Commentary: A London orchestra makes its audience the star of new campaign

The Guardian's Culture Professionals Network, 5/11/12

William Norris, communications director for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment:

Our new [marketing] campaign builds on our strapline 'Not all orchestras are the same', but turns it around to look at the audience. There's no point having a campaign that proclaims difference without at least some grounding in reality. But the OAE really is different; it's run by its players and there's no single conductor or artistic director in charge. We're not a chamber orchestra or symphony orchestra because our size depends on what we play, and unlike most other period-instrument orchestras, we work with a variety of artists. So, we've decided to trade on our difference - an effective way to cut through in a crowded market place. There's no reason why orchestras always have to be photographed standing on stage in tails. Of course, we don't want to look silly either, but equally, I see no reason why classical music always has to be terribly serious. When our designers presented their ideas for the new 2012-13 campaign, one immediately stood out. The idea is simple: we would feature audience members with a strong or unusual look, alongside our players. We liked the incongruity of it, but also the fact that yes, all these people are in our audience. It's got a certain shock or surprise value, but that's how you get noticed. Plus, I was immediately struck by how much value the idea would have outside of the actual brochure or advert: the whole recruitment campaign, a slow reveal of the pictures, the stories behind the people in the brochure - the social media potential was huge. It's going to be very interesting to see how it all goes down. As the designer, said to me "it feels risky, a bit scary, but that's probably a good thing." I agreed.


Commentary: Partnering with audience can refresh marketing, fundraising

Shoshana Fanizza, Audience Development Specialists blog, 5/10/12

True audience development is inclusive and focuses on partnering with audiences. It is a team philosophy that not only includes your staff, volunteers, donors and sponsors, but it also includes your audiences. This means that everyone will be on the same page working to support your business. For marketing, this is far different than simply placing an ad that professes (from your team) that your show is "something for everyone!" Instead, when partnering with your audiences, you can incorporate their perspective beforehand instead of attempting to sell something that they might not enjoy in ways that will be ignored. In regard to fundraising, your audiences will help you to raise the money since they are a part of your team. This team mentality for fundraising makes more sense than the "we are great, give us money," shouted by a few people. Plus, with all the people power combined, you can brainstorm new ways of asking for money. Let's face it, annual campaign letters have become trite and disposable. You need to turn some heads and inspire some hearts! I am not saying that the audiences are now in charge. You still have artistic license and the ability to create your own strategic plans. The difference is, you will no longer be creating in the dark after knowing your audiences. With this philosophy, you will be able to take more risks and produce new work that will have more of a chance of being successful. Your programming, marketing and fundraising can become fresh again.


Commentary: The slippery slope of using audience "reviews" in quote ads

Mark Shenton on his blog for The Stage [UK], 5/16/12

Monday's Guardian [newspaper] included a full page ad for the new show Babel, containing critical quotes. "Heart-warming and uplifting," says one. "Eye-opening and inspiring," says another. Yet another claims, "loved it, incredibly impressive and uplifting." And who wrote them? As the tagline over the ad puts it, "The People Have Spoken!" Yet we have no idea at all who they are. It's all reminds me a bit of the debacle a few years ago over a show called Madame Zangara's Theatre of Dreams where one review [was] credited to the show's London PR agency! I don't know who put together the ad for Babel, and I have no idea whether the quotes are real or fabricated. But what I do know is that, without knowing who these people actually are, they're meaningless. But the new fashion for 'letting the people speak' took another turn last week, with the launch of a new weekly Guardian blog feature of reader reviews. As the blog's intro says, "We know from your comments, many of you want to share your verdict on the performances you've just seen, but the reviews can be spread out between different comment threads and Twitter as many more readers tweet us their thoughts using the hashtag #Gdnreview. So, this is our first stab at a solution; a weekly roundup blog."  And before we know it, producers will be quoting from it, I'm sure -- citing, of course, The Guardian. Because that, of course, is where it has appeared. But not, of course, who wrote it. The Critics' Circle has already urged publicists and advertising agencies to cite the reviewer name alongside the publication, so the comment can be tracked back to an individual critic. I think we will need to demand this as a matter of course in the future.


Commentary: How Yelp's algorithm is said to suppress legitimate reviews

Charlene Jimenez,, 5/9/12

Verbal recommendations used to keep small businesses alive, especially small businesses with small marketing budgets. These days, internet is king and online business reviews have taken the place of those verbal recommendations. [But] online reviews are only helpful if they're done honestly. Fake online reviews are sometimes not as easy to spot as they should be. And some business review sites, like Yelp, are said to be promoting the fake reviews and hiding the real, genuine ones -- perhaps unintentionally -- because of an unrealistic and unreliable algorithm. This causes customers to be deceived and for honest companies to be placed and ranked lower than they actually deserve. Reviews made by one-time reviewers and those who are not active participants on the site were hidden and marked as spam. This means that marketing companies or businesses who post review upon review for different companies and even the same company will be showcased while real reviews are hidden. While there isn't much you can do about review sites' algorithms, you can encourage your happy customers to use other social networking tools to post reviews. Or, you can put it directly on your website. Monitor review sites and be aware of how your brand is being represented, and use your other resources to promote your brand and encourage your customers to do the same.

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