All cultural organisations are expert in audience engagement – it’s an essential part of what we do. But an audience development plan is more than just an expression of how we do it. It is a forward-looking statement of intent and key to delivering public purpose, to staying relevant and resilient.
The plan – and importantly the process by which we arrive at it – is a route-map for change. It is a practical blueprint for growing audiences, increasing reach, building deeper relationships and doing those things to the best of our abilities and resources, through the combined effort of our colleagues and stakeholders.
The Audience Agency exists to give people better access to culture and we hope to support cultural organisations to become more democratic and inclusive. We think that having an explicit plan is a major step in that direction. It is important to say that there is no single, right way to create an audience development plan. Every organisation is trying to reach different audiences for different reasons and in different ways and your plan should reflect the scale,
resources, personality and purpose of your organisation.
The approach outlined in this guidance is in no sense then prescriptive – simply a suggested route through the important considerations. The guide is presented a linear way, but, in reality, developing a useful strategy is likely to be a dynamic and messy process, involving much to-ing and fro-ing, experimentation and adjustment. We urge you to devise an engaging and flexible planning process in which your whole organisation can be meaningfully involved.
The suggestions here reflect the views and experience of The Audience Agency team and are based on a combination of documented theory. This guide is a simplified overview of our work supporting organisations to develop thriving audiences, based on our work with many kinds of cultural organisations in the UK and internationally. It should therefore be adaptable to many situations, organisations and audiences. The Audiences & Engagement team at Arts Council England have also inputted, and this guidance is consistent with their expectations for their funded organisations.
The tools and techniques offered are consciously among the most tried and tested, and are therefore relatively simple to engage people in. You will come across many others, and no doubt devise your own, which are even more effective in your circumstances. We’d love to hear from you about any that help to move your thinking and ideas forward – get in touch with us by emailing
You may also find it useful to read our consultant'sTop Tips for Getting Started with Audience Development.
The COVID-19 virus is the same wherever you are in the world. In fact its lack of variation (so far) is something that makes a vaccine likely to work. However, the response to the pandemic varies from place to place.
Recently, Learning & Participation Consultant Ashleigh caught up (virtually) with Lucy Turner, Early Years Producer at The Whitworth Art Gallery.