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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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
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">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