What Need Does our Audience “Hire” us to Fill?

A Conversation with Marguerite Hannah, Associate Producer, Horizon Theatre Company

Marguerite Hannah attended the November 2016 National Arts Marketing Project Conference with a scholarship provided by the Audience Building Roundtable initiative of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Marguerite shares her insights from the conference in this blog.

My biggest takeaways from the National Arts Marketing Project Conference are (1) the importance of living your brand, and (2) being empathetic to the needs of our audience.

Our audience “hires” us to fill a need in their lives – they hire us with the purchase of a $26 ticket.  

Audience members have many choices for how to spend their disposable income—and their free time.  When we “message” about our theatre offerings, we need to be clear so that prospective audience members can decide if what we are offering fills a need for them that is important enough for them to spend their money and their time with us.

At Horizon Theatre, we had already scheduled our next season before this insight came our way so we have not yet incorporated this new thinking into our season choices.  But we have spent time, as a team, discussing how we can change our methods and our messaging to better align with this new way of approaching audience development.

Implementing new ideas, in any organization, requires constant advocacy inside the organization.  We continue to ask our audience for more feedback and to use that data in our decision making.  We believe that we should use the data we acquire to inform our work but we should not be paralyzed by either the plethora or lack of it.   Sometimes we need to try new audience building ideas and let the idea be validated by our results (or the lack of it.) 

At Horizon, we have a longstanding commitment to financial sustainability and are very attuned to our financial bottom line along with our artistic bottom line.  Sometimes this commitment means that we don’t expend resources on research but the good news is that asking our audience for feedback doesn’t always require additional financial resources. It does require our time and that is a commitment that we continue to make.

One of the central challenges in our marketing is to communicate that we CAN meet the needs of our audience members so that they continue to “hire” us to enrich their lives.  In the arts, we can ALL embrace this way of thinking with great benefits.


Keywords: NAMPC, living your brand, empathy with audience, audience needs, financial sustainabiity, messaging

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