Commentary: Post-election to-do list for arts organizations

Jay Dick, Americans for the Arts blog, 10/26/12

So much attention is paid to the time leading up to Election Day that people often forget about how valuable the time is after the election to the when the winners are sworn in. This is an excellent opportunity to reach out to the newly-elected and an excuse to reconnect with incumbents. We encourage our members to adopt the following "schedule" after any election.

  • November 7:Have a grasstop supporter contact the winner via phone or email on your behalf and congratulate them. This grasstop supporter should be an individual who has a personal friendship with the elected official. Provide your grasstop supporter with talking points, but this is primarily a social call, not a hard sell about your issues.
  • November 7-13: Send a congratulatory letter to the winner on your letterhead and tailored to that specific elected official. Overview your organization and what you do in their district. Remind them of any campaign promises they made. Enclose information about upcoming events and offer an open invitation to visit.
  • November 14-30:Contact the elected official and obtain a meeting. Ask your grasstop supporter to attend. The meeting should not be a hard sell, but talk about what your organization does in their district, show any economic data you have on how your organization benefits their district and offer to become an auxiliary staffer on your issue.
  • December:This is a purely social time, absolutely NO business. Identify a local holiday event and invite the elected official and their family. If appropriate, allow them to briefly speak. At a minimum, recognize the elected official and their family from the podium.
  • Early January or Late December: Sometime prior to when [Congress restarts], if the elected official is supportive of your issues, reach out to them and let them know which legislative committees have jurisdiction over your issues and encourage them to contact their party leader to request this committee assignment.
  • First Week of Session: Send them a "welcome to the capitol" email. If your office is near the state capitol complex, extend an open invitation to drop by and/or use your office as a quiet get-a-way. Remind them [of] any upcoming event you are sponsoring.

Hopefully, by making use of the time between Election Day and when the session starts, new elected officials will become familiar (and supportive) of you, your organization and your issues.


Commentary: Audience development lessons from low voter participation

Joe Patti on his blog Butts In The Seats, 11/6/12

Voting participation [in Hawaii] is so bad, CNN did a long study about why the state is dead last. This where "all politics are local" comes in. There are some situations characteristic only of Hawaii. There isn't another state where a sizable part of the population views statehood as the result of an illegal overthrow of the monarchy and won't vote because they feel it legitimizes the occupation government. Due to the distance from the rest of the continental US, a person in Hawaii can actually hear the winner of a national election called by 5pm local time, providing less incentive to vote. (Though Alaska is in the same situation and has 8th highest voter turnout.) Two things I took away from the CNN article that [apply] to the arts:

  • The importance of giving people an opportunity to talk about their experiences. A group canvassing neighborhoods trying to get people engaged and signed to vote didn't get much traction with conventional survey questions. [But when a volunteer told one woman they would be] "asking candidates questions based on the issues identified by the people they meet while canvassing. If the candidates addressed her concern, they told her, they'd report back. 'Oh!' the woman said. She launched into her life story. The volunteers asked again. 'Wouldn't you like to vote? Your voice could be heard.' After some discussion, the woman, Marlene Joshua, 58, said yes."
  • Simply inviting people to attend a show could possibly be surprisingly effective. [MelissaMichelson, co-author of the book Mobilizing Inclusion, said] some groups -- racial minorities, recent immigrants and residents of low-income neighborhoods -- don't feel like people who are supposed to vote in U.S. elections. But if you ask them to participate, she said, that can all change. "It doesn't really matter what you say. It doesn't really matter who asks you," she said. "The important thing is the personal invitation to participate." We know that, like people in these groups, there are those who also don't feel like they are the type of people who go to see live performances. Changing that mindset may start with something as simple as a personal invitation.  

Commentary: Guess who is rated as less respectable than politicians?

Katya Andresen, on her Nonprofit Marketing Blog, 11/7/12

Now that the campaign is over, we're all probably feeling weary of politics and politicians.  But there's a [group] that earns even less respect than politicians: marketers.  According to a study:

When asked to consider the value of marketing, more than 90% of consumers responded that it's a field that's "strategic to business" and "paramount" to driving sales. But when asked if marketing benefits society, only 13% of consumers agreed. And compared to other professions, the results were grim. Advertising and marketing ranked below nearly every other profession, including bankers (32%), lawyers (34%) and even politicians (18%). Marketing and advertising was tied with the job of an actor or [dancer] in terms of its value [with just 13% of consumers rating these jobs as valuable].

There was only one profession that ranked lower in the survey, and even that one is just a part of the marketing ecosystem: PR professionals. Only 11% said PR is a valuable job. Meanwhile, the results weren't much better among marketers; only 35% of people who are marketers themselves deemed it a valuable profession in responding to the survey. Worse, many surveys show trust in marketers is at all-time low.  As non-profit marketers, we are more likely to be trusted (and respected), but we are not entirely off the hook! To me, the bottom line is you need to think long and hard about yourself as a messenger. You may not inspire the most trust, because you are viewed with skepticism as a paid promoter of your organization. As I've said before, you want three kinds of messengers:

  • People on the front lines of your work (front lines staff, volunteers, beneficiaries) who can speak authentically about the change they see
  • Fans who will champion your work within their circles of influence
  • People with credibility and authority who can attest to the quality of you and your work (experts, authorities, ratings agencies, thought leaders who offer endorsement)

Any of those beat marketers. And politicians!


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Tomorrow (Nov 8): Join a Twitter chat on "Politics in the Theater"

Posted on website, 11/6/12

Join us this Thursday at 2pm EST, (1pm CST, 12pm MST, 11am PST), [for] an open-access discussion about theater culture and contemporary performance that happens on Twitter using the hashtag #newplay. This week we'll be discussing "politics in theater", using these two HowlRound posts this week as starting points:

Get heard in the conversation by searching for #newplay in Twitter and by putting "#newplay" somewhere in your messages.


Nov 16: Join a webinar to assess post-election impact on the arts

On November 16, 2012 at 2pm EST, (1pm CST, 12pm MST, 11am PST), Americans for the Arts Action Fund staff will provide a comprehensive post-election analysis of federal, state and local election results and ballot initiatives, and will describe the anticipated impact that those results will have on the future of the arts and arts education in America. [Webinar participants include] Bob Lynch, President and CEO; Nina Ozlu Tunceli, Executive Director; Narric Rome, Senior Director of Federal Affairs and Arts Education; Gladstone Payton, Director of Federal Affairs; Jay Dick, Senior Director of State and Local Government Affairs. Free for Americans for the Arts Members, $35 for non-members.
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