Internet Marketing & Public Relations for the Arts

lessons for promoting your arts organization on the web.

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The Fear of the Public


I'll never understand it.  I have had this argument with arts marketer's across the country, and I will go to my grave believing I am correct.

Arts groups will send out invites to local critics, woo them to come see the exhibit/performance and hope for a good review.  And there is nothing wrong with that--a good review can generate positive word of mouth and increase attendance.  Of course, the flip side is that a bad review will hurt your sales, upset your artistic staff, and make your job a LOT harder.

Why are you giving all of that power to one person? Most cities only have one or two critics, and maybe they are in a bad mood that day, or hate the artist you are presenting, or really wanted to direct that show themselves.  But you have put your eggs all in one basket.


Why not let anyone who views your work be able to post a review on your site? Sure, some are going to say that your exhibit was dull, but many others are going to say it was groundbreaking.   And lets face it, if you get 50 out of 55 reviews saying your show was pretty bad, all of the PR and Marketing in the world is not going to save it--its a bad show.


Do you think patrons who see your performance/exhibit go quietly into the good night after it is over.  Do you think they don't talk to other people about what they saw, and what they thought of it? Its called Word-of-Mouth, and that is what influences ticket decision making on 60-75% of your sales.

Don't believe me? Have an informal survey of your single ticket patrons and ask them why they decided to see your show. I will put money on it that the number one response will be "I heard about it from a friend."

In the past, this drove Arts Marketers crazy since it was something we couldn't control--you couldn't buy word of mouth, you had to show your art, and hope for the best.

But now, thanks to the Internet, people can post reviews on YOUR SITE.  Which you could send out as an RSS feed to blogs, send out in an email, or share with community sites.  You can generate word of mouth by forcing patrons to take an opinion on the show and sharing it with strangers.


Tough.  You are either building a community or you are not.  And like any other community, there are going to be people in it that you don't like.  So yeah, they may write that your show sucked and that it was boring, but if they are just 1 review out of 40 who are saying that show was "incredible" , then they will be ignored.

For years I have heard about how artists are all about community, how they strive to communicate with patrons, to educate, to enlighten and entertain. But apparently, we only want the communication to go one way.

Take a chance on your patrons, after all they are taking a chance on you.