Audience development tips: who do you want to reach?

The Museums at Night festival and the associated marketing campaign always attracts a lot of publicity, and provide a great vehicle that arts and heritage organisations can use for audience development.

Most museums and galleries are already working on reaching out to their target audiences, but if 2013 will be your first time running an event as part of the festival, it’s worth thinking about how it will fit in with the rest of your programming, and which specific groups of people you’d like to attract.

Two men in red boiler suits by the golden prow of a ship surrounded by a crowd of people

Jellymongers Bompas & Parr draw a crowd to witness jelly flooding the SS Great Britain at dusk during Museums at Night 2012 (c) Stephen Lewis

Targeting specific audiences

Of the 199 venues that responded to our 2012 survey question “Why did you take part in the campaign this year?” 87% said “To attract new audiences” – the top answer.

To effectively attract new audiences a venue first needs to decide who they are currently attracting and who they could potentially attract. By identifying the kind of people you want to attract, you are in a better position to devise events that are likely to succeed in reaching your target audience.

Segmentation is a market research term used to describe a way of grouping people according to their shared beliefs, tastes, needs or behaviours. It can be used as a tool to help your organisation to identify who makes up your target audiences.

Arts Council England produced a report called Arts Audiences: Insight (the Blue Book) which used segmentation methods to identify patterns of arts consumption and attitudes towards the arts. This divided the adult population of England into 3 categories and 13 sub-categories.

We’ve studied the report and identified five audience segments which we think Museums at Night can be particularly successful in attracting significant numbers of people from:

Fun, fashion and friends – this group particularly likes live events and attend fun events with family and friends. They respond to high-profile media campaigns and are online every day, so the festival PR and marketing strategy is ideally suited to them.

Mature explorers – visual arts is their passion, especially when tied in with learning and heritage, so their interests align directly with the campaign. Event ideas that would appeal to this segment include specialist knowledge sharing e.g. curator talks and behind-the-scenes archive tours.

Dinner and a show – this group respond to a sociable artistic offer and one that gives them value for money, for instance two or three events rolled into one offer. Venues taking part in the festival within a cluster may find this segment good to target.

Family and community – this category typically enjoys carnivals as a way of spending time with each other, so we think sleepovers may appeal to them.

Time-poor dreamers – this group are more likely to attend if an event is local, low cost or free and informal (for example, opportunities to drop in and try something for a short time). They may also respond positively to the competition aspect of Connect10.

Take a look at the Arts Audiences Insight report: there are eight other segments which you may feel your venue is more suited to attracting. Choose one or two segments and think about how the event you are devising will appeal to these people.

Evaluating your event against your audience development goals

Finally, consider how you’re going to review the success of your event in attracting your target audience and giving them positive, engaging experiences. You’ll want to account for the numbers of people attending but you could also devise a survey that asks questions designed to get qualitative feedback.

For example, the author of The Participatory Museum, Nina Simon, aims to “build social capital through bridging experiences at and beyond the museum”, so to assess their success in achieving this goal, the questions her team at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History ask their visitors include “Did you meet someone new [through a museum experience]?” and “Did you encounter something that surprised you?”

Don’t forget, all organisations participating in Museums at Night are welcome to use our visitor survey, which we’ll make available in 2013 – but you may want to take our standard questions and add in some that are specific to your organisation. If you’re doing this, all we ask is that you share your results data back with us so it can be included in our evaluation of the festival.

More information:

Taking part in the Arts

The Audience Agency

The Arts Marketing Association’s screencasts on how to attract a broader audience (Part One: working internally and Part Two: working externally)

Audiences London research project Not for the Likes of You

Download this audience development introduction as a one-page PDF