Diversifying your audience: Reaching out to new and different groups of people that would enjoy your art and building relationships that would result in them becoming a regular part of your audience.
It’s been a while since I have written about diversity. I have been seeing some discussion on this topic lately. It seems that everyone wants to find the magic solution for creating a diverse audience, but many of us are not sure where to find this solution. Would we even know how to apply the solution once we have found it?
The problem with many of the current suggested solutions such as special programming, hiring a more diverse staff, creating a more diverse board, and employing artists of various backgrounds, is that they may lack follow through with the new audience. For instance, you may recruit someone to be on your staff or board that is of color or of a younger generation or from a particular geographic location, but are you having this person reach out and build relationships or are you hoping the mere fact of having a “token” member on your staff (yes, I went there) will work wonders? If the latter, then people will see right through your “token” efforts.
Hiring artists of various backgrounds as well as scheduling special programming can help to begin your efforts. Notice how I mention this will “begin your efforts.” There needs to be follow up and follow through to build relationships so your new found audience will keep coming back and know that your efforts are not a one-time event.
From what I see, if you are not willing to put the time and effort that is needed for true audience development, your diversity efforts will continue to have touch and go results. Let’s get real! If you are not even remotely thinking that such and such art is for you, would one special art event get you hooked? Can you blame them if they don’t come back with a one-time effort? The organizations and artists that are creating more diverse audiences have been doing the work that relationship building requires.
It also needs to be mentioned that if you are simply attempting diversity for the grant dollars, you have lost the meaning and the beauty of diversity. We need to stop treating our audiences as numbers and start treating them as people.
In order to make this a more solution oriented blog post, I present you with a random list of dos and don’ts in terms of diversifying your audience:
- Do your homework and find out if your potential audience would enjoy your art.
- Do format a three to five year plan in which you reach out and build relationships with new groups of people.
- Do stick with the plan over the years and tweak as necessary.
- Do create programming that is enticing for your potential audience.
- Don’t expect them to understand your art right away. Don’t expect them not to understand your art right away.
- Do educate about your art if necessary.
- Don’t create one-time programming and expect this will do the trick.
- Do follow up with your new audience and start a conversation with them.
- Do continue to build relationships through more programs of interest.
- Do set up a task force or committee to help outreach to your potential audience.
- Do diversify your own life by building relationships with people of various backgrounds, attending new and different events, etc.
- Do learn what it is like to be different.
- Do learn their language.
- Don’t expect “token” recruits to diversify your audience.
- Don’t expect them to come to you. You may have to go to them.
- Do understand that people of a different background may need to learn to trust you as people before investing their money in your art.
- Don’t simply translate your marketing and expect this to return big results. It’s not the language that brings them in, it is how you understand them as people that will start the relationship.
- Do realize that they may purchase differently or have different preferences than what you have in place. If you have done your relationship building, you will know what you need to implement to make them more comfortable.
- Do find opportunities to collaborate with a variety of organizations and groups.
- Do personally invite people that may be interested in helping you build relationships with their communities.
- Do keep the conversation going.
- Do learn to brand your marketing so all diverse groups involved will appreciate you.
With well thought out audience development planning and a good helping of time and effort, you can build a more diverse audience. Do understand that despite our differences, we can all enjoy high quality art!
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge? ADS can help!
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