Notes from the Field: The National Arts Marketing Project Conference
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Interview by Laura Brueckner
Early this November, TBA executive director Brad Erickson headed to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend the four-day National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC), a program of Americans for the Arts.
The conference, which drew nonprofit marketers in every art form, from all around the country, included sessions on audience retention, marketing for small-budget organizations, measuring diversity, successful digital branding, how grantmakers evaluate proposals for digital media, gamification and even how to develop Google Analytics skills.
|Lisa Mallette, producing artistic director of City Lights Theater of San Jose; TBA executive director Brad Erickson and Anne Younan, City Lights development and business manager, at the 2015 National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Salt Lake City.
In this installment of “Notes from the Field,” Erickson discusses what TBA member companies should know about NAMPC. More conference information and 2015 highlights are available here.
LB: Who typically attends the NAMP Conference?
BE: NAMP attracts staff from arts organizations of all disciplines, shapes and sizes from around the country. Marketing folks are most likely to attend, but there are plenty of development people, management executives and artistic leaders as well. The conference pulls 500 or so attendees each year. I would say the participants are becoming more diverse, in terms of their job titles, as the field is beginning to understand that engaging audiences and impacting communities means going way beyond traditional marketing efforts.
Who was there representing TBA member companies this year?
Lisa Mallette, producing artistic director of City of Lights Theater of San Jose was speaking on the panel I was facilitating; she was accompanied by her development and business manager, Anne Younan. And of course, TBA's own Alli Houseworth, our acting director of advancement. Robert Sweibel—until recently the marketing director at Berkeley Rep, now at New York's Roundabout Theatre—was attending as well. And NAMP is now overseen by former TBA communications director Clay Lord, now vice president for local arts advancement at Americans for the Arts, which runs the National Arts Marketing Project.
I'm sure I'm missing some other Bay Area folks, but the conference was not well attended by TBA members—which is a shame, because it is a focused and hugely worthwhile convening. So often, we theatre-makers confer only with other theatre professionals. The NAMP Conference is a great way for us to learn from our colleagues in neighboring disciplines, and hear from thought leaders new to many in our field.
What does NAMP have to offer smaller theatre companies?
What's special about NAMP is that it offers three concentrated days of learning focused on attracting, building and more deeply engaging audiences. Leaders from smaller theatres can hear from some of the top thinkers in the nation around this topic, and engage in one-on-one conversations with the presenters and their colleagues from all over the country. And they won't be alone. More and more, NAMP is reaching beyond the large-budget organizations and attracting folks from groups of all sizes.
What was your favorite takeaway from this year's conference?
There is a new understanding beginning to spread through the larger arts field that engaging audiences is not a peripheral activity of one department (marketing), but is instead the business of the entire organization and, indeed, the whole point behind making and presenting art.
Who are some of the speakers you heard this year at NAMP?
A huge treat for me was hearing Donna Walker-Kuhne—whose famous book, Invitation to the Party, has been talked about for years, and resides on my office bookshelf. Her message of inclusion is so forceful and so infectiously positive. Also really fun was NPR and Radiolab podcast star Jad Abumrad.
Does this event sound like music to your ears? Consider attending NAMPC 2016—it will be held Nov. 11-16 in Austin, Texas.