summer of 2009, focus-group research suggested that operagoers were interested in seeing and hearing how works are prepared for the stage. The finding led the company to create and share “behind-the-scenes” videos highlighting aspects of production such as <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulLEwgZwKao&list=PLWpqPsEHuRYZTRIjqI1bpNvdqNwdxl5sX&index=3&t=0s">set design</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL869613FC0F3BC00B">hair and makeup</a>. Surveys and web analytics indicated that those videos were widely accessed and highly effective in enhancing operagoers’ experience, and they became a critical part of the engagement strategy each year. The segments had greater appeal than other tactics such as audio-only podcasts and a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi2SA64rPEo">video series</a> that lacked a behind-the-scenes focus. Photo-rich blogs revealing different aspects of the opera production process were also accessed by and enhanced the experience for many viewers. </p><p>Certain tactics were deemed too expensive to continue when evaluation research revealed only modest impact. They included:</p><ul><li>Interactive community-building forums such as contests and sharing tools that did not provide the additional understanding operagoers got from audiovisual content;<br> <br> </li><li>Livestreams of panel discussions and other engagement events, which were well received, but only by the small number of people that accessed them; and <br> <br> </li><li>An outdoor simulcast, the one technology-based tactic designed to bring in new audiences. Large numbers attended the simulcast, but it was prohibitively expensive and too challenging to convert the novices it drew into regular mainstage attendees. </li></ul><p>Seattle Opera’s marketing department spearheaded its digital transformation, but, from the outset, it brought in staffers from the production and artistic departments as full partners in planning and strategy discussions. It turned out to be a wise move; those staffers provided much of the content that gave audiences a peek behind the curtain, even appearing in videos that offered virtual backstage tours. Their active participation at all phases of content development eased initial concerns about the information marketers might share digitally and about revealing secrets that help create the onstage magic. </p><h3><strong>2012-Present: Funding Ends but Content Use Expands and Adapts</strong></h3><p>Since that experimentation period, the company has focused its technology-based audience-engagement efforts on digital content, as opposed to less fruitful efforts such as livestreams, simulcasts and similar offerings. The company is now creating more of that content and using it to accomplish a broader range of objectives that also includes sales and community building. It also maintains its use of web analytics to monitor the popularity of its digital content.</p><p>The staff continues to develop material designed to deepen understanding of how opera is produced and, increasingly, to explore its relevance in the world today. Popular features have included videos of directors' and artists' perspectives on the reasons a particular opera remains important, which is not always apparent in a genre where most repertoire is well over 100 years old. Such features may include discussions of universal themes and elements of the human experience that transcend place and time, such as love, humanity and good and evil, and how these themes play out in characters' struggles on stage. Other popular material has included discussions of the work necessary to update old librettos for modern audiences, especially if they include stereotyped portrayals of non-white and non-Western people. </p><p>In addition, blog posts describe different aspects of opera to help explain it to people with varying levels of familiarity with the art form. The company has also continued to produce podcasts, which had limited success when Seattle Opera first experimented with them but have garnered greater listenership thanks to partnerships with a local classical-music radio station and podcast distributor SoundCloud. All this digital content is also shared on social media and on the Seattle Opera website, where it can be easily found by those already engaged with the company.</p><p>Seattle Opera has also elevated digital content’s role in driving sales, capitalizing on the ability of online platforms to reach a wider audience. At the 2009 start of the initiative, Seattle Opera's digital content was largely confined to its website. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were fairly new, used by 27 percent and 6 percent of the adult U.S. population respectively. But proliferation of social media since then has allowed the organization to more aggressively promote its content among new audiences. “Our website only reaches people who are already looking for information about us," says Director of Marketing and Communications Kristina Murti. "But with social, we’re able to deliver the content to everyone who follows us, as well as to people we can target through advertising, … and then hopefully get them over to the website for more information.”</p><p>In order for such efforts to work, however, content first needs to break through the clutter of social media feeds. To stand out, Seattle Opera has started to use more professionally shot, color-rich videos, many featuring scenes in dress rehearsal, striking images of the set, or eye-catching features such as the costume shop. The amount of video produced varies across productions, with the company publishing approximately two to four videos in advance of opening night, followed by another four to six short performance clips featuring singers or segments that potential audiences may recognize. </p><p>But Facebook is more than the primary digital sales channel. Seattle Opera also uses the platform to foster community, with news about the company and opera in general, and posts referencing operas and musicians that transcend any one production or season. The approach has helped the organization increase its Facebook audience from approximately 40,000 likes in 2015 to 81,000 likes in early 2019, outpacing the 50 to 60 percent growth <a href="https://mrbenchmarks.com/numbers/social-media">experienced by other nonprofits</a> during that time. Seattle Opera is also investing in Instagram, largely because the platform is widely adopted by younger generations and its visual nature allows for inventive storytelling. The company is not putting as much effort into Twitter; digital consultants and other arts organizations suggested that its return on investment in driving sales is lower than Facebook and Instagram. Seattle Opera’s social media growth has tracked with that investment: the number of its Twitter followers has plateaued, while Instagram and even Facebook—a mature and more saturated platform—continues to add followers.</p><p><em>Seattle Opera’s Social Media Following</em><br> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/New-Media-Gets-New-Audiences-into-an-Old-Art-Form/Seattle-Opera-Digital-Media-Strategy.jpg" alt="Seattle-Opera-Digital-Media-Strategy.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><img src="file:///C:/Users/jmoreno/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Dreamweaver%20CC%202019/en_US/OfficeImageTemp/clip_image002.png" width="593" height="343" border="0" alt="" /></p><h3><strong>Still Learning and Partnering</strong></h3><p>The opera remains focused on continuous learning, in large part to keep up with changes in how platforms such as Instagram and Facebook deliver content. “You never know how your content is going to land. Something that works today may not work six months from now,” Murti says. What’s more, people respond to different aspects of each opera, so every production has an unknown element. There’s no set formula.</p><p>Online analytics and guidance from social-media consultants have helped navigate these uncertain waters. From its web analytics, Seattle Opera can see that Facebook brought in approximately $700,000 of the company’s annual ticket revenue of $7.5 million in the 2019 fiscal year and another $300,000 in donations and other earnings. According to systems developed by its consultants, $80,000 of this revenue came from people who had watched a video at some point in the sales process. Such data obviate the need for some surveys, though the company did have to pay to develop the systems needed to collect them. Murti says the expense has been well worth it; the analytics allow the marketing team to look on a bi-weekly, post-by-post basis at the content that is and is not moving sales, and then reinvest in what appears to be working. </p><p>Having that data also allows Murti to inform artists, production and technical staff about how their collaboration on digital content drives ticket sales. Such feedback encourages their ongoing participation, a continuation of the cross-departmental partnership that Seattle Opera established early in the process and has made it easy to produce large volumes of material. With so many metrics and platforms to track and understand, the importance of this partnership might have been easy to overlook. But perhaps more than any tactic or technological advance, the collaboration has been essential to the company’s progress and could help it continue creating relevant content that moves and engages audiences. </p>New Media Gets New Audiences into an Old Art Formhttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/New-Media-Gets-New-Audiences-into-an-Old-Art-Form.aspx2020-02-04T05:00:00ZYour source for research and ideas to expand high quality learning and enrichment opportunities. Supporting: School Leadership, After School, Summer and Extended Learning Time, Arts Education and Building Audiences for the Arts.