Join us at the AMA Conference with our bursary


AMA Conf

We’re delighted to offer a bursary for this year’s Arts Marketing Association (AMA) Conference at the Belfast Waterfront on 25-27 July.

The fact that the AMA conference 2017 – The Value of Everything is on our doorstep, offers the opportunity to experience the conference without the cost of flights and hotels.

We are offering the bursary because we recognise the importance of innovation and new ideas, but also that it is hard to find the space for that in your day and in your budget.

The opportunity to apply is for NI organisations who don’t have any marketing staff. You will have marketing in your job but it will only be one of many roles you are juggling as you need to be a jack of all trades/all-round office whizz.


The Audiences NI bursary application form is available through the AMA website, click here.


The deadline for applications is Tuesday 9 May.

Digital? What is that?

Guest blog post by Amanda Neylon, Programme Director – Digital Delivery, NHS Digital

I’ve been working in ‘digital’ for over 10 years and something I am asked a lot (and not just by my parents!) is ‘What is digital?’. Some of us remember when digital meant that we didn’t need film in our cameras or our TVs had more than 5 channels. My first job was in ‘new media’ then I was responsible for ‘websites’ and now it’s ‘digital’ and there will probably be another word soon. Or maybe we won’t even need a word anymore because it will just be what we all do.

So what is digital to me? Well I try and look at it differently, I prefer the word technology, I believe my job is to help everyone make the most of technology. It’s not just about websites or social media, it’s about exploiting all that technology can do to inform, connect, support and inspire us.

When I was working at Macmillan, we looked at how technology could make a difference to people affected by cancer. That meant redeveloping our cancer information to be easier to understand with case studies, videos and personalised content, available to view on any device. It was developing apps to make life easier, with reminders when to take medication, or documenting your pain and symptoms so you could share with your doctor. It was simple data tools for the people commissioning services in local areas so they could see all the information they needed about cancer in one place to enable them to make the best decisions for their community. It was our nurses doing web chats and answering questions on Facebook so patients could get support when they needed it, not having to wait until their appointments.

Similarly in NHS Digital, we exist to help patients, clinicians, commissioners, analysts and researchers. Our goal is to improve health and social care in England by making better use of technology, data and information. That covers a wide range of products and services. We run the Spine, the technology that supports the infrastructure for health and social care in England, joining together over 23,000 healthcare systems in 20,500 organisations. We provide tools that allow you to access, review, monitor and extract data for analysis and reporting. And we are transforming patient services such as the NHS Choices website so we can connect people with the information and services they need, when they need it most. Oh and we do a bit of social media.

Digital isn’t just about developing the geeky stuff, it’s about how organisations work too. The ability to understand and exploit digital should be part of everybody’s job now. That is not just about adopting the latest new technology, or using social media, it’s about changing the way organisations think and work. Digital technologies support faster change (well compared with things that need welding, foundations or 5 years of training), this enables us to be agile, in the true sense of the word, not just as a project methodology. It’s about being collaborative, starting small, testing, learning, iterating and being brave, which in turn enables us to be more responsive to users’ needs throughout a product life span. So a huge part of being in digital right now is being able to support culture change and staff development.

It’s all well and good developing organisations to be more digital and developing all this great technology, but we also need to make sure everyone out there is equipped to use it. At NHS Digital this is particularly important to us as there is a correlation between health inequalities and digital exclusion, so we are working hard on projects to close that gap.

So. Digital? It is much more than social media, it’s how we use everything about technology to live, work and make our lives easier. At least that’s what I tell my parents!

More about Amanda…

Amanda is Programme Director for Digital Delivery at NHS Digital, having formerly worked as Head of Digital for MacMillan Cancer Support. Amanda was part of a panel at our Transformation from the Comfort of your Chair event on 23 February at the Google Hive, PwC. This was the third event in our Network, Not Work series, bringing the NI cultural sector together for more than the usual small talk.

Help us put our new website to the test

We are creating a new website and now we would love your to help us test our thinking. We want to make sure that it’s as easy as possible to find valuable information and resources, as well as information on how we can help you and your organisation.

If you can spare a few minutes to take part in our website testing, here’s how it works…

We have a list of things you might want to find out when you visit our website. You’ll be given a list of options to choose from for each of the tasks. You’ll navigate your way until you arrive at the one you think helps you complete the task. And repeat.

Don’t worry, we’re testing our website navigation, not you. So there are no right or wrong answers.

How to take part

Simply click here to take part. You need about 10 mins to complete it. Thank you in advance if you can take a few minutes to help us.

So…have I missed much?

chrisBlog post by Chris Palmer, Audiences NI Research Manager

So … have I missed much? It’s been just under 3 years since I departed from my first stint at Audiences NI and started my sojourn into software development. Needless to say, I’m delighted to be back at Audiences NI as we start a new chapter … but more on that later.

For the last 2 of my 3 years away, I was product managing the For-Sight CRM and email marketing platform, a product focused on the hospitality sector. For an arts lifer up to that point, it’s been a fascinating contrast to view another sector at work. Hospitality, while different in many ways, does still share some of the same core DNA with us here in the arts though. It’s a people business, a sector with a large leisure customer base and one which revolves around the customer experience.

Some comparisons will hopefully prove heartening to hear. The importance of good quality data capture and data protection is really only starting to be on the agenda for many hotels, lagging behind the awareness that has existed in the arts for many years. Likewise, email marketing, customer segmentation & experiential marketing are still surprisingly recent additions to the marketing mix, even at some pretty well known brands.

An all too familiar lack of time and budget for marketing are of course common issues, but it’s here where hospitality tech may be stealing a march on where we are in the arts, with an increasing usage of marketing automation. Automatically triggered, personalised content allows en masse CRM with that individual touch, something that simply wouldn’t be practical manually with the time you have available.

Enough of my time away though – why am I back? Those who remember me from my first stint here will not be surprised to hear that I missed the work. While running a software product was a fantastic challenge to take on, I missed my big pot of box office data and benchmarking projects! Sad, but true (and not at all surprising to many I suspect). When the opportunity arose it seemed like the right fit at the right time, particularly given our plans to refocus the agency’s work around the cultural data and insights.

I’m therefore delighted to be returning to head up the research department at Audiences NI. I’ve always felt that we’re in a unique position to collate, interpret and inform about cultural activity, but I’m not coming back to the same organisation to simply do the same work. I’m excited at the prospect of taking a more strategic approach to our body of work, and going beyond the ticketing data to maximise the breadth of insight and consultancy we can provide.

By putting insight at the centre of our own work, we can better support arts organisations of all sizes to put that insight at the core of what you do too. We’re doing that because we believe it is that important to selling, growing and improving what you do. Give me a day or so to find the pens and remember how the phones work first though …

The New Pursuit of Purpose

Guest blog post by Robert Jones (Head of New Thinking, Wolff Olins).

In the last five years or so, something has changed in the world of business. I work for a brand consultancy in London, and now almost every company we meet talks about its ‘purpose’. They used to discuss their ‘vision’ or ‘mission’, but now they want something more altruistic, less self-serving: a desire to make a difference to the world. Purpose has suddenly become a universal pursuit. To reassure sceptical customers, and more immediately to attract the best talent, companies know they need a ‘purpose statement’ – though, sadly, not all companies turn those words into deeds.

So what does this trend mean for arts organisations? Surely arts centres, theatre companies, museums and galleries have always had a sense of purpose. Their people have always been motivated by non-commercial ambitions, by a desire to make a mark, or to make a difference. But these values are usually not explicit. They’re in the organisational climate, but not written as a mantra. Now, many cultural organisations also want to define their purpose more overtly.

There are, of course, dangers in being explicit – dumbing down, oversimplifying, cutting out dissent, becoming blind to alternatives. As the cultural commentator Bryan Appleyard has said, simplicity can be the tool of the tyrant. But, on balance, the benefits are huge. A clear purpose can galvanise an organisation, as we’ve seen with clients like Tate, Historic Royal Palaces and most recently Art Fund. It helps attract and keep the best people. It helps clarify strategy, propel innovation and accelerate decision-making. And it helps attract funders (who want to know that, by investing in your purpose, they can help achieve theirs.)

And a great deal of the value comes from the process of finding that definition – getting people across the organisation to surface their individual values, to look outwards, and to enlarge their ambitions. We all spend a lot of time thinking about what we do and how we do it, and for me, the excitement of purpose is that it forces us all to ask a more profound question: why, as an organisation, we exist.

More about Robert…


Robert Jones is Head of New Thinking in Wolff Olins, London, where his focus is to help organisations work out what they want to stand for, how they’ll stand out and help them to never stand still.

Robert will deliver an interactive workshop – What do We Stand for? Building a Brand From Why – on 18 November. This is the second event in our ‘Network, Not Work’ series, bringing the NI cultural sector together for more than the usual small talk.

How (and why) to refresh a legacy brand

ANI Guest Post by Kim Mitchell (MoMA)

Guest blog post by Kim Mitchell from MoMA, New York.

Nineteen years ago, I interviewed for a job at The Museum of Modern Art as a publicist. I recall being curious about the communications challenges, as I came from a small regional museum where the struggle for press coverage and name recognition was a daily source of frustration. What obstacles could there be for one of the world’s renowned institutions of modern and contemporary art?

My supervisors were patient with my admittedly naïve question and described how being a leader made communications more crucial—MoMA had to be strategic and creative, transparent and responsible. We had to demonstrate best practices in communications as we did in all other aspects of the museum, and standards were high. When the eyes of the world are watching, you need to be “at the top of your game every day”, as my future boss said.

Those were prescient words then and still apply today, as the environment and audience for culture has exploded. MoMA has been a place of constant change since its founding in 1929. With a new building expansion underway, an ambitious program of exhibitions in Manhattan and Queens, as well as traveling exhibitions, partnerships, publications, digital programs and retail, the time felt right for clarification—to restate our purpose for today and for the future.

We began with research—internal and external, qualitative and quantitative—with many stakeholders, to uncover our challenges and opportunities. What did our diverse audiences want and how could we best deliver? Intense workshops and meetings followed with a senior group of staff, to distill our complex offering into a cohesive statement of purpose and how to bring that purpose to life. Many vigorous debates ensued! We assembled cross-disciplinary groups to research specific topics, assign priorities, and identify action steps for the short and long term.

In the end we rallied around the concept of engagement for everyone, with a commitment to renew our efforts to make MoMA, in all its various channels, a more welcoming and navigable place for inspiration and discovery. Those initial pilot projects are now rolling out, and early indicators show that the time spent on research and strategy will pay off for years to come.

More about Kim…

Kim Mitchell - The Museum of Modern Art, New YorkKim Mitchell is Chief Communications Officer at MoMA, New York and will be speaking at the first of our ‘Network, Not Work’ events, No Talking at the Dinner Table, on 19 October.

She’ll be talking about her experiences of leading the brand strategy, marketing, communications and visual identity of this iconic venue.

Keep an eye on Audiences NI in the coming weeks as we’ll share some highlights from the event.


Digital innovation in the Arts and Culture Sector: Culture Geek 2016

As mentioned in our first blog post, we are in the midst of conference season and in June were delighted to attend the Culture Geek conference in the Royal Institution, London. As the new research intern and a Master’s student in Arts Management, I was delighted to attend this conference to gain insight from the impressive line-up of speakers from some of the world’s finest cultural institutions such as MoMA, The Royal Albert Hall and Sónar Festival. The topic had us sold; digital transformation for leading culture organisations.

The speakers discussed varying ways in which their organisations react to the ever-changing digital landscape. One of the conference highlights was a talk by Fiona Romeo, Director of Digital Content and Strategy at MoMA. MoMA recognise that most encounters with art now happen online and they have used this to their advantage by using digital channels in a way that has significantly expanded their audience. Interestingly, while up to 3 million people visit its galleries each year, MoMA has more than 6 million followers on social media.

Romeo stated that artists are the entry points for their collections, with the name of an artist being the most used search on their website.  With this in mind, MoMA have found that social media posts relating to the actual artists eg. Birthdays messages get a lot of likes and responses from their followers. Perhaps this practice could be adopted by galleries here to engage their online audience?

Another tip from MoMA relates to the online release of works acquired by the museum. Here, the individual curator releases a series of social media posts expressing why they chose the artist or work.  This has been very successful for MoMA in creating a dialogue with audiences and is relatively easy to put into practice.

culture geek pic1
Fiona Romeo, Director of Digital Content & Strategy at MoMA

More interesting insight came from the Head of Marketing and Communications at the Royal Albert Hall, Louise Halliday, talking about ‘Embedding Digital in a Heritage Organisation’. The Royal Albert Hall has a very diverse audience base and want every person who comes through the door to have an unforgettable experience. Louise talked about their success with using Morris Hargreaves McIntyre’s Culture Segments and the importance of segmenting audiences based on their motivations as opposed to solely past booking behaviour. So, they now take into account customers who like to read a lot of review before purchasing tickets and market accordingly. We couldn’t agree more with Halliday’s comments on the importance of making decisions based on data as opposed to just making assumptions about your audience. Here are some key steps outlined by Halliday:

  • Define your goals
  • Find out what makes your audience tick
  • Design principles and constantly refer back to your goals
  • Exploit strengths
  • Always remain true to your brand


Through the looking glass

Some of you may know that I’ve been taking some time away from Audiences NI recently. It’s not a big secret but before Easter I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve no doubt many of you reading this will have had experience of this or another type of cancer, personally or via friends and family. So the good news is thanks to the NHS and wonderful support from friends and family not to mention the team at ANI, I am on the mend and hope to be back full-time later in the summer. One thing being away from the daily grind has done is given me the opportunity to think about some stuff that is relevant to what ANI does and will shape some of what I do when I’m back at the wheel.

So here are some thoughts and to help create the scene – here is my view.

Window Continue reading “Through the looking glass”

Keynote speeches and innocent tweets

It’s conference season at the moment, so we have been out and about quite a lot.


First up, was Theatre2016, held in central London in mid May. Thanks to a Ryanair flight at £25 and a discounted delegate rate offered by TheatreNI, the draw of the line up was too good to miss.

Being the good data geeks that we are at ANI, Clive Humby, the man who revolutionised retail loyalty cards with Tesco Clubcard, was the main event. Humby, who also owns the company providing the software we use to extract box office data, was talking about the next level of understanding your audience. Box office data is a good start, mused Humby, but it is limited in what it tell us. Sure, you will know how far your punters have traveled to the show, and how far in advance they booked their tickets. But nothing about their motivations, or what could be gleaned from looking at Twitter activity. Cause theatre is just different from shoes or cars, and can’t be talked about in the same way. Can it?

Shameless plug. This year at ANI, we are piloting software which does both. Looks at your box office data, pulls in social media activity and crucially also asks the customer why they came.  Oh, and it deals with the thorny issue of those organisations who don’t have a box office.  Good? We think so.

So far so interesting… But then came Twitter war. What I thought was quite an innocuous tweet started WW3.  One of the speakers was talking about attracting those people who don’t normally go to “the arts” – you know, the holy grail. He had been to his first theatre performance at the age of 20, and within 3 years, had put on a sell-out show in the West End. Yes, it was a musical – an Afro Beats musical. But over 80% of the audience had never been to an arts event before, and guess what, a lot of them went back. So I tweeted what this speaker implored the audience – Make what your audience want to see. Don’t make the work that you want to make, and then try to find the audience.

Nonsense, came the cry. Theatre will end up like Hollywood. Reading it back, I see why it is controversial for some. You can’t just give people what they think they want. You have to challenge them. Inspire them. Show them the things they didn’t even know they would like.

But it should be a balance. The audience must be part of the consideration before you even begin making the piece. Cause if no one wants to see it, aren’t we missing the point?