Fortune favours the networked!

At this time of uncertainty it’s really easy to stay heads down at your desk, ploughing through all the to do items on your list.  My job here at Audiences London is all about engagement and often that is easiest to make happen by meeting up and listening to people face to face.  So in the engagement team we’re big fans of networking events, and we’re doing whatever we can at the moment to make sure these stay as regular features.  Why do we think it’s important?

  1. It’s knowledge building – each person you talk to will have some information that you don’t
  2. New work comes from it – people bring with them ideas, partnerships and opportunities
  3. It’s inspiring –  hearing what other people do and why will re-energise you too
  4. You can build trust more quickly in person –  and personal introductions from people you’ve met have far greater credibility than cold calling or emailing

To give you a flavour here’s  a pic of our most recent event aboard the boat the Golden Jubilee on the Thames.

Over 100 people interested in the arts and older audiences joined us for a beautiful afternoon of performance, networking and fun in an event we hosted in partnership with our friends at the wonderful Entelechy Arts and Capital Age Festival.

To find out about future networking opportunities with us sign up for free to our Community Engagement Network and we’ll keep you posted by email…  or if you’re interested in partnering with us to host an event please contact me anytime at

While we’re thinking about networking I just want to credit the lovely team at Create KX who sadly closed their organisation last month and who have held some of my favourite networking events in London.  A big thank you to them all, we’ve loved working, socialising and collaborating with them and look forward to carrying our connections on with them at the various organisations they’re heading to where we know they’ll continue to do a fantastic job.

From left to right: the lovely Fiona  Smith, Catherine Packard, Gill Henderson, Susanna Roland, Sian James and Siobhan Henderson.

Evolve or Die? ITC shakes up our thinking

At a packed Independent Theatre Council conference in Tuesday we answered the call to discuss the timely issue of seeking alternative funding sources or models in these times of cuts and gloom. The title was deliberately provocative; and we all giggled nervously as we considered on which side of the divide we would fall.

The challenge of the title carried on through initial presentations by Dawn Austwick of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, ACE’s Althea Efunshile and Lorna Brown of Nalgao – and on through the afternoon’s breakout sessions.

 The clear messages of the day were:

  •   Cuts are here, don’t pretend they’re not.
  •   Arguing that ‘the arts’ per se are a special case and should be protected will not win any sympathy – indeed, quite the opposite – in the minds of the greater public.
  • Concepts such as the ‘Big Society’, a shrinking public sector and the cuts themselves are aimed at fundamentally changing our society, a paradigm shift. How can we frame what we do in the context of these ideologies? How do we ensure our values and ideas become part of the concept?
  • We can no longer be a ‘growth’ society as we’ve been used to – forever doing more. We need to learn to do less, better.
  • Big scale philanthropy may kick in, but not for a few years yet.
  • We need to prepare our minds for working with lower budgets – and not just a ‘keep doing what we do but squeezing and cutting corners’ mentality. This is a time for radically re-thinking how we structure our organisations, our offer and our relationship. Get creative!
  • Focus on what your core purpose is but also on what your assets are. Are they your building, your brand, your audience and supporters, your ability to create connections or unlock memories…?Image of an audience at Sadler's Wells
  • Keep close to and fully understand your audiences – their needs, desires and perceptions of you. Audiences are still a substantial source of income for many organisations. Now is not the time to cut your communications with them. It’ll also help you understand and respond to your own ‘Big’ community.
  • Collaborate, make partnerships, share and save – maybe even merge. From sharing sets to sharing producers; co-training to giving office space to a smaller company; from co-commissioning audience research to reusing past productions.

For Audiences London’s part, as well as implementing our own new models of working with you, we see ourselves as helping arts organisations collaborate between themselves – through such projects as the newly-established Outer London Venues Audience Development Support project and through the wealth of intelligence from previous joint research projects, available free on our website.

Where are all the American audiences? Maybe they’ve gone to the ball game instead.

The New York Times posted a very interesting article yesterday looking at the (astronomical) salaries of the chief executives of a number of American cultural institutions. It appears that many of these head honchos have responded to the downturn in their organsiatsions income and lead from the front by slashing their salaries; like Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera who graciously cut his $1.5 million salary to $1.3 million over 2 years. Once I’d stopped spluttering into my tea, I pulled out a couple of sideline points that I found interesting – Gelb in particular took a pay cut due to “declining donations, ticket sales and endowment”. Now across the pond we’ve also seen a decline in donations and endowments, but ticket sales are on the up by what I’ve been seeing, certainly in London. What does this tell us about American audiences? Are they reigning in their spending so much that they’re not going out at all? Or are they going elsewhere, and if so where?

Audiences London produced a guide to “What to do in a Downturn” back in March 2009 when we first started to see impacts of the recession on the cultural sector. Download this free guide from the AL website here.

Changing consumer behaviour in recessionary times

That great monitor of our spending behaviour – Experian (of credit checking and geo-demographic profiling Mosaic) has been investigating impacts of the recession on consumer behaviour:

Check out their report here.

The watchwords are value and customer service – if you don’t provide it then your lovely loyal consumers may shop elsewhere!

Free recession-busting podcasts from industry leaders

KnowHow NonProfit have uploaded to their website a series of free podcasts collected from leaders in the Third Sector at the 2009 ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) CEO Summit, which this year was entitled Leading change: steering your organisations through the recession and beyond.

Subjects under discussion include:

Three secret weapons for getting through the recession
Being accountable: ‘The Obligation of Leadership’
The financial impact of the recession on the third sector
The recession as an opportunity to grow
Leading the future: driving and leading innovation
  • Three secret weapons for getting through the recession
  • Being accountable: ‘The Obligation of Leadership’
  • The financial impact of the recession on the third sector
  • The recession as an opportunity to grow
  • Leading the future: driving and leading innovation

Visit the KnowHow NonProfit webiste here to listen to the podcasts.

More recession busting tips

afterthecrunch Three cheers for  John Holden who puts understanding   your audiences at the heart of his practical tips ….

  • First – understand and respect audiences and the public.
  • Second – prepare for cuts.
  • Third – get much smarter at marketing
  • Find out more here

    Keep reading about impacts of the recession…

    Here’s the latest one from the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (with a prize for the longest title).  They’ve surveyed their membership and have come up with a report – “Global financial crisis and recession: Impact on the arts – Opinions vary on the impact and severity of the financial downturn. The general response indicates that the recession will last at least 2 years, negatively affect sponsorship, lead to staff layoffs and the commissioning of programmes with lower risk and higher mass appeal.” Read the full report here.