Audience development

"On Kentucky Avenue" at City College Center for the Arts
Audience development: “On Kentucky Avenue,” a musical tribute to Club Harlem of Atlantic City.


Audience development can be seen in show business, politics, and the Civil Rights movement. How do you get people to show up, vote or march? Marketing experts are now re-examining how they use this important communications strategy.

I was intrigued by the experience of co-producing “On Kentucky Avenue,” a musical tribute to Club Harlem of Atlantic City, because of my family’s show business history. Several generations of my family performed and attended shows there. But, as a communications professional, I know from managing campaigns that it is all about that sweet spot where journalism, public relations and marketing intersect. The audience response is proof of the pudding.

Our event was very successful. Tickets to each performance were sold-out. Venue management had to add additional seating for the last show. Our exit video interviews revealed happy, joyful experiences. That’s what successful audience development looks like.

What’s next? Finding this audience gave us some insights about how to prolong and sustain this Black-oriented 60’s musical. Thankfully, social media research has taken audience development to new heights. Research provides a variety of ways to identify, reach your audience and set strategy. Analytics can prove what was done and leverage projections for future events. But, in the final analysis, we must rely upon old-fashioned “word-of-mouth” marketing, the original social media platform.

One writer used a ‘sale’ sign to explain audience development. “Audience development is simply this: attracting diverse people at scale toward a social object. By inviting them in via a unit of compellation (in my example, it’s the “SALE” sign), a variety of people with a variety of interests are courted and willingly corralled.”
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How will you use audience development in your next event or campaign?
(Photos by Vivian Lee)