The difficult choices ahead for funders supporting the arts out of the crisis
The pandemic is a big challenge for the cultural sector and things might not be the same again once we have overcome it.
Alan Brown of WolfBrown, a research and consulting firm serving the arts and culture sector, offers a sobering view of the decisions that will need to be taken to rebuild the arts sector after the Covid-19 crisis in this article. While written from a US perspective, it provides challenging food for thought relevant in other parts of the world.
For arts funders, the moral dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis are heartbreaking but unavoidable.
In a sector where many are under financial strain even in the best of times, some of the tough questions he brings up are:
Should funders continue supporting the same organizations they give grants to year after year, or shift focus to other, more vulnerable organizations?
Should support of institutions be prioritized above support of self-employed arts workers?
Should funding be prioritized for keeping viable nonprofits going, or for salvaging the assets of those whose only option is bankruptcy?
Or, should capital be preserved for supporting the eventual ramp up of programming activity amongst those fortunate enough to survive?
His article kicks off a series of papers, blogs and announcements by WolfBrown that will examine the arts sector’s response to COVID-19. Read the article here, where you can also subscribe to the series.
What can we do to create better employee experiences and thereby better customer experiences?
What can we do to create better employee and customer experiences? This was the question asked at the recent Transform Your Employee & Customer Experience event hosted by Customer Radar and HROnboard.
While the event was focused on commercial contexts, I found it particularly relevant to cultural organisations. Audience research often shows that interaction with staff at cultural organisations majorly influences satisfaction with the visit (see for example this post by Colleen Dilenschneider).
“The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.”
The customer experience is strongly influenced by staff. And staff are influenced by their experience in their organisation. Aligning the employee and the customer experience therefore seems a logical focus, in particular in services with customer contact at their heart.
The event offered insights and ideas of what we can do to improve both the CX and the EX. Here is a list of the presenters and what they spoke about:
Owning your onboarding (Peter Forbes, HROnboard)
Creating an employee experience that mirrors your CX (Edan Haddock, Flybuys Australia)
Building a foundation of customer-centric leadership (Mel Rowsell, Wisdom at Work)
Mapping your CX & EX to own your critical moments (Briana Millar, Tonkin & Taylor)
Measure your CX; grow your business (Mat Wylie, CustomerRadar)
“Many companies pay lip service to being customer-centric, but don’t actually put it into practice. When used primarily as a buzzword, it’s no surprise the results are only buzzword-deep” says the Marketoonist and shares some data: The CMO Council found that “only 14 percent of marketers would say that customer-centricity is a hallmark of their companies, and only 11 percent believe their customers would agree with that characterization.”
I wonder whether one of the reasons might be that it is left to the marketing people and not approached in a multi-functional way?
If you are looking for a way to place audiences at the centre of your organisation, have a look at Tear Up the Audience Rulebook – a transformational workshop methodology developed and facilitated by InsightUnlocked in collaboration with Sally Manuireva Consulting. Find out more or get in touch.
Creating the environment in museums for authentic learning experiences
An interesting piece on the idea of authentic learning and the conditions it requires in museums.
Alli Rogers Andreen, Community Engagement Coordinator at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, discusses the importance of play, of finding multiple entry points and considering what participants bring to the discussion for a good learning environment. And she suggests to avoid setting up divisions – between “real” learning and “just playing” and – between teacher and learner as we can be teachers and learners at the same time and learn and play at the same time.
To follow-up a previous blog post, here are the first results of the flexible pricing experiment at a German museum.
Weserburg Museum für Moderne Kunst in Bremen tried a “pay-as-you-stay” model, charging 1 Euro per 10 minutes of a visit.
First results show that visitor numbers increased while maintaining steady income levels, reports Tom Schoessler, Managing Director of the museum. To get a better understanding of the effects, they will run another test this month. Encouraging experimentation, Tom Schloessler states “One thing is for sure: trying something new did not hurt.”
Digital Culture 2019 is a new report on the impact and use of technology in the arts and culture sector, from Arts Council England and Nesta. While focused on England, it offers some interesting insights as well as trends over 2013-2019.
This finding caught my eye: “Digital technology is not having a greater positive impact on audience development objectives than in previous years, and the impact of digital on reaching international audiences has fallen from 33 per cent of organisations reporting major impact in 2013 to 28 per cent in 2019.“
A long read for the weekend or browse the highlights; there are also fact sheets per art form available to download: Digital Culture 2019
New Perspectives on the diversity of Hospitality, Tourism and Events
Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a breakfast workshop themed “Audiencing” at CAUTHE 2020. It was great to discuss perspectives on audiences from my practical experience in the cultural sector with academic researchers in hospitality and tourism from around the world, an area I don’t usually interact with. Many thanks to Dr Sandra Goh and Dr Tomas Pernecky, Faculty of Culture and Society at AUT.
I took the opportunity to attend a few sessions on “Eventful Placemaking”, where current academic research projects were discussed. There was an interesting cross-over with the arts and the role of art festivals, arts precincts and major events in placemaking. These research projects take a practical approach useful for cities and cultural organisations (and rightly challenged my own bias that academic research is – well, academic). I’m sure I’ll have some more conversations with Sandra about some of these projects.
A highlight was the key note by Alison Phipps, UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow.
She opened the conference with a mind-opening keynote both for content and presentation. With “Inhospitable hospitality” Alison Phipps challenged the hospitality community to look at the extreme end of hospitality. Rather than glamorous events, she considered hospitality as experienced by seekers of refuge. She asked “Who decides and where are those decisions made on what constitutes hospitality and what it means to be hospitable?” and challenged us with examples of hospitality, or rather inhospitality, offered to refugees in various parts of the world, which are often prison-like experiences. She suggested that the “refugee crisis” in Europe is actually rather a “hospitality crisis” given the wealth of the continent and the fact that only 15% of global refugees are in the global North (incl. N-America). She asked what this tells about the human condition and the work of the hospitality industry. With the hospitality at airports, hospital and universities also often prison-like, she challenged the industry to find ways to inject a sense of life and empathy into its language, its occupation with efficiency, numbers, project management and logistical systems. Part of hospitality is “overcoming fear”. She offered the arts as a way to re-imagine hospitality, and left the audience to think about what “beautiful, captivating story of hospitality” it could design.
And beautiful and captivating was her keynote, interjected with images, quotes, poetry, music (including herself singing) and personal stories from refugees and her own family – not quite the typical conference slide presentation and an unexpected and thought provoking angle on hospitality, or what in my area of work is called the visitor experience.
When buying a ticket to an event no one is a fan of the fees ticketing platforms charge on top of the actual ticket prices. But what if this charge was used for charitable causes?
Humanitix is an events ticketing platform that does exactly that. They direct the profits made from ticket booking fees towards global education projects.
So far they say they have given more than $300,000 to their charity partners. Started in Australia, New Zealand is the first country they have expanded to. And they are not afraid to take on the big players in the ticketing market. Fittingly, they say that they learnt in their journey that the customer experience is right at the crux of being a successful company.
A great example of how initiatives for special needs benefit many more people:
One of New Zealand’s supermarket chains has introduced a low-sensory “quiet hour” nationwide. It is “easy on the eyes and ears by reducing noise, lighting and other distractions in-store” and has been developed with support of Autism New Zealand.
“The lovely thing about quiet hour is that we have had very positive feedback from so many customers. Our older customers seem to really enjoy quiet hours too, as well as many other Kiwis who actually just find shopping a bit stressful and can now visit at a more peaceful time.”
Reapplying Maslov’s pyramid of needs to the museum visit
The cartoon is a fun expression of the hierarchy of visitors’ needs.
Working on a visitor experience plan for a client, I was thinking about the hierarchy of needs of visitors to cultural organisations. In an audience research project at Tate a few years ago (with the brilliant Dr Bob Cook from firefish), we found that visitors’ needs fall into a hierarchy similar to Maslov’s pyramid of needs. This proved helpful when thinking through the visitor journey and how to improve the visitor experience.
We found that accessibility and comfort needs had to be met before visitors could move to a more transformational level of enjoying the visit with others, learning and inspiration. This made us think about what expectations we set, how we help visitor to navigate the space, how the environment feels and what information we provide – these are all elements of a good foundation that can be a catalyst for a higher experience in the museum.
Bring everyone to the same level of understanding;
Incorporate data into all planning processes (not just marketing);
Develop measurable objectives and metrics for success;
Continuously gather market data and update plans accordingly;
Take advantage of the predictive power of data;
Look at market research as an investment rather than a cost; and
Are actively shifting the organization’s culture
For me no7 is bringing it all together – a culture change. This is about attitudes to data, but I think behind this needs to be a positive attitude and approach to people – eventually it is not about data, but about our visitors, audience, customers, whatever we choose to call them, and about understanding them and showing empathy.
BTW, I realise I didn’t post Colleen’s third blog, here it is if you want to complete the series and hear about common cognitive biases to data: Accepting Data Can Be Hard
… says Cath Hume, CEO of the Arts Marketing Association (UK) as she writes about the AMA’s process to get to a more diverse board. She also admits that “There have been difficult conversations along the way. Talking about inclusivity and access can be challenging, emotional, personal and delicate.”