4 min read

Bringing a Content Marketing Strategy into the Arts

Rich, interactive website content  at the National Theatre

Content marketing sounds like one of those things you should add to your list of annoying buzzwords along with SoLoMo and advertainment. But it's actually a significant change in approach to marketing with 78% of CMOs calling it the future of marketing. It also seems to work wonders: a report found that content marketing for FMCG increased product purchased by 37%.

I’m going to delve into the world of content marketing and its uses in the arts so that by the time you reach the end of this blog post, you will (hopefully) be persuaded to make content part of your marketing strategy – if you’re not already.

So first up, here’s a straightforward definition of content marketing from Wikipedia: “Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers...Content marketing is focused not on selling, but on simply communicating with customers and prospects. The idea is to inspire business and loyalty from buyers by delivering "consistent, ongoing valuable information".”

A Kraft infographics showing the value of sharing recipes and product information over corporate information
Kraft food – not just a boring corporate website.

The crucial bit is at the end: good content marketing isn't about the hard sell, but providing people with something which is genuinely interesting, shareable, and attention-grabbing. For example, when you go to Kraft Food’s website, they don’t simply take you to a boring corporate website – instead they ask you to pick either their corporate website, or their Kraft recipes website full of recipes, ideas, community discussions and tips. They’ve embedded engaging content right into their entire online identity.

In the arts, where we have interesting content, unique experiences and amazing stories aplenty, arts marketers are in a really good position to use content marketing strategies to their advantage. You may be asking yourself why you should put so much effort into creating content that doesn’t immediately lead people to a booking page. The simple answer is that a long term strategy of content creation makes short term marketing messages much more convincing, as these examples of content marketing in the arts illustrate…

Royal Court

In between the necessary tweets letting people know about ticket availability and special discounts, the Royal Court has perfected the art of content marketing on its Twitter feed. For Routes, a play about immigration in Britain, the Royal Court became a source for news on immigration. By doing so, they could attract people based on their interest in the issue, not just people who are interested in theatre.

A twitter thread from the Royal Court, connecting their production of 'Routes' to current topics around immigration

#Routes at the Royal Court on Twitter.

The National Theatre

You can also engage with people with content based on the organisation itself. On the National Theatre's Discover More page, the National Theatre collected videos exploring theatre by subject. It formed a genuinely useful and interesting resource that also contributes to the image of the National Theatre as rich with history and with a respected position in theatre.

Videos on a wide range of aspect of theatre, from acting to costumer, at the National Theatre
The NT's Discover More page.

Walker Art Center

They've gone all the way and designed their entire website around content. On its main page, event listings are on a sidebar on the left whereas content takes up most of the room, including a ‘Top Stories’ feed on the right for content generated by Walker itself, and ‘Art News from Elsewhere’ linking to external news sites. Content is always related to what’s going on at the gallery. It makes the centre seem engaged, up-to-date and crucially, provides new perspectives on a topic related to gallery events to get visitors interested. In their mission statement they say: “The Walker Art Center is a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and the active engagement of audiences. Focusing on the visual, performing, and media arts of our time, the Walker takes a global, multidisciplinary, and diverse approach to the creation, presentation, interpretation, collection, and preservation of art.” By re-imagining how visitors can engage with art on their website, it shows that they practise what they preach. 

Rich context for events listings at the Walker Arts Center

The Walker Arts Center, re-imagining how we engage with art.

The Courtyard, Hereford

In an email promoting a child-friendly show, they invite kids to play the online game and join the Jason quest, so that even if you’re not sure about attending the show, The Courtyard are still giving you good reasons to click away. Instead of encouraging people to skim read an email listing events with a bit of blurb, they’ve devoted the space entirely to Jason and the Argonauts.

Interactive learning activities link to a family event listing at the Courtyard, Hereford
Keeping to the point: The Courtyard's email for Jason and the Argonauts.

In contrast to marketing messages which tell you something is great, these examples of content marketing show you that something is worth your attention – much more persuasive!

Convinced? Here are 6 tips for generating and embedding great content into your strategy:

  • Explore the work creatively. Delving into the unique qualities of the piece and creatively exploring its wider context, helps you uncover the things that make it unique and produce better content. Rather than just conveying the dry facts (like price, reviews, dates) explore its historical context, its subject matter, its style, the set design, the actors, or particular characters, and work out what could become interesting content. Ultimately, this means marketers and artists have to work closer together.
  • Produce evergreen content. If you’re pressed for time, create content that you can still use in a year so that you can repurpose it again and again for different channels.
  • It should be consistent. All the parts of the content should add up and contribute to the overarching idea you want to convey.
  • Synthesise your content and channel. The beauty of the Royal Court tweets are that many people already use Twitter as a new stream – it both fits into their expectations of what Twitter is for, and defies their expectation of an arts feed.
  • Grab attention. Be honest when considering whether the content is genuinely interesting. Only truly attention-grabbing content gets shared.
  • Back it up. Support great content with effective use of digital tools: segment an email campaign so that you only email content relevant to people who are interested, measure traffic, employ SEO, keywords, and track campaigns.
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