Never Say “Get the word out”

STOP: If you’re an arts or entertainment marketer who’s looking for ways to get the word out, READ THIS NOW. If you still want to come back and read this afterward, please do.

Here are three phrases I’d like to see banished forever from discussions about arts marketing. They’re vestiges of an era that has long-since passed, yet they remain among the most common phrases in our business lexicon.

“Get the word out,” “Generate awareness” and “Publicize the event.”

Getting the word out is a process of placing passive information in front of buyers who are so actively interested in our products that all we have to do is tell them they’re available. But since our audience of active buyers is diminishing, and less enthusiastic buyers aren’t stepping in to replace them, simply making information available to the market is no longer sufficient to do the job.

Audiences that don’t come pre-motivated need to be persuaded to act, so simply informing them about our products isn’t enough. If we want to be persuasive, we have to communicate – with every message we disseminate – how our products will satisfy our audience’s desires or expectations. Or, put another way, we have to answer the question, “Why would I want to come to that?”

The shift in thinking here is simple but it’s nothing less than revolutionary. If ‘the word’ is impotent, getting it out – no matter how broadly or strategically we do it – is a waste of marketing resources and a fiscally irresponsible way to conduct business. On the other hand, making certain that we disseminate truly persuasive messages stands to significantly improve the results of the marketing work we do.

So instead of saying “get the word out” or “generate awareness” or “publicize the event” in our daily discussions about audiences, we need to teach ourselves to start saying “persuade under-motivated buyers” so that we remain mindful of the fact that ‘the word’ has an important job to do.

Try making this switch and you’ll quickly discover how inadequate our word dissemination strategies can be: “I think putting up street pole banners in the Cultural District will really help us get the word out persuade under-motivated buyers.” If the sentence no longer makes sense – and this one certainly doesn’t – the strategy must be reconsidered.

Make no mistake: There’s value in letting as many people as possible know about our events, but if we pursue awareness generating opportunities without maximizing their persuasive potential, we might as well just throw the money off the roof instead, which, come to think of it, is an arts event that might be worth publicizing.

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