I started this blog about four years ago and have written 174 posts to date. Some posts have gone viral, generating thousands of hits, while others have seen fair to moderate readership for a blog on arts marketing. Most posts eventually faded into the past, which is the nature of blogs, but a few continue to attract readers years down the line – presumably because of the phrases people type into search engines.
By far the most widely read and most consistently accessed post on this blog appeared on March 6, 2012 and its title was: Never Say “Get the word out.” People access this post almost every day.
There’s nothing earthshaking about the post. I’ve written many more provocative essays, but there’s something in this title that continues to draw people to my site. Clearly, these visitors have entered four particular words into their search engines looking for ways to sell more tickets or attract more audiences, and they are, by far, the most destructive words in the cultural sector:
I’ve already said that arts administrators who speak these words need to be fired immediately, so there’s not much to add, but since people continue to search for them, I will say this:
If you’re not selling enough tickets and your prime communications directive is summed up by these four words, your failure is your fault. Getting the word out is an amateurish and fiscally irresponsible way to sell tickets.
If on the other hand you’d like to change that directive and sell more tickets, here are four words you might want to use as the foundation of your new communications philosophy:
Examine these two phrases carefully. Look at the underlying differences in their meanings and the actions they impel. Ask yourself honestly which one is likely to produce more productive communications and the answer is clear.
‘Get the word out’ is a one-way mechanical process with an inside-out orientation. ‘Persuade people to come’ is a two-way human process with a outside-in orientation. The difference is nearly palpable. One is about spraying information while the other is about connecting with people and guiding them toward something that will fulfill their desires.
Communication strategies developed within a ‘persuade people to come’ strategic framework will work better because they’ll have been designed to persuade people to come.
The alternative is to keep spraying information at the world until the last person who cares dies, and that’s an idiotic way to build new audiences.
Language matters. In the arts, where marketing is still an amateur process, it means a great deal. The language we use to describe the work we do will determine what sort of work we do. If we talk about spraying information at the world, that’s all we’re going to do. But if we talk about persuading people to come…
Stop saying get the word out.