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Words of Inspiration To Power 2024
Episode 121
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Words of Inspiration To Power 2024

CI to Eye with 8 Cultural Leaders

This episode is hosted by Dan Titmuss.

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In this episode

CI to Eye is back with a healthy dose of inspiration to help you re-center at the top of the new year.

In 2023, we spoke with remarkable thought leaders both within and beyond the realm of the arts. Guests ranged from executive directors and arts researchers to experts in DEIBA. They all answered the same question: "If you could broadcast one message to executive directors, leadership teams, staff, and boards of thousands of arts organizations, what would it be?"

We call this their “CI to Eye moment,” and in this special episode, Dan revisits these key insights to offer encouragement and perspective for the year ahead.

2:39
CI to Eye Moment with Cookie Ruiz
4:34
CI to Eye Moment with Jodi Daniels
5:15
CI to Eye Moment with Rob Macpherson
7:27
CI to Eye Moment with Charles Buchanan
8:56
CI to Eye Moment with Van Ackerman
9:54
CI to Eye Moment with Snehi Bhatt
12:24
CI to Eye Moment with Evelyn Carter
15:06
CI to Eye Moment with Tara Mohr

Karen McConarty: Close your eyes and picture yourself in a red velvet seat. As the lights dim, you feel energy buzzing through the theater as a spotlight illuminates the stage. No, it’s not your organization’s opening night. It’s your night, at Boot Camp 2024. Join us at the Time Center in New York City October 24th and 25th to grow your skills alongside a tight-knit community of arts leaders who just get you. Where else can your passion for marketing strategy, devotion to sales trends, and love of Balanchine show up in a single conversation? But wait, here’s the best part. This is the earliest we’ve ever announced Boot Camp and we’re celebrating with a special New Year’s deal just for you. Register by February 9th and save $100 on your in-person ticket. Plus, get free on-demand access so you can rewatch all your favorite moments after the conference ends. This deal is too good to pass up, so hurry! Go register at capacityinteractivebootcamp.com. That’s capacityinteractivebootcamp.com. See you there!

Dan Titmuss: Hi everyone, and happy New Year! We have a special episode for you today—a healthy dose of inspiration to help you recenter before diving into the new year of challenges, opportunities, and fantastic art-making. Throughout 2023, we spoke with remarkable thought leaders ranging from executive directors and art researchers to experts in DEIBA, both within and beyond the realm of the arts. We are incredibly lucky to have such interesting guests, and we nearly always end each session with the same question. If you could broadcast one message to executive directors, leadership teams, staff, and boards of thousands of arts organizations, what would it be? We call this their CI to Eye moment, and it’s one of my favorite parts about interviewing guests. Over the last year, we’ve had some really eye-opening answers to this hypothetical. So for today’s episode, we are revisiting these key insights to offer encouragement and perspective for the year ahead. Let’s dive in, shall we? This time last year, Cookie Ruiz, the executive director of Ballet Austin, talked with our managing director Christopher Williams about zeroing in on what matters and letting art lead the way.

Cookie Ruiz: It’s so important that when we understand sales data and we understand all of the analytical data that we can look at, that we’re running arts organizations and they’re driven by art and they’re driven by artists that have something to say. And I think that we get in trouble when the business gets in front of the art. And so it is a different choice to be an arts-first organization, and it is very easy to program by way of sales figures. I feel like if we can be unafraid to let art lead us and keep up with the sales, sure, but let’s not program by way of sales figures. That would be my hope.

Dan Titmuss: Thinking back to your mission helps you shed distractions and stay focused on what really matters. So much so that this was one of the main focuses of Boot Camp 2023. Cookie’s CI to Eye moment perfectly lays the groundwork for another year of highly intentional and impactful arts marketing. Keeping art and our missions at the forefront is an excellent guide when faced with competing priorities. But there can be sneaky barriers that might not be on your radar. No, not opinions from your board. Data privacy. Folks discover so much about your organization online, but if you aren’t careful with visitor data, you’ll limit who you reach by tarnishing incredibly valuable audience trust or even get in legal trouble. 2023 saw new privacy regulations, the phase-out of third party cookies among major browsers, and the changeover from Universal Analytics to GA4. Suddenly data collection and privacy was top of mind for arts and culture organizations, and rightly so. Jodi Daniels, founder and CEO of Red Clover Advisors, talked with me about the moral and legal imperatives surrounding data privacy.

Jodi Daniels: Each individual who is engaging with your organization is trusting you, and their data is equally deserving as their dollar.

Dan Titmuss: Jodi later joined us at Boot Camp to talk more about data privacy. If you’re interested, I highly recommend registering for Boot Camp On Demand and checking out her talk. It’s easy to get lost in acronym-heavy conversations about things like GDPR and CCPA, so much so that we often forget to think about the connection between data privacy and the trust people have in your organization. Trust is something that Rob Macpherson, managing director at Creating Impakt, talked about in his CI to Eye moment.

Rob Macpherson: I think I’d say with regard to this whole issue of data security that you have to believe that one slip in this area, I don’t want to panic anyone, but one slip can really demolish a hard-won reputation. It can ruin confidence, and it can be a tough one to build back from. And when this has happened, you need to plan for that. So this is a long piece of advice, but take it seriously and just avoid those slips.

Dan Titmuss: Okay, that clip sounded a little “doom and gloom,” but Rob’s interview was a lot of fun—and not just because he’s a fellow Brit. He shared a lot of fascinating lessons from his time at the Birmingham Hippodrome where he updated the organization’s data and privacy strategy to be in accordance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. I never thought a conversation about data privacy would have this many laughs, but my biggest takeaway was that data privacy is far more widespread than people realize. It touches every part of your organization and goes way beyond email opt-ins. There are even sneaky things you might not think of as quote unquote data, like dietary preferences from event attendees. Bottom line, if you want to protect your brand’s reputation and build trust with audiences, smart data privacy policies are a must. Rob went on to say:

Rob Macpherson: Make sure that you strengthen the brand of your organization at every possible step. Understanding customer motivations first and foremost, and orientating everything you do around the customer’s need, the audience’s need, over and above your own ambitions. If you orientate it around what customers really want and understand their motivations and what drives them and you test that and you act strategically, I think you have the best possible chance of success.

Dan Titmuss: So look, Rob technically offered two thoughts, which is against the rules, but I don’t think anyone complained. It’s worth remembering that amongst all this data worry, there’s also the huge potential for improving engagement and increasing sales—something which has been a challenge over the last four years as the arts industry continues to recover from the effects of COVID, inflation, and other disruptions. Charles Buchanan, senior director of marketing and audience development at Detroit Symphony Orchestra, shared his thoughts on setting new sales benchmarks and adjusting marketing strategies for a post-pandemic world.

Charles Buchanan: I think the most important message right now is that we have to let go of what things looked like before the pandemic. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to say pre-pandemic in every single presentation and every single meeting… And if you think about it, for most organizations, our last completed season was 2018–2019, which is now four years ago. And so we know for certain that it’s a very different market today and that things have been changed permanently. How people consume entertainment, how they spend their time, whether they leave the house or don’t leave the house… And we need to basically accept that this current year is the new benchmark, and if our attendance numbers don’t work for what we need, we need to be thinking about how we grow from there and how we attract new audiences to replace what we’ve lost.

Dan Titmuss: It’s been a few years now, and there’s no question that aspects of our industry have changed permanently. If your organization is still stuck in a comparison trap with pre-pandemic seasons, make 2024 your year of looking forward and establishing new benchmarks. While we’re emerging from a particularly challenging time, let’s remember that the past few years have also brought loads of inspirational art and equally inspirational marketing to go along with it. Our industry’s resourcefulness, creativity, and resilience are some of our greatest strengths heading into the new year, and one of our guests reminded us just that. Here’s Van Ackerman, VP of marketing and communications at Cincinnati Arts Association.

Van Ackerman: Through any dark times like this, just have patience and stay creative. Arts organizations are resilient. So are the people who run them and work for them. And we’ve weathered many storms like this, and we will come out the other side, and we will come out better. And trust—I mean, trust that. Trust your team, trust your staff, and treat each other with love and respect.

Dan Titmuss: Trust your team, trust your staff, and treat each other with love and respect. Incredible message and words to live by. I remember being so reassured by Van’s words during this conversation. The emphasis on taking care of your people was a common thread in a lot of these episodes. Back in July, CI’s president Priya Iyer Doshi, sat down with Snehi Bhatt, a leadership development executive at Admired Leadership, to talk about healthy work cultures. Snehi introduced us to the concept of fan-ness, which completely changed my perspective on leadership.

Snehi Bhatt: There’s this incredible video I would love for everyone to check out around an idea we call fan-ness. It all comes back to being a fan. What does being a great fan mean? That you’re not only a fan when things are good, but rather you’re a fan when things are absolutely terrible. And you can see the power of how that fan-ness can impact someone and motivate and inspire them. So be a fan of your child, be a fan of your colleague, be a fan of your leader even, because everyone needs to feel special every single day. And I’m going to give a quick example, which I think is pretty profound, is that Phil Jackson, if you know the coach of the Chicago Bulls, would do quirky little things, write little notes, and he would have sometimes some cheesy pick-me-up and put it on a post-it note and he’d put it on the lockers or in the locker rooms and things like that. And there’s an interview, and I don’t know quite when that happened, but Michael Jordan said, “Phil’s always writing these tidbits, but guess what? Every time he did it made me feel special.” Michael Jordan needed to feel special at the height of his career. He was undoubtedly one of the best players, taking the Chicago Bulls to the championships. And if Michael Jordan needs to feel special, I promise you, there’s someone in your life that needs to feel special too.

Dan Titmuss: For those who are super deep into the arts, the Chicago Bulls are apparently a basketball team. You are the coach of your team, and even the best players need encouragement every so often. As a leader, are you truly a fan of your employees? Do you make them feel valued and respected every single day? Of course, taking care of your people extends way beyond day-to-day leadership. It also means establishing and sustaining strategies for DEIBA, which is short for diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility. In one of our more impactful episodes, I sat down with Dr. Evelyn Carter, president of Paradigm, to talk about DEIBA in the arts and beyond. Three years after the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, it’s imperative to hold ourselves accountable and do everything we can to move the needle in what Evelyn calls “the next frontier of DEIBA.”

Evelyn Carter: We are seeing evidence that it is not enough now to simply proactively state your organization’s values for inclusion, for example. You have to be willing and prepared to fight for those values. We are seeing an unprecedented attack against LGBTQ+ individuals and particularly against trans folks in our society. And so if you are an organization that says “We welcome trans people” or “We are going to showcase trans folks in our plays, in our productions, what have you,” and you don’t have a plan for how you are going to protect those same individuals from fascists who are protesting outside your doors, if you don’t have a plan for how you are going to protect them when they are walking to their car at the end of your production, if you don’t have a plan for how you are going to address the bigoted comments that might come in the reviews following whatever the event is, then you are not doing the work that is required of upholding that value in today’s society. And so it is imperative that you think not just about what it means to live that value, but if you have to fight because you know that it is right, what will it look like for you to do that? And having a plan for that, that everyone is aligned with and ready to take action on, is what’s going to be required in this next frontier of DEIBA.

Dan Titmuss: You need to be proactive. If you don’t have a plan to protect the individuals that you have said that you support, then you aren’t doing the work. If you want to know more about Dr. Carter’s research, I highly recommend checking out her blog series, “Let’s Break It Down,” which merges her love of research, pop culture, and corporate DEI initiatives. And definitely give the whole episode a listen. I mean, give all of our episodes a listen. Of course I would say that, but this one in particular hits as hard now as it did then, and it’s always useful to remind ourselves of how we can support DEIBA in our organizations. When I’m looking back on all of these CI to Eye moments, it’s a lot to take in, but if you walk away from today’s episode with one thought, let it be this. What gets us through challenging times and moves our industry forward is our unending passion for the work we do. This year, find time to nurture that passion and take care of yourself so you can bring art to even more people. In that vein, let’s end on a CI to Eye moment from the bestselling author and leadership expert Tara Mohr, who sat down with Priya to talk about the importance of playing big while preventing burnout.

Tara Mohr: You are the instrument of your work, so take good care of the instrument.

Dan Titmuss: Take care listeners, and do what you need to do to look after yourself. Take that mental health day, treat yourself to a coffee, indulge in exercise, whatever it is, do what’s best so you can play your metaphorical music. And let us know! If you had the power to broadcast one message to the executive directors, leadership teams, staff, and boards of thousands of arts organizations, what would it be? Tag us on social @ CapacityInteractive. We would love to hear from you.

Thank you for listening to CI to Eye. This episode was edited and produced by Karen McConarty and co-written by Karen McConarty and myself, Dan Titmuss. Stephanie Medina and Jess Berube are CI to Eye’s designers and video editors, and all work together to create CI’s digital content. Our music is by whoisuzo. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please take a moment to rate us or leave a review. A nice comment goes a long way in helping other people discover CI to Eye and hear from experts in the arts and beyond. If you didn’t enjoy today’s episode, pass it on to all of your enemies. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube for regular content to help you market smarter. You can also sign up for our newsletter at capacityinteractive.com so you never miss an update. And if you haven’t already, please click the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, stay nerdy.


About Our Guests
Charles Buchanan
Charles Buchanan
Sr. Director of Marketing & Audience Development, Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Charles Buchanan is the Senior Director of Marketing & Audience Development at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He has twenty years of experience in marketing for the performing arts, and has worked with institutions such as the New York Philharmonic, the Sydney Opera House, and 92nd Street Y. Charles is a champion of optimal use of analytics and marketing technology to drive efficient campaigns and to grow audiences.

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Cookie Ruiz
Cookie Ruiz
Executive Director, Ballet Austin

Cookie Ruiz has more than 30 years of experience in the areas of strategic planning, organizational development and non-profit fundraising/management and has served as executive director of Ballet Austin since 1999. She holds the professional designation of Certified Fund Raising Executive (C.F.R.E.) by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Her community honors include Austin Business Journal’s “Profiles in Power” Award, Leadership Austin’s Polly Scallorn Community Trustee Award, Austin Community Foundation’s Beverly S. Sheffield Award for Excellence as a Nonprofit Executive, The American Red Cross “Clara Barton Medal of Honor,” Volunteer of the Year for the Austin Independent School District, the Lone Star Girl Scout Council “Women of Distinction” Award, The Junior League of Austin’s Volunteer Extraordinaire Award and is a 2016 Austin Arts Hall of Fame inductee. Ruiz served as the citywide Chair of CreateAustin, a City Council appointee to ImagineAustin’s Citizen’s Advisory Task Force, and is a graduate of the Austin’s City Works Academy. As a graduate of Leadership Austin, she served four years on its board of directors. Ruiz is president of the board of Texans for the Arts and serves on the boards of Dance/USA, the Performing Arts Alliance, the Mayor’s Better Austin Foundation, HousingWorks Austin, and is a member of the Austin Area Research Organization (AARO). She is also a fellow of the National Arts Strategies International Chief Executive Program.

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Dr. Evelyn Carter
Dr. Evelyn Carter
Social Psychologist

Dr. Evelyn Carter (she/her) is a social psychologist who has conducted cutting-edge research on how to detect and discuss racial bias. Dr. Carter’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and in 2018, she was featured on the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences “20 Under 40” list. In addition to her peer-reviewed scholarship, Evelyn is a highly sought-after thought leader. Her work and insights have been published in popular press outlets such as The Atlantic, Bloomberg, CBS This Morning, CNBC, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, and NPR. She also self-publishes a blog series, “Let’s Break it Down,” which merges her love of research, pop culture, and corporate DEI practices. Dr. Carter is focused on evolving and advancing the practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which she currently does as the President of Paradigm, the leading DEI firm in the country. Dr. Carter holds a doctorate from Indiana University, a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.

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Jodi Daniels
Jodi Daniels
Founder and CEO, Red Clover Advisors

Jodi Daniels is the Founder and CEO of Red Clover Advisors, a privacy consultancy that helps hundreds of companies create privacy programs, achieve GDPR and US privacy law compliance, and establish a secure online data strategy their customers can count on. She is a Certified Informational Privacy Professional (CIPP/US), national keynote speaker, co-host of the She Said Privacy / He Said Security Podcast, and co-author of Data Reimagined: Building Trust One Byte at a Time. Jodi holds a Masters of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

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Rob Macpherson
Rob Macpherson
Managing Director, Creating Impakt

Rob Macpherson is the Managing Director of Creating Impakt, a UK-based boutique brand and marketing consultancy for arts and cultural organizations. For the last three decades, he’s worked with arts brands in marketing, PR, fundraising, and ticketing. Rob holds a BA from Bristol University. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a Fellow of the RSA, a mentor for the Institute of Fundraising, and a Trustee at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

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Snehi Bhatt
Snehi Bhatt
Leadership Development Executive, Admired Leadership

Snehi Bhatt advises seasoned and emerging leaders on diverse topics, including leadership effectiveness, executive presence, and relationship management. Cognizant of the unique challenges in today’s business environment, she promotes authenticity, innovation, and agility in individual and team development. Snehi brings over 15 years of experience from both Fortune 500 organizations and startups alike, most notably MetLife and Betterment. She has helped transition several platforms from launch into B2B revenue generation, and brings particular expertise in scaling platforms and building product-market fit. Snehi’s background in finance and technology has given her valuable insight into the essential skills for effectively managing teams and navigating organizational dynamics. Snehi is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and based in New York City. She is passionate about behavioral leadership and empathy in action. Everyone can be a leader, it is a choice and not a position; and every leader can choose to become better.

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Tara Mohr
Tara Mohr
Author, Educator, and Certified Coach

Tara Sophia Mohr is an expert on women’s leadership and well-being, and an author, educator and certified coach. Tara is the author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, published by Penguin Random House, and named a Best Book of the Year by Apple’s iBooks. She is the creator of the pioneering Playing Big leadership program, as well as Playing Big Facilitators Training and The Coaching Way, both ICF accredited continuing education programs for coaches, leadership development professionals, managers, and mentors. Her work has been featured on The Today Show and in publications ranging from The New York Times to goop to Harvard Business Review. She lives in San Francisco and loves dance, art, and long walks with her family. Learn more about Tara at www.taramohr.com.

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Van Ackerman
Van Ackerman
VP of Marketing & Communications, Cincinnati Arts Association

Van Ackerman is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at Cincinnati Arts Association (CAA), where he recently celebrated his 22nd year with the organization. Prior to CAA, Van worked with the Fifth Third Bank Broadway Series as Managing Director and Director of Public Relations. He holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, and an M.F.A. in Acting from The Ohio State University. After graduation, Van worked professionally as an actor/director/professor across the country, including a year in Cincinnati with ArtReach Touring Theater. He has created and chaired major fundraising events for the Cincinnati Zoo’s Angel Fund and Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (board member 2000–2006). Van is a Leadership Cincinnati (Class 30) alum and chaired its Arts & Culture Day committee for many years. In addition, he has studied the Enneagram for more than fifteen years, a tool he uses professionally and personally.

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