Outdoor arts coming back on line is not just welcome news to sector specialists, but also an opportunity for all types of cultural organisations to re-engage with audiences in a socially distanced way. Though the outdoors is the obvious option (while weather holds), presenting work in our streets, parks, beaches and outdoor theatre comes with its own challenges. We must not forget that these are spaces that belong to everyone, where local communities may be going about their daily lives. But these communities are also likely open to (if not looking for) distraction and entertainment – a live experience that will bring them together and help make sense of recent months.
With that in mind, here are 5 key things to consider:
- What should I or could I do outdoors?
- Who might I attract?
- Thinking both digitally and physically
- What about ticketing?
- Who actually turned up?
1. What should I or could I do outdoors?
- Question | What do I need to do to plan what work I can take outdoors?
- Evidence | Outdoor Arts UK is a font of information on planning what you might do outdoors, whether you are a specialist or a newcomer to the world of outdoor arts. So drop into their weekly Season for Change, We Shall Not Be Removed sessions (don’t forget to sign up in advance) – there are also sessions coming up especially for those new to outdoor arts. And check out their detailed information about how to present work outdoors.
- Question | Who and what are outdoor arts and artists?
- Evidence | Find out by having a look at what is available in Xtrax’s directory or look at the Without Walls initiatives and Outdoor Arts UK's outline of outdoor arts work that can be programmed now.
2. Who might I attract?
- Question | Who are my outdoor audiences, and is there potential to grow them?
- Evidence | Study any data you already have – Audience Finder audience monitoring data or other audience survey data could be a place to start, or you may have collected post-codes to map your audiences or used another approach. Start with them and then use the resources quoted below to see who does not come and whether you may now be able to attract them – perhaps because they are keen to engage with their community, branch out from the digital experience, or have found a new taste for cultural engagement during lockdown.
- Question | Where do you want to present, and who lives there?
- Evidence | Make sure that you know whose community you are wanting to present work within. As audiences and visitors from further afield are not likely to be coming out quite yet, it’s important to understand who the local population is in any area that you are wanting to present work. Use an Area Profile Report as a quick view of the profile of local populations – it’ll tell you about.
- Question | What do Outdoor Arts audiences usually look like?
- Evidence | Our outdoor arts sector report is a mine of information about who you can expect to engage through outdoor arts, why and how they value it at a community level.
- Question | Who’s likely to get out on the streets first?
- Evidence | Check out our assessment of who’s been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic the most and who is likely to get out there first, along with what their interests and needs might be, through the lens of Audience Spectrum. You can then use this to target at a hyper-local level and even decide where you might present work. Audience Spectrum at a population level is mapped by post-code sector in the Audience Finder portal. You’ll also be able to learn more about which audiences may want to come back soonest and what sort of experience they’ll be happy with from the results of the Getting Back Outdoors Survey.
- Question | Who has been engaging with what locally, before, during and coming out of lockdown?
- Evidence | There may have been a whole host of activity going on in a local area, physically or digitally, involving local communities. Check if there is a local project in your target area from either Creative People and Places in England, or the Great Place Scheme across the UK – both have great insights into their local communities. It’s also always useful to touch base with local authorities and local venues and other cultural organisations to see what they have been doing to support communities.
- Question | Could I do a bit of community consultation?
- Evidence | The best way of understanding who you might engage, is to go and talk to them – there are plenty of ways you can facilitate this digitally, including e-surveys, through social media and/or online discussion groups. Work with local organisations to tap into local lists, hash tags or community groups to engage a group – we can help you get the ball rolling with this.
3. Thinking both digitally and physically
- Question | If outdooraudiences have been engaging more digitally, how do I found out who has been doing what?
- Evidence | Research what has been on offer culturally in a local area, or available more widely that people may have been engaging with digitally – focus on a geographic area and tap into local cultural organisations, local authorities or community organisations. They may have done The Audience Agency’s Digital Audiences Survey and know who’s been engaging. If you have presented work digitally during lock-down, use your digital analytics to understand who has engaged – and if you want to refine your skills attend our free webinar on evaluating online activity.
- Question | Should I be considering a combination of digital and physical engagement?
- Evidence | As we come out of lock-down, don’t forget that not everyone can or wants to get out there – so continuing to offer digital content will help you maintain relationships with audiences and possibly extend your reach. But don’t forget to consider what works digitally for different kinds of audiences. The Space has a whole range of content that you can review or again have a look at what cultural organisations have been doing over the last few months, how music hubs have been working, what’s been going on through education and ask around about what people have been getting up to.
- Question | How can I make sure that my digital engagement is as good as it can be?
- Evidence | Start with our route-map for evaluating online activity as your first port of call. There’s also a lot of advice and guidance on engaging audiences digital from the Digital Culture Network and a whole host of further resources on The Audience Agency site.
- Question | What about digital inclusion?
- Evidence | The Audience Agency produced a report for The Arts Council to explore digital engagement and Creative People and Places projects to understand digital engagement in all its forms in areas of least cultural engagement – the findings are HERE.
4. What about ticketing?
- Question | What could ticketing do for me?
- Evidence | Apart from enabling you to comply with social distancing guidelines and ensuring a comfortable and safe experience for your audiences, ticketing events offers a new opportunity to understand and engage with your audiences. As they sign up for free or paid for tickets you can gather information about where they are from (with a simple address or just post-code request) and then gain opt-ins to further communications – both for evaluation and marketing. See below to make sure you are GDPR compliant.
- Question | Which ticketing system should I use?
- Evidence | Use a system where you are the data controller so that all data gathered can be used for your purposes (see below to think about GDPR) and to take advantage of a whole host of additional insights and benchmarks make sure it’s compatible with Audience Finder ticketing. In this way, you will be able to build relationships directly with your audiences. There is further advice available in this resource on ticketing for museums and galleries or sign up to this free webinar to make sure that you comply with Test and Trace.
- Question | How do I make sure I don’t fall foul of GDPR?
- Evidence | Register yourself with the ICO as a data controller and have a look through our GDPR compliance guidelines and resources.
5. Who actually turned up?
- Question | Which types of visitor and group types re-attend first? How does that change over time?
- Evidence | Audience Finder survey, comparisons in the Audience Finder dashboard by quarter, or download of responses and analysis by date, including Audience Spectrum profiles, previous attendance, group type, etc.
- Question | How do your post-COVID-19 visitors compare to your previous visitors?
- Evidence | Audience Finder survey, comparisons in the Audience Finder dashboard to same quarter in a previous year, or more detailed timescale splits in Enhanced Dashboard.
- Question | How satisfied are your visitors when they attend? Is this different for first-time or repeat attenders? How does it compare to before?
- Evidence | Audience Finder survey, comparisons in the Audience Finder dashboard, including Audience Spectrum profiles, previous attendance, satisfaction; front of house staff feedback; other customer feedback processes; social media and online reviews, including sites like Tripadvisor.
- Question | What is the likely word-of-mouth response? What may you need to change in your new configuration?
- Evidence | Audience Finder survey download of free text response, satisfaction, likelihood to recommend.
These are just some of the many things you may want to find out: see The Audience Agency’s Bounce Forwards COVID-19 Response Hub for more suggestions, or get in touch for further advice and support about how to act on what you find out via firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have suggested additions or amends, do also get in touch at the same address.