Audiences bring culture to life

Strongly believing in the value of arts and culture for society and with a curiosity for what diverse audiences think and how organisations work, I set up InsightUnlocked to support cultural organisations to be audience focused.

Cultural organisations are for visitors as much as for artists, historians and culture professionals – in fact they only come to life with an audience.

With the population becoming more diverse and public funding challenges growing, it is more important than ever for organisations’ long-term relevance and sustainability that the exciting cultural programmes attract, inspire and delight a broad range of visitors – audience focus and a clear audience strategy are essential for cultural organisations to thrive in the 21st century.

What are the some of the challenges:

  • Turning audience insight into strategy and action

A wealth of audience research exists in the sector and in cultural organisations, but it is often under-used. This can be due to a fear of audience research and audience focus (“will audiences tell us what to do?”) or that audience research is often not easy to understand (long reports, complex charts).

  • Approaching audience development as a multi-functional effort

Audiences are sometimes not considered at the core of the organisation – programme and audience strands work separately or audience development is seen as the responsibility of one department (often Learning or Marketing). Yet audience development is only successful and sustained if it is a joint effort by all functions.

  • Developing audiences strategically and continuously

There is an array of projects in the sector that develop audiences and diversity, yet often they are short-lived. For audience development to be sustainable, audiences need to be considered consistently rather than in one-off projects. A clear audience strategy and a clear picture of what success means in relation to audiences (beyond just numbers) understood and lived by the whole organisation is essential to enable that.

  • Increasing diversity and inclusion for long-term sustainability

Organisations need to grow audience numbers, income and diversity. They need to be relevant to larger parts of the more and more diverse population for moral, legal and creative reasons, and also to be financially sustainable in the long-term. This is particularly true for public institutions, but private funders are increasingly considering this, too.

To overcome these challenges, organisations need audience insight that can be acted upon, a rigorously strategic approach and a look at how the organisation works in relation to audiences. This might call for some transformational change for organisations.


Unlocking insight – unlocking strategy – unlocking audiences