Cultivating Word-Of-Mouth

Building Your Team

In this section we are going to consider your word-of-mouth program’s champion and team: the people who will lead the cause, and keep everything on track as you move toward your goals.

First, there are a few key points to consider.

Don’t let your program languish at the side of someone’s desk. Like any successful function in your workplace, you will need to embed your word-of-mouth program in your operational systems. If you want to continually engage your patrons and donors as your advocates, you don’t want to abuse their trust because of poor commitment within your organization.

You don’t need a large team. In fact, one cheerleader could easily be all your organization needs.

CHEERLEADERS AND CHAMPIONS

In selecting your lead person, you might want to first focus on your marketing, communications or development team. These individuals are usually well acquainted with the relevant data, have easy access to information, and quite possibly already have relationships with many of your patrons and donors. All of this will be very handy when it comes time to select and invite your advocates.

If your organization is like most arts organizations and your team is already working with a full plate, your word-of-mouth champion may need assistance. Consider bringing an intern onboard, or maybe someone on staff who is eager for professional development and is ready to expand his/her duties. This is an exciting new area, so it may be easy to find someone who is eager to get in on the ground floor.

BRING IN THE BIG GUNS

You will want to involve your executive director and/or artistic director, as these leaders are typically the ‘face’ of your organization. Your patrons and donors will have a high regard for their work and contributions, and they will be honoured to be working alongside their cultural heroes.

Another option is to look for assistance from the board. Perhaps you have a director who is well connected and possesses a driving passion for your organization. If structured correctly, bringing a director onto your word-of-mouth team has the added potential of increasing board engagement.

By now, you may see where this is going: while you need a champion for your program, you also want to involve the entire team.

WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE

Many arts organizations have one or two people acting as the executive director, the artistic director, the development officer and the communications director. As a result, it is quite possible there will be pushback at the thought of more work.

Fair enough. But consider the amount of time and money you spend on marketing, promotion and patron/donor engagement. Now consider the size of your audience relative to five years ago and relative to your effort to sell tickets. Finally, consider the influence of word-of-mouth marketing and peer-to-peer endorsements.

If you are like most arts administrators, you know change is needed. Developing a word-of-mouth program is an opportunity to work with your patrons and donors so they may share their passion.

Your advocates want you to succeed just as much as you want to succeed.

THE ARTS TAKEAWAY:

Know the value of your word-of-mouth program, identify your cheerleader, get buy-in throughout your organization. Your program will quickly start on a strong footing.