Is there a difference between marketing and PR?
Yes! People use the terms interchangeably and both often utilize the same tools and terms (press releases, op-ed pieces, branding, publicity, promotion), so they can easily become blurred. The difference has more to do with the motive, than the tool or type of activity. Marketing is done to sell something: a product, a membership, a ticket to an event, etc. Public relations are done to increase visibility for your organization and enhance or define your organization’s image.

What is marketing?
Marketing encompasses advertising, product development, sales, pricing, promotion, communications, publicity, and product distribution. It can be overwhelming, but this section offers some simple guidelines as a starting point for you to develop an effective campaign to promote the arts in your community.

What is public relations?
Public relations is the business of generating goodwill toward an individual, cause, company, or product. PR activities are designed to increase community support or knowledge about a particular program or event. PR activities also include the development and maintenance of attitudes and understanding toward the objectives of an organization.

Should I do both?
Yes, and chances are you already do. When you are promoting an event, you are probably also promoting your organization. It is important to keep track of the underlying goal for doing your activity (i.e., to sell tickets) so you don’t send a mixed or confusing message. The activities of your organization should help direct your effort toward either marketing or PR. For instance, prior to announcing a capital campaign for a new building, it would make sense to focus on a PR campaign to enhance your visibility and image in the community.

How do I get started?
One of the first steps in trying to sell a product/service is to know your target audience. Most non-profits have limited dollars in their marketing budgets, so they cannot afford to waste dollars on people who have no interest in their product. Doing market research is essential. As competition grows and communities expand and change, it is important to know your audience and know what they think of you. see When Conducting Market Research

Why do research?
The main benefits of doing market research:
It will tell you where to spend your advertising dollars.
It will help you develop messaging and know how the public views you.
It will help you offer the right benefits and discounts.
It will help you answer the statistical questions that appear on many cultural contracts and grants.
It will give you credibility when asking for corporate and media sponsorships.
It will help show you where the education department needs to grow.
It will help you identify who is not in your audience but needs to be.

What if I don’t have the funding to hire a firm to do my research?
The best place to get free help with research is your local university or college. You need to find a professor who teaches graduate-level marketing (probably in the school of business or communications) is willing to use your organization as the subject of a study. Graduate students can focus on your organization as a project, conducting surveys by phone, mail, or email.  Know that you will have to dedicate time to work with the students, hear their reports, and more. The better you define what you want to know, the more likely they will build a survey that answers your needs. You end up with very useful information at the end of the class. So, start a relationship with your local university and go from there.

Is there anything I can do now?
There are many ways to collect useful information within your organization right now.

A) By analyzing the zip codes in your database of recent customers, you can see where your customers live. Depending on the structure of your community, you can use what you learn about this area of town to know your target. Just a few reasons why this is useful: you will want to place advertising in this area, you will want to collect lists of names with a heavy sampling of this zip code, and if this area is known to be an older demographic that is retired then you can use that information to develop your messaging.

B) A second way to collect customer information is to ask your staff. Everyone who has contact with a customer should understand the role they play in this process. They know your customers better than anyone. That knowledge, combined with the relationship they have with the customer, is one of your strongest tools. One practice that should already be in place (and if not, do it today) is that the box office should always ask the ticket purchaser how he/she found out about the service/product and record the information. This will help you know which campaign was particularly effective. There is so much information at your fingertips; you just have to change your organization’s culture so everyone understands the role they play in collecting the information.

What are the basic pieces of information you need to know about your audience?

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location (zip code, city, county, etc.)
  • Income
  • Education
  • Marital status
  • Number of children
  • Occupation
  • Ethnicity
  • What they know about you
  • Their perceptions about you
  • Barriers to trial (what would keep them from purchasing a ticket)
  • Triggers – (what made them purchase a ticket for the first time)
  • Other clubs/organizations they patronize
  • Media habits (TV, radio, newspaper, Internet)
  • How and where they spend recreational dollars

Messaging & Branding

What is messaging?
Messaging is the careful development of the precise and concise language that quickly conveys the key message(s) you want known about your product or organization. The value of being able to instantly position yourself in the mind of the marketplace is huge. In an age where there is so much noise, so much competition, all vying for customers’ attention, it is paramount that you can state your message quickly and have it resonate.

Once you have all of your research compiled, you can decide the messaging to use for your campaign. It is important that the message and images are consistent, concise and cohesive. In today’s world, advertising is everywhere. With all this “information sharing,” you must strive to keep the same look throughout every aspect of your campaign or you will confuse your customer. It takes five touches of the same message for the audience to finally recognize your product, so be consistent.

What is branding?
Branding is the look you chose to visually represent your organization or product. Branding is the careful development of the visual vocabulary you use to represent your organization or product in all your printed or online materials. The components usually consist of: one or two different fonts; one or two main colors and two or three additional colors; a logo; and some graphic design rules and elements. The more distinctive the look and the more consistently you use it, the more quickly your materials will become recognizable to your customers and audiences.

How do I put it all together?
Your messaging and branding work hand-in-hand to define the image of your organization. These components should be incorporated into all your marketing and advertising materials and everything you put out in the world. Your distinctive look combined with your pithy message will increase your visibility and enhance consumer recognition of your products.

Brainstorm the message you will want to use in your communications campaign. The parameters you need to keep in mind are:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are their triggers?
  • What are their barriers?
  • Satisfy demand – what do they need and how can you solve it?
  • Is it within your organization’s mission/vision/position?
  • Use strong, positive words
  • Be short and concise
  • Be sensitive to all communities

Test your message. Because this will be the central thread that runs throughout the entire campaign, take a day to show it to as many people as possible and get their feedback. Do not take their comments personally and ask them to be honest. Their comments reflect exactly what your audience will think.

Adapted from the Ballet Austin Tool-kit