Cultivating Word-Of-Mouth

Activating Your Campaign

We now come to the meat of our topic. This is where you can really use your creativity and ingenuity to generate activities that will engage your advocates, get your advocacy program underway, and drive you to towards your goals.

SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

Before we get to the campaigns, let’s consider a couple of points. First, make sure you keep your objectives in mind, so that your activities are aligned. Your team and your advocates will be much more successful if they share the same outcomes and objectives.

Second, keep advocates in mind when designing your campaign. Not everyone will be comfortable with every task, so you will want to make sure you can match people to your activities.

Finally, your advocates may want to help you, but don’t take them for granted. You will need to arrange a reward program – a way to say thank you. For smaller arts organizations, this may not be easy, which is why I mention it here: think of your rewards program as you develop your advocacy campaign.

You don’t need to get too carried away here. A heartfelt ‘thank you’ can go a long way. Send a personalized hand-written card. Invite an advocate out for lunch or drinks with a guest artist. Recognize your advocates in your printed program or on social media. Take them on a backstage tour or ask them to attend a special event as your guest.

You could give away tickets, but do this cautiously. Your advocates are probably your most loyal ticket buyers, and free tickets could undermine your efforts and set a bad precedent.

AND THE FUN BEGINS

Now, let’s look at activities for your campaign. Rather than generalize, I thought it would be more useful to offer actionable suggestions that could be implemented by any arts organization.

I am sure you will see something here that will spark your own creative ideas. Feel free to rework any of my suggestions to suit your situation.

  • Ask advocates to host gatherings of friends in their homes. Artists, attending as the guests of honour, can offer a brief performance or reading, and then mix with the guests. How about cocktail hour, or Sunday tea?
  • Offer advocates content, such as videos and reviews, to post and comment upon.
  • Do you have younger advocates? Start a selfie campaign with its own hashtag. Why not create a “photo booth” background featuring posters or your organization’s logo?
  • Ask advocates to bring friends, relatives and colleagues to your performances (your first-timers club). Get the guests’ names and contact information, and make sure you acknowledge them. How about leaving vouchers for complimentary coffee on their theatre seats? A little surprise can go a long way in establishing a relationship.
  • Why not ask the first-timers to write about their experiences? Or, ask your advocates to comment on their personal experiences “through the eyes of a first timer”. It will make great content for your blog and newsletter.
  • Create short testimonial videos with donors or ticket buyers and ask them to share with their networks. Try a free app like Videolicious and you will have content in minutes.
  • Put together a small team of advocate reviewers, who can offer their views of recordings and writings of featured artists and composers.
  • Ask advocates to be guest bloggers. Start by asking them to describe their first or best experiences with your company.
  • Invite advocates to rehearsals so they can write about their experiences and impressions.
  • For those advocates who are more comfortable offline, develop a letter writing campaign. Don’t forget to provide them with the messages, paper, envelopes and stamps.
  • Put together a team of advocates to comment on and share your blog posts. Give the group a name to make it fun and official.

I realize asking people to comment on your work may make you uneasy, and you may want to quietly vet their work. However, remember why you are doing this, and who is working with you. And have faith.

If you receive a comment that is less than glowing, you can ask an advocate to provide a different point of view. You will actually benefit from the situation by extending the conversation.

THE ARTS TAKEAWAY:

The activities for your word-of-mouth campaign are probably limitless. With your goals and advocates in mind, start brainstorming with your team. Come up with a number of manageable, fun ideas and match them to your advocates. Give your advocates the tools to succeed, and you will succeed. And don’t forget to say thank you!