I have been thinking about how audience development could be considered a lifestyle change instead of just something simply to do to increase your audience. Audience development is all about relationship building, forming connections, collaborations, community, and care for each other (there’s those 4 c’s again!). Wouldn’t it make sense then to have audience development as a part of your life in general?
I admit that this post may be one of my more hippy posts, but to me it seems that we all need to establish true connections in our life to people that will become a part of our own unique communities. Everyone needs friends, and everyone needs a helping hand. In order to create this in our lives, we must be willing to be the change we need. We must be willing to extend our hand of friendship and build relationships with others that click with us.
So, how does this thought relate to building a better audience? Simply this, the people in your life today and the people that you connect with in the future are your source to a better audience. The people you form a relationship with, the people you click with, are your audience base. If you work on developing relationships with more people that you click with, you will broaden your audience. If you go outside your comfort zone and relate to new people and find that you have more in common than you thought, you can diversify your audience. If you then ask your community to help you by volunteering, donating, subscribing, or being on your board, you are deepening your audience.
You see, we have been attempting to build audiences in such a backward manner for the past 2 decades. Instead of building from our community first, we are trying to mass market people in. This is like relying on strangers to help you or working from the outside in. The artists and organizations that seem to be flourishing these days, despite the economy, are the ones who are naturally working from the inside out or from their community base first and then reaching out using resources from within their community.
People who naturally build and maintain relationships are seeing success despite the economy. Their lifestyle of being a friend and making new friends is creating the success.
Lastly, I have been putting it out there that in order to meet the people that we will click with, we need to know ourselves better first. Here is a quick homework assignment to help you to do this. Take time out to brainstorm words to describe who you are. Are you quirky, fun, contemplative, serious, helpful, caring? A dancer, singer, artist? What kind of artist are you? After you generate your list of words to describe who you are, think about who your friends are. They must admire those traits that you have if they are your friends, and in order to admire, they must possess some of these traits too. Your list of who you are will speak volumes about who your audience is and will be.
Your list will also help you with diversification. Whatever you admire in others and you feel is lacking in yourself, these are the kinds of people that would be good to form relationships with. For example, if you are a carefree artist, perhaps lacking in formal organizational skills, forming a relationship with someone who admires your spirit but is organizational would be beneficial. Diversify in ways that make sense for you, not what everyone else thinks is diversification. Diversify from your heart and who you are, not because it would be good for a grant. Your being you will get you a better grant, the right grant. Your being you will get you a better audience, the right audience.
Living the audience development lifestyle is about knowing who you are and which people click with you (in similar ways and in complimentary ways) and about constantly continuing to build and maintain strong and healthy relationships. Living the audience development lifestyle will increase your audience, and it will benefit your general well being too.
Until next time, may your audiences be happy and loyal ones, and if they are not, feel free to contact me!
Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists. Her mission is to introduce artists and arts organizations to their existing and potential audiences and to help them to form more rewarding relationships.