Tag Archives: arts 2.0

expert witness

I’ve been hearing a lot from artists and cultural organizations that they’d like to start a blog, but they’re unsure what they should write about. They seem convinced that since a blog is a good marketing tool, it’s really just another place to put press releases and event announcements.

Not so.

Blogs are a particular type of communications tool, different from a press release or a feature story in the local paper. Those things are still GREAT, but now you have this other tool, that can accomplish slightly different goals.

First, let’s brainstorm a bit on what you might want to write about.

If you’re an artist, I might read your blog because I want to know more about you, not because I want to read the same stuff I read about you in the newspapers. Give me the inside scoop! What is it like to be you?

What? It’s not all late mornings and Oscar-Wilde-like witty remarks in the world of an artist? So disillusion us.

Most people are fascinated by the interior life of artists. Many people are turned on by the chance to peek backstage at a theater. Almost everyone I know thinks they can curate an art exhibit. Are they right?

Artists: Write about your favorite kind of paintbrushes. Write about where you go shopping for paintbrushes. Write about how hard it is to find decent studio space. Write about why you ditched that banker job to see if you could make it selling art. Write about your crippling self-doubt and fears of failure. Write the truth. Not the press release.

Cultural Organizations: Write about your insides — what goes on inside a theater, a museum, a historical home? Not the tedious soap opera that will get you fired if you share – the cool stuff we’re all dying to know! Where do your staff come from? What brought them here? How much fun did you have striking the set over the weekend? Can I help next time?

Of course, since you’ve left comments open on your blog, you get to hear back from your community. They will tell you what they want to hear more about, what’s working, what’s not. Like it or not, they are YOUR community, and it’s far better to know what they are thinking about you than to not know.

(You know how you sometimes send out surveys and evaluation forms, trying desperately to get feedback on your programs and show their impact? And then bemoan the fact that nobody responds? Open up comments on your blog.)

Why? What are the objectives you are trying to accomplish by sharing this insider information, reading constituent comments, interviewing your volunteers and donors? All this takes time and effort — how do you justify taking the time to write this stuff down and share it with the world?

Here are a few things you will be doing, without even knowing you are doing them, if you blog like this:

  • Position yourself and your organization as an expert in the field
  • Feature and promote the people most important to your success (sponsors,volunteers, staff, donors)
  • Connect with your peers and your peer organizations
  • Think out loud, learning about yourself and your field as you do (also known as “learning by writing”)
  • Show the human face of your organization
  • Engage your members and donors more deeply, giving them a personal investment in your success
  • Reach potential members/donors you don’t even know about

To paraphrase David at JournaMarketing:

Turn your {blog} into a service, instead of a commercial. When you do that, you get the benefit of reaching more people — and the added benefit of directing them to a place where they might come to trust you, instead of forgetting about you in 30 seconds.

This doesn’t mean oversharing, or giving away proprietary information. It means giving your readers a tantalizing peek behind the curtain — you get to decide how high to raise it, and what corner of scenery to reveal — so that they want to know more.

It means accepting the fact that you are an expert, and that you have knowledge to share. Just by virtue of the fact that you do what you do – create art, build sets, sing and dance, preserve a historical home — makes you an expert.

You are an expert in what it is like to be you. Because you work as a creator, promoter, curator, preserver, or supporter of the arts, you are doing something that most people only dream of doing. Share.

Update: Jeremiah Owyang just resurfaced this post from October 2007, a thoughtful list of challenges presented by CEO blogs, most of which translates perfectly well to cultural organizations and other nonprofits considering starting a blog.  He also rightly refers you to read Shel Israel’s and Robert Scoble’s Naked Conversations, a must-read book on business blogging.


another early morning on the red line

Got up early again to sit in on Len Edgerly’s excellent presentation on Arts 2.0 at Podcamp Boston 2.  Follow the first link to watch the video of the presentation.  Len covers ways in which individual artists and arts organizations are using web 2.0 tools, and he breaks it down into four categories:

  •  New Media
  • Social Networks
  • Mobile Networks
  • Virtual Worlds

Note the trenchant comments from the floor by the chick in the front row. 

Also note my abject failure to win the “fastest text messager in the room” contest.  That’s OK, the prize was a bright green pencil sharpener (I believe with pencil thoughtfully included!), and I have an even more vintage version in my office.  I am the envy of all.

I’ll be covering some of this ground in my presentation at Philanthropy Day Cape Cod on Tuesday, November 6, and it was great to see how somebody else approaches the material.  What I liked about this presentation was the terrific amount of specific examples of what people are doing right now with the technology, along with some thoughtful ideas about what else might be possible.

Don’t forget to click on part two to see the (eventually successful, trust me) live demo of Second Life.  This was particularly gratifying for me to see, as I have only ever dabbled in Second Life with my very slow home computer, so I had never seen the graphics in all their glory.  Mine are alway slow, pixellated, and buggy, and I inevitably crash and get logged out because of my computer’s very small brain.

Eventually, the guy filming the presentation does turn the camera on to the screen, so you can see Len’s very dapper avatar, Hercules Randall, strolling through an exhibit in Paris, 1900, and then flying up to the Sistine Chapel for an eye-level view of the stunning replica that Vassar College has built in Second Life.

I really liked the point Len made at the end, about urging people to “just try it” — just build a profile on Facebook, start reading some blogs, comment on a few, mess around and experiment.  Unfortunately, I still see people who are terrified they will “blow their computer up” or something if they hit the wrong key.  I do think that the key to a lot of this technology is just getting people to try it — it’s fun and interesting on its own merits, and you learn by doing.  To a certain extent we take some of the joy out of these tools by wrapping them up in the language of marketing and ROI.

OH EXCELLENT footage of me chugging coffee like my life depended on it at the very end!  I’m such a star.