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How Has the Pandemic Changed Arts Marketing?
Episode 97

How Has the Pandemic Changed Arts Marketing?

CI to Eye with MP

This episode is hosted by Erik Gensler.

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Erik and MP have a candid conversation about the Arts Industry Data Analysis: Pandemic Response research. They explore the methodology and share never-before-heard insight into what the data means for arts marketers now and into the future.

Erik Gensler: How does it feel to be a guest on a podcast that you’ve been such a big part of for so long?

MP: Excited!

Erik Gensler: Let’s talk about the sample and you worked with Wolf Brown really to think about having a large, varied sample of arts organizations that we can have longitudinal data from. And the last time we published a study, it was almost 200 organizations. How did you think about the differences of those organizations in order to have data that made sense and how has that impacted when we are now only talking to 53 organizations?

MP: That’s a valid question. I want to give a big shout out to John from Wolf Brown, who advised us on this and helped us make sure that the data was just physically significant throughout the process. Of course, we would rather have a large and more diverse sample of organizations. Because of the impact of the pandemic and knowing that it was a difficult year and it is a time commitment to participate in this study, we reached out specifically to organizations who had participated in fiscal year 2017 Benchmark Study. About 90 organizations from that sample agreed and we had some attrition there to the 53 organizations who were able to participate. So, it is not a big sample, but I will say it is very comparable to the sample of organizations we had of 180 organizations last time around, in terms of operating model and budget size. That said, it’s small enough that we weren’t really able to slice and dice the data by many other factors. So, when we’re looking at the data here, it is looking at the aggregate rather than at breaking it down by operating model, budget size, genre, like we’ve been able to do in the past. And I also just want to acknowledge, Capacity Interactive works primarily with organizations with budget sizes larger than 2 million. And we got a really, really valuable question from someone in response to our livestream, asking not only about how realistic the study is with the size of the sample, but also they asked, “How many in this study represent organizations of color, and if organizations of color are represented, are these orgs grounded in the communities they represent?” It’s a really great question and it shows a flaw in our research. Capacity Interactive is working really hard to become an anti-racist organization and feel very committed to that. And I see that work happening every day within our organization, and it’s a process. We also know that there is a funding gap between BIPOC-led institutions and primarily white institutions. There’s data showing that revenues of Black-led organizations are 24% smaller than revenues that they’re white-led counterparts and that despite constituting, an estimated 18.5% of the population in the US as of 2019, Latinx communities received only 1% of foundation funding between 2013 and 2017. So, there are systemic inequities in our sector and because of the way Capacity Interactive operates, we have historically worked with larger institutions, which tend to be primarily white institutions. So, the answer is no, there’s not a representative sample of organizations of color in this research and I want to acknowledge that when we’re talking about all of this data, that there may be things that are different depending on your organization size or the population you serve and we aren’t necessarily addressing that in this research. And that’s definitely a flaw on our part and something we are working to resolve in the future. And if you aren’t listening and are interested in participating in our research, we are more than happy to have you participate and we are working with other service organizations to widen our outreach and make sure that we’re getting study partners to participate who come from backgrounds different from those who are already in our database.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, the … our anti-racism work is breaking what’s already happening and just by virtue of primarily working in America and creating a company with arts organizations that have found out about us through our networks, have the money to pay us, our sample skews very white-led. And through our anti-racism work, realized we have to actively work to change that. And we are really hoping and working very regularly to connect with service organizations that serve BIPOC-run institutions, just really actively working to expand our network. And hopefully, uh, the next time we do any outreach like this, we have a much broader and representative sample. So, thank you for submitting that question.

MP: That question was submitted by someone from the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.

Erik Gensler: That’s, like, the pretty much like the sample and the breakdown of the overview. We definitely have a 75-minute livestream that we did with all the data we’re going to talk about with charts and graphs and going into detail. In this podcast, we wanted to address some of the, some of those same details, but also, you know, branch out, answer questions and look at some of the takeaways a little differently, while making sure we’re sharing some of the key data and going into the weeds where necessary. And so, MP, the data sort of went in two or three directions from a big picture. Do you want to just like map out from a big picture where, where we are, and then we can dive into each of those areas?

MP: Yeah, so, the first area is, as you might expect from a digital marketing study, digital strategy. We definitely saw big progress in digital strategy in response to the pandemic, out of necessity. We also got some insight into digital programming and how organizations are using that as part of their digital strategy. And, really, the biggest thing that stood out to me from this research was the people aspect and how individuals in marketing departments are being impacted, how the layoffs and furloughs that we all had to endure—both being directly impacted and those who stayed in organizations and had to hold down the fort and cope with the survivor’s guilt and loss of their colleagues and knowledge and resources—that had a huge impact on arts marketers, probably more so than some of the digital strategy components.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. So, there’s this human thing happening. While all of a sudden all the programming was changing, we still had all this, you know, pressure to still have some sort of connection with our patrons, um, while we’re dealing with our own challenges and loss. And so, that was definitely something that I came away from from the data. So, let’s talk about the human piece first. What are some of the big-picture takeaways from the data we learned about? And let’s just take one at a time.

MP: Big one: We wanted to see what the impact of the furloughs and layoffs was on arts marketers. And we found that on average—and this held true across budget sizes—marketing departments decreased by 27% from February to December of 2020.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. I mean, that could be a three-person department going down to a two-person. It could go, you know, a one-person going down to, lik,e a percentage of someone’s time. And so, I thought that really was significant. It’s almost a 30% decrease in the people, in the staff of a marketing department. And so you mentioned just the anxiety and the stress around that, not only for the people who were furloughed, which incredibly stressful, but also for the people remaining in the institution and, you know, friends and colleagues who are no longer there and what that does for morale and just overall mental wellbeing. And then, there’s just the loss to the organization, the knowledge loss, the … when someone leaves an organization, they’re taking everything that they’ve done and learned. And inevitably, when I’ve worked in arts institutions, you know, this is oneexperience I really remember, but there was such turnover often in some departments—this was certainly my experience—that we were going to do this big pricing study because we wanted to, you know, get better at pricing (laughs). And we were going down the roads of interviewing all these pricing firms. And then we found out that just like four years earlier, they had done this gigantic pricing study that had all the answers to the, to what we’re looking for. And it was, like, literally sitting on the shelf in someone’s office, but, like, there was no historical knowledge so no one knew that was done. And, I mean, I think that kind of thing is probably inevitably going to happen because you’ve lost institutional knowledge. And that’s the challenge with, like, high turnover and losing people. I hope this doesn’t happen to you, but I just, I’ll never forget that. It was actually one of the vendors I was talking to being like, “You know, you hired us four years ago at this organization to do this exact same-“ I was like, “Great. You just saved us a lot of money. Thank you!” (laughs)

MP: (Laughs) One of the other things that’s come up in the people area of this data is, we asked an open-response question of our respondents, asking them what are the biggest challenges that they’re facing during the pandemic? And, again, open response, so we were not prompting them to say anything and we just looked at the trends that emerged. Seventeen percent of them volunteered that one of the biggest challenges that they faced is increased responsibility and expectations. So, they have fewer colleagues and they’ve lost institutional knowledge of what’s happened before and how things have been done that they haven’t done before. And now, they also have digital programming and they’re working with the education and artistic departments to bring everything online and trying to reach new audiences, sometimes outside of your local area, and trying to engage with your audiences who might not be so tech-literate and provide support to them. And that’s all falling on marketing departments who have fewer team members and 92% of them said that they also have budget cuts.

Erik Gensler: That’s, yeah, a common theme that, you know, everyone dealing with smaller budgets, smaller staff, and also just a dramatic change in programming. So, thinking of, you know, what we’re selling and how we’re selling it absolutely evolved. And we’ll talk about that when we move to more of the digital marketing piece. Are there any other areas in the, sort of, human culture side of this that … stats from the survey that you want to share?

MP: In fiscal year ‘19, even before the pandemic, 85% said that their staff being spread too thin prevented them from developing the creative and content that they wanted and 57% said inadequate budget contributed to that, too. So, just evidence that being spread too thin and not having enough budget was already a challenge in arts marketing departments for creating content and now there’s even more content that needs to be created but we’ve reduced the staffs even more and are working with smaller budgets. So, just a brief moment to shout out to every arts marketer listening (laughs) with a lot of empathy and understanding, and we see you. You’re not alone.

Erik Gensler: Yeah. I mean, that’s … it’s really been, you know, something I keep going back to when we’re talking about this data is the book I read called Post-Corona by Scott Galloway, whose whole thesis is that the pandemic was an accelerant to trends that were already happening; everything just happened much, much faster. And, like, you could take, for an example, you know, working from home and remote work, which was something that arts organizations, I think, many were very reluctant to. I remember listening to a keynote at the League of American Orchestras conference this summer where Deborah Boarda at the New York Philharmonic was talking about how she never thought her company could do work from home. Like, it was just never a thing that they would do and she and her team were very resistant to it. And this was, you know, this was now a few months in the pandemic and she was like, “Yeah, we’re doing it great. And, you know, now we’re really thinking about what this looks like on the return.” And I think there was, definitely from my friends who work in, like, corporate America, there was more of a trend towards working from home or working remotely. Certainly, at Capacity, we had a number of staff members that had left New York and were completely working remotely. We even had people working internationally and found a ways to make that work because we wanted to build a culture around, you know, people not necessarily having to be in one place and built around trust. But I think many organizations just weren’t there. And so, I think on a little bit of a more positive side—not that working from home is the end-all-be-all and I think everyone is in a moment right now where we we’d give anything to like be in an office with our colleagues—but I do think on the other side of this, we’re going to have a more progressive spirit around flexibility with workplaces and, you know, through all of these challenges and through having to do more with less, there has been some, you know, real positive change, I think, around flexibility and, and imagining what’s possible.

MP: And you talk a lot about this in the livestream, but do we want to talk a little bit about how CI has dealt with these challenges? Because, you know, it’s worth acknowledging we had furloughs and layoffs and budget cuts, too, and have been feeling a lot of the same things that we’re talking about in this data.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, I mean, look, we represent the arts sector, and so with the sector, we rise and fall and last spring, we just, our business was down more than 50%. And, I mean, it’s still, you know, coming out of that. So, a lot of the challenges around furloughs and staffing and budget cuts, we dealt with as well. And I think the work for us was to, like, just be incredibly people-focused and incredibly people-first and make policies that, you know, set priorities, that cut people a break, that led with grace towards your fellow humans, not only for our clients, but certainly for our staff. And I really think that, like, you know, you have to put the people in your organization first, so they can then share that same spirit with people on the outside. So that there is a lot we did that we talked about in the livestream, but I also thought at Boot Camp back in October, we had a session called … it was about leading through challenging times and we had three amazing leaders.

MP: Yes, Terry Lee Freeman, who at the time was the president of the National Civil Rights Museum, Betty Avila, who’s the Executive Director of Self Help Graphics & Art in LA, and Anna Glass, who’s the Executive Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Incredible women, strongly recommend listening to that podcast episode if you haven’t already.

Erik Gensler: And they were really talking about all of the things that they did for their people and the humanity that they shared, from offering therapy to peopole who were dealing with really difficult things around loss and sickness and death and grieving to, like, you know, flexibility around time off and working hours and really thinking about, like, trimming down the amount people were expected to give and work during this time. And it was very heartening to see that kind of leadership within the cultural sector that often has a very, you know … because we’re asked to do so much more with so little, what often is sacrificed is, you know, people’s time and people’s mental health. And I think to see leadership that is acknowledging that and working against that and encouraging staff to feel like that’s okay. And look, I don’t know if that’s something that’s happening in most arts organizations; it was very heartening to see it was … of the three leaders that were on this panel, it was certainly happening there, so I imagine some version of this was happening at most arts organizations, but I also imagine it’s not at every one. But in the last room, we talk about this a lot and talk about a lot of things we did at Capacity to lean into that flexibility and that humanity. Is there anything specific you think is worth mentioning?

MP: Extending “Summer Fridays” all the way … We now call it, “A Friday for all seasons,” cause we’ve extended it … it never ended after summer of 2020, carried through all winter, and we are keeping our summer Fridays through Labor Day, which is when they would normally end this year. And that has been such a gift because when you get through a work week and the weekends are never long enough because there’s no change of environment, especially with winter, when you can’t go outside and take a walk after work because it’s dark, having the knowledge that if I’ve finished everything I need to do by two o’clock on Friday, I can just go do nothing and relax and close my eyes or watch Drag Race, or (laughs)-

Erik Gensler: (Laughs) We all … MP and I both binged … Well MP, might’ve done every- have you done every season of Drag Race?

MP: I have watched every season of almost every iteration of Drag Race in the year 2021. In 2020, I went through all 40 seasons of Survivor. It’s been a joyous pandemic! (Laughs)

Erik Gensler: Oh, my gosh. I did every Drag Race from season six forward. I still have some of the old ones to do, but I’ve done almost every iteration and almost every Drag Race. So, that’s been … That’s, you know, one of the pandemic joys that it was, there’s something about that show that is a great release from the pandemic and quarantine. But yeah, that there’s been, there’s actually some research lately of organizations experimenting with workweeks that aren’t the traditional five-day workweek. And looking at productivity, if people are given, say, four days or four and a half days, they can achieve the same results as a full five-day workweek and the benefits of like rest and mental health outweigh any sort of losses in productivity.

MP: There’s a New York Times article from December of 2020 that Unilever New Zealand that was starting a one-year experiment to let its employees work four days a week, but still earn their full salaries, which is really interesting and similar to what we’re doing. I mean, four and a half days, but …

Erik Gensler: Let’s move on to some of the marketing changes. Obviously, there were … when theaters and galleries closed, there were different things to market. We definitely encouraged organizations to stay present, stay connected, and the way to do that when people were at home was certainly through screens. And so, through social, which ended up being the primary connector, but do you want to share some of the research about what we found of how organizations shifted in the platforms they were using to connect with their audiences during?

MP: Yeah, so, this is probably unsurprising, but we found that 74% of the organizations who responded decreased the number of digital platforms where they were spending paid media because of the pandemic. So, Facebook and Instagram are still the winners in terms of most arts organizations using them for advertising. Facebook Ads Manager decreased from a hundred percent usage in fiscal year ‘19 to 91% usage in calendar year 2020, and Instagram decreased from 87% to 70%. So, small decreases in the number of organizations spending paid media on those platforms, but not as significant as some other platforms. The most dramatic decreases that we saw were in display, both programmatic display, like Google Display Network, and direct placements, like buying ads from your newspaper’s website.

Erik Gensler: And I think that’s a real evolution in a trend we already saw happening, where buying display advertising is very much a replication of buying a newspaper ad or buying a magazine ad; whereas, with social media, you know … and the idea of ads is very much driven around the idea of having a particular program to sell and where the advantage of social is you can do more storytelling and it’s not necessarily as commerce- or event-specific, but it can be “institutional branding” through social storytelling. And we saw some real, I think, some real evolutions in how organizations were using social media to connect and something that we did over the pandemic time was our team built a really incredible platform in Google Data Studio that pulled it in social media statistics across all of our clients. And so, we have this dashboard looking at almost 200 organizations where we could slice and dice by genre and every kind of variable imaginable from type of post the time of day to day of week to, you know, was it a video post, the image post, text post? And we really saw some fascinating trends around what was connecting with people on social media. This is fully organic, not paid, but really looking at what kind of content was connecting and something that was really remarkable was orchestras and symphonies that traditionally had, you know, some challenges across the genres you work with in terms of finding organic social content that connected with audiences during this, you know, early lockdown saw the biggest spike in the engagement, particularly around their videos because orchestra started … their musicians were at home and you started to see these amazing videos, like, these sort of checkerboard montages of musicians playing full pieces and works but separated geographically. And there was just something about that content that really connected with you when we saw these massive spikes in our engagement. And many of these posts just got so many shares and were so wonderful, and it sort of supports this thesis that we’ve been talking about for a long time, which is, like, the humanity and marketing, the power of humanity and the power of faces and the power of authentic storytelling. And there was just symphonies and orchestras, historically, were really using—this is obviously a generalization—but the idea of just a headshot with a call-to-action or a date for a concert is not very compelling social media. And when they, you know, evolve to really telling stories that were truly about, you know, sort of crack the code in how to connect with people during this moment, we saw this incredible spike. And, you know, you can’t do that through a banner ad, right? You can’t do that … That is uniquely through video and social. And so, I think that’s just looking at the pandemic as an accelerant—we released a podcast as well, early on in the pandemic talking about how arts organizations have to truly become media companies. And I think this pandemic time, we saw that evolution. And so I, you know, by seeing that the majority of organizations, when they did spend paid media, the majority of it was on Facebook and Instagram is, this is not too surprising to me. And that there was a decline in display and some of the other platforms. So, curious how that evolves as we move out of the pandemic.

MP: Yeah, it’ll be interesting. And also interesting to see if there are other platforms that come up in prominence, as there’s obviously some controversy surrounding Facebook and Instagram right now, and changes going on with iOS 14 that affect all apps. There’s definitely changed on the horizon (laughs).

Erik Gensler: Yeah. I mean, it’s a really fascinating moment in digital marketing, where Apple made changes in privacy settings for iOS 14, thereby affecting every app’s data collection, which then forced Facebook to have to make changes in how they’re collecting data and tracking users, which fundamentally changes how we’re able to measure the impact of our campaigns. Google made the announcement that they’re phasing out third-party cookies and so, everything has to be first-party. So, what that really impacts is, like, remarketing. And so, I mean, you know, in some ways that makes Google seem like they’re virtuous around privacy, but in reality, it’s like, Google has so much data about users anyway that they can use machine learning to fill in the gaps. And I don’t think that’s a huge, you know, I don’t think there’s going to be a massive loss in marketer’s ability to target people using the Google platforms. It’s just going to be done differently with more, you know, with more consumer privacy, which is a good thing, but let’s take it for what it is. Like, it’s Google having amazing machine learning and amazing data about everybody so it can phase out some of those, you know, third-party cookies. So, the whole landscape … And then, also, Google launching GA4, which is a whole new analytics suite that integrates app data and website data. That is a big change in the landscape. So lots of … I mean, digital marketing is always changing. It’s what keeps us on our toes and keeps us engaged. But, uh, on the other side of this, it’s going to be different. Frustrating, but also exciting (laughs) like all change.

MP: Stay tuned to the CI blog and CI to Eye podcast for more information on those changes!

Erik Gensler: Exactly, exactly. Let’s wrap this part up with some, some, some positive news. You know, I think digital marketing was evolving in silos. So share what we learned about that.

MP: Yeah, so, every year in the Benchmark Study, we ask organizations to share how they view their digital marketing strategy within their marketing departments and how they view it across their organizations. And from fiscal year ‘19 to December, 2020, we saw a 49% increase in organizations who strongly agree that they have an overarching digital strategy and strong campaign coordination across the organization. So, across departments, meaning development and programming and education all working together to provide a cohesive digital experience, which is reduction of silos and really exciting. And it’s, of course, out of necessity, as all of these things are moving online and we need to have a cohesive digital strategy, but it’s great news and hopefully something that will carry forward.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, I think there’s a real leveler with Zoom, right? Everyone has an equal-sized square, and it was heartening to see departments that had not worked together on digital or other things are really working together and it’s changed work, and I think, in a really good way to see that … You know, what was funny is, like, all of a sudden marketing became programming because the marketing department were the folks that knew how to use some of the digital channels where audiences connected with people. So, there was sort of this big shakeup and to see the coordination increased that quickly … Because historically, we’d seen the evolution of digital marketing growing within marketing departments, but really vastly different than digital strategy growing across an organization. And now, to see that we have data to show that it’s showing across an organization is really, really exciting, and again, I think, part of the pandemic as the accelerant.

MP: Yeah, and that ties into the arts organization as a media company, because every department has to go digital and that sort of ties into (laughs) the next piece of data I think we would want to talk about which is digital programming and how that shapes up. And I know you have a lot of really interesting insight on the big question, “Should we have paid or free programming?”

Erik Gensler: Yeah, Everyone’s asking, “Should we charge or should we have it be free? If it’s free, do we ask for people to register?” So, let’s talk about, first off, what we learned, and then, in terms of how people are doing that, and then we can talk about some details around that.

MP: We asked organizations who are doing virtual artistic programming, which was almost all of the participating organizations, to let us know if all or some of their virtual artistic programming was requiring unpaid registration—meaning signing up with an email address—required paid ticketing—meaning actually paying and providing an email address—or was free and ungated. So, for example, it’s public on Facebook Live and anyone who has a Facebook account can tune in or it’s public on YouTube, and anyone can tune in without having to provide any information to the organization. And what we found was, most organizations have some combination of at least two out of the three. 78% of organizations have at least some of their virtual artistic programming free and ungated on the internet for anyone to watch. That is more than the 65% who have events that require paid ticketing or the 63% who have events that require unpaid registration. And that stood out to us because if you have completely free and ungated content and there are people who are enjoying that content and their hands to want to participate in your programming, how are you gathering those leads and reaching out to those people again and engaging them and furthering your relationship with them?

Erik Gensler: Yeah, and there’s, you know, all of those things, I think, play together and all are important for different reasons. Ideally, like, you would be gathering a lead or, like, an email address or some sort of registration, even if it’s free so you can follow up with folks. Which isn’t to say, like, you shouldn’t put stuff out there, but if you’re putting content out there absolutely for free that is not gated, making sure you’re setting up the infrastructure. Like in the Facebook advertising suite and in the Google advertising suite, you can build audiences from people who have watched this free programming and then target future messaging to them. So, for example, if someone’s watching a completely free livestream or a completely free artistic program that you’ve put on YouTube or Facebook and you know that you’ve gathered this audience, you can then run an advertising campaign asking those folks for a lead. Both YouTube has that now and Facebook. They’re called lead gen campaigns. We’ve written about them a lot on our website. But making sure if you’re creating that free content, thinking about, “Really, how can I use this to get people further down the funnel within my organization? So, if I have their email address, then how can I start sending delightful content based on what they watched?” So, those three tiers, I don’t think a paid program is the end-all-be-all and it really depends on your strategy. And oftentimes even with the amount people are charging for paid programming, it’s not covering the artistic costs. We just published a blog post from Sean Kelly, who’s one of the founders of Vatic, that did some analysis showing that this organization that they studied, they think that a lot of arts organizations are undercharging for digital program and they could be charging more, so that just went live on our blog. But I think the initial question, early on in the pandemic was, “How much should we charge for additional programming?” and now the answer is evolved, “How do we leverage the mix of free, paid, and gated?” And I think you need to all of them and they can all work together. And it’s a really, really complex conversation but I think having free programming is sampling, it’s audience-building, and it’s showing that can often in doing that can often build the leads and build the excitement to then be more successful when you are charging. And so, we’ve, we’ve also found we did a livestream called, “10 Things We’ve Learned about Selling Digital Programming,” which is on our YouTube channel. And one of the things we learned in these campaigns that sample a paid program, the campaigns do better when you get a sense of, like, “What kind of paid program is this?” right? Like, I think we’re really seeing Zoom fatigue these days and what is the quality of a paid program and what is connection? And I would say a number of organizations I’ve talked to are seeing it’s very hard to break through the clutter these days. And so, I would really start to think about, “What are you really known for? What is your core kind of work that really gets people excited? And how can you perhaps think about doing less but more exciting programming and really building up to that?” And because, I mean, we’ve even found, you know, in our work, there are certain programs, if they really … if you really connect to your minimum viable audience and your core, you can get a lot of people paying attention, but if it’s not really special or if it’s not really, it doesn’t really connect, it’s getting harder. So, that was a long diatribe and that I can talk for that much more, but how’s that?

MP: (Laughs) Yeah, and I think it also, you know, not only about how you use these different tools, but also, what you are going to do with them once you reopen and when you return and can safely have people in your venue, how is that going to affect your digital programming? And I think the consensus I’ve heard from a lot of sources is we shouldn’t let go of it. Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, who was on the podcast about a month ago, shared in his research that, I think it was 67% of their respondents who were frequent arts buyers in the UK, say that they would watch a digital program as a second-best option if they couldn’t attend something in person. And that means if you have audiences who are not local to you, of course segment them so you aren’t inviting them to in-person performances that aren’t relevant to them, but also, what can you do to keep engaging them? Is there value in having audiences for virtual-only, and how can that community serve your organization and how can you serve them? And how is that different from your in-person audience? So, it’s (laughs) more complicated than ever before to consider your audience development. But I think it’s also, if you get down to it, really human, like, how would you want to be engaged with if you were connecting with an organization in X way?

Erik Gensler: Yeah. I mean, if I tuned in for a program at the National Theatre in London, I probably don’t want to get the weekly email about what’s going on at the Theatre, because it would just make me really sad that I wasn’t in London.

MP: (Laughs)

Erik Gensler: But if I think if there is some amazing virtual programming that I would also want to see, I would be more likely to respond to that. So, again, that leads to more work and complication for arts administrators with fewer resources. So, it’s hard, but really thinking about how people are coming into your organization this year and then how you’re going to follow up with them. And it’s not, “Do the same thing for everybody.” There’s, there’s certainly lots to think about. So, let’s, you know, normally we have our “CI to Eye moment,” which is advice for arts leaders. You know, what do you, what do you think, taking this conversation and the survey, what is, like, one big thing you want to leave the people listening to this? What do you, one thing you want people to leave with?

MP: Take a day off (laughs)

Erik Gensler: (Laughs)

MP: Go for a walk (laughs), for one, before you do anything else, because most of us have not come up for air in this entire year and it has been a full year. So, take a break. And then, like, I think the thing that’s really sticking with me is, a lot of what seems to be driving organizations right now is, “We need to produce more content. We need more profits because we need to get through this.” And that’s, if that’s what your organization is about, great, but I know that a lot of people listening work for nonprofit arts organizations who are mission-driven organizations who are working to create meaningful artistic experiences and educational experiences and build community. And I don’t think overworking ourselves or going nonstop and churning out more and more programs is really serving that mission. And I think we need to prioritize what’s important right now and put your own oxygen mask on first. If what’s most important is you having work-life balance and not your organization producing that extra education program when people are already experiencing Zoom fatigue, I think those are conversations worth having. And I think the power you have to make those decisions may vary based on your role within an organization, but really make space for yourself and advocate for yourself if other people aren’t advocating for you.

Erik Gensler: And I think that is a really great lesson. It’s like, the churn and the burn in the spirit. Like, I hope when we come back, we’ve taken the lessons of that and thinking about, “How can we be people-first? How can we be human first?” And you know, people aren’t machines and need rest. And I think that ultimately ends up with happier employees and frankly, better work. So, I think that’s a nice, a nice way to end. Thank you.

MP: Thank you.

About Our Guests
Industry Enrichment Content Producer

MP has been with CI since 2018. As Industry Enrichment Content Producer, they produce the CI to Eye podcast and CI to Eye Live! He also works on the Arts Industry Digital Marketing Benchmark Study, Performing Arts Ticket Buyer Media Usage Study, and is part of the team that produces Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts. They received their BA in Music and Italian from Vassar College in 2016 and their MA in Arts Administration from Baruch College in 2020.

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