Tessitura European Conference – Session Notes Day Two

These are my notes from day two of TEC2018, you can find day one notes here and my takeaways from the conference post here.

Session One: Wordfly – Send it Smarter

Data that comes back from emails is immediate and actionable – people need to get out of the mind-set of ‘just send’ and focus on behaviour and motivation.

Open/Clicks/Shares – important to compare campaigns to each other. Labels are important – you should label all emails in one campaign together for direct comparison.

Wordfly has joined up with a service called ‘Behaviour Infuser’, (it’s a paid service of course!) that you can use to send triggered emails based on web behaviour.

  • Measuring Metrics
  • Choose your baseline metrics – ticket sales? RSVPs?

In Wordfly settings, can choose Google Analytics to track.

Tessitura Source ID number is another metric (this one probably doesn’t work for us- going to our own website breaks that link).

A+B testing – what is your strategy behind it?

You can create surveys in Wordfly too via Pages (also a paid-for service) which passes info back to Tessitura. This can inform you on what works/doesn’t work in marketing copy. Pages works like the Wordfly email editor but edits a webpage.

  • Email Marketing can often be the place where people rediscover you.
  • You need to appeal to the ‘unique-ness’ in people’s mind – they don’t want to feel like they are part of a mass campaign.

This is where dynamic tags save a lot of time – can you create one email but replace a lot of parts with custom options.

In the subscriber list, you can segment in Wordfly within that list based on behaviour.
It’s more and more important that customers get a good experience via the inbox or you risk losing them completely. 30% of customers go elsewhere after just one bad experience.

Recent Design Additions

  • Gradients
  • Background images
  • Video (note: to work on systems like iOS, would need to embed video as mp4 in website and work from there.)
  • Animated GIFs (this could be really useful!)

Popular designs right now are laid-out grid-style, Instagram-like.

GIFs are often placed in the lower right corner, under the thumb for right-handed people on mobile view.

Less text, more image. More dynamic colour.

If you have to add a lot of text, make it easy to read, make it bigger.

Upcoming Wordfly Features

  • Layers, fonts, overlays and shapes added to Image Editor. You can also change image size and quality to fit.
  • Unlimited sign-up forms with customisation and preferences.

Session Two: Dynamic Pricing – From Digonex

Dynamic pricing is often seen as gouging the customers – but actually it’s about adjusting based on supply and demand, both up and down according to the market. So the more data you have on market demand, the better.

Often organisations only run dynamic pricing based rules about capacity (e.g. increase by x amount when reaching y capacity) and often based on educated guesses.

Also can miss market changes by doing this.

Digonex work with agolrithmic pricing which can take advantage of all factors, though it is important to view this as customisation – can set an approval system so the algorithm only recommends rather than act, for example.


Look at your discounting system – is it gowing your business or are your full prices actually wrong?
For attractions in particular, they can price day-by-day based on attendance, weather and many other factors etc. If you are totally transparent about why the price changes and set rules (for example, prices don’t go down so early bookers aren’t disadvantaged) – there won’t be a backlash from the public.

Examples inputs for Digonex are based on data from Tessitura, as well as marketing spend, Google Analytics, internal performance/show reports, weather, fuel prices, economic conditions, competitor pricing.

Also keep an eye on the substitution effect – if one show has a special price, how does that affect other show’s revenue?

Session Three: Business Intelligence Face-Off

Wales Millennium Centre Case Study – Dynamic Pricing

They tried dynamic pricing a high-value show, and had obvious high-value areas not sell. So they created a heat map of the entire run to identify small zones which were individually priced.

They used an excel spreadsheet to track the capacity of each zone, then once one zone hit a capacity target, box office could percentage price up (by 5%. then 10% depending on demand.)

The issue is that using T-stats for data means that the data is always out by one day.

Also, manual changes are time-consuming, especially at the start of the process.

National Theatre Case Study – Key Targets

Their three key organisation targets are

  • First timers
  • Under 35s
  • BAME audiences

Used a mix of Tessitura and Survey Monkey data – the issue with surveys is that not everyone answers. Therefore, the survey is weighted, in their case by membership because their members are more likely to answer.

Metrics on their own don’t always look so great, especially year-on-year, but can be much more interesting when compared against each other – how many first timers are also under 35, for example? Processes like these give you much more varied data.

Session Four: Accessibility Ticketing

  • Legally in the UK, you have to provide equal access.
  • Also, if you have international patrons, you may need to be aware of how they might view their rights and what to expect.

Remember that models of disability shouldn’t put the onus on people.

Not all issues are obvious – is the website designed with disabilities in mind, for example.
Booking in particular can be an issue

If you can show a clear commitment to accessibility, this leads to trust that access needs will be carried out – especially when trying to break down the barriers of getting people to/into your venues

Tessitura allows you to put a line on the online booking form/process that creates a CSI report of accessibility – allows people to give very specific instructions.

Can use the info given not just for the event at the time, but also marketing in future – because you know who is coming/not coming to your events and how to cater to them.

Session Five: Digital Comms

Need to spend time doing short, focused campaigns across multiple digital platforms – can be resistant to this if it looks like you’re missing groups.

Audience data builds better comms, which equals better loyalty.

Case Study: Science Museum

The hardest thing (as a museum) is data capture – to increase it means changes of behaviour in FOH staff and visitors.

They didn’t give a script to FOH, but create a flow chart to guide visitors through data capture.

Then, need to sort BOH process to ensure data is handled well. Create a data hierachy to develop more emails to shorter lists. For Science Museum, this resulted in more tickets, also more online booking.

Pre- and post- visit emails increase customer satisfaction.

They looked at membership at Science Museum – the entry point for membership is quite low, so they created a membership e-newsletter to increase loyalty, and segmented data based on number of visits per year and geographical proximity.

Case Study: Royal Danish Theatre – Online Ads

Relevance = better
More relevance = smaller audience for the ad

They used Facebook and Google Ads with an automated feed, using the Facebook pixel – sends data automatically to both spaces from the website. All productions are automatically added, and changes automatically update with prices/images etc. So all you need to do is manage the update.

Future of Owned Media is Email

GDPR – people are much more aware of their rights.

Emails is not splashy, viral, sexy etc. but it can be your most powerful tool, and also most cost-effective.

Social is more for the audience you don’t already have!

You do need to invest in email – there’s a point of data collection, which is making sure you know who your audience are and what they are.

Make sure you give people good content as an incentive to stay subscribed.

End of the Conference!

So, those are all of my notes – saved here so they’ll always be available to me, and perhaps useful for any arts marketers, whether using Tessitura or not!


Tessitura European Conference – Session Notes Day One

So, a week later, I’ve finally managed to get my notes in order from TEC 2018, and they’re ready to go up. I’ve split them into two posts, one for each day, and you can find my day two notes here, as well as my initial takeaways post from the end of the event.

Session One: Tips and Tricks for Selling in Tessitura

This was primarily a session for box office-based staff, but it was a really interesting eye-opener on the work that they do (which I don’t often get to see!), plus a few shortcuts for navigation that I didn’t know. There are even more shortcuts on the powerpoint which should be uploaded to the Tessitura site. However, all lot of this is heavily technical stuff, so if you’re looking for the marketing stuff you might want to skip ahead to Session Two.

How to Make Efficient Sales

There is a range of time spent for efficient sales that goes from very quick sales, perhaps right near the show start, which just involved taking money and giving a ticket, through to complex multiple booking/upgrading/donating bookings.

Fastest is not always the most efficient method depending on the mode of sale; it may be worth spending more time with certain customers e.g group bookers or subscribers.

The next part was a discussion of fast ticketing tips, and involves a lot of Tessitura references/jargon!

  • The most basic mode of sale is cash, at the box office window
  • From the performance code, you can choose the date (assuming this is a performance with multiple dates)
    The ticket will default to your standard full price
  • CTRL+P – opens the payment window and if the customer has exact change you don’t need to click ‘Apply Payment’ (mind.blown.)
  • If you have assigned and/or price zone-based seating you can rename zones to be ‘keyboard-friendly’ – with names that are easy to find
  • If you are using best available seating, you can fine-tune what Tessitura considers to be best seating for that particular show – e.g. front-to-back, soloist side first etc.

However, fast ticketing methods aren’t good for collecting constituent data, speed is for last-minute sales.

It’s also more efficient elsewhere to force staff to use source codes – it’s more efficient to have that data (where did people find out about the event etc.) for future marketing

The Quick Sale window isn’t just for sale either, it can be used for things like top-up contributions as there is a system for rounding up to nearest whole number/ten etc., and this works even if the event isn’t in your Quick Sale window.

Groups Sales

It is not a good idea to set pricing rule messages for any discount – just let them happen instead (unless there is a operative reason like telling people they will need to bring ID) – otherwise, it is just another unnecessary things to click through, especially in group sales where it is wise to assume that the booker is aware of your group discount.

There is a function in product search and product category that allows your box office staff to look at availability over multiple events, so if someone is looking at booking for a group, they can quickly find best availability.

In Payment Schedule, you can set different kinds of template for payment – than change from within the template to customise if a customer wants or needs to pay on a different schedule for their group.

Another great couple of tips that were really useful for me

  • CTRL+N opens the calendar
  • If you click on the month/year header, it will page back to today’s date
  • In seat view, you can use the arrows in the header to scroll through performances.

You can sell seats in List Manager

  • You need a batch order open
  • Go into the list and assign seats
  • Can also use this function for contributions

For a Major Onsale Event

  • Always remember to use the Hotlist function
  • Can choose straight from the hotlist for things sold repeatedly and quickly.
  • Can use shortcut ALT+B to best seat all.

More useful shortcuts

  • CTRL+T – opens constituent
  • ALT + T – opens last constituent

Quick sale also funnels extras all into one place – particularly useful if during a major on-sale you need to have temporary/casual staff, as it’s all in one place for them.

Source Codes

It is important to customer service to have the right data – to know how people got to you. To make source codes useable, remember to set end dates so they expire when you need them to.

Your operators (box office staff etc.) will not always get the source codes quite right, but it’s close enough to be useful data. Encourage people to use them.

Contact permissions – try to ask as little as possible within legal policy (this is where a script will help staff so time isn’t wasted and all the legal info is there.) You can set a time so that if a customer hasn’t been asked about their contact preferences in a while (e.g. a year, two years etc.) Tessitura will promote staff to ask again.

One last thing – Version 15 of Tessitura will remember your login details (mind actually blown.)

Session Two: Tessitura Analytics Dashboard Hands-on Session

As this was a hands-on session, I mostly didn’t get time to write notes! But here’s a few bits which will hopefully make sense once Tessitura Analytics is live.

Data is stored in ‘cubes’ – the Finance cube captures all transactional data associated with a particular GL code.

The Dashboard navigation is via the sidebar.

  • Here, there are options of different types of folders
  • Dashboards are stored in a grid view – ones you have created and others shared with you.
  • You can choose to duplicate, delete and rename in the sidebar too.

The options at the top are for editing and manipulating the dashboard. Can also change parameters in right-hand dashboard.

When sharing – can choose ‘view’, ‘can edit’ or ‘make owner’ (with this last one, they can then delete the dashboard if they want.)
Widgets on the dashboard can be edited to different graphs.

Session Three: Analysing your Audience: Experiences of Segmentation

Case Study: Roundhouse

They looked at what they needed to know about their audiences to do better.

Marketing ran on assumptions about audiences, and the audience sat in ‘buckets’ by artform, with little or no crossover.

Needed to persuade each department of organisation to understand how segmentation and relate it to the overall business strategy.

The looked at off-the-shelf segmentation but most weren’t right – looked at genre crossover and narrowed down first to 13 segments, then eventually 6 custom behaviour-based segments.

They ran the segments past visitor services to flesh out demographics into pen portrait style cards.

They implemented segmentation engine to further explore these segments and also build individual projects e.g. development/membership encouragement

Case Study: RSC

Every person possible is tagged with a segment

  • Attitude-based segments
  • Done via a short survey, so they can’t tag everyone.

Case Study: RNCM – Using Culture Segments (MHM)

Segmented initially with pre- and post- show emails, then eventually at check-out.

In their first campaign using culture segments, they sent 4 emails, three tailored to each of their culture segments, and then 1 as a control segment which contained a mix of copy from the three tailored ones.

Opens and click-throughs on segmented emails are consistently higher.

Feeds back into programming – now programming with specific culture segments in mind.

Shakespeare’s Globe

(Much of this presentation was similar to the one they did at the AMA – my notes from that can be found here).

They have 3 strands:

  • Education
  • Visitors
  • Theatre

Applied Culture Segments to all three areas.

The makeup of their theatre audiences, like a lot of arts orgs, is vastly different from the UK average.

You can’t have an 8 segment strategy, you need to pick a small number, in this case Stimulation and Essence, which were a potential market growth.

They haven’t yet tagged audiences in their box office, instead they used it to inform branding and design.

From the Q+A section of the session

  • It’s very important not to stereotype audience, especially with attitude-based segments. They can contain a wide range and every segment has outliers.
  • Segments can and will change over time, as audiences do.
  • Work bit by bit, be patient, work with the resources that you have. Don’t be afraid to approach an agency, offers are often scaleable.

And that was day one! A mix of hands-on and practical advice, and case study presentations. My notes for day two are right here!

#Blaugust – A quick sign-off

It’s been the kind of busy week (or so) that makes me glad I didn’t commit myself properly to Blaugust as in previous years, and now I’m about to be off out of contact for the next week or so, as I’ll be away with the Rona Sailing Project until 29th August. However, I have enjoyed writing the blogs that I’ve managed to get around to, and I’m committed to not giving up and taking September off altogether – I’ve still got plenty of inspiration to work with – especially as I’ll be back with more on the music front (possibly after I move house though, since that is… imminent.)

Meanwhile, so this isn’t a blog entirely about blogging, I wanted to recommend another YouTube documentary series that I’ve been watching (following on from the recommendations in this post). Obviously, the below series is funded by a media website rather than being independent (they’re made for Vox), but for anyone interested in Chinese/British Imperial history, social issues or politics, I definitely recommend these videos on life in Hong Kong.

#Blaugust – What’s next?

I’ve just paid for the certificate for my most recent Future Learn course – ‘Museums as a Site and Source for learning’. I haven’t done my usual round up post for all of my course posts, but here they are:

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m not going to jump straight into another course just for blog content, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Future Learn courses. Meanwhile, the next thing is to start committing myself again is Duolingo French. I’ve been at it on and off since January 2017, (blog post here!)

I’m also (hopefully) about to be finished on buying an apartment, so once the dust has settled on my bank account I’m going to start saving up for some solo travelling. Therefore, I’ll be posting a little bit during Blaugust about the start of some travel plans, as well as the usual social media commentary, some tech stuff, and hopefully more book recommendations too.

Blaugust Day 2 – The Round-up

I think it’s important to try some new challenges during Blaugust, so this is me going for a more personal-style post for the first time in a long while – if ever! Below is a bit of a diary entry, then a book recommendation for the week – again, something I’ve never done before, but in order to make a month’s worth of blogs interesting and varied, I need to try some new things.


It’s really too nice a day to spend in front of a computer screen. Especially after having done that all day at work. So tonight, I’m headed out to the Canoe Club for a training session with friends. The club has been a big part of my life since I was ten years old, and I’m familiar with every inch of the club site, both river and bank. Right now, the water is depressingly low for any kind of slalom and whitewater training, but I’ve learned to enjoy how relaxing it is to be down in the summer.

Reading this week

Mao’s Great Famine – Frank Dikötter

I’ve been focusing on reading a lot of historical non-fiction lately, as my local library has a pretty extensive collection. This one is a very in-depth look at society in China during the 1950s and 60s, and it pulls no punches in showing how grim life was for people there. It’s also a cautionary tale in how far an unchallenged dictatorship can go. My only slight criticism would be that it assumes a certain amount of knowledge of the political figures involved, and tends to dip back and forth between issues in a way that can make it easy to lose track.

#Blaugust is here again!

Yes it’s back! For anyone who isn’t familiar with this very weird-sounding term, Blaugust is a wordsmashy combination of ‘Blog’ and ‘August’, with the challenge being to write something every single day for the entire month.

The first thing I did when sitting down to write this evening was check out the #Blaugust hashtag on Twitter. I know that there originally was, and still is, a community around this, and while I picked up the challenge from some people in that community, I’ve never really felt a part of it, as it is mostly people blogging about gaming, something I like to read about but seldom write about! However, while I won’t be participating in the community side of Blaugust for that reason, I do want to highlight the blog Aggronaut.com, and in particular this post about the history of Blaugust and encouraging people to get into it. Their comment about people blasting through the month, then taking a lot of time off from posting particularly resonated with me (you only have to look back through the past few years of this blog to see how few posts there are in September!) and it is something I plan to work on. Also, they’re got links to many other blogs taking the

For the past three years, I have managed to post a blog every day for August, 31 posts in 31 days. However, I’ve always had to be upfront about the fact that I’m not able to sit down and write every day, and a fair number of posts have had to be written in advance scheduled. I’ll admit that this isn’t really in the spirit of the challenge! Also, I was a little bit anxious about this year, and pushing myself to write as much as possible. So, this year I will not force myself to do 31 potentially sub-standard posts, in order to cover the inevitable six days when I’m off sailing/looking after a crew of teenagers and don’t have time or internet to blog. Nor will I immediately sign up to a bunch of online courses just to ensure I have content, though I will be continuing with my Understanding Museums course for the next week or so, and there will be posts about that.

Instead, I will do as much as I can, and enjoy myself. I might also consider doing some personal or diary-style posts, rather than struggling to write about social media, digital issues etc.

So, on to tomorrow!IMG_4614

#AMAConf Day 2 – Session Notes

It’s day two of the Arts Marketing Association Conference in Liverpool. After yesterday’s sessions, followed by a lovely evening having a tour of the Liverpool Philharmonic, I’m back with another day’s worth of notes.

 Morning Keynote — Putting Play at the Heart of Your Brand

The morning keynote was introduced by AMA chair Cath Hume, who talked about some of the work to come out of the hackathon and ideas sessions from Tuesday. This included looking at how a tech solution could improve accessibility for the arts – suggested a directory of venues/organsations listed by access requirements – very cool idea! Here is a tweet thread about it – and the AMA plans to follow these ideas up.

Also mentioned that the AMA is 25 years old in November! It was set up with the goal of networking arts marketeers and professionalising the sector – now they have members from all across the sector working together to promote a society where everyone has access to culture. They will be celebrating their anniversary at their Digital Marketing Day, 5 December in London and Glasgow, and are planning an Inclusivity day for early 2019.

Keynote from Tom Rainsford – Brand Director of giffgaff

  • Talking about mobile networks and play
  • The mobile phone industry has issues of brand loyalty and they take themselves too seriously
  • There is a lack of understanding of play in the industry – not challenging the status quo
  • Giffgaff is built on mutuality – people become members and then help with recruitment
  • They started by talking down other networks – saying why they were bad, but people don’t want to hear that, they want to hear what is good about giffgaff – a positive position

Power of play – in marketing campaigns such as their zombie-themed ads in 2012 – these were playful in content but could also have a more serious underlying point.

Be playful on social media – by engaging people, joking with them etc. you can create a sense of community.

  • For this to really work, you need playfulness as an internal policy, not just your external comms.
  • Everyone has a daily routine – how can you fit play into it?
  • The role of play in giffgaff is about disruption – how do you challenge people internally to create change externally?
  • What are your company values? You have to first understand your company values and care about them for your customers to care about them.

AMA Session 1: The Brightest Heaven of Invention — rebranding Shakespeare’s Globe


The Globe is a charity, but does not receive any public funding. It currently has 400,000 theatre visitors a year, 320,000 tour and exhibition visitors a year, and engages a further 100,000 children and young people via education work.

View from MHM (the consultancy which worked on their rebrand and audience insights) Any project needs to start with imagination – not necessarily a full formed plan but the desirable outcomes. 

The Issues

Globe Theatre, Globe Exhibitions and Globe Education were programming in isolation, even having separate ticketing and database systems. For the audience, there were multiple entry points to engaging with the Globe, but without any crossover engagement. To get a 360 degree view of their audience, they needed to build a single CRM, and do a major visitor insights study, using MHM’s Culture Segments.


The Globe didn’t at that point have a  unifying vision across it’s three departments – they needed to understand their ‘mission’.

A brand is a promise – one which is articulated clearly, and delivered to everyone who comes into contact with it. 

They had ideas, like their commitment to Shakespeare and to historically accurate staging and performance, but needed something to hold it together.

The Process

Everyone in the organisation has to be involved if everyone is to uphold the vision. Cross-departmental and cross-hierarchy working groups were created and MHM conducted many one-to-one interviews to find the common ideals that everyone held. They decided not to have a mission statement, but instead they had a ‘cause’.

The second thing was to develop a brand model, or a way of brand articulation, using the idea segments of ‘performance’, ‘curiosity and learning’, ‘Shakespeare for all’ and ‘our unique space’, divided by the values of ‘Attract’, ‘Engage’, and ‘Impact’. They were very clear not to use education, theatre or exhibition with capital letters – these were no longer titles.

The first draft of the brand model was literally post-it notes, they then gave this to an artist who created a design based on their round logo which could encompass these ideas for the staff in a visual way.

Audience Insight

They needed to get info that would inform them on all audiences, so they used MHM’s Culture Segments, which segment by cultural values rather than demographic or prior booking patterns. It could also inform the Globe about their wider potential audience rather than solely past and current audience, which they could then use to survey audience and non-audience about their views on the organisation.

The Globe over-indexed in the ‘Essence’ and ‘Stimulation’ segments (click through for explanations of these) so they did an audience forum t find out how the audience understood the Globe.

‘Essence’ were very confident that they understood the Globe’s position and mission, whether or not they had visited the venue.

‘Stimulation’ however, was split. Attenders were very enthusiastic about the Globe, but non-attenders saw it as a slightly cliched tourist attraction.

Visual Identity

The new logo is a 20-sided polygon based off architectural drawings of the theatre. This shape was carved into a piece of oak left over from the construction of the theatre, which was then used as a screen print to create the slightly cracked and textured round logo. All colours are red, black and white, based off historical theatre flags.

They also looked at the original printings of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and analysed the unusual (to the modern eye) way text and illustration was grouped in that early era of printing. This was used to inform print design – appealing both to Shakespeare geeks and design enthusiasts. 

One more important thing – previously they had had different print for education, theatre and tours/exhibitions, now it is in one unified brochure branded as a festival season.


(Taken directly from the slide!)

  1. Visuals. Start with why?
  2. Understand obstacles to success
  3. Discovery. Audience motivation and impact
  4. Agincourt. Great victories are founded on a common cause
  5. The Future – this is only the beginning

AMA Session 2: Working Together — Shared Ambition panel

This was a discussion/panel with fundraising/development and marketing staff from the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, and CAST, Doncaster. They had been a part of the AMA’s Shared Ambition programme, bringing together marketing and fundraising.

The first discussion was around recognising that while heads of department may be working well together, they need to look whether this is also true at lower levels where people might be working in very different ways to each other, rather than working together.

  • Looking at meeting strategies
  • Matrices of working
  • Looking at how people talk to each other
  • Also connections with the audience and engagement via CRM system.

In one case, they had starting out looking to jointly work on membership, then realised that they needed to look at a bigger picture of joint working first. Used exercises like empathy mapping to focus on where the barriers and and how to overcome it. Marketing/Comms and Development do need to work closely – but people have different priorities and if experience isn’t shared then there can be tension.

At CAST, the organisation began in 2013 and created a joint comms and development team with development under the direction of the Head of Comms. However there hadn’t been a need for fundraising in the organisation’s previous iteration as Civic Theatre Doncaster since it had been a council venue. This meant a lot of communicating the fundraising goals inside the org so that it could be widely and effectively spread to the audiences. Examples of this included their first Christmas campaign, where they wrote the fundraising notes into the script for the actors, and encouraged front of house to have themed decorating, including a goal display they could draw updates on.

Things that an arts organisation looking at shared ambition projects can do:

  1. Make the message cleat that your organisation is a charity
  2. Make the case for support really clear
  3. Look at responsibilities that can be spread across the whole team
  4. Share targets – don’t let them be just one person’s responsibility and reason to stress
  5. Keep departments physically and emotionally close where possible, so they can share news etc.
  6. Share the stories of the work that marketing and fundraising do together
  7. Write joint campaign plans
  8. Gather the willing – have conversations and get people together to talk about how they can help
  9. Share ideas and make them work for your own organisation


One question was about the possible issues of having a person who is head of comms and development?

Answer: It can certainly work if at a very senior level, if you have someone with an understanding of both and can view the benefits of both. If you don’t see them as a joint, equal focus, it can confuse not only staff but also audiences. It can also happily be a split role with two specialists, as it’s less about structure than it is about working together.

Another question asked about how to feed into strategy as a marketer if it’s not in your remit

Answer: Change might need need to be organisation wide if it’s a organisation-wide problem, also as a marketing person you can always start from the data side.


Have a conversation with your team – if you work more closely then what is the shared vision. Also, if one person has an idea, it’s not about taking over but about communicating that idea across to the whole team

AMA Session 3: City of Culture 2017 — a 365 day experiment

This session was about the Hull City of Culture – which featured an entire year of arts events, ensuring that 9 out of 10 people in Hull engaged with a cultural programme in 2017.

Their initial bid for City of Culture didn’t actually go down that well – people didn’t see Hull as a cultural place and even 60% of it’s own residents were against the idea. There was a poor perception of the city. The City of Culture team felt like there were a lot of things to celebrate, but some famous people in Hull Culture such as William Wilberforce perhaps didn’t reflect the current buzz of the city’s arts scene.

The team involved had never done anything similar before, so this was a chance to do something entirely new and to tell a story rooted in the city itself.

With their video ‘This City Belongs to Everyone‘ in support of ‘Say Yes to Hull’, they showed that they wanted to frame it as an invitation to everyone, not to segmented audience groups – and the Hull inhabitants were up for it. The City of Culture preposition was: find something you love, find something you would never normally go to, and then be inspired to find something else.

They had to involve the local people closely to departmentally volunteer coordinating sat alongside marketing

Some mistakes they they made early on

  • Rebranding – they had to rebrand after the bid process, but came to realise that people emotionally invest in a brand to need to be careful
  • Ticketing issues – they failed to anticipate the high demand for tickets in early events. They worked on this throughout the year, and now every arts venue in Hull has an upgraded and unified box office system.

The New Branding (see video)

  • They needed to embrace the tone of voice that people would use when talking about festival – if you were chatting to mates down the pub or at home etc.
  • Bright colours
  • An open, accessible brand

Other notes

  • They always asked for things – if you don’t ask you don’t get
  • Even as far as asking the BBC to put Hull on the weather forecast map – which it is now!
  • Overall, City of Culture contributed £220 million to the local economy, and attracted 6 million tourists. But most important was how many of the local residents came to events – 95% of the city

Three Important things to remember (if you’re ever putting on a 365 day festival!)

  1. Take risks – they had to have constant momentum because 2017 was going to arrive whether they were ready or not – but any arts organisation can adopt that momentum
  2. Surround yourself with great people – not just a great team, but great partner orgs too
  3. Say yes to things – be positive!


Was there any loss of momentum at any point?

  • Around September 2017 there was a loss of audience because the audience had become more ambitious over time and so demanded more.

(From an organisation in a city thinking of applying for City of Culture) What did you wish you’d known before applying for City of Culture?

  • An initiative like City of Culture forces you to look at the focus of a place, but actually you don’t need to wait for something like this to start a culture change.

Did Liverpool (as 2008 European Capital of Culture) or Derry/Londonderry (as 2013 UK City of Culture) give you advice on what to do?

  • It’s good to have friends from far away to call and get advice/support from. Also don’t announce a year’s worth of programming in one go – your later works will be informed by the earlier ones.

What is the legacy of the volunteer programme? (Around 2,500 volunteers were recruited for Hull City of Culture)

  • The volunteers willingly put in far more work than anticipated – they were everywhere, vey committed and learned skills along the way. Now rather than cultural ambassadors, they are a force for community-led changes on local issues.

(From a org in Coventry – UK City of Culture 2021) What one thing can a venue do to support a City of Culture team?

  • Make friends – be supportive!

End of the Conference

Finally, we had a keynote speech from Tatiana Simonian, the Head of Global Partnerships at Tumblr, and then it was time to head home and type up these notes. Tomorrow, I’ll be back at work, and we can start seeing what ideas and inspirations can be put into practice…