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.”
Click here to read more.

How will you use audience development in your next event or campaign?
(Photos by Vivian Lee)

Philanthropy is the new marketing

squash plants growing at Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden
squash plants growing at Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden

Philanthropy is the new marketing.  Take food activism. Our media team learned this lesson the hard way. This summer we launched a campaign to set up an urban garden, actually a mini-farm, called the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden on the, a crowdsourcing platform.

Our team chose this particular project because we wanted to devote our efforts to an environmental or green cause for our social impact project. What could be better than helping to build a mini-farm or fixing a ‘food desert’ in Middle America (Columbus, OH.)?

A story from Paula Penn-Nabrit (Wellesley ’76), garden founder, food activist, and my seven-sister college sibling, made a compelling case as she outlined the importance of learning to grow and preserve our own food during these trying times of hunger and poverty in America.

“If growing your own food is like printing your own money, then preserving your own food is like saving your hard earned cash!” said Penn-Nabrit.

By now, the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden, named for Paula’s husband, has made great strides. They had raised $5000 of a $10,000 campaign. But they still need more money. They need fencing to keep deers and critters out. And, they are getting ready for a robust harvest, farmer’s market and community classes.

Quote from Paula Penn-Nabrit about her Columbus, Ohio community mini-farm in the works
Quote from Paula Penn-Nabrit about her Columbus, Ohio community mini-farm in the works

‘Marketing’ your stories to your friends with the hope that they will participate and share with others unknown to you is a challenge. But it is a strategy that works. Like a garden, it takes time and constant tweaking.

A recent article in by Paul Van DeCarr explores how philanthropy is the new marketing and some tips to consider.

“How do we create or “market” stories so they’ll appeal to people other than those who already support us; so they’ll reach people who may be unfamiliar with our issue or even disagree with us? We’ve all been there before—with documentary-film screenings, story-sharing websites, or social-change plays that preach to the converted. To enlarge your audience, sometimes all you need to do is activate people who are sympathetic, but inactive. Or, you may sometimes want to engage people who aren’t already on board. As for engaging people who disagree with you, often times the best you can hope for is to neutralize their opposition.”

Consider the following principles to build your base through storytelling. Click on this link.

Want to solve hunger and poverty in Middle America? Contribute here to the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden.

Is philanthropy the new marketing in your life’s work?