Event | AMA 2016 Daily Blogs - Cimeon

Relevance is the word of this year's AMA conference...

Relevance – not merely measuring

The word of the conference seemed to be relevance, it came up in many sessions and keynotes from both Nina Cruz (Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History) and Meabh Quorin (Future Foundation). It also came up in my group’s conversation about how the arts sector should respond to the realisation that the largely liberal arts might be, on the matter of Brexit, out of step with 50% (or more) of their potential audience.

In a continued climate of decreasing funding, limited organisational capacity and the resulting need to keep a tight control on finance; the need to prove value can lead us towards the merely instrumental use of research and analysis. The ongoing hype around data (big, open, linked etc), especially digital, seems to make us focus on outputs and counting things, not on relevance, people, quality and creativity – the things we’re all here for. Even though there is no reason for quantitative evidence not to be challenging/supporting an impact focused organisation. The great thing about #amaconf 2016 was how much it seemed that the sector are embracing data as a means to an end – “starting with the question and then seeking the data and evidence needed to answer it” to paraphrase my colleague Katie Moffat in her talk ‘Adventures in audience data’.

Focus groups and audience surveys should be part of our approach to asking the many communities we could/should serve how they want us to be relevant as arts orgs. We should also remember that this might change what you do: broadening your circle of relevance, may also move it outside where some of those already on the inside currently feel comfortable. There are challenging but important conversations to be had with our colleagues at all levels in organisations. This is likely to be most acute with those who have been on the inside for the longest time eg trustees and senior leaders. However, it will be worth it for a more relevant, representative, and therefore also robust organisation.

Meabh Quorin’s talk on trends was fascinating, and whilst some of the numbers were obviously presented mostly to provoke debate, being able to quantify and track trends gives you the opportunity to plan and predict. Those pesky ‘millennials’ ie people who we want to reach but label differently because some may not understand them, are not going to change or adapt to the way we already do things just because some wish they would. Once again this might mean thinking about content as well as messaging. It was very interesting to think about the effect YouTube and Netflix is having on peoples’ increasingly extreme content consumption patterns – either binge watching long-form content or sporadic consumption of short form ‘hyper-digestible’ content (possibly simultaneously).

Visiting from the Royal Danish Theatre, Christina Osterby spoke about ways you can embed this question-led, evidence driven and responsive approach to the customer need. It’s not just about the CRM system (which is important) but about the processes in their organisation for driving through this change. If you’ve not been convinced by agile methodology, I challenge you to see what they’ve done and not change your mind. The impressive web of data they’ve linked (for meaningful action!) is very exciting, and gave me some ideas about the possible future of Audience Finder. Don’t however feel that all data must be linked, some is (on occasion) better off in a silo. If it isn’t or can’t be made relevant to other people, save your effort and leave it where it is.

And of course, once we have dealt with all the above, we do still need to make sure we communicate, in accordance with best practice, so Roger Tomlinson’s session on ‘Staying Safe’ was vital for checking that you don’t trip at the last hurdle by building the best, most relevant offer with differentiated and targeted communications that don’t meet the requirements of regulation in our omnichannel age.

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