Own Art Interview Our Friends at the A-M-A

Since 1993, the Arts Marketing Association has been helping people and organisations in arts and culture to reach more audiences by providing training, resources, and networking. Regularly hosting well-attended and useful networking events was a large part of their support for the industry, however, like all of us, they have had to be resilient throughout the pandemic in order to maintain their hugely valued services. The Arts Marketing Association has been delivering free online webinars and resources to organisations like ours to get us through furlough, including their Coronavirus Support Facebook Group, which provides a safe space to ask questions, share advice and get support.

Own Art has been a long-standing partner with The A-M-A and knows first-hand how effective their services are, so we wanted to touch base with them post-lockdown to see how they managed, what changed, and – whilst we’re chatting – to get some prime advice from their Marketing and PR Manager, Matt Ecclestone.

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The AMA is known for hosting such amazing networking opportunities, how have you maintained this throughout a lockdown?

We’ve been pleased to be able to move our regional meetings online through lockdown to allow our members to be able to come together and get support from peers in their area.

We’ve been running online events for a number of years now so we’re well placed to move everything online. A great side-effect of moving previously in-person events online has been removing access barriers for many who couldn’t attend easily in-person before the pandemic during to disabilities or caring responsibilities. Going forward, we’re keen to ensure we have a mixture of in-person and online regional meetings once it’s safe to do so.

Now that things are opening up a bit more, can you tell us what your plans are? Anything we should keep an eye on?

We’ve just launched our new season of training webinars and workshops which look at how we can maintain and continue to increase the digital audiences gained during the lockdown. Topics including social media planning, content creation, PR planning, and analysing online audiences, while we’re also exploring vital long-term issues of sustainable marketing and building an anti-racist culture.

“Digital marketing is constantly evolving so there’s always lots of new things to learn.”

How does your team stay current and keep up with marketing or social media trends to ensure you’re offering the best training for your members?

Many of our team come from arts and culture backgrounds and have experience working in the sector so understand what is useful for members in their work. While we’re constantly keeping up with trends through our own research – both inside and outside the culture sector – we’re ensuring our members have the chance to help shape our events programme. We do this through our Member Panel which is sent to all AMA members and allows us to get feedback on their challenges and what support we could offer to help them.

We also speak regularly with our Regional Associates – members from across each UK nation who host network meetings – to ensure we’re aware of the key issues and trends they are experiencing in their working lives. Our members are the lifeblood of the AMA so listening to them is our number one priority.

Do you have any top digital marketing tips or tools to share that every marketer must know?

Digital marketing is constantly evolving so there’s always lots of new things to learn. Some key tips that can be applied across the board are:

Make time to experiment – give a/b testing a go, whether that is with your email subject lines or your content on social media.

Be all about the Data – make sure you’re constantly checking your website and social media analytics for your marketing and re-evaluating your future activity. Data is your friend and a powerful way of providing evidence to back up your strategy to management teams and boards.

Streamline your activity – everyone is pushed for time more than ever, so don’t be scared to stop doing something if the stats don’t add up. For instance, if a social media platform doesn’t fit with your gallery’s ethos or your current or target customer bases – is it worth devoting more time to a platform that meets these needs?

“It’s important that now organisations are reopening to the public, we balance the pressures that this move to digital has created on our marketing teams…”

What unique challenges do you have in reaching and engaging with your audience?

As a B2B (Business to Business) organisation, we found it more difficult during lockdown to reach organisations to share support through our usual communication channels, with members being on furlough/flexi-furlough.

So, we decided to start an AMA Community Support Facebook group during the first lockdown, which has grown into this friendly community of over 1,300 arts, culture & heritage professionals working in marketing, communication, PR, audience engagement and leadership roles. It’s been lovely to see group members exchanging tips and recommendations, plus it’s been a great way for us to share resources and training opportunities during a very tough year for the sector.

How has marketing evolved for creative industries during the Covid pandemic?

The majority of marketing had shifted to digital ahead of the pandemic, but this moved from being important to becoming vital to reach audiences and consumers during the lockdown. It’s important that now organisations are reopening to the public, we balance the pressures that this move to digital has created on our marketing teams – whether they’re large, small or just one-person bands.

Just because lockdown is easing, it doesn’t mean we need to do everything we did before plus all the increased digital activity during the pandemic. It’s important to take stock and realise that we’re in a very different world and that we need to focus workloads on key areas that are showing growth in order to streamline our practices and use time effectively. It’s been a very challenging year and it’s important to ensure marketing teams aren’t overloaded and spending time on an activity that isn’t providing a good return on investment or profile-building.

What’s your top surprising or inspirational marketing moment that an arts organisation you’ve worked with has had in the past year?

A particularly inspiring moment was seeing The Black Country Living Museum become a TikTok sensation last year gaining 330,000 followers in their first 3 months and garnering national press attention. Their Communications Manager, Abby Bird has used her passion for TikTok and a combination of her phone and an SLR camera to create content that stays true to the museum’s identity but most importantly engages with the platform’s subculture. She has acknowledged in interviews the natural benefits of having a ‘ready-made’ set and historical character actors to draw upon, but this success still relies on ensuring the content connects with TikTok trends and the predominantly younger audience consuming it. Without this awareness, their account wouldn’t now be closing in on 900,000 followers, while also building brand awareness and educating their audience at the same time. The most exciting aspect of this was hearing Abby quoting the stat that 20% of calls to their Sales & Ticketing Team reference the account specifically, which puts them in a very good place now they’ve fully reopened to the public.