Another year, another fantastic Arts Marketing Association conference under our belts. Two jam-packed days of inspiring talks, seeing old friends and making new connections. Nick, Emma and Spencer reflect on their time at the conference which was all about putting ‘Audiences at the Heart’.
For this year’s conference, we travelled to Leeds and more specifically, to the stunning Leeds Playhouse. We were lucky enough to work with Leeds Playhouse on a brand-new website last year, do check it out at leedsplayhouse.org.uk. It was amazing to see the venue take centre stage as it hosted hundreds of delegates from across the UK.
Audiences at the heart
This year’s conference theme was all about putting audiences at the heart. It asked us to think about how we put audiences at the centre of our worlds and ensure that our actions are governed by what they need from us.
At Cog, when developing a site’s navigation, content and design aesthetic, we always focus on our client’s audiences and think about their specific needs. If we didn’t put the users’ needs at the heart of a website, then what would be the point in creating one?
The conference theme gave us a great opportunity to talk to delegates and find out more about what makes their audiences unique and special to them as an organisation.
In the spirit of spreading the love, we tasked delegates to pen their audiences a love letter, thanking them for their continued support and how they’re keeping them at heart. We loved reading through them…
Our bright yellow Cog postbox took a lot of deliveries over the course of the two days as lots of organisations thanked their audiences using a Cog Design postcard.
We had lots of postcards to choose from but here are some of our favourite responses:
We love your loyalty, and the pride you take in Compton Verney and we love how different you all are ♡
Thank you for being loyal and for never being afraid to challenge us on what we do. We hope our redevelopment will give you more of what you want and need.
We love your enthusiasm for your venues, passion for the arts and inspiring, innovative ideas! We will continue to listen and learn from you!
We also had the privilege of designing this year’s delegate lanyards for the conference. We added a fold-out cut-out heart so attendees were able to frame and capture their favourite moments from the conference. It was amazing to see so many people share their highlights on social media across the two days.
Our top five moments
There were so many amazing moments from the conference but we’ve listed the top 5 that have stuck with us.
Print, Keep it or Ditch it? – Sherman Theatre and Ambassadors Theatre Group
A frequently debated topic, should we keep or ditch print? This session was split into two halves, ‘for’ and ‘against’. The second half was led by Ed Newsome, Head of Marketing and Communication at Sherman Theatre who explained why they’d paused producing a print season brochure this year.
We’ve been working with Sherman Theatre since re-designing and launching their bi-lingual website back in 2022. Since then we’ve continued to work together on printed matter as well as developing their digital offering.
Ed explained that after reading a report by The Audience Agency earlier in the year, they’d made the decision to put the budget previously used for their season brochure towards an awareness campaign, to engage audiences in their local area. We’re well underway working with them to create this.
A brilliant example of Sherman Theatre putting their audiences at the heart.
In Plain Sight? Marketing to Blind and Partially Sighted Audiences – Wellcome Collection
Logan Kingsbeer spoke about the Wellcome Collection’s first marketing campaign aimed at reaching blind and partially-sighted audiences.
Accessible marketing (and how to do it) was rightfully a key theme of this year’s AMA Conference. Alongside Ben Wilson and the Leeds Playhouse team’s talk (that we’ll touch on later in this article – spoiler alert, it’s our number 2 highlight), Logan’s didn’t disappoint.
Running through how they approached the task at hand, including the importance of ensuring marketing campaigns speak to the 2 million people in the UK living with sight loss, they spoke openly about their audience-focused thinking and the process of working with Yusuf Osman of VocalEyes.
Spencer was wowed by the audio-first trailer they’d created in collaboration with VocalEyes (watch in the tweet below), and excited to put some of the learnings Logan shared into practice.
— VocalEyes (@VocalEyesAD) January 31, 2023
Pressed Send too soon, the pitfalls of email marketing – HOME
Ruth Jones, Head of Marketing at HOME in Manchester, gave a frank and honest talk about sending an email marketing campaign in error.
After HOME launched a new donation campaign, all about sponsoring a bee from the HOME beehive, Ruth was tasked with setting up a thank you email to donors. In the midst of a huge workload and operating remotely due to the lockdown, Ruth accidentally sent the thank you email to the entire email database instead of just those who had donated to the campaign.
Ruth spoke about how the team recovered from the mistake, how they rebuilt the audience’s trust and how they used social media to have fun with their followers who found the mistake amusing. The session was full of insights into what it’s like to make an honest mistake and how to recover from it. Thanks to Ruth for sharing her story.
You can find out more about the beehive by visiting the HOME website.
Accessible Arts Marketing cannot be an Afterthought – Leeds Playhouse and Theatre Maker, Ben Wilson
Ben Wilson, a blind actor, theatre maker and consultant kicked off the session with a candid view of what it’s like to attend cultural events as a disabled person. Whether it’s poor building access, uninspired accessible marketing material or clumsy access provisions integrated within the performance, attending a cultural event in the UK can be disappointing and isolating. He pleaded earnestly with the marketers and programmers in the room to be more considerate and welcoming to all audiences.
The Leeds Playhouse team were next up and discussed how they’d worked with Ben and the disabled community to integrate accessibility provisions into their main strategy. Leaving behind sub-par accessible marketing materials, they opted for interesting and engaging audio-descriptive brochures and captioned/ BSL trailers.
Using authentic Yorkshire voices, they were able to produce inclusive, welcoming and most importantly exciting content for their audiences. They also worked on providing more accessibility-enhanced performances than ever before by using actors to provide live audio descriptions in character for each show. You can see examples of their fantastic work by visiting the Leeds Playhouse website.
Keynotes – The Leeds 5, AMA, Brixton House, Results CIC, Yorkshire Tea & Testament
Listing all of the keynote speakers in the number one spot feels a tad like cheating but the quality of the speakers this year made it difficult to pick a favourite.
The Leeds 5 are a group of Black and Brown women in senior leadership roles within Leeds-based cultural organisations. Kathy Williams, Kully Thiarai, Amanda Huxtable, Keranjeet Kaur Virdee and Sharon Watson kicked off the conference with a rousing talk entitled ‘Be Bold, Be Brave’. They spoke about the work they’ve undertaken to position their organisations as pillars of their local communities, creating safe spaces where audiences can see their own lives reflected on the stage.
Closing the opening day was Cath Hume, CEO of the AMA, joined by key sector voices talking all about the ‘Audiences at the Heart’ theme. Jane Cordell, Director of Results CIC, encouraged us to not get lost in a world of analytics and forget to make emotional connections with our audiences.
Dom Dwight, Marketing Director of Taylors of Harrogate, kicked-off day two with the fascinating world of Yorkshire Tea’s social media successes. Shifting the perspective from only using social media to broadcast to consumers to instead using it to have meaningful conversations with tea lovers.
Ending the conference on a high was rapper, writer & beatboxer Testament. He gave an interactive and engaging talk that explored how his childhood artistic experiences inspired him to champion marginalised voices through his work.
Switching between spoken word, rap, beatboxing and storytelling he took us on a real musical journey.
Some lovely reunions
Of course, no AMA conference is complete without bumping into our wonderful clients. In the midst of busy schedules, it was amazing to see many of them in the same room all at once for a catch-up. We managed to hunt a lot of them down for a cheeky photo and a drink or two at the socials.
Well, we had an amazing fun-filled couple of days at the AMA Conference 2023. If you didn’t get a chance to speak to us over the two days or want to chat with us more about the work we do then please get in touch.