IMHO: Audience Engagement Definitions [now with updates!]
New blogger request for forgiveness, the original post needed more before I moved on. All updates, made 1/24/15 appear in this fetching orange.
A Google search of audience engagement yields a bevy of infographics:
And many definitions… (underlining all mine)
From Doug Borwick’s blog Engagement Matters:
“Audience Engagement is a marketing strategy designed for deepening relationships with current stakeholders and expanding reach over time. Also internally focused (artcentric), it may result in new modes/venues of presentation and means of illuminating/explaining the arts to the public. Typically, ‘outreach’ is an example of audience engagement.”
From Trevor O’Donnell’s blog Marketing the Arts to Death: (link updated)
“Development professionals are unusually adept at initiating, nurturing and sustaining relationships with community members so the fit is ideal: engagement is merely an extension of the work that development departments already do.”
From WolfBrown’s Report Making Sense of Audience Engagement:
“Audience engagement is defined as a guiding philosophy in the creation and delivery of arts experiences in which the paramount concern is maximizing impact on the participant. Others refer to this vein of work as ‘enrichment programming’ or ‘adult education.’
Is it a “marketing strategy” as Mr. Borwick suggested? What does that mean for measuring success–ultimately only in numbers of people and dollars through the door?
Is it more relationship cultivation akin to development as Mr. O’Donnell suggested? If we embraced this, might it dramatically alter arts funding practices?
Is it essentially an organizing principle + strategic thinking framework as WolfBrown suggested? Why look outside of arts organizations’ artistic programming to do that; why not radiate from the artistic experience outward? Engagement as artistic imperative?
SO WHY DON’T YOU TAKE MY WORD FOR IT!?!
You caught me: I launched another definition into the blogosphere. But the intention of doing so, as an artist-administrator obsessed with integrating artistic and organizational advancement work, is to simplify and personalize, and stop the “whose responsibility should it be” back-and-forth that many definitions of audience engagement result in.
Points of clarification:
- “Artcentric”: extending Mr. Borwick’s definition, audience engagement is driven by our role as artists in our community; therefore, our sweep of activities is going to be driven by our work (a.k.a. the art).
- Mission Oriented (or even driven!): audience engagement should be an extension of your raison d’etre. Work within the enabling constraints of why the organization exists and what it seeks to accomplish.
- Organization Curated: at the most basic level, someone inside the organization originated the audience engagement program idea or is saying “yes” or “no”; organizations can provide tremendous leeway and agency to collaborators and partners but audience engagement is selected and “held” by the organization.
- Different from Community Engagement and Audience Development: these all have different outcomes. (More on IMHO the difference in a future post).
In addition to knowing why your particular organization (based on its mission) is embarking on this “audience engagement” thing, a baseline of shared values must exist and woven into the fabric of every activity.
And that seems as good a place as any to stop, and step away from the keyboard.
Do you have a preferred definition of audience engagement, whether it’s your’s or someone else’s?
We at A Big Eyed Fish would love to hear it!