Skip to content
Follow Us

Get the best of Capacity Interactive delivered to your inbox.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Culture Data Nerd
Episode 25

Culture Data Nerd

CI to Eye with Colleen Dilenschneider

This episode is hosted by Erik Gensler.

0:00 / 0:00


Erik and Colleen discuss the importance of an organization's reputation in driving attendance, why people donate or don't donate to institutions, and how cutting marketing budgets when times get tough is the absolute wrong move.

Erik Gensler: Let’s jump in here. I just wanted to, officially say thank you so much for, taking the time to chat with me. I’m a huge fan of, “Know Your Own Bone” and I’ve been following your work for a really long time. We loved having you at Boot Camp, and the audience loved having you at Boot Camp, and everyone on my team is just super excited that, that I have the chance to talk with you, so thank you.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Well thank you so much for having me. I’m so thrilled to be here. It’s nice to be able to have a bit of a longer discussion after, the whirlwind, in New York.

Erik Gensler: Great. So, I’m just curious, if we could start out talking a little bit about how you got into this, this line of work.

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs) Well that’s a really good question. This is gonna be shocking. I’ve, I’ve always been a really big nerd, (laughs). And especially an art nerd and a theater nerd, and and more so an art nerd than a theater nerd. I’m not able to sing, which doesn’t mean I didn’t try in high school and, (laughs) and all through my childhood. So, kind of a job like this was always in the cards for me. I have brain that really likes numbers, so I, think this mix of doing what I love and working with these organizations that I’m really lucky, personally inspire, inspire me on a very personal level And I kind of always worked toward where I am, not knowing that this kind of position could exist. As I mentioned that, our, at Boot Camp, I was a museum junkie as a kid as well, so I have that spark moment, that moment when I was young, when I was in a museum and for me it was Art Institute of Chicago, where the stars aligned and it kind of changed a little part who I was, in some level. And I’ve learned from working with people who, who are also in cultural organizations, that a lot of us have stories like that. And, and that’s kind of how I got into this line of work. I wanna say it’s, it’s in me, kind of in the way it’s probably in you and it’s probably in a lot of the people how might be listening to this. I was a nerd, was an Art and English major at the University of Chicago, took every opportunity I could get to, work in fellowships and internships around Chicago. moved out to Seattle, got my graduate degree in non-profit management and was thinking, you know, “We’ve got to help arts organizations.” And, and that’s kind of, it, it kind of all was a very lucky, line toward kind of working toward knowing my own bone-

Erik Gensler: So after your, your graduate studies, did you, go to the role that, that you’re in now? Or did you, did you have something in between there?

Colleen Dilenschneider: I started “Know Your Own Bone,” so I always knew I was interested in helping people get excited about informal learning, helping people get totally amped about those spark moments, that happened when you’re at, a theater performance or you’re at a museum of some kind I was doing, events at the civic science center in Seattle-

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: .,. and I went to graduate school at the University of Southern California, and I was so scared about losing my cred as a museum professional that I started “Know Your Own Bone.” And “Know Your Own Bone” at that time was, just musings about things that I was learning in graduate school, but also at the time, it was 2009 and at the time, Facebook, you know, museums and, and performing arts organizations were thinking, you know, “What is this book face? Do we need to be on this thing?”

Erik Gensler: Right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: It was because I was on the internet writing about something that a lot of people were searching for at the time, and people didn’t know much about, around 2011, I was lucky enough, while I was a graduate student, kind of get put on the speaking circuit, and go to places and conferences and, and do some IMLS webinars about the importance of social media at the time in, cultural organizations. And then I was actually picked up at, Association of Zoos and Aquariums conference, by Impacts, a couple of people who, a couple of clients who, of Impacts had said to me, “You know, there’s this company called Impacts that does this research,” and that they had also said at the same time to Impacts, “Hey, there’s this, you know, rogue millennial-”

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: …excited millennial getting up and, and giving us presentations about social media. Let’s put these two things together. And so, Impacts called. They hired me on the spot, um it actually ended up working out perfectly. And then when I got into Impacts, of course my role was to help organizations, organizations with social media. But what was really neat about working with Impacts at the time, and the reason that they hired me in the first place, or needed somebody to talk about social media in the first place, and digital engagement, was because data was suggesting that digital engagement actually gets real life humans through the real life door to increase-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: … real life revenues. And, until that time, I, that was just kind of an idea. And I think that there’s some organizations that so kind of think it is an idea, “Oh, we’re on, we’re on the internet. That’s gotta be important but we don’t know how.”

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm

Colleen Dilenschneider: But at that time, it kind of, it married, what was happening online with the math behind how it can drive revenue, and how it can influence behavior and motivate people to give, to visit, to donate. And, from there, I just millennialled it. I totally millennialled it. I said, “We have this great study, called The National Attitudes Awareness and Usage Study.” And we had it at Impacts and we were pulling it, with certain clients but I was writing “Know Your Own Bone” at the time, and I said, “Please, please, please, can I take what I can and what I have permission to share and make it public on my website.” And, (laughs) for a long time, they said, “No, no. No, no.” And then slowly but surely, they allowed me to share, not proprietary data that I have permissions to share on “Know Your Own Bone”, and that’s kind of how my job developed, which is a very weird story. A majority of what I do now, is, is querying data, kind of filled-in questions, getting senses of, of where executives in the industry have questions, where they wanna learn more, and it’s really exciting that my career has taken, and also kind of unbelievable to me at times that my (laughs) career has taken that path.

Erik Gensler: It’s an incredible story. So-

Colleen Dilenschneider: That’s a really weird one.

Erik Gensler: (laughs) … a couple of questions. So, the National Awareness Attitudes and Usage Survey, is that something that Impacts administers or is that something that is, a different body?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Oh, great question, again. it’s something that Impacts administers. So, the in-, the data that I have and I use comes from three sources. The first it was that comes from client organizations. So, when a client organization can fund our being able to look into certain, you know, perceptions or behaviors, we’re able to do that. The second place it comes from is, Impacts is constantly in market, monitoring 224 visitor serving organizations, so that includes, you know, zoos, aquariums, museums, symphonies, botanic gardens, orchestras, historic sites, and the like but there are 24 specifically that, that we’re tracking. I have limits about the ones that I can name but, for followers of “Know Your Own Bone” have made a few that I have permission to share, apparent. And then the third place is exactly that, that National Awareness Attitudes and Usage study. And that is, conducted by Impacts. It actually started in 2010. It was a partnership. It started in partnership with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. It’s believed to be the largest in-market survey of visitor serving organizations, or perceptions of visitor or-, serving organizations in the United States. And it since then, it, right now it has over 180,000 individuals, that it has a big sample size, but, but what’s really important is that it’s representative of the United States population.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm

Colleen Dilenschneider: So, and that’s what truly, I think sets it apart Another thing that’s really cool about the NAAU is that it’s derived from, mostly open-ended inquiries which means that it isn’t a survey. So, it’s, it’s more of a chooser and adventure. I’ll say to folks, you know, “What’s the last time you visited, what did you do? Or when was the last vacation you took? Okay. You went to New York. What were the three things you did in New York? What did you like best?” And that populates that data rather than saying, you, or, you know, “You say you wanna go to a muse but you haven’t been in the last two years. Why didn’t you go?” We don’t say, “Is it= you’re not interested in the program, B, the admission was too high.” it fills in based on open ended inquiries and computers kind of get to go ahead and, and, and, make sense of things, which to me as a person who, until I’d worked with Impacts, had, you know, used more formal surveys, was really mind-blowing.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm

Colleen Dilenschneider: But that’s a little bit about NAAU.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. No, that’s, that’s incredibly powerful, particularly the, the match to the US population, because, all survey data is flawed, but if, if it’s much less flawed, if it’s so tied to, to the population, ’cause it’s only as good as the sample it represents. And so, that’s, I didn’t know that. That’s am-, that’s amazing.

Colleen Dilenschneider: It’s funded by some pretty big entities. It means that, that, data for visitor serving organizations is being used by bigger entities, as kind of R&D. So, it’s been, it’s been funded, by several organizations but among those are Google, the US Department of State, and Stanford University. What we’re doing is hard, and other entities are kind of learning from it.

Erik Gensler: So, is that the aware- the survey itself includes the data from the visitor serving organizations, but also has other sources of data, no or yes, (laughs)?

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs) Well, iso it’s in-market- constantly asking questions. But yes, the, the 224 is a little bit different. Sometimes we’ll match that with the NAAU, but there are 224 that we’re specifically tracking. So, we can kind of do crosses, where we’re, where we’re looking to what comes from the NAAU and what we’ve noticed from our tracking of the 224 organizations. The difficulty with the tracking of 224 is that those track, we’re specifically tracking those 224 because entities are funding us to, to track them. So, I have a less ability to share what’s on those, so as a result a majority of what I share on “Know Your Own Bone” is predominantly from NAAU.

Erik Gensler: Got it, got it. Yeah. so, Impacts is doing all sorts of, market research for entities that are not necessarily arts organizations.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes. Indeed we are. We work with three groups. We work, primarily government entities and the entertainment industry. We are a smaller company. We’re about 85 people. We do most of our work behind the scenes. And then our third place is of course visitor serving organizations. And that, as I mentioned is our R&D which I think is really interesting.

Erik Gensler: So, are you also doing, paid analysis for some of those, those organizations, so they’re, they’re not only providing the data, but they’re also your clients in using that data?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes, indeed. We do have, we indeed have several, clients. That’s, that’s how Impacts stays solvent. We don’t make very much, we don’t make (laughs) very much money with visitor (laughs) serving organizations. and that’s how we’re able to kind of keep NAAU funded, is through our work with for-profit entities and government entities.

Erik Gensler: Got it. Great, but I mean hopefully since administrators are listening to this, just wanted to throw out the opportunity, if you wanted, direct studies about your organization, or ask for questions, there is the opportunity to partner with you to, to work on specific organizational data.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Oh yeah, absolutely, absolutely. We’re also able to query it by region, see where people are, what’s, you know, top of mind in certain areas, or through, by certain demographics. They’re really a lot of neat possibilities with NAAU.

Erik Gensler: Got it. So, in your analysis as a frequent reader, and also on your weekend presentation, you often use indexes. Did I say indexes?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yeah.

Erik Gensler: (laughs) and I’m just-

Colleen Dilenschneider: You did.

Erik Gensler: I’m just curious, you see a lot of surveys where, people are using averages or means, tell me about, how the statistical analysis behind that.

Colleen Dilenschneider: We do a lot of work in index value, as you mentioned. And, and index value is a way of assigning proportionality around the mean. So, basically it’s a really common way to compare values to a base condition. And that base condition is 100. And, it’s, a pretty popular index. It’s what the, the, consumer price index is based off of. But for instance, it allows us to kind of quickly extrapolate the difference between a value a base condition, whereas. So, let’s say that, so the base condition is 100, and if there’s an index value that is 110, it’s quickly recognized as being 10% greater than the base condition. So, one example using data of how we use, index values is that we know we, you know, we’ve asked folks, “What is the top reason?” You know, for folks who’ve said, “We’d like to go to a cultural organization, but you have not gone in the last two years. Why didn’t you go?” The top reason that folks is simply that they prefer an alternative activity. And the index value on that is 147.3. I have that number in front of me. I haven’t memorized it.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: I’m not that super advanced.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: But then we also, as an industry, kind of sometimes attribute a big barrier to cost but the index value for cost is only 36, but because it’s an index value, we can, we can do the math and this means that preferring to do something else is a four times bigger barrier to visitation and cost. And that’s, and that number is derived simply, by dividing, 147.3 by 36. So, it’s a nice easy way to show the relationship between numbers.

Erik Gensler: That’s great. So, I’d love to dive into the data and ask you some-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yeah.

Erik Gensler: … questions about, some of the things you’ve been covering, on, on “Know Your Own Bone”, and, and I know you’re very passionate about. So, let’s start with, something you talked about at Boot Camp last year. You opened with statistic that has stayed with me and it’s about reputation’s role in driving success. And, what others say about you has a value 12.85, higher than what you say about yourself. And so, for example, if someone else posts about you on social-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes.

Erik Gensler: … is almost 13 times more valuable than an organization posting about themselves. Did I get that right?

Colleen Dilenschneider: That’s right. You got it perfectly.

Erik Gensler: Can you tell me more about how, how you figured that out, and, and, and maybe some, some impacts of that?

Colleen Dilenschneider: That math is based on the best model of diffusion, which is, a kind of a pretty well known empirical model in MBA programs that proposes an equation to inform how products are more or less adapted by the market. So, we didn’t come up with this, empirical model. It’s a, it’s a kind of popular staple. But we found out of, of course, it, it, and the best model of fusion, it’s based on two …try not to fall asleep.

Erik Gensler: (laughs) Don’t worry.

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs) It’s based on-

Erik Gensler: I’m at the edge of my seat.

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs)

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: It’s based on two, kind of ideas. One is the coefficient of innovation, which is, our P value, and the coefficient of imitation, which is our Q value. And it’s, and the takeaway is exactly what you said. What people say about you is 12.85 times more important than what you say about yourself. And the way that we get there is, what we know through Impacts data that reputation is a top five motivator for visitation among people who are high propensity visitors. So, those are the people who actually want to come. As much as we hate to acknowledge it, of course, not everybody wakes up and says they wanna go to the museum today, (laughs). Or, “I wanna go to the art museum today.” There are people who are more likely to say that, and we love those people, and they’re high propensity visitors. And among high propensity visitors, reputation is a top two motivator. It’s, that is second only to schedule, which means of course being open or having programs during dates and times when people actually can and want to attend. So, then the question become, of course, “What goes into reputation”? And we know because of this, diffusion, that two things go into reputation. Again, the coefficient of innovation, that’s our P value and it’s just a little trick that’s easy to remember for any, any math folks on the phone. Because P, it’s paid, it’s things that you pay to say about yourself.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: So that’s your ads, TV, radio, brochures. They’re things that you pay to say about yourself, and so advertising. And then the second thing that goes into reputation, again, is this coefficient of imitation. That’s a Q value, and a little cheat on that is Q stands for quotes.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: It’s things that other people say. I know I’m really into the cheats.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs) And that’s exactly what you said. It’s earned endorsement. It’s what people see you’re, you’re doing on social on a day to day basis, how you’re interacting with people on social media. It’s word of mouth. It’s pure via sites, like, like advisor. And again, the relationship is that what people say about you is 12.85 times more important in driving your reputation, which again, is a top motivator for visitation than things that you paid to say about yourself. And actually what’s funny about is that it makes perfect sense, right? like, who do you trust more? The, the advertisement that says this place has the best burgers, or you know, your best friend who got sick with food poisoning?

Erik Gensler: (laughs) Right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: It, it makes sense, and it’s kind of one of those things where we’ve always been operating on this model of diffusion. It’s all, it’s always existed. It’s always been a thing but now we live in this world of the internet where it’s amplified. Or we can actually take these word of mouth endorsements and we can spread them like wildfire, which, we haven’t been able to do as readily. And so, we thus relied more heavily on, on advertising. And, which doesn’t mean, which, wow, which does not mean that advertising is (laughs) unimportant by any stretch of the imagination. It purely means that we live in this world where that we take in information and things that, that, that influence our perceptions, we’re more, they’re more accessible. People’s, people’s endorsements are more accessible to us than they’ve ever been before and they could be much more easily than they are, ever have before. And that has a weight when it comes to influencing what people think about things.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm. And, and what I’ve taken about, away from that, and just thinking about of, how it’s applicable to, to our clients in, in our world, is that, I think a lot of arts organizations are spending, a disproportionate amount of money, screaming to the spending most of their advertising dollars on acquisition. And, it’s sort of around the model of flipping the funnel of taking that money away from sort of broadcast interruption advertising, and building tools, that could help them, to help people who really care about them. Their evangelists endorse them. So, for example, building something into your website, that one’s-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Exactly.

Erik Gensler: … a ticket, that allows them to easily post on social media, or making sure they have the video and content available, on their site and on their social profiles so when someone does have an amazing experience, they have something to share.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Absolutely. The, the role of earned endorsement and, and sharing in kind of the visitation cycle and, and how people decide what to, where to go, what to do and who to support is huge. So, those things are, are really important.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm. One of my, one of my colleagues went to this amazing concert and, and, in a genre that she’s never experience before. And she had this incredible experience at this, it was an orchestra. And after the concert, she was dying to put it on social media, what a great experience she had. And she went to the organization’s Facebook page and could not find a video or an image that was representative of that experience.

Colleen Dilenschneider: No.

Erik Gensler: And so, what she ended up doing was, you know, having to share a text post, which we all know-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yep.

Erik Gensler: … is not nearly as impactful.

Colleen Dilenschneider: No.

Erik Gensler: So, I guess what you’re saying really just sort of validates the, that experience. It’s like, give people the ability to, to, to evangelize for you.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Absolutely, absolutely. And it does more, it does more work for us than we do for ourselves. It’s what we’re going for. There’s nothing to give something power like sharing it. So.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm. I love-

Colleen Dilenschneider: That’s true.

Erik Gensler: … I love that stuff. Thank you so much, for putting that together, and putting it together in, in a way that is so clear. So, let’s continue talking about, social media. So, I’m curious what are some of the things that you’ve learned about because, it sounds like this all really started with, the Book Face as you call it. So-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yep.

Erik Gensler: What are some things that you’ve learned about the importance of social media in terms of its impact in, in driving art space?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Digital engagement is increasingly ingrained in everything that cultural organizations, do today. But in terms of math, oh my goodness. I, you know, I could go on, for quite a while about, the importance of social media. From the performing arts ticket buyer, media usage study also kind of underscores this, the important power of the role of digital. That’s where our, our audiences are and that’s where they’re accessing information. And we have a good amount of data from Impacts, and we know that a top information source for high propensity visitors, both those who go and those who haven’t gone yet but have the demographics, psychographic, and behavioral attributes that, suggest that they would be interested in going to either exhibit or a performance based organization. For them, digital platforms are the top three sources of information, those platforms being social media, mobile web, and web. Mobile web and web being the same, except one’s accessed on a mobile device and one is-

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Not. and what’s, kind of mind blowing for a lot of folks is that social. These are the top three regardless of generational cohort.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Which means that yes, indeed, baby boomers, you know, millennials do not own the internet. Indeed, baby boomers (laughs) use the internet, which is funny that that is even a thing that anybody would, would, would think otherwise, but it is a mess-, that, I feel like we all too often, we, too often run into. and in fact, we, we see among, when we do cut the data for millennials, Generation X and baby boomers, again, those three remaining the top three. and the only difference is for boomers, for numbers of, for millennials, social media is number one, and then, mobile web and web are close in they’re second. And then, for Generation X all about three are about equal, with very high index And then, baby boomers switch it up a teeny bit. for them web comes in first, and then social media and mobile web are, are a close second. But, again, regardless of generational cohort, they’re, they’re digital engagement platforms. And then fourth is word of mouth. So, somebody, of course, you know what word of mouth is. Somebody talking to somebody else or sharing information on, but not online. And then the fifth is peer review sites, like the TripAdvisor, and sixth is email. And, again, what’s kind of really important about this is that this is where high propensity visitors go for information. This is not the same as which is the most impactful. This is potential. This doesn’t mean that this is where we are the most impactful for, inspiring visitation decisions. In other words, in other words, email. We can see that email can be really powerful in inspiring visitation. Visitors are still using social media. So, it’s not an and/or situation.

Erik Gensler: Yeah.

Colleen Dilenschneider: It’s not an or situation. It’s more of an and situation.

Erik Gensler: Right. Right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: But the point of all this is that our audiences are on the internet. And they’re using internet, and specifically they’re using the web and social media, and mobile web. And, that if we want to talk to them, it’s important that we’re talking from the room that they’re in, and they’re in the digital room.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm. Where does print newspaper, or print slash newspaper fall? I think it’s historically, and you know, throughout the 20th century, I think print was a real primary driver, and I think a lot of organizations still have these really deep seated relationships with their local newspaper in many communities, and I think that’s one of the hardest platforms for organizations to really pull out of. And so, I’m just curious, if you have any data around print’s impact on participation?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yeah, indeed we do. newspaper often falls in the, in the category of third party endorsement. Right? Because you don’t write that newspaper article about yourself. However, a printed brochure, or something that is something that comes out from you has a different level of impact or perceived trust than a newspaper. So, newspapers do kind of have that superpower in that way, because they have kind of this publication threshold that’s, it’s assumed, or (laughs) it’s somebody else (laughs) has read that article and it’s not just, you know, coming out as the, as advertising for an organization or, you know, it’s not just, you know, somebody saying something. But indeed the index value on, I have this data cut in a batrillion ways. That’s a mathematical number, batrillion ways-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs) on “Know Your Own Bone”. so you can go over there and, and check out some of the index values and if indeed we do see that newspaper in print is, it’s not. So, it has an index value of 51. Social media has an index value of 557.

Erik Gensler: (laughs) Okay.

Colleen Dilenschneider: So, which, but again, again, the sources of information is not intended to be an allocation of resources. Of course, being successful means being strategic and integrating how these channels work together. Indeed, email can be a superpower, even though that has an index value of 117, still above 100. But we find that those, as I mentioned at Boot Camp, we find that those platforms that talk with audiences outperform those that talk at audiences. So, all of the channels that have index values over 100 talk with, and all of them that talk at, television, radio, and newspapers, periodicals and direct mail, have index values under 100, which I just think is, I think that’s delightful that it worked out that way, (laughs) for saying talk with is more important than talk at, but it’s a really, it says something about the world we live in today.

Erik Gensler: I’ve talked to a lot of amazing researchers recently, and, the real common theme that, that I’m seeing is this idea of, building relationships with the audiences. You’re the third really smart researcher that I’ve had a conversation with that, was sort of summarized in, “It’s not about just getting a sale. It’s about developing relationships,” and that is what is going to pave the way for the arts to survive into the future as costs are getting higher, and it’s getting more and more complex to get people’s attention. It’s really, it’s that talking at-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Exactly.

Erik Gensler: … versus talking with. Yeah.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yep.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. I think that’s fascinating. so when, just to clarify the, the print because you’re talking about. So, like I review which is more of an endorsement, versus a print ad. So, the print ads are more on the lower index value, but a positive review would be, you know, more impactful?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes. And so, yeah, that’s kind of funny you mentioned that. I don’t, I don’t know how much you run into this. So, you run into some organizations are, are dragging, you know, brochures or clutching, clutching brochures while not funding a social media community manager. It’s just a big, really big conceptual change. Because we’re so used to museums and performing arts organizations and, and cultural organizations succeeding based on how well they do at advertising. And, the world is different now. And, and so, it’s not to say that direct mail and brochures don’t have a place, but if an organization is spending several thousand dollars on a brochure but they don’t have anybody creating content or managing, managing inquiries on social media, it suggests that, the impact could be greater elsewhere. And, that’s kind of the biggest thing that comes up, when I discuss print in conversations with organizations. It’s not print needs to go away. It’s certainly not that. It’s, it’s more looking at our resources and figuring out how to strategically allocate them based on where audiences are, what they trust, and, and what they listen to, what influences them.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. It’s like the former model was by interruption advertising, and build relationships with the press so they’ll write about you.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Right.

Erik Gensler: And that is how still many organizations are structured, right? So, I have a marketing team and a PR team that can, you know, get critics in to reviews that can hopefully get some feature stories written and then can place ads in, in printed broadcast and, and maybe do some social. But the, that, that really needs to be examined, right, and-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Right.

Erik Gensler: …talked on about, and perhaps making some tough changes where you’re moving away from PR in, in exchange for someone who is more of a community manager, more of a, a, a storyteller.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yeah, absolutely. And it goes back to kind of what you’re implying, that the way to be successful in marketing is to think about people, not the platform we think about channels and that’s important, but, also there are some people who for instance, in re-, in regard to things like, donations, like philanthropic giving. There are some people who prefer to get something via snail mail, and there are a lot of people who don’t. And so, increasingly our job also becomes managing these channels in regard to audiences because of the importance of personalization and succeeding, and like you were saying, creating these relationships. So, it’s a lot of work but it demands that we’re smarter about not only the channels we use, but the channels we use for whom, and for what reason.

Erik Gensler: Right. Right. So, let’s talk about, back to social media, and, I believe at, you’ve written about social media not only in its importance of, you know, social media being used to out the whole experience of, of visitation, before, during, and after.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yeah. We know that about, over 50% of visitors to cultural organizations use social media onsite in a way that relates to their visit. So, that could mean anything from checking you out on Book Face, (laughs) on Facebook.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: To-

Erik Gensler: I’ve never heard it called that.

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs)

Erik Gensler: Yeah. That’s, this is a first.

Colleen Dilenschneider: I had one-

Erik Gensler: I like it.

Colleen Dilenschneider: It actually comes from like one meeting with, some executives early when I just started with Impacts. And they said, “Do we need to be on Book Face?” And it just, I, to me it was hilarious.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: And they’re great on social media now, but it was funny. So, since then, whenever I think about, you know, this concept of, of where does social media sit or how important it is, there’s just this, just imagining this, this gentleman saying, “What’s the role of this Book Face?”

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: Immediately comes to mind for me. but yes, it could be looking up something on social media. It could be sharing something. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re trying to be looking something up. It could be going to your Instagram site, but over 50% of visitors of cultural organizations use social media onsite. And, interestingly 31.5%, again, I have these numbers in front of me, (laughs)-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: … are using mobile web related to their visit. But, what’s really incredible is that we know that people who use social media onsite in a way that relates to their visit have a 6% increase in visitor satisfaction than people who simply don’t use it. And 6% is huge. That is, if there’s something we can do that increases visitor satisfaction, which by the way is a major; The goal when you’re offsite it to increase reputation. The goal when we’re onsite is to increase satisfaction. And when we can do both of those things well, we can get visitors to come back over and over again. So 6% in satisfaction is huge. And then the question, again, becomes, for those of, who are, who are data minded, think, “Well, you know, does that mean that people are having a better time because they’re using social media? Or are people using social media because they had a better time?” And I don’t know the answer to that question. That’s a correlation, reverse correlation question, but then does it even really matter? Right?

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Because if somebody’s using, if they’re having a good time and thus they’re using social media, that’s great. That’s increasing endorsement. If, if, if they’re not having a great time, and then they use social media and they have a better time, well, that’s great for us too because they’re having a better time.
So, whether it’s, it’s, so whether it is the social media that’s driving the increase, or that people who are, you know, more satisfied when using social media, or vice versa, it’s still a great thing for cultural organizations.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: So a really powerful, statistic.

Erik Gensler: Right. And that, and that’s really all about mobile social participation, right, ’cause you’re offsite.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes. Absolutely.

Erik Gensler: Do you have specific research or, or thoughts about the importance of mobile in cultural participation that you wanna share?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Oh, it’s, it’s incredibly important.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: We don’t see those numbers going down, (laughs).

Erik Gensler: That one’s not, (laughs) groundbreaking. But, you know, I think it’s, it’s something that I’ve been really on the soapbox about in the last year, of even trying to go to some arts organizations, sites and trying to buy a ticket on mobile. They make it very very difficult. And, I mean, it’s, you know, any sort of friction is gonna limit participation, right?

Colleen Dilenschneider: People who like to visit cultural organizations, we call them high propensity visitors. And they fall into two groups. People who have visited them in the last year, and people who have not visited in, or in the last two years, and people who have not visited them in the last two years.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: But again, have the characteristics that they would. And what we know about both of these audiences is that they’re extremely active, that they are on the move, that they like doing things. They have a propensity for, you know, low impact outdoor activities, like golfing or skiing or hiking, and that they are out and about. And, we also know that, that especially for people who aren’t visiting yet, but have the potential to visit, mobile is an incredible opportunity because they are even more connected by mobile, because they are so out and about and active than the people who are already visiting. And that’s, that’s the kind of something that I think underscores what, what you just said and the importance of mobile.

Erik Gensler: Absolutely. At Boot Camp you talked about the visitor engagement cycle, and I thought that was really interesting, and I’d love to, have you explain that here.

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs) Yeah. I’ll do this. This one, this I could talk about forever, so-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: … be careful. You’ll may have to stop me. but basically in a nutshell, the visitor engagement cycle is a framework for motivating visitation and re-visitation that’s developed by Impacts. And, we discussed this a little bit when we were just talking about social. But, the goal offsite, it basically, data about how to, again, motivate visitation, re-visitation, seems to fall into this cycle so that we have a whole bunch of stuff on each side of, of this equation. But, the goal offsite is to increase reputation as we know, because reputation is the top motivator for visitation. But this also includes things like being, making yourself worthy of overcoming barriers, such as, travel distance or, taking s- someone’s, time out of their busy day to go, and missing an opportunity to go to the beach and deciding to go to an art museum instead. And that kind of is all, is all wrapped up in reputation. And we know that since reputation is a top motivator for visitation, that’s something that we really want to increase. So, again, offsite, the goal is increase reputation. Onsite, once we get them onsite, what we wanna do is increase satisfaction. And this is really important but what’s interesting about this is that as an industry we tend to have a lot more information about increasing satisfaction than we do about reputation. But the goal in this is to make sure that people have, simply put, the best time possible. And we know that satisfaction correlates with, greater likelihood, to revisit. It has the direct correlation with, likelihood to endorse, , and that’s great because when folks endorse, it feeds back into offsite reputation, encourages other people to visit, and it creates this whole beautiful cycle of solvency that we’re going for, (laughs).

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm

Colleen Dilenschneider: And that’s kind of a glib overview, of the visitor engagement cycle. But there’s a lot of data that fills things in. We had data about, at Impacts about everything from accessibility, marketing, earned revenues, and everything that we have seems to fall somewhere in this visitor engagement cycle. We also know that higher satisfaction, correlates with, with, with more-being more likely to get donations, and being more financially solvent in general. So, yeah. It’s, it’s an interesting. It’s kind of, a cool framework and it’s also really nice when, when things kind of fit together in a way that’s easy to explain, like the visitor engagement cycle.

Erik Gensler: And, it just illustrates that marketing is so much more than just getting people in the door, right?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Oh, yeah.

Erik Gensler: It’s, it’s like says, “The product is the marketing, ultimately.”

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes, wow. Yeah. Great quote, yeah.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. So, you mentioned donations and how that, that’s all connected to the, that cycle. you’ve done some research about why people donate, or don’t donate to arts organizations. I’d love for you to share.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes. So, this is a really big question because donors, like visitors, arent’ one audience. Um-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: Although we are, (laughs) we’re used to thinking of them, of them that way and I think that’s gotten us into a little bit of a pickle in terms of visitors. And I think it might be getting us into a pickle in terms of, in terms of donations to, and that’s why this is such a good question, because it is so multifaceted there are a lot of big answers to it. So for instance, a million dollar donor may be giving for, a slightly difference, top motivating reasons than someone that’s, they’re giving through a Kickstarter campaign, or, giving to an organization on giving Tuesday. One thing that’s really important to mention that we do find it across the board, is that organizations that highlight their mission financially outperform those marketing primarily as attractions.

Erik Gensler: Wow.

Colleen Dilenschneider: And that, we have so much on that. And, that, that works on two ways, right? Organizations that highlight their mission tend to do better financially, and they also tend to, secure greater, philanthropic giving than those that don’t. And I just love that statistics. There’s a lot of math behind that. but I love that it’s cool to be kind today, especially when we live in this world that’s increasingly, we’ll call sector agnostic, where what matters more than your tax status is how well you do what you say you do. And that’s great for us, right, because we educate entire audiences. That’s core to why cultural organizations exist. And so, we find that over and over again. But we also, but one way in which the data kind of, changes a little bit, which I just think is incredibly interesting, is with this audience called ultra high net worth individuals, so, or, (laughs) UHNWI. It’s, (laughs)-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: …affectionately at Impacts, (laughs)-

Erik Gensler: Rolls off the tongue, (laughs).

Colleen Dilenschneider: It just rolls off of tongue. It’s so easy to say. But (laughs) IUN, a UHNWI, (laughs) is a person who has net assets greater than 50 million dollars. And, in the United States, we have more than anywhere else in the world. I think we have over 38,000 of them in the United States.

Erik Gensler: Wow.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yeah, we have a lot of them. So, then the question becomes, “How do we get them to give us money?” Right? (laughs) We want that. And, the top consideration from these folks in terms of donating over one million dollars is the identity of other donors and how much they’ve given. So, when it comes to securing very large funds, of greater than one million dollars, what’s more important than your mission is who else is supporting that mission.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: In fact, you know, it’s the identity of other donors, the investment of these donors, but also really important is the composition of the board and how much the board has given which is kind of a blessing and a curse. Right? That’s a blessing if you’re on a giving board. It’s a curse if you’re on a, you know, it’s money follows money, which is really un-, unfortunate but also exciting, depending on what your organization’s situation. But it’s one of those things where for these top folks, for these really big donors, who has given money and how much they’ve given really matters to them at the top. And for the mission and outcome of the gift doesn’t even come up until number four on the list.

Erik Gensler: Wow. So, it’s so much about who else is there, who’s at, who else is at the table.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Right. And it may, you know what, conceptually it makes perfect sense. If a board isn’t willing to invest in an organization then, why should anyone else? that’s a really simplistic overview of kind of a complex thing, but when you’re talking to a donor, it, it kind of is that simple, a potential donor with that kind of, money, it kind of is. Well, if you think it’s so great, are, are you, are you contributing meaningfully to it?

Erik Gensler: Sure.

Colleen Dilenschneider: And if you know it’s going on, why aren’t you? It comes back to this earned endorsement. It comes back to the coefficient of imitation. It’s, it’s who, deciding who we trust and how much we trust them.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: And, that really having an impact on how we make decisions. And, and that we see again in these ultra high net worth individuals. but again, for, for most everyone else. And, and even for these ultra high net worth individuals, mission is very very important, but one thing that’s kind of interesting to keep in mind about these folks isyou know, money follows money, and, and which is good or bad, but it’s a reality.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: And it’s something you have to, we have to work with.

Erik Gensler: So, turning, the, back to participating which would ultimately lead to more donations, (laughs) you’ve looked at, what are the top drivers of why people are attending cultural experiences. And, I love that, that research, and I know you’ve written extensively about this, the time with family and friends comes up on top.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes, it does. Actually, so that, yes. That’s, when we asked folks, “What is the best thing about your visit? What’s the best thing?” And, the most important thing, by two and a half times, is time spent with friends and family. And it’s two and a half times more important than what people see. And, that flips, for some organizations that really flips things on her, on their heads, on, on its head because what it means is that one of our superpowers is that we are facilitators of shared experiences.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: And that what we do is bring people together. We bring them, and that’s difficult for some entities that have, really built a foundation around things, or about certain stories. And, and what I like most about this is it means that we aren’t just telling stories. We’re helping people make their own stories.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: And that, that is equally, if not more important than the stories that we’re telling. And that, I think, personally I think that’s so powerful, that, that, that we have the ability to tell the stories and in doing so make stories, and that people are recognizing that we get to be a part of their personal memories. And, and that is something that the data shows over again, over and over again. It’s so important. And yeah, it. We call it, we affectionately Impacts call, with over what, people value who they are with over what.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Colleen Dilenschneider: And then the third thing is, is another with thing. It’s interacting with staff or volunteers. So, two of the top three are with over what, which does not mean, wow, which does not mean that content is unimportant, (laughs).

Erik Gensler: Right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: We need the content. We need the stories. That’s, you know, we, people come to hear the stories. People come to learn the stories. but even more important than that is facilitating the making of stories.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It’s, that’s super interesting. All of this just keeps coming back to people-

Colleen Dilenschneider: It is.

Erik Gensler: … almost everything we talk about is-

Colleen Dilenschneider: It’s true.

Erik Gensler: … always about people and relationships, connection. what you’re saying about, time with family and friends, does open up a lot of content opportunities for organizations, particularly, organizations that have the challenge of saying, “Oh, we, we don’t have content about this particular show, or exhibition. We don’t know what to put.” And that sort of makes me think, “Well, here’s an opportunity to, to just show people enjoying your facility, show, show a child’s face, you know, sitting in the theater, reacting to a performance. Show, people in your galleries.” I think people have lots of that content-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes.

Erik Gensler: … perhaps me being, may not be being used to its potential.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. so, you know, a lot of, organizations are facing some, some challenges. I just talked to, someone at SMU who does this really interesting, study came out about the bottom lines of organizations. And, I’m gonna be talking to, her on the podcast. And, you know, a lot of organizations are at a point where their operating expenses are higher than the revenue that the organization-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes.

Erik Gensler: …is bringing in. And, you know, when times get tough for an organization, and I’ve worked in an organization when this has happened, it’s really tempting to cut marketing budgets.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yep.

Erik Gensler: And you’ve written about this. So, I’d love you to talk about why that is absolutely the wrong move.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes. It’s absolutely the wrong move. Organizations can’t generally cut marketing investments without corollary impact. So, cutting marketing budgets has an impact on visitation and the visitation is a really important source of revenue for a lot of organizations. So, it’s almost like cutting the thing that feeds us and, you know, when we’re starving. it’s very difficult to cut marketing without that impacting revenues particularly if you’re an organization that, that, you know, that has get some sort of revenue from the gate. That’s an incredibly important. But at Impacts we have a good amount of data about what happens when marketing budgets are cut. We’ve identified some, I’ll call them, alarming trends, (laughs) about things that happen when the marketing budget’s cut that sometimes organizations don’t immediately see. What happens is ,when marketing budgets are cut, attendance goes down. And then, when budgets are restored, let’s say they realize their mistake, Or, they come across some funding and they’re able to restore their marketing budgets, attendance does not reach the baseline condition most often. And the reason for that is that you need to buy back audiences. It’s far less expensive to retain audiences than it is to reacquire them.

Erik Gensler: Wow.

Colleen Dilenschneider: So, once they’re lost, we need to buy them back. And we have to buy them back, you know, we lost them. You know, we lost them because we didn’t, we didn’t, you know, and buying them back is a lot more expensive. And the second reason that we kind of overlook is that when you have fewer visitors, or if you have fewer attendees, that means fewer opportunities for word of mouth endorsement-

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: … if you were sharing-

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: … positive experiences which is the driver of visitation, so naturally when you have fewer people, you have your stories, and then you, again, have fewer messages that people are, are operating on those two things. We need to buy back-Buying back audiences is way, is often much more expensive ( laughs) than, than what is cut when people cut marketing budgets. Well, the truth is that tickets to cultural organizations are not bought. They are sold. So, existing isn’t enough. It comes from this idea that if you build it, they will come. Well, we’ll just open our doors. People will come. We don’t need to market it. but, that makes for, you know, if you build it, they will come, it makes for a very lovely movie.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: But, (laughs) but unfortunately it’s not a reality in terms of, of motivating attendance to an organization. You need to build it, sell it, which means making it relevant and connective, and then they’ll come. So, if you just build it, there’s no, there’s no, there’s nothing to show that your organization is relevant or welcoming, which is increasingly a big issue, our organizations being perceived as welcoming. And, there is no reason, kind of like air quoting reason, to attend the organization. and, when we cut marketing, we cut our communication. We cut our bridge to the people that we’re trying to motivate attendance There are very few times that we’ve seen the cutting of the marketing department that didn’t turn out worse.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. I’m gonna quote you. And you say, “Every time a cultural organization discounts its admission price on informal education, a fairy loses its wings.”

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs) Yes.

Erik Gensler: Tell me about that.

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs) Okay. Yeah. That’s a good one. So, I’ll start right off the bat by saying that this data does not suggest that organizations should be charging an arm and a leg for admission. ‘Cause it’s shared this data and it’s been misinterpreted that way. not saying that organizations should, should raise pricing, but, it does suggest that once you’ve found your optimal, you know, admission price, discounting is a shortsighted tactic. And, in a nutshell, it’s because discounting negatively impacts long-term visitation. And that’s surprising to a lot of folks, because they say, “Wait, wait. No, we offer. Every time we offer a discount, our attendance increases.” And yes, that’s true. Attendance does tend to increase in the short term, but in the long term the cost doesn’t pay out. And the math on that is that, well, essentially, when an organization devalues its grants, audiences devalue the organization or-

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: There’s a lot of behavioral economics that come into play with this, but this comes down to a basic tenant of pricing psychology. And it’s uncomfortable, but it’s true. And it’s that people value what they pay for. And I did not make that up. That’s, people have won awards for that.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: There’re many, (laughs) there are many papers about that. but what that means is that discounting creates a lot of perceptual problems. So, we know that folks that get into an organization on a discount are less satisfied, and less likely to endorse an organization that the, than those that pay the full price, provided that your full price is optimal, is, is not, you know-

Erik Gensler: It’s appropriate, right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Right. It’s appropriate. Exactly it’s kind of interesting. We have found that even people who leave negative, reviews sometimes on Yelp and TripAdvisor, often tend to be folks who got in at some kind of discount.

Erik Gensler: Hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Because you’re devaluing your brand, and they will devalue it right back. And, it, it’s kind of an interesting thing. It’s not even necessarily something that folks do consciously, but it’s really interesting. We also find that people who get in on a discount are less likely to revisit. And, in fact, we find the steeper the discount, the less likely folks are to revisit with, within one year.

Erik Gensler: Wow.

Colleen Dilenschneider: The less likely.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: And then there’s even more, if folks wait for a discount. Organizations can run into even bigger problems when, they promote their discount online, because what we’ll see then is that folks will go on a discount, and then need, will wait. They will alter-

Erik Gensler: Right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: … their visitation cycle, and they’ll wait for another discount, because you have established yourself as an organization that provides discounts. There are two reasons why, it’s okay to offer something, or not, it’s you know, okay to do anything but two reasons when it’s kind of beneficial to offer something that could be classified as a discount. The first one is when, it’s not really a discount. It’s a promotion. So, for instance, a discount’s lets people in it. It gives, lets in just a generalized audience in for free. And the, and discounts make people say, “You know, I got in for cheap.” But, a promotion, it makes people say, “You know, I got in- I feel valued.”

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: I got in because I’m a valued part of this. So, examples of that could be, you know, celebrating, you know, MLK Day is a great day for promotion, for promotions-

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: … because it’s so much aligned with what a lot of the organizations do. Those kind of things. Having a so what, like we’re not just letting you in because we’re devaluing our brand. We’re, we’re doing something to celebrate an audience or to celebrate an aspect of our mission.

Erik Gensler: Right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: The other reason why these kind of things work, is when they are targeted affordable access programs. So, when they are targeted to income qualified audiences, you know, say there’s a library program, those are, you know, all, also times where we don’t see, you know, this correlation with negative impact. But when organizations just generally discounts, they do say, “Hey, anybody who sees this. 15% off this ticket.” we do find that that has a lot of negative long term repercussions on the organization. It kind of gets it into this costly cycle that is really hard to see because we get so addicted to that, that immediate high that happens when a discount is offered.

Erik Gensler: Absolutely. That’s really useful, helpful information. And it’s echoed by, I’ve had a number of pricing experts on, on the podcast, and it really, echoes with what they say, so thank you for that. one of the things that you talk about that I absolutely love, and you’ve been saying for years, is that, you say digital engagement is not about technology. Digital engagement is about people. And, so, like this concept, I think, that drives you crazy (laughs) is you know, if someone has their role called, like, a digital marketing manager, it’s like, well, no. You’re a marketing person. You have-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Right.

Erik Gensler: … to do work in (laughs) in digital sometimes.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes, that’s exactly right. The important word is engagement, not digital right? Engagement’s the strategy, digital’s the tool. So, with, but also, it comes with … I’m sure you’ve seen this. It’s wrapped up in all of these misconceptions, right, because when people focus on the word digital instead of the word engagement, then they risk kind or less not my jobbing, digital.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: You know, that’s something that people-

Erik Gensler: Right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: … talk about like that. Somebody who understands Facebook algorithm. But really digital engagement is engagement. And it infiltrates, nearly every aspect of what we do at cultural organizations.

Erik Gensler: Right. There’s this, I think you wrote once, of how it’s, it’s absolutely you’re responsible for, you know, leadership to, to not own this and not understand this difference.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yeah.

Erik Gensler: Do you remember what I’m talking about? Where you know-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes, I do.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. This idea, and people get this confused all the time, where they think we’re, technology people or we’re web programmers. And it’s like, “No, we’re marketers. And we’re marketers who use digital tools but we’re not technologists.” There’s, I think there’s still a ton of confusion.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yep. I think actually you were just very kind to me when you said that, I believe that the way-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: … that I phrased that in the article is, is, is kind of sassy and it’s, you know, it’s not cute. It’s not cute to say, “I’m a professional, so I don’t know about Facebook.” You know, it’s not cute. It’s not knowing a baseline, you know, foundational, condition of how our world operates. There’s a risk of, yeah, there’s often sometimes there’s the glorification of not knowing anything about digital, “Oh, I don’t know anything about. That’s not my job.” But and that comes from again, yeah, exactly. It comes from that focus on the word digital, as opposed to the word engagement. It shows engagement isn’t. There are people behind this computer, behind me most of the time, (laughs).

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: There are people behind those computer-

Erik Gensler: Right.

Colleen Dilenschneider: … screens and those people live and breathe and make decisions, and, and go to museums and performing arts organizations, or don’t. and those, that’s what we’re trying to influence.

Erik Gensler: Right. I mean, you did get really sassy. And the passion with which you talk about, like you’re saying, like, you essentially don’t deserve your position if you’re-

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs)

Erik Gensler: … going to, to write this off, ’cause it is, it is irresponsible in this day and age to claim that, “Oh that’s, I don’t, I don’t worry about that. I have a digital person for that.” It’s like, no. This is, this is about how you engage people in the 21st century and it’s absolutely, a, a leader’s responsibility to, to own this and understand it, and, and appropriately fund and staff their organization to excel at it.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Absolutely, absolutely.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. okay. So, let’s, let’s just move, a little bit away from the research and, and I’m just curious to, as we wrap up here, learn a little bit more about you. first, something I like to ask people on the podcast is where they look for inspiration.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Professionally, “Know Your Own Bone” requires a good amount of inspiration because for anyone who’s listening, I’m constantly searching for how to query the data that’s most helpful. So, that means that I’m constantly looking for the questions, the big questions that cultural executives are asking. And, I get most of that information from … I think of ideas on how to query the data from conversations, from workshops I do, from questions that are asked, I don’t think I go to a single, speaking engagement, or a keynote or a workshop or a strategic planning meeting where I don’t come out with ideas about how to query the data. And sometimes I query the data, and it, it says things that are interesting. Sometimes I’ll spend weeks querying the data and it will say things that are so unhelpful, or you know, there won’t be any, anything really significant there. So, I am constantly learning from the incredible professionals that I’m surrounded by, and hearing what they’re struggling with, and, and thinking, “Okay, how can I help? What can I query? What can I figure out?” So, I think professionally my biggest source of inspiration is the incredible, incredible professionals, around me and, and what’s happening there. Personally, of course, my own experiences in cultural organizations are really inspiring to me whenever I go to a new city, the first thing I do is go on a ghost tour and go to the museum. And I (laughs) I’m, and, and, and that’s how I kind of keep curious. And, kind of the nature of what I do, the nature of what we all do, but, is, is kind of cultural executives who are listening to this is, is ask questions and explore the things that we think we know, and work together to change our industry from an I think industry to an I know industry where we kind of need an arts moneyville, if you will-

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: … I’m constantly kind of, exploring things both, professionally and who I’m around but also personally, and in going to performing arts organizations and museums, and just being a, an, oh, a huge nerd.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm.

Colleen Dilenschneider: It just comes down to being a huge nerd, (laughs).

Erik Gensler: I heard that arts organizations tend to spend 1% or, or less of their marketing budget on, on research.

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs)

Erik Gensler: I think that’s sort of been spinning in my head.

Colleen Dilenschneider: (laughs)

Erik Gensler: So that, as you say that, right? Like, I think versus I know.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yep.

Erik Gensler: That’s what

Colleen Dilenschneider: Yes, I agree, (laughs).

Erik Gensler: Yeah. what is something that you think you’re really good at, and what is something that you are working on to improve?

Colleen Dilenschneider: I think what I’m best at, I think, I care. I’m passionate and I care. And I think, and I certainly, that’s not unique to me. I think that a lot of people, the reason I like this industry is ’cause I find that most people in it are (laughs) are passionate and really care because our industry is undergoing such, challenges in terms of visitation but also, you know, adapting to new environments and changes in the way that people think about things. And I think that, you know, at my best, I’m hopeful that at the best I can bring some of that passion or curiosity to other people. And, and that’s what I strive to do, and whether I’m successful in, in that or not, I think, you know, will be a life’s work, (laughs).

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Colleen Dilenschneider: But, that’s what I, that’s what I, that’s what I hope to be is I hope to be helpful and I hope to, I hope that that passion or that- I have a lot of energy. I’m very enthusiastic. As you’ve known, you’ve seen me-

Erik Gensler: I’ve seen, (laughs).

Colleen Dilenschneider: … on stage. I have a lot of energy and my hope is that, that can be channeled into some positive energy that can really help organizations thrive.

Erik Gensler: That’s great. What’s something you’re working on improving?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Holy cow, so much. (laughs) I think that for me right now I’d like to figure out how to create impact and effectively share information that can be most helpful to the most people. that’s a question that I constantly wrestle with. Of course I have this website but you know, time and time again and I’m very grateful that “Know Your Own Bone” is read in, in several graduate programs. I’ve seen, you know, (laughs) Instagrams of it being print out and brought to board meetings. I’m extremely humbled that my sincere nerdiness, could reach those levels. But, I think that there is like if you open your doors and you’re free, it doesn’t necessarily that everyone will come in the door. And, I, that’s true for cultural organizations and I think that’s true for the work that I do too. And so, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to be the most impactful. And if that’s not me, how do I, what do I do to get this information that I have the ability to share, and, and how can I, how can I be helpful.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. I think, I think you’re exceptional at that. And, I love that-

Colleen Dilenschneider: Thank you.

Erik Gensler: … you found a way to, you know, I know the videos was something that’s newer, and I think that’s been a great way to, imprint your enthusiasm on what’s really already great data. So the data speaks for itself, the quality of the research, the thoughtful questions, but I think adding your, your layer of enthusiasm (laughs)-

Colleen Dilenschneider: ( laughs)

Erik Gensler: … makes it even better.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Thank you, (laughs).

Erik Gensler: Kudos for that.

Colleen Dilenschneider: Thanks.

Erik Gensler: (laughs) We’ve come to the last question and this is what we call the CI to Eye moment. And, the question is if you can broadcast to the executive directors leadership team’s staff and boards of 1,000 more arts organizations, what advice would you provide to help them improve their businesses?

Colleen Dilenschneider: Oh, that’s an easy one for me. It’s that your organization may declare importance, but the market determines relevance. In other words, it doesn’t matter how loudly we scream that something is important. if we can’t make it relevant, if we can’t make it connective, then it doesn’t matter to living and breathing humans and thus it’s not important. The market determines how successful we are. To a lot of people that sounds obvious, One, one of the superpowers of cultural organizations is that we’re trusted more than newspapers. That’s an incredible superpower. We have to find ways to communicate that education in a way that inspires, or that, you know, whatever it is we have to offer that inspires real life humans and is relevant and meaningful to them. I hope since the digital revolution, we’ll be able to think of audiences more as partners than people that we’re trying to, you know, than, than some kind of pawns or, and, anything else weird that we could I think audiences are partners and audiences determine if we, if we sink or swim.

Erik Gensler: That’s, that’s great. Well, I just wanna thank you for the, what you do for our industry, and the, the, the, the amazing, absolutely amazing resource that, that you’ve created and you’ve evangelized, and, I just feel so lucky to have the opportunity to talk to you and that, you know, we can bring this information to, our listeners and I really hope all of the listeners, subscribe to, to you on, on Facebook, and, follow you on Twitter and read “Know Your Own Bone” because every time I open your site, I learn something

Colleen Dilenschneider: Oh, thank you so much for saying that. And, likewise, it’s such an honor to be, on this podcast I have listened to them and I have loved them, so it’s really nice to be, to be here and, to be connected to Capacity Interactive. You guys are doing awesome things, so thank you so much for having me.

Erik Gensler: Thank you so much, Colleen.

About Our Guests
Colleen Dilenschneider
Colleen Dilenschneider
Founder & Managing Member, IMPACTS Experience

Colleen Dilenschneider is the publisher of Know Your Own Bone, the powerhouse website that provides data-driven insights about marketing, fundraising, engagement and more for arts administrators and executives. It’s required reading for anyone working in the arts and culture today. Colleen is also Founder & Managing Member of IMPACTS Experience, a company providing data and analysis to visitor-serving organizations across the world.

Read more

Related Episodes

Your Cultural Compass
EP 129
May 30, 2024
Your Cultural Compass

Audience behavior has changed significantly over the past few years, and pre-pandemic benchmarks are all but obsolete. If we want to adjust to the demands of today’s market, we need updated markers for success.

Enter: CI’s brand-new Cultural Compass study. We pulled from our own bank of campaign data that spans  over 150 client organizations to uncover the latest digital marketing benchmarks and emerging trends for our industry. In this episode, lead researcher and Senior Consultant Ali Blount discusses the biggest surprises in her analysis of more than 7,000 digital campaigns, and previews key findings to inform your FY25 media planning.

Choreographing Change with Data
EP 127
Apr 30, 2024
Choreographing Change with Data

Across a variety of artistic genres, we see persistent gender imbalances among the creatives and leaders who make the art possible. That’s especially true for dance, where women continue to hold fewer artistic director positions and receive fewer choreographic opportunities than men despite making up a significant majority of the dance workforce overall.

As full-blown data nerds here at CI, we believe you can’t change what you don’t measure. So we sat down with the team at Dance Data Project® to discuss the latest industry stats and consider how to carve a path forward for gender equity in dance.

Don’t Miss an episode

Don’t Miss an episode

Subscribe to CI to Eye and have your insight and motivation delivered on demand.