MOKO DANCE: Audience engagement & marketing LEGACY DOCUMENT
Contents Executive summary
Purpose of the current document
A Guide to specific scenarios with case studies
Family Arts Campaign
1 We’re just starting out with family programming.What do we need to consider and how do we think across the organisation, not just about programming and marketing? 2 We know we need to talk to families differently, but how can we do that?
3 We know how to welcome adults to our venue, but how do we make our home more family friendly?
4 We don’t have a lot of money to spend. How do we tap into word of mouth marketing?
5 We’ve had success reaching children 7 and under, but struggle to reach the 8-12 age group. What can we do?
6 How can we attract schools’ bookings for our performances and engage schools?
7 We have good attendance at our classes and participation activities. How can this translate into attendance at performances? 8 How can we make the most of working in partnership?
9 We have a regular and loyal family audience for our events. We’re ready to take things to the next level – what should we do?
13 16 18 19 25 27 31
Front cover: MOKO Mix by MOKO Dance (The Rock by Tamsin Fitzgerald) / Photo by Farrows Creative
MOKO Mix by MOKO Dance (The Suitcase Story by Christopher Marney) / Photo by Farrows Creative
Executive summary The programming, marketing and presentation of work for children has progressed immeasurably in the past few years.The impact of the Family Arts Campaign has been a significant factor in this,
with many venues and organisations signing up to the Family Arts Standards and benefiting from resources, research and insight commissioned by the campaign as well as the platform offered
by the annual Family Arts Festival.
MOKO Dance launched in 2013 with a network of core partners and a remit to develop an
infrastructure for touring dance for families and children, and to build audiences for this work. In year
two the network expanded to incorporate buddy venues, each paired with one of the core partners. Before MOKO Dance approached its final year of operation, this document was commissioned as a legacy tool that would act as a guide to audience engagement and marketing for organisations programming work for family audiences. It is intended to act as a helpful guide to the partners
during the final year of MOKO Dance touring and also as a legacy for the network beyond the
final year of funding.The document offers a guide to best practice on how to reach and develop family audiences, looking at successful strategies both from within the MOKO Dance network,
as well as case studies from the wider arts sector.
Introduction 19% of the population are under 16 and 7.7m households have dependent children.Within the arts,
there is a genuine and growing commitment to reaching out to family audiences, and to understanding their needs and motivations. Children are the arts attenders of the future and their parents can
be powerful and loyal advocates for organisations that provide them with a good experience. In a
time-pressured world, the arts can offer families the opportunity of a genuinely shared experience
that they can participate in together. Focusing on families can also help build a more diverse audience: according to research there is a greater propensity for less engaged groups to participate in
family-focused arts activity.
As the first evaluation of Family Arts Campaign said:
“organisations are rethinking ideas about their family offer and where families fit into their organisation
and programming.They are seeing the value of the family market and that building loyalty and increasing frequency can lead to increased audience spend and organisational stability.” 1
For artists and companies, the current stigma that developing work specifically for children is
somehow creatively of less value than that for adults is disappearing, and organisations are actively
embracing the challenge of making work for younger people.This, in turn, is improving the quality
of programme for venues and audiences, as well as enabling those venues to build trust with their audiences, as they see high quality work becoming the norm rather than a one-off experience.
There is also a growing understanding that the family audience doesn’t simply mean two parents
and their children. In the 21st century, alongside parents and children, a visit by a “family” is as likely
to comprise children attending with grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, step-parents and
group.This widens the scope of who a venue can traditionally target to attend a family show, although
the parameters of what needs to be considered – both in terms of messaging, methods of communication, to visitor experience at the event – also become more complex.
From Family Arts Campaign Evaluation & Audience Research Toolkit, Produced by Catherine Rose, Catherine Sutton
& Pam Jarvis
MOKO Dance creative dance workshop led by Sarah Franklin / Photo by Farrows Creative
step-siblings or groups of families made up of friends from school, home or a community or school
MOKO Dance MOKO Dance is a national partnership dedicated to opening the eyes of children and their
families to the power of dance. Funded by Arts Council England and led by DanceEast in Ipswich, it launched with MOKO Mix in spring 2013, a double bill of new work by Tamsin Fitzgerald (The
Rock) and Christopher Marney (The Suitcase Story), commissioned and produced by MOKO Dance.
The network consists of five core partners, committed to a shared vision of bringing bold and
innovative work to young audiences across the UK. In addition to DanceEast, these are Nottingham
Lakeside Arts, Sadler’s Wells (London), South East Dance (Brighton and Kent) and co-partners for the
South West region Theatre Bristol (Bristol) and Pavilion Dance South West (Bournemouth). Originally
Dance City in Newcastle and Dance Exchange in Birmingham were also core partners. In year 2 of its
operation, MOKO Dance expanded its remit with the introduction of buddy venues, each paired with
one of the core partners.
Working with emerging, established and internationally renowned companies and choreographers, the MOKO Dance experience is fresh, interactive and adventurous.
MOKO Dance is funded by Arts Council England for three years to present a range of work by both
emerging and established choreographers and dance companies from throughout the UK and beyond, to produce pieces of work for children, young people and their families, that cover a variety of dance
genres. MOKO Dance also delivers a range of interactive and fun front of house activities and dance workshops to supplement the main performances.
During the first two years MOKO Dance delivered a number of national tours including: MOKO Mix, MOKO Dance (spring 2013); In A Deep Dark Wood, gobbledegook (spring, autumn 2013); Constellations, Aracaladanza (spring, summer 2014); Chalk About, Curious Seed (autumn 2014).
Now in its third year, MOKO Dance is looking ahead to the final tours including HOP, Nevski Prospekt
(spring, summer 2015); Chotto Desh, Akram Khan Company (autumn 2015) and others, as well as
to its legacy for the future.
MOKO Dance formed with some core objectives:
• To build and grow an economically sound touring infrastructure for dance for children & families
• To develop young audiences for dance, primarily children up to 12 years of age • To develop quality dance programming for family audiences 6
MOKO Dance family foyer activity to accompany the tour of MOKO Mix / Photo by Farrows Creative
The core audiences it seeks to target are:
• Children and young people, primarily 0-12 years, and their families (including the Family and Community focused segment of the arts-based segmentation research)
• School groups at KS1, KS2 and KS3 supporting the Henley Review of Cultural Education’s recommendation for ‘broad cultural education for all young people and to visit age
appropriate events and venues’.
MOKO Dance launched with a remit to create an over-arching brand for the network which
communicated to audiences and helped build and retain audiences over the three years.
The aim was to engage and attract a younger, family-oriented audience for dance, as well as encourage
participation at wraparound front of house activities, venue and school workshops and increase schools'
attendance at performances.
Within the network, the aim was to embed specialist knowledge about marketing and audience development
at the heart of its operations. An agency, Farrows Creative, were appointed to deliver the marketing, PR, design and communications activity in year 1 for MOKO Dance including delivery of a network website,
blog and social media channels as well as tour-specific collateral including print and digital assets.
MOKO Dance has succeeded in delivering a range of high quality materials for the partnership to support
venues' marketing activity, including images, copy, tour print, marketing packs, education resources, programmes, a MOKO Dance website, e-newsletters, Facebook page,Twitter account and promotional trailers.
In addition, MOKO Dance had a commitment to broadening the family audience experience at each
venue through the delivery of “wraparound” activity to supplement the main performance.This included:
• Pre and post-performance front of house activity linked to the show, ranging from interactive audience activities to arts and crafts
• A range of creative dance workshops inspired by and exploring themes from the show
• Opportunities to gather informal audience responses to the show via active feedback tools (including a wall on which audience members could place stickers with words representing their feelings about the show and fun feedback forms), the chance to discuss the show
afterwards, as well as programmes encouraging online and social media reviews
MOKO Dance family foyer activity to accompany the tour of Constellations by Spain's Aracaladanza / Photo by Farrows Creative
The wraparound activity was of a high quality and was, in the main, successfully taken up by
audiences. It contributed to the sense that the MOKO Dance performance was part of an all-round experience for families at the venue.The activity operated on a “drop-in” basis, rather than being something which audiences had to book in advance, offering flexibility to families.
The activities were sometimes attended by families who hadn’t been to see the show, enabling
audiences to engage with and experience the venue in a more informal environment.This helped to
build loyalty and dwell-time in the venue, which also had the potential to increase spend in and visits to other areas e.g. café, shop, gallery space.
(From left) MOKO Dance family foyer activity to accompany the tour of MOKO Mix
MOKO Dance family foyer activity to accompany the tour of In A Deep Dark Wood by gobbledegook MOKO Dance workshop based on gobbledegook’s In A Deep Dark Wood Photos by Farrows Creative
Challenges faced by MOKO Dance partners and buddy venues The range of skills and experience with regard to family programming and marketing within the
consortium mean that the issues faced vary from venue to venue and between core partners and
buddy venues. However, there were some recurring themes.These relate to both challenges in
marketing MOKO Dance shows and to promoting family work in general.
• A number of venues felt that they had made good progress with attracting a family audience, but there was more work to be done
• Limited venue capacity and resources sometimes prevents already-busy marketing teams from spending as much time and effort on marketing one or two date performances as they would like
• Relationship building with audiences is key, but is labour intensive and takes time to bear fruit
• Having the tools to really communicate what a show is to the audience, in an engaging way,
is crucial to its success e.g. trailers, images, copy with additional information and selling points – therefore marketing and PR support provided by MOKO Dance has proved to be invaluable
• It can be easier to market shows that are familiar to the target audience e.g. based
on a children’s book, related to a TV programme or character. Marketing shows in which
the content is an unknown factor can present additional challenges. However, it is possible
to have success with shows of this kind as Constellations proved
• Most venues had good success building up audiences for family shows for a younger 0-7 age group. Reaching young audiences aged 8-12 is more challenging, because of
competing demands on families’ time and spend.Traditionally, there has been less work
aimed at this age group, but this is changing and improving. From 13 onwards, it becomes easier to reach children through their schools
• It is becoming increasingly more challenging to attract a schools audience.Whilst this
experience varied from venue to venue, most said that teachers were now busier than
before; pressure was greater on budgets and schools tended to mainly book for shows
whose content had a direct link to the curriculum. In addition, some venues noted that
previously free routes to market shows e.g. putting leaflets into school book bags, was
becoming a service that schools charged for
• It is far easier to encourage children and young people to participate in classes and workshops than to persuade them to attend a show. How can crossover between
these two areas be encouraged?
Purpose of the current document The purpose of the current document is to create a guide to audience engagement and marketing
for organisations programming dance for family audiences. It is intended to act as a helpful resource
for the final year of MOKO Dance touring and also as a legacy for the MOKO Dance network beyond the last year of funding.The document will offer a guide to best practice and information on how to
reach and develop family audiences, looking at successful strategies from within the MOKO Dance
network, plus case studies from the wider arts sector. Although there are tips and information which
apply to the broader sector, the main target audience for the document is those interested in
programming and growing audiences for dance for young people.
Audience development and engagement are at the heart of the MOKO Dance partnership.Through audience development activity the aim is to cultivate an ongoing relationship with children and
family audiences for dance.The focus of all MOKO Dance marketing to date has been to support partner and buddy venues to develop family audiences at their venue.This included provision of
the wraparound activity related to each show, a marketing toolkit and specific materials (print,
video etc.) to promote each performance.
There is a wide range of experience, scale and resources within the network, as well as a marked
difference in access to audiences â€“ from major venues in cities with a broad, culturally-engaged
potential audience to much smaller organisations in more rural areas, with an audience dispersed
across a wide geographical area.
There was always the intention by the partners that MOKO Dance would leave a lasting legacy.
Originally, discussions focused around this being an audience development initiative which targeted the whole network. Potential ideas included a scheme to encourage repeat visits by families who had
attended one MOKO Dance show but not returned, targeting audiences currently
under-represented in venuesâ€™ overall audience profile or a focus on increasing school bookings. After some discussion, these routes were rejected as it was not possible to fashion a scheme which
matched the objectives, experience, situation and resources of all venues across the network.
Instead, the current document was devised as a resource which would benefit all MOKO Dance
venues, whatever their particular circumstances, both during the final year of MOKO Dance touring
and beyond. It is largely aimed at the less experienced organisations, in the process of developing
their family audience, whilst hopefully providing a useful reference for all. As a legacy to the three-year partnership, the aim is to build capacity, knowledge and confidence amongst venues to market dance
to a family audience and to create a loyal and engaged audience for these events at each venue.
In order for venues to find the material most relevant to them, the document is structured as a
troubleshooting “how to” guide exploring different scenarios. Each scenario is illustrated through
case studies and examples.
Family Arts Campaign Any document of this kind cannot fail to acknowledge the recent and ongoing work of the Family
Arts Campaign in recent years.The campaign has had real impact, helping arts organisations
to understand and develop audiences for family programming, through their festival, conference and
a wide range of resources published on their website. Rather than seeing the family audience as
a “difficult” one to reach and service, Family Arts Campaign seeks to work with organisations to help them recognise the value of the family audience:
“organisations are realising that if they attract family audiences now and give them positive
experiences this will lead to lifelong interest and create a taste for the arts and a sustainable
Research undertaken by Family Arts Campaign has challenged existing preconceptions about families’
motivations to attend. Received wisdom has been that families are price sensitive and that to
attract them organisations need to keep prices low or offer family package deals.Whilst price does
of course play a part, Family Arts Campaign has highlighted that the perception of value for money is
as much driven by quality of experience as ticket price, and that families are willing to pay more when they trust the quality of the experience they’re getting, or believe it’s the right experience for them.
The campaign presented the results of an in-depth survey into pricing for family events, undertaken
by Baker Richards and Staffordshire University, at the 2015 conference.
A link to numerous resources produced by Family Arts Campaign, is included in the Resources section
of this document.
From Family Arts Campaign Evaluation & Audience Research Toolkit, Produced by Catherine Rose, Catherine Sutton
& Pam Jarvis
A guide to specific scenarios 1
We’re just starting out with family programming. What do we need to consider and how do we think across the organisation, not just about programming and marketing?
Developing family audiences is about so much more than marketing and communications, though
this is of course important. It touches on all aspects of an audience’s relationship with a venue
• Programming • Pricing
• Access to the programme and the venue • Front of house and visitor experience
• Marketing and communications materials and how these are disseminated • Participation and education activities
• Opportunities for feedback and follow-up
The audience perspective should be at the heart of planning and thinking in all these areas, not just
the responsibility of the marketing and / or participation teams, if audience development and
engagement are to be successful.
MOKO Dance creative dance workshop led by Sarah Franklin / Photo by Farrows Creative
• Take the time to think about what families want and need
Talk to families about what they want and what would appeal to them.This could start low-key with consultation amongst staff with children, or with schools that you work with – it doesn’t have to be
a major piece of costly research. Look at what others in your industry or locality are doing well.
There is no use spending thousands on marketing a show to the right audience if the timing of that performance is at a time that makes it impractical for the target audience to attend. Many hours of
time can be invested encouraging specific community groups to attend, but if they receive a poor welcome from the front of house team, then all previous work counts for naught. Alternatively,
audiences can come along once, have a great experience, and then hear nothing from the venue
in the future, and therefore never come back.
• Develop a regular and consistent programme to put yourself on the radar of families
Key to successful programming for family audiences is consistency and regularity, in order to build a
relationship of trust with families.The North London-based venue artsdepot, one of MOKO Dance’s
buddy venues, programmes regular family performances on Sunday afternoons and schedules bigger shows in half term and during the Easter and Christmas school holidays.
It takes time for a venue to establish itself on a family’s radar so consistent programming of a
high quality is important. It’s not enough to offer one family show a year, however good it might
be, and expect your venue to become known as a family-friendly place to go. It can take time for
awareness to build and, again, consistency and regularity help. For example, Nottingham Lakeside
Arts offer a free, communal, family-friendly event each Chinese New Year, in addition to a year round
programme of family-friendly activities and shows, which over time has become something that
families come to look out for and expect.The event includes workshop activity as well as events taking place on outdoor stages and is now an established part of the city’s cultural calendar and attracts
several thousand people each year. This helps to introduce the venue as a family-friendly destination,
breaking down barriers such as “I don’t know the space” as it is a familiar and known quantity. • Don’t be afraid to repeat a successful formula
Often organisations are keen to keep innovating and changing.Whilst this is a great ambition, there
isn’t a constant need to reinvent the wheel, certainly for family audiences, who are looking to some
extent for a familiar and trusted experience.Young children especially love to repeat activities that they’ve enjoyed previously, so don’t be afraid to re-run something which has worked in the past,
especially as you’re finding your feet with family programming.What is important is to keep
tweaking a winning formula so that it stays fresh, but retains the aspects which families and children enjoy.
• It’s not just about offering low price tickets or multi-buy deals
Traditionally, families have been thought of as price sensitive, since attending a performance means buying multiple tickets. However, more recent research suggests that issues related to claims on
family time are as important, if not more so, than those related to cost.
Particularly when children are of school age and both parents are working, time spent together as
a family is precious and in short supply. Cultural experiences are in competition with many other demands on families' time, including homework, other interests and hobbies, such as sport or
learning to play a musical instrument, participation in activities such as dance or drama classes
or simply unstructured play-time with friends.
If you are going to offer a discount, think carefully about how it is done.The Gulbenkian entitle their small group booking discount a “Family & Friends ticket” so that there is no discrimination about
who the discount might apply to – it doesn’t have to be parents and children – the “family” group
could be made up of children, grandparents, friends of the family, or au pairs in any combination.
A multi-buy discount might work to encourage audiences to attend more than one show in a season, whilst also having the benefit of potentially encouraging audiences to take a risk on something new
to them. Options for alternative group pricing could also be explored.The traditional family group has been perceived as four people. As families join together to attend events, or extended family
groups attend on a special occasion, it could be more beneficial to look at larger groups – six, eight or even ten. Analyse your booking data to see what size bookings make up your family audience. • The relationship shouldn’t end when audiences leave the building
Relationships take time to build. Consider how you can engage with the family audience after their
visit, particularly those who are first time attenders.
• Give them something to take away with them as they leave, a memento or keepsake,
such as performance programmes, artwork created by children in wraparound activities or
merchandise, e.g. balloons, stickers, bookmarks
• Follow up with a “thank you for coming” e-mail asking them about their experience,
encouraging them to sign up to the mailing list or telling them about the next suitable
show or event
• Consider giving them an incentive to return.This might be a discount or something value added
• Ensure you keep up the flow of information to them about suitable upcoming events, but ensure it’s tailored to their interests and that you don’t bombard them
• If they don’t respond at first, don’t give up. If your offer is right and their experience
was good, they will return. Many families consider themselves a regular attender at a venue if they go just once a year
• Remember that families are made up of multiple individuals – perhaps the grandparents will return to see an adult show as a couple or children attend a participation activity
We know we need to talk to families differently, but how do we do that?
• Provide enough information and make it easy for people
More than other audiences, families like (and need!) to plan, therefore they require lots of
information in order to do that.Think about how your organisation can make their experience
simple and straightforward. Review your communications considering what is really essential
or helpful for them to know. Make basic information such as start and running times; age suitability;
travel and parking details; on-site facilities and wraparound activities prominent on your marketing materials and website.
Make a feature of any particular selling points or points of information that are important to families.
Bear in mind that these may be quite different to what’s important to your regular audience, for
example, age suitability, ease of parking, information about show content (e.g. noises, music, lighting),
baby changing facilities, etc.
Signpost family-friendly ticket pricing or other value added deals prominently in your
communications e.g. children’s menu or family meal deal in the café, free pre or post show
activities. As The Audience Agency research has highlighted “ambiguity is not appreciated” so be clear
and straightforward in your language. For this audience, the details that might be “small print” for
an adult show may need to have more prominence.The level of detail may also need to be more
extensive, to allow parents to really understand the nuances of whether they can bring a child of 7 and a child of 11 to a show targeted at 8 years +.
Be honest about the work that you’re offering – particularly with regard to age suitability – you may
sell a few more tickets by claiming that a performance is suitable for both younger and older children,
but if it proves not to be, you will probably discourage that family from ever coming back.
Some venues, such as Dance City, have had success creating bespoke marketing materials for families, which combines classes, workshops and performances into one leaflet specifically
targeted at families.This gives the ability to tailor messaging so that families are more likely to
engage. Review the tone of voice of your communications and remember to be consistent across different channels – printed material, website, social media, and press.
Ensure that box office staff are fully-briefed with regard to questions that a family audience might ask, so that families feel valued and welcome when they get in touch. If you’re just starting out, recognise that it’s a learning process – make a note of questions or concerns that come up about one family
performance and make sure you have the answers in advance next time. Such things might include:
information about loud noises or bright lights; whether your venue is happy for children to talk and
call out during the performance or whether the audience can leave the auditorium and come back in.
There are lots of examples of friendly and accessible copy including: “Fidgeting is allowed” (Liverpool Philharmonic)
“Visitors of all ages are free to touch, run around and make noise” (The Generation Tour) “We want our audiences to feel comfortable when watching our shows and don't mind if they are
vocal or energetic in fact we actively encourage our audience to laugh, respond, clap and cheer!” (The Unicorn Theatre, London)
Case Study: The Generation Tour
The Generation Tour is a consortium of four art galleries in the north of England, funded by Arts Council England and Children’s Centres local to the region.The exhibitions are designed to be
“hands-on”, the antithesis to the “do not touch” approach of some galleries and exhibition spaces.
Visitors (of all ages!) are encouraged to touch, run around and make as much noise as they want
to and the first exhibition in autumn 2014 saw participating galleries achieve their highest ever
numbers for family visits.
The scheme was developed as a result of the participating galleries' desire to develop a family
audience for their work. Anecdotal feedback from families was that they found visual arts events
particularly intimidating and unwelcoming.The perception was that galleries weren’t welcoming to
children – it was not a relaxed environment and visitors were discouraged from touching things. Communications were tailored specifically to families using friendly and accessible language,
imagery and graphics.The key message is “contemporary art but not as you know it”.The
Generation Tour has a dedicated website which introduces the project; gives information about
participating venues and allows for feedback and comments.The website also features activity sheets
which families can download and use. Copy tends not to use the word “art” very often, instead the
term “exhibitions” is used.The messaging is upfront and clear – families are told unambiguously that
they can touch the artworks, run around and make noise in the gallery. Imagery focused on close-up
photographs of children touching and interacting with the artwork, rather than static images
of art objects.The Generation Tour team worked with graphic designers familiar with creating
communications material for family events, and the look and feel of the website is bold and bright
and uses a family-friendly font.
Links to The Generation Tour website can be found in the Resources section of this document.
We know how to welcome adults to our venue, but how do we make our home more family friendly?
For family audiences, the overall social experience of their visit to your venue is as important as their
experience of the performance. Some families say they are concerned about being perceived as a “nuisance” in venues, so go out of your way to ensure a warm welcome. Families who attend arts
events less regularly and are less familiar with the conventions are likely to require even more support.
Put yourself in the shoes of each potential member of your family audience and do a walk-through of your venue to see how it would be perceived by:
• Someone under the age of 6 or under the age of 12 • A mum with a baby
• A grandparent or great grandparent with limited mobility • Someone who’s never been there before
• Someone who isn’t a regular attender of theatre and doesn’t understand the conventions
Some changes may be more costly and time-consuming to make, and need to happen over time,
but there are easy, quick wins that you can almost immediately put into place, such as:
• Smile at people! It makes them feel welcome
• A basket of toys for younger children in the café or foyer – these could be donated by
staff to keep costs down. Artsdepot have gone one step further and created a soft play area,
with children's reading area, in their café and foyer which has helped to establish the venue in
the local area as a family-friendly space to spend time
• Easy to access and well sign-posted changing facilities for mums and babies • A designated place to put pushchairs 18
• High-chairs available
• Separate children’s menus in the café or the offer of family lunchboxes
• Offer to heat up baby food in the café and / or have it available for sale
• Don’t strictly enforce rules which are going to alienate families from visiting your venue – such
as banning food from being brought in. If baby food or toddler’s Tupperware boxes of food are welcome in the café, it’s likely that other members of the party will spend money in your café
Families say they are looking for a full experience or day out from an event.This is one reason
why the MOKO Dance wraparound activities worked well at most venues.Venues had the greatest success when details about wraparound activities and workshops appeared with performance
information, selling the full MOKO Dance experience offer from the start of any marketing.
We don’t have a lot of money to spend. How do we tap into word of mouth marketing?
Word of mouth is often the method most cited by people when asked how they hear about events. Research by The Audience Agency for the Family Arts Campaign reported that “recommendation is
all important”, pointing out that families tend to be well-networked, given their natural engagement
with a range of organisations. However, that word of mouth has to start somewhere. It might well originate with a friend or family member who does have a relationship with your venue, so your
existing audience is a good place to start.That person might be on your mailing list; have attended a past event or be a follower on social media. Peer recommendation and endorsement from someone a person trusts can be more valuable than hundreds of words of copy or even a well-chosen image.
Generating positive word of mouth can have additional benefits to your organisation whether that be increasing traffic to your website or sign-up to mailing lists; building your brand presence and
profile on and off-line or increasing engagement with your offer.Word of mouth marketing doesn’t have to cost money, but it is likely to involve a significant investment of time.
The digital realm offers great opportunities to generate word of mouth about your venue and events.
Social media platforms such as Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest allow your promotion to
potentially spread through peer to peer sharing. By creating content aimed at sharing and
engagement, you encourage word of mouth by stimulating conversations.This might include:
• encouraging audiences to post reviews of productions they have seen at your venue online, on social media and among friends
• a call-out for images and stories about your venue
• sharing interesting facts, interviews with the cast, any local connections they have or images about an upcoming production or company
• asking your audience’s opinion about something • sharing a quirky image or fact
• inviting school groups to create artwork in advance of the show that can be displayed in the venue and to write reviews afterwards
Go to where your audience are on-line – think about what sites they visit and use.There are the
obvious places that parents can be found, such as Netmums and Mumsnet, and Families Online, which
can be powerful places to be. Parents aren’t just parents though and they also use mainstream websites
and social media, like Facebook and Twitter. The Audience Agency research indicates that Google is top of
the list as a general “go-to” search for research, filtering and information, so ensure that your website is optimised and copy-written so that search engines can find relevant family friendly content.
Research shows that local listings sites and networks are important for families, perhaps more so
than a general audience.Think about ways that you can engage with other local organisations who offer a good fit with what you’re doing.The Gulbenkian in Canterbury forged a relationship with
a local dry ski slope to promote their family Christmas show, via a “design your own snowman”
competition, which was promoted through the channels of both organisations – websites, social
media – as well as with relevant external sites such as Netmums and Mumsnet.
Join the conversation on-line, but be mindful of not simply broadcasting or selling. Be helpful,
answer questions, be a source of useful information and you will establish your trustworthiness
and credentials as a family-friendly organisation. Also remember the extended family, who might
also be the decision makers about booking.They are likely to be using more traditional sites to
research their arts / event activity, so ensure that your family-friendly credentials are mentioned where you are also promoting your wider offer.
Whilst digital offers a wealth of opportunities, don’t forget generating world of mouth out in the “real world”.This can take two forms – ensuring your marketing information is in the right place
and more actively targeting specific communities that you believe will be interested in your work.
Generating word of mouth is about finding the people who are interested in what you have to offer
and giving them the means and motivation to encourage them to talk about it to others.Think about
the places that families might visit in the course of their daily lives:
• doctors’ or dentists’ surgeries
• schools, colleges and nurseries • youth clubs
• sports and leisure centres • visitor attractions
• family-friendly activity centres e.g. climbing walls, soft play • parks and open spaces
• supermarkets and shopping centres
• restaurants and cafés with a family-friendly policy
• free events such as carnivals, local festivals or farmers’ / food markets
Tactics to spread the word in these places might include:
• putting up a poster on a noticeboard
• dropping off your leaflets in a doctors’ / dentists’ waiting area
• offering a joint promotion with a local visitor attraction or activity • presenting a performance at the local carnival
• having a display and point of sale outlet in your local supermarket or shopping centre • giving a talk at the local youth club
• putting a leaflet into children’s school book bags
• sending a representative from your venue around to talk to local shops, cafés and restaurants so that they understand what you offer
• offering free tickets to key contacts within an organisation to an event at your venue so that they experience what you have to offer
As part of Dance City’s attempts to develop a family audience, they invested the time to make face to face contact with 30 – 40 local venues where families were likely to visit, including cafés, shops
and community centres. Dance City’s representative visited each venue, introducing the organisation; talking about what was on offer; finding out if they could take print and how they liked to receive it. This level of one-to-one contact was time-consuming in the first instance, but after the initial investment had been made and relationships established, on-going contact is much easier to
maintain.The extra time and effort made at the beginning has established a level of trust between
Dance City and the organisations, meaning those venues have a better understanding of why they’re
receiving print from Dance City and they can talk a little to their customers about what’s on offer.
It also prevents Dance City from mailing leaflets to places where they are unwanted and simply binned.
Nottingham Lakeside Arts, who have successfully built an audience for family work, also advise
undertaking research into distribution networks for every show, as there are always new places
springing up and new outlets based on the theme or content of a show.They also emphasise the
importance of maintaining regular contact with people.
Remember that your family audience doesn’t just mean parents and children – grandparents, aunts
& uncles or friends of the family may be as likely to book tickets.Think about social clubs and
societies; places of work or study; organisations where the retired might volunteer. It might be as simple as ensuring your poster is up on the right community noticeboard in those settings or in an area which you know represents the demographic of your existing audience.
Investigate whether it’s possible to build a relationship with someone influential in your target
organisation(s) – a social secretary in a workplace or the organiser of a social club - in order to gain
access to the wider network. Could that person be offered a free ticket to come along to something
or a group discount? Or is there something value-added you could offer – a dedicated table reserved
in your café or a free drink? These relationships may start out lo-fi and small scale, but have the potential to build over time.
How can your staff, board and stakeholders also help generate word of mouth? Can they be
encouraged to give out leaflets to their friends? Could they post to their social media accounts?
Word of mouth often needs time to build, but is often worth the investment. A relationship that
might start out by putting a poster up on a community noticeboard may develop into members
of that community becoming very actively engaged in your work.That’s unlikely to happen over-night.
NLA Art Investigators / Photo by Alan Fletcher
Could they persuade another family new to your venue to join them at an event?
Cultivate and find ways to thank your best advocates – understand what motivates them and make
sure you keep providing those benefits. As the relationship grows, they might also be a source of
audience feedback or opinion via informal focus group sessions.You may be able to test drive new
ideas on them. Some might be willing to develop a deeper relationship with the venue, as an
ambassador or advocate or as a guest public reviewer of your shows, possibly even as an individual
giver or member of a friends’ scheme or audience club.
Press can also be a powerful source to generate word of mouth. Local press particularly are always hungry for content. Cultivate a friendly, personal relationship with key local journalists. For family
performances, think beyond just the arts correspondents and publications to those writing about education and social issues or those looking for stories or local interest that may be interested in
your work with schools or other organisations. For further tips on building relationships with local press, see the Resources section at the end of the document.
Case study: Gulbenkian Theatre presents Fevered Sleep’s Dusk
Dusk was an immersive, interactive piece for families, aimed at the 5-9 age group.The piece was
presented during half term and sales were not going well.The Gulbenkian team joined together to brainstorm ideas.The team realised that the show coincided with Hallowe’en week and decided
to use that as a hook. A press release was issued with the message “Something to do for Hallowe’en”,
and was picked up widely by local press and the run went on to sell out completely.
We’ve had success reaching children 7 and under, but struggle to reach the 8-12 age group.What can we do?
Anecdotal feedback from venues suggests that the 8-12 age range is the most challenging to
reach. Children within this age range, especially at the older end, have started to develop their
own interests and opinions and are less likely to be persuaded by parents to attend events unless
they want to themselves.The competition from other activities for families’ time is particularly
pronounced at this age, as children tend to be involved with other activities such as sport,
membership of clubs and societies, participation in dance or drama classes; as well as having more
schoolwork to do.
Some venues have noted that the 8-12 age group more than any other is not a homogenous one,
and that understanding their motivation and what is the deciding factor for attendance is critical.
It is important for this age group that the images used in tour print are suitable, e.g. not too young, and that marketing materials clearly represent that an event is aimed at them.
Sign-posting of age suitability should be very clear for this age group, rather than leaving things open
to interpretation. Families are aware that there is not a lot of programming specifically targeted at
this age group, so venues can afford to highlight a show aimed at 8-12s as a real selling point; making
clear that the themes and content of the work have been specially devised by the company to appeal to this age group, in its themes and content. Avoid being patronising or didactic in copy as it is more likely that this age group will be engaging with your marketing materials directly. Parents might be
interested in the educational benefits of a performance, but for the young people themselves it is likely to be a turn-off.
Anecdotal evidence from Brighton Dome indicates that if a show is suitable for ages 5+ and also
suitable for families with older children, those aged 11 or 12 won’t go because they perceive it
as targeted at “little kids”.Their tactic is to market the show as suitable for ages 8+ and brief the
MOKO Dance tour of Chalk About by Curious Seed / Photo by Chris Nash
box office to explain the suitability for younger audiences, when speaking to customers.
Consider ways in which this audience might be given some independence from their families. For
Chalk About at Déda, the wraparound took place in The Cube café bar and young people were able
to participate whilst their parents or family relaxed over a coffee.The whole family then went in to
see the show together. Déda aimed to extend this idea by targeting youth performance companies
to attend a show with their tutor.
Another route to attract older children is to introduce them to the full scope of your programme,
not simply work labelled as “family-friendly”.This helps avoid the stigma of attending a “kids event”.
Liverpool Philharmonic runs a Kids Club membership scheme for families, but also signposts suitable
concerts within their full programme through the use of the “Kids Club” symbol across their website.
The suitability of a concert might be based on the familiarity and accessibility of the works being
performed or the timing of the concert e.g. a Sunday afternoon. Families can take a calculated risk on an event and feel comfortable about attending. By inviting families into events open to all, a lifelong relationship can start to build.
Case Study: Sadler’s Wells: Varmints Tour
Sadler’s Wells is touring the show Varmints for the second time in 2015, after a successful outing in
2013.The show is specifically aimed at young people aged 8+ and one of the reasons for a second
tour is to fill the gap of high quality product for this age range.
Varmints is based on a book of the same name and is an exhilarating dance-theatre show choreographed by Sadler’s Wells’ New Wave Associate Wilkie Branson.
Sadler’s Wells’ approach to marketing and building audiences for the tour in 2015 is to encourage
venues to take workshops for the show and to build a whole day of activity around the
performances.Workshops tailored to both schools and families are available and can take place either on the day of the show or in the days preceding (in the case of schools), depending on
the time of the performance.The workshops were developed by East London Dance, co-producers and commissioners of Varmints in consultation with the dancers, and include the opportunity
to learn some of the choreography from the show.
The show itself concludes with an interactive talk with the choreographer Wilkie, in which the
audience have the chance to discuss the show; learn some of the choreography and are encouraged to delve deeper by visiting the “Discover Varmints” website (discovervarmints.com).The website
gives audiences the springboard to explore further the themes of environmentalism, ecology and developing peace of mind featured in the show, as well as share their own experiences of the performance.The website features imagery from the book, tying the show back to its source material.There is also a Tumblr which will integrate with the Discover Varmints site.
Sadler’s Wells themselves are programming their performances of Varmints as part of a whole
weekend of family programme, which in addition to the workshops and performances includes free,
drop in activities.The programme for this year is still in development, however, last year’s family
weekend featuring the show Rapunzel, included wig-making workshops, an art installation which
families could contribute to and other craft-based activities.
In terms of audience development, Sadler’s Wells are encouraging venues to make connections with community groups relevant to the themes of the show, for example environmental centres, working
farms and ecology parks.
For the 2015 tour, Sadler’s are experimenting with performances at different times, including
morning, afternoon and evening shows. Currently, the 7pm show at The Lowry in Salford has some of the best ticket sales.
How can we attract schools’ bookings for our performances and engage schools?
Anecdotal feedback from venues is that it is becoming more challenging to attract school bookings.
As teachers’ time and budgets become more pressured, schools are increasingly more choosey
about what they come to see, especially at primary level. Many are choosing to come to the annual Christmas show as a low-risk option, or only attend performances which directly relate to work
on the curriculum.
Success can be had, but the message is that it takes time. Heather Gunn at Déda has said:“Schools -
you have to make it so easy for them.” Circulating information as early as possible is helpful as plans
and budgets are set the term before for the following one. Schools are unlikely to be able to respond to last minute offers or approaches.
Nottingham Lakeside Arts have found that schools are more likely to respond to an opportunity
to attend the venue if it is combined with a full day of activity, because the cost of coach transport
to and from the venue, in addition to tickets for a performance can be a barrier to attendance.
To mitigate against this, Nottingham Lakeside Arts have devised a programme of additional activities which can be undertaken on-site at no additional cost to the end-user.
Examples of this include Nottingham Lakeside Arts' Outdoor Learning Investigator packs, which can be shared by a class, who can walk round the on-site lake and undertake a programme of activities which develop their understanding of the natural world.The activity packs are seasonal, so there is
the potential for a school group to return up to three times annually, learning new things each time.
Art Investigator bags are also available, complete with activity sheets which encourage the children to engage directly with the work on the walls of the Djanogly Gallery (subject to the suitability of
individual shows).There are approximately six major gallery shows annually, which again gives scope for schools to return to the venue more than once in a year. Likewise the Museum of Archaeology,
next to the Gallery offers activity sheets and/or handling sessions. In addition, the Visual Arts Studio
is available either for Associate Artist-led practical activities (for which an additional charge is levied) or is bookable by a school group to undertake their own activities.
Nottingham Lakeside Arts’ Learning Administrator is able to schedule these visits to ensure that
groups can rotate; meaning that up to 120 children can be engaged at any one time, in any one of four activities.
Nottingham Lakeside Arts are also able to accommodate schools for lunches – the parkland setting makes this easier in the summer! As a result of this additional level of engagement, the venue has
found that children return to Lakeside with their parents or families to enjoy the cost-free elements
of the offer.The challenge is then to ensure that families are engaged with whilst on site and their visit
is made as family-friendly as possible, so that they feel comfortable making the transition to the
Building this relationship of trust is essential and it’s important that clear and consistent
communication is maintained. It’s easy to forget the basics – a good mailing list is only the start.
It needs to be regularly refreshed – do you have the right person as a contact? Has that teacher left
or moved onto a different responsibility? The Gulbenkian, who have built good relationships with schools, engage with them via both their marketing and learning teams joining forces to make
contact with them. Material is sent out and followed up by a phone call to check the right person
has received it.This can also be a way to build good relationships with people and establish a personal contact. Interested schools are followed up with a schools pack that highlights themes from the show and how teachers can introduce it to their students. Offering regular workshops to schools ahead of
performances has been another good tactic to engage them with a performance.The Gulbenkian
had success with the offer of a free workshop to the first five schools to book for a performance.
This encouraged both sales and relationship-building with schools.
After hosting a workshop, don’t simply assume that this will translate into sales. Look into ways
NLA Art Investigators / Photo by Alan Fletcher
to maintain visibility after the workshop takes place – can you put posters onto a noticeboard
How you communicate with schools is also important – language and information should be tailored
to teachers’ interests and motivations. Check that your wording is key-stage friendly and that you
are providing the right level of practical information about attending a performance or other activity at your venue e.g. travel, catering, costs etc.
Culture Hive has published a detailed report on arts organisations' work with schools, a link to which
can be found in the Resources section of this document.This includes information on how the two
sectors are working together, what makes a successful partnership, insight into what the priorities
are for schools when working with cultural organisations and how the latter communicate with their education partners.The survey found that the biggest barriers to working in partnership were cost,
lack of time and awareness of what is available.The report goes on to offer some suggestions for how
particular challenges might be addressed.
Case study: DanceEast on Schools Engagement
DanceEast in Ipswich has enjoyed increased success with schools attending performances through
a conscious change in planning in the Creative Team; creating links between participatory work and
performances, encouraging engagement across the programme areas. Participants from schools
and community groups experience dance as participants and creators as well as audience members,
often watching a show as an integral part of their project work.
DanceEast runs a Schools Programme, which builds relationships with key teachers supporting
the development of their teaching skills through Artists in Residence who work in the school.The
Options Menu encourages schools to visit the DanceHouse, DanceEast's venue, for a specially tailored package, which might include a workshop, backstage tour and a performance.This was launched fairly recently and is offered to a range of schools, some who have been involved in previous projects
and others that are new to DanceEast.Teachers who are able to talk confidently about dance to their students and their families can be powerful advocates for the organisation. Teachers are
encouraged to see professional dance work as part of this process.
DanceEast has found that key to maintaining relationships with schools is to keep up a regular
dialogue (personal contact if possible) and a flow of information about what opportunities exist. Schools also enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with other schools and the opportunity to
co-design projects and relationships which meet their specific needs.These relationships take time
to build but it is critical to establish trust and, where possible, to be receptive to ideas from the schools themselves.
DanceEast also aims to maintain relationships with schools beyond the life of the funded project
through exit planning e.g. two local schools who were in receipt of a substantial amount of funded activity through the Princes Foundation Start Schools project (over three years) continue to bring
groups to two performances a year and, in return, receive free workshops for their Year 6 students from DanceEast artists.
DanceEast on The District Project
This annual county-wide project has been built on the prior success of a smaller project, Boys in
Babergh (Babergh is a district of Suffolk) which ran for 13 years.The last county-wide project worked
with seven schools across the region, a community group and two DanceEast performance groups, led
by a project Artistic Director, working with two other DanceEast artists and three teaching assistants. Children work with the artists in school and then come together to create a full-length piece of
dance which is performed at the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich, DanceEastâ€™s performance venue,
then tours to other spaces in the region (The Apex, Bury St. Edmunds). In total there were around
225 participants in 2015. One of the aims of the project is that each participant will experience dance
as a creative participant, performer and audience member. DanceEast has invested a lot in building
relationships which establish the local reputation of their large-scale project work and there has been
an organic growth in schools interested in participating in projects over time, particularly in some geographical areas that have enjoyed a lot of activity / investment. In the past, some schools were
so keen to participate that they self-funded their involvement.The hook for many has been
the opportunity to actively input into a large scale project that enjoys high production values
and is supported by a big team.The District Project has been continually valued and funded by local district councils.
DanceEast has found that building relationships through projects has also translated into ticket
sales â€“ a schools performance of Varmints sold out two months before opening and MOKO Dance
and Nevski Prospekt's production Hop sold out six months before opening.
We have good attendance at our classes and participation activities. How can this translate into attendance at performances?
It can sometimes be easier to get children into classes, workshops or youth groups rather than into a performance. Reasons for this include: lower price point; no need for parents and other family
members to attend; energy is expended rather than children having to sit quietly; chance to play
and engage with other children in a supervised environment and the opportunity to learn a new skill.
Some suggest that audiences for participation and performances are different and can never cross
over. It may be the case that this is currently true, however, a child with enough interest in an artform
to take a class, is likely to have the propensity to translate into an audience member. So, how do you take the steps to encourage this transition?
Returning to some of the earlier points made, it starts with availability of programme. Organisations
like Dance City, Déda and Greenwich Dance had a well-established children’s class programme
before programming work for children in earnest.The first step was to establish a consistent and
regular offer for families. Dance City learnt that they had to offer a family-friendly show at least once
a season, rather than one – three shows interspersed randomly throughout the year, in order for
audiences to start perceiving them as a place that offered family work.
How can you facilitate your class / workshop attendees coming to a performance? Simple things
make a difference – if the performance happens immediately after their regular class, they are much
more likely to attend, rather than make two trips to your venue in one week, or even one day. Can
a drink in the café be included in the ticket price? Or if attendance at a participatory activity is a driver for audiences, why not build it in as an integral part of the offer – so the performance becomes the
add-on to the workshop.
Families prioritise participatory activities for the reasons mentioned above. How can a performance deliver some of the same experience?
- lower price point – can participants who aren’t attending performances be incentivised to try one, reducing the element of risk
- include alternative activities for different family members – as discussed above, a driver for attendance at performances can be the opportunity for families to do something together. However, particularly older children might enjoy the chance to also do something separate from their parents. Building in a participation element before
the performance, which children can do whilst parents do something else within the venue,
is a good way to combine both aspects
- energy is expended rather than children having to sit quietly – many venues report success with performances that have an interactive element or some opportunity
for engagement.There’s a reason why panto has been so popular for years! Highlight these aspects to your participatory audience, not just through marketing materials but face to
face. Can the class teacher or other member of your organisation talk to attendees about
the performance and answer questions? This can help break down barriers and create the opportunity to ask questions of someone with whom the participants have a relationship of trust
- chance to play and engage with other children in a supervised environment – can a sharing of work by participation groups act as a curtain-raiser for a professional
production?This guarantees attendance from friends and family members and begins to introduce
everyone to the culture of attendance
- the opportunity to learn a new skill – how does the performance tie in with what the children are learning in their classes and workshops? How can this be used as a hook to persuade them to attend a performance? Sometimes this can be as simple a story as seeing skilled performers doing the thing they are learning the basics of
Nottingham Lakeside Arts have combined elements of participation to build audiences for their annual Christmas show.The performances are always accompanied by an installation that is
designed and created by children working closely with a lead visual artist, Jessica Kemp, in the
adjacent white box Wallner Gallery. Nottingham Lakeside Arts’ Learning Officer for Drama and
Dance selects a school to work with each year, and the artist develops the concept for the
installation in partnership with the children before creating a model box of their ideas for their
approval or amendment.Work then begins to create the installation, which is assembled over the
course of four days before the Christmas Show opens.The children are invited to a formal 'opening' and ribbon cutting in the presence of a Senior Member of the University Executive Board, and this
encourages huge interest amongst the entire school, the parents of the children and their friends,
helping to build audiences for the Christmas run of performances.
In addition, David Brownlee, Campaign Director of Family Arts Campaign believes that Arts Award is a route that hasn’t yet fully been tapped into to reach older children who actively participate in the
arts.“Currently most of the work is happening through schools, but there is the potential to reach out
to families and older children through the work schools are doing as part of Arts Award.” DanceEast
has used Arts Award as a route to build audiences. Students are offered opportunities to gain
qualifications by watching and reviewing performances, which fosters a culture of arts attendance,
and familiarity with the venue, enabling a longer-term relationship to build. South East Dance is also in the early stages of starting to use the Arts Award brand to signal quality to their audiences.
The Family Arts Campaign have published several case studies from Kids In Museums of successful strategies working with Arts Award. A link can be found in the Resources section at the end of
How can we make the most of working in partnership?
Working in partnership with other organisations locally, regionally or nationally can help extend the
benefits of what youâ€™re doing and increase the reach to family audiences.This is in part the strength of the MOKO Dance network.
The Family Arts Campaign's strong recommendation to venues that are not yet able to programme regular and consistent family events and need additional support with marketing and audience
development is that they join and work closely with their regional Family Arts network.The focus
of each network differs slightly, however, there are some consistent benefits including two seminars
per year; access to consultation advice and discounts to the Family Arts conference. Even venues that do not have a consistent family programme can work to develop audiences at their own venue by
building an audience for family events in their region, through the network, which benefits all participating organisations. A link to the list of Family Arts networks is included in the Resources section.
A strong example of the benefits of working in partnership is demonstrated by the Family Explorers North East partnership.
Case Study: Family Explorers North East
Family Explorers is the third phase of an ongoing audience development approach to improve the engagement of families in the region with cultural events, activities and venues. It relies on trusted recommendations, from the organisations to families and between the families, and encourages
people to try new things, engage with different cultural forms and with a wider range of activities and
share their experiences with others. It also promotes a family-friendly approach across all the venues and events and encourages responsiveness to customer needs on the part of the cultural organisations involved.
The first phase, called Culture Window, ran in 2010-11 and was developed by Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues3 as a small pilot research project to test ideas and approaches.The second phase, using the Family Explorers brand, built on the initial findings and was a two year research project
running until June 2014, involving Culture Window 13 (CW13), a larger partnership of regional
cultural organisations, local authorities and schools, Arts Council England, Bridge North East and
229 families4.The third phase, which was launched in October 2014 and is running now, is a public
initiative, involving all 10 Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues, as well as other regional partners including Bowes Museum,Woodhorn Trust venues across Northumberland and Juice
Festival/Newcastle Gateshead Initiative. 3 4
Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues is a voluntary partnership of 10 organisations: BALTIC, Centre for Life, Dance City, Live Theatre, Northern Stage, Sage Gateshead, Seven Stories,Theatre Royal,Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and Tyneside Cinema. http://ngcv.tv All research findings from Phase 1 and 2 are available on NGCVâ€™s website here: http://ngcv.tv/work/publicengagement/audience%20development
In phase two, families were recruited via schools and given information and support encouraging
them to sign up to try out activities at local venues that they didnâ€™t already visit or which they visited infrequently.The aim was also to learn more about how families could be encouraged to try new
cultural genres - for example, could theatre-goers be persuaded to try dance? Would museum fans
feel confident about seeing a live music show?
In this phase, complementary tickets were not given and no incentives were offered (as this would
impact on research findings), but families were given information about how to travel efficiently and
cheaply, money-saving tips and free tools, such as a Family Explorers Pack, which included a Family
Explorers Handbook containing information about the venues and a Passport, in which they could
collect different venue stickers when they attended, as well as a scrapbook and fun feedback forms
for adults and children. Families also received a weekly e-newsletter with recommended activities
and could sign up to a private group Facebook Page. A key aim was to encourage feedback about
experiences, so participants were encouraged to post to the Facebook page, which promoted
recommendations to other families.
The initial pilot targeted just 13 families, but has since grown substantially.The second phase involved
229 families, who were recruited via workshops at regional schools.These families were invited to
be Family Explorers for one year.The scheme has since grown to cover the whole North East area and involves 25 venues and the Juice Festival. Since October 2014, participation in the
scheme is now open to anyone and a regional press campaign has encouraged sign up. In this third, public phase, venues and festivals are able to offer discounts and incentives to families
and these are promoted through the Facebook group (which is now public) and the weekly
e-newsletter. There is also a website, which was introduced in this phase, based on feedback and findings from phase two.
The current scheme employs a central Marketing Co-ordinator who prepares and shares the
weekly e-newsletter, maintains the website (www.familyexplorers.co.uk) and manages the public
Both the Facebook page and e-newsletter give bite-sized pieces of information. Using an appropriate tone of voice is critical to ensuring that families feel that events are suitable for them.The approach
is aimed at non-arts attenders. No jargon, or “arts-speak” is used and no pre-existing knowledge
about the event or artform is assumed.The copy tends not to reference an artist or company as the main selling point, but focuses on the experience.The tone is chatty and upbeat, rather than
academic, with an aim to avoid alienating people.
One of the aims of the research phases of the project was to give organisations the opportunity
to find out more about families’ motivation for, and barriers to, attendance. Research had shown that
people felt overwhelmed by the choices around places to visit and that the information they trusted
most came from peer to peer recommendation from other families. Family Explorers set out to
tackle these issues by simplifying available information, gathering honest family reviews that would
be trusted and sharing them.
The Family Explorers’ team realised that they would have to embrace both the positive and the
negative in this approach, so reviews are not censored, however, there is a robust policy about how
the network responds to negative feedback.
Research conducted with the 229 families who participated in phase two found that their attendance
at participating venues had increased greatly, by as much as 35% in some cases, and they had
genuinely become more culturally-adventurous as a result of their participation in Family Explorers.
The weekly e-newsletter was considered the best method for disseminating information and the
Facebook group became a lively community, with 103 reviews posted during the lifespan of
“...the ‘Cultural Confidence’ of families has increased.They are willing to take more risks, have a greater propensity to try out new venues and are more willing to travel than they would have done before participating in the project.” 5
Other key feedback from the evaluation of the project reported:
The e-newsletter was the most popular and successful method of communication
Culture Window 13 Family Explorer project: Families summative survey findings Report by Morris, Hargreaves McIntyre, January 2014
• Although the collection of stickers of attendance at venues was only taken up by a limited number of families, this created valuable opportunities for Front of House staff at venues
to engage with Family Explorers; to learn more about them and to create a personalised
experience. However, it was also a labour-intensive process which some venues felt was unsustainable in the long term
• The fun feedback forms were considered a simple and engaging way for families to give their feedback
As the public phase of the scheme only launched in October 2014, it is currently too early to say
much about the wider success of the scheme. However, the intention is to allow the scheme to grow organically with information spread virally via networks of parents.
Marketing budgets are small, so in order to facilitate growth, the Marketing Co-ordinator is focusing on partnerships and personal contact to spread the word, including:
• Distribution of a postcard at participating venues to encourage sign-up to the scheme
• Utilising local networks e.g. local authority networks, older peoples networks, schools and cultural organisations such as NCAN – Northern Cultural Ambassadors Network
• Contact with bloggers and Facebook Groups, including North East Family Fun
You can read more about the Family Explorers project, including the results of the evaluation by
Morris Hargreaves McIntyre and see examples of materials produced as part of the research
projects via the NGCV website.The Family Explorers North East website has the latest information
about the current project. Full details are in the Resources section at the end of this document. An example of this is East Midlands Children’s Theatre and Dance Network. Case Study: East Midlands Children's Theatre and Dance Network
East Midlands Children's Theatre and Dance Network was born out of an initiative to build on a
pre-existing three-way partnership between Nottingham Lakeside Arts, Déda, and The Spark Children's
Arts Festival who together had brought international companies making work for children and
families from Spain, Canada, Hungary, Belgium and Germany to the region since 2005-6. In 2011 the
group applied for Cultural Olympiad Funding as part of the East Midlands 2012 Cultural programme, and also to Arts Council England East Midlands, to extend their three-way partnership to include
more venues across the region.The aim was to increase the opportunity for many more areas in the East Midlands to benefit from quality international touring in a one-off Olympiad-inspired festival
promoting great theatre and dance for children and families.The original 3 partners were joined by: South Holland Centre, Spalding, Drill Hall, Lincoln, Derby Theatre, Buxton Opera House,
The Castle,Wellingborough, Royal & Derngate, Northampton and The Core @ Corby Cube and
together, the group were able to tour TPO (Italy), Bunk Puppets (Quebec) and Aracaladanza
(Spain), to their venues under the title “Jump In Festival”.This resulted in 38 performances across
17 days.The project debunked the idea that audiences would only turn out for known product
and book titles, and pointed to a strong potential for future audience development touring quality
UK and international companies.
Led by Nottingham Lakeside Arts, a bid was worked up for Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring
Funding for a 2.5 year programme to tour great work across the East Midlands. At this point,Thoresby
Courtyard and Mansfield Create Theatre also joined the initiative.The network members participate in a training programme, which places an emphasis on skills and knowledge sharing between not only the programmers/artistic directors, but also the Marketing and Front of House teams.
In addition to the quality touring product which is selected jointly by the network members on the basis
of work that they have seen, the programme is accompanied by wraparound activities delivered by Front of House teams, and supported by workshops in advance of the touring product arriving in venues. Two of the most successful workshop programmes to date have been: • a storytelling programme linked to Hiccup Theatre’s tour of Three Wise Monkeys delivered by experienced storyteller Nicky Rafferty in libraries, community centres and Sure Start venues
• dance activities across the region linked to Scottish Dance Theatre’s tour of Innocence
delivered by local dance artists Emma Hope-Newitt and Oksana Tyminska who had been
trained by Scottish Dance Theatre's Education Manager
Members state that there are many benefits from being involved in the programme, such as: • the opportunity to take work which might not otherwise come to the region
• being able to invest in building trust and relationships between network members
• the training initiatives and go and see opportunities, which have included a visit to Danish+ in 2014 and Visioni di Futuro in 2015.
Ultimately the aim is to build audiences for family dance so that in future touring is sustainable for each of the venues.
We have a regular and loyal family audience for our events.We’re ready to take things to the next level – what should we do?
Congratulations! From this firm base, you can look to reach a broader range of audiences for your
A strategic audience development plan will help identify your priorities in this area and how you
intend to reach out to new audiences. Arts Council England publishes a guide to developing an
audience development strategy, a link to which can be found in the Resources section of this report.
This can assist with the thinking that you will need to do before developing a vision for your strategy
and a measurable plan for how to achieve it.
Your strategy might involve targeting those currently less engaged with the arts or be about
broadening your audience base through reaching specific groups, currently under-represented within your audience.This might include a community from a specific geographic area local to
your venue or a particular group that might have less access to the arts. Examples include:
• South East Dance’s work with Brighton Oasis, a women and families centre specialising in addiction recovery
• DanceEast’s developing relationship with their local hospice
• Brighton Dome’s Umbrella Club for children and young people with life-limiting conditions and their siblings and carers.The club provides free and discounted tickets to family shows
and workshops, live streaming of selected performances and other members-only benefits
These relationships can be slow to build and require sensitivity.They also require more time and
one-to-one contact than that required to market your shows to an existing audience.
One route to building relationships with a specific group or community is through working
with ambassadors. Mel Jennings has written a detailed guide to setting up ambassador schemes, including case studies of successful activity. A link to this can be found in the Resources section
of this report. Ambassador schemes can start from small origins.The Gulbenkian, a buddy venue within the MOKO Dance network, ran a successful short-term ambassador scheme for the
visit of Dusk by the company Fevered Sleep.The ambassador was recruited from The Gulbenkian’s
own staff – a casual member of box office staff.The ambassador was charged with reaching
audiences new to the venue and developing new networks, for example home schooling groups. The work aimed to target communities that The Gulbenkian couldn’t reach through their regular
show marketing. Activity included one-to-one contact with groups to establish relationships and find out what might encourage these groups to attend.The work was based on activity that Fevered
Sleep had carried out in other areas, so the company were able to support The Gulbenkian with advice and guidance.
One tried and tested route to reaching new audiences is the “Test Drive” approach, in which
audiences are encouraged to try out new arts experiences at low risk. Originally developed by
Anne Roberts in the 1990s, the Test Drive model has been redeveloped for the 21st century
by the Family Arts Campaign in their “Test Drive for Families” programme, aimed at guiding venues
through the process of reaching out to families in their catchment area who don’t currently attend. Family Arts have published a detailed on-line guide to running a Test Drive campaign, taking venues
through the various potential models, including:
• Giving away free tickets in a strategic and targeted way
• Supported visits, which encourage families to attend events they may not have considered • Joint marketing initiatives • Strategic partnerships
• Community engagement and shared experiences
The online resource also includes links to successful case studies by arts organisations, a link to this
can be found in the Resources section of the document.
Another route to reaching out to new audiences is through hosting a relaxed performance, which
can help target children with special needs such as autism, learning disabilities or specific sensory
and communication needs.
Case Study: SOLT-TMA with The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts:
In 2012-13, a partnership between the Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd (ATG), Prince's Foundation
for Children and the Arts, UK Theatre Association and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) brought
relaxed performances to eight theatres in the West End and across the UK.The project was funded by
Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation and supported by The National Autistic Society and Mencap. The project was followed by a conference in September 2013 to feed back on the successes and challenges of the project; present a guide for best practice and explore how organisations could host their own relaxed performances.
Features of the relaxed performances included:
• Adjustment of sound and light levels, including removing or tempering loud noises • Having the house lighting a little higher
• Providing a “chill out” area that children can retire to should they become overwhelmed or need time-out
• A relaxed approach to noise and talking
The aim is to provide families with younger children with an unrestricted environment in which they
can feel comfortable. Before attending, families received a visual guide and venues received specific
training to support their delivery of the performances. 60% of those who attended had never been to the theatre as a family before and 30% had never been to the theatre at all.
The project was promoted via local and national press and via organisations’ social media channels. This project offered free tickets as part of a funded initiative, however, other organisations have gone on to offer relaxed performances as part of their general programming. One such is
Manchester International Festival (MIF), who are organising relaxed performances for their upcoming show The Tale of Mr Tumble at Manchester Opera House.
One interesting point about MIF’s relaxed performances are that it is aimed not just at audiences with special needs, but also families with very young children or simply families who are unfamiliar with the
conventions of theatre.
Audiences are invited to attend the venue in advance of the performance including access to the
stage, as some children who attend shows have difficulty in distinguishing reality from “performance”
and having seen the stage helps with the understanding that what happens on there is fictional.
Other organisations hosting relaxed performances include: Newcastle Theatre Royal, who recently won an Autism Access Award in recognition of its work in this area, National Theatre and London Chamber Orchestra, as well as a selection of theatres across the UK who participated in Relaxed
Performance Project, Unicorn Theatre, London, Royal Shakespeare Company and Oxford Playhouse.
Conclusion Families are the audiences of both the present and the future.Taking the time to cultivate them means
organisations are developing audiences who may go on to have a lifelong relationship with the arts. Key to building those relationships is:
• Understanding what family audiences want
• Building their trust by developing a consistent offer for them
• Including high quality, creative wraparound activities as part of that offer to deliver a full experience for audiences when they visit your venue
• Communicating it to them in language which is clear, informative and engaging
• Creating communications materials which are developed with their needs and interests in mind • Reaching out to them in their own communities and via their own networks
• Seeing family audience development as the responsibility of every part of your venue – from
the programming team, through marketing and education to box office and front of house staff
Much has been achieved in recent years, particularly with the advent of the Family Arts Campaign,
which has provided a structured approach to audience development based on research, intelligence
and sharing experience between arts organisations. However, there is more work to be done and
MOKO Dance archive / Photo by Farrows Creative
once-traditional routes to sales through schools bookings cannot now be relied upon.
The examples of different models outlined within the document demonstrate that marketing for
young audiences can be delivered cost-effectively and doesn’t need to be expensive. It does, however, require an investment of time and a long-term commitment from organisations at every level to be
truly successful and sustained.
The MOKO Dance network has already taken the first step to combating these challenges by
choosing to work together in partnership.To leave a lasting legacy, individual venues should build on
the successful strategies piloted as part of MOKO whilst learning from the work of other collectives and organisations pioneering a family-focused approach to their activity.
Resources The following represent a selection of publically-available resources to support venues with further
information, tools for planning and case studies from the sector.
• Arts Council England: A Guide to Audience Development www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/doc/audience_development.doc
• Arts Council England: Information Grants for the arts – audience development and marketing:
www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/doc/audience_development.doc • Arts Council England: Arts Audiences: insight 2011 http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/adviceand-
• Arts Council England: A Practical Guide to Working with Arts Ambassadors by Mel Jennings
http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/downloads/toolkits/ambassadors.pdf • Audiences Agency: What do we know about Family Audiences? – results drawn from research from the last 10 years
http://www.familyarts.co.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2013/05/Family-Audiences-What-do-we-know.pdf • Audience Finder – Audiences on Tour toolkit –
• Content Guidance Communication for Family Arts Events (2015) http://www.familyarts.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Content-Guidance.pdf
• Culture Hive – How Arts & Cultural Organisations can work with schools
• Culture Hive – How to build a good relationship with the local press http://culturehive.co.uk/resources/how-to-build-a-good-relationship-with-the-local-press
• DCMS: Taking Part 2011/12: annual survey of culture, leisure and sport activity amongst
adults and children - https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/taking-part-the-nationalsurveyof-culture-leisure-and-sport-adult-and-child-report-2011-12
• Family Arts Campaign interim evaluation April 2014 Executive Summary (full report also available) – http://www.familyarts.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/FAC-Interim-
• Family Arts Network – a list of the current Family Arts’ network groups, plus information on benefits and how to join http://www.familyarts.co.uk/networks/
• Family Arts Standards – http://www.familyartsfestival.com/family-arts-standards • Family Arts website – the website has a resources section
http://www.familyarts.co.uk/resources/ which includes case studies, research and other
materials, including their Family Arts Standards. In addition, it also carries reports from the
conference and seminars and a list of training opportunities in the Training & Events section http://www.familyarts.co.uk/training-events/ – www.familyarts.co.uk
• Family Arts conference – takes place annually • Family Arts Campaign Digital Training Course – 9 videos packed with useful information covering audience development and using digital channels to target, engage
and enhance the family audience experience.
• Family Explorers – more information about the project including results of the evaluation http://ngcv.tv/work/public-engagement/audience%20development/family-explorers
• Generation Tour – website for family-friendly visual art exhibitions in north of England www.generationtour.org.uk
• Pricing Family Events: Guidance for Arts Organisations 2015 http://www.familyarts.co.uk/resources/toolkits/pricing-family-events/
• Relaxed Performances – results of the Society of London Theatre’s Relaxed
Performance Project, including Executive Summary and Case Studies. Links to downloadable pdf’s are available from this page http://www.solt.co.uk/relaxed-performances
• Test Drive the Arts for Families
THIS LEGACY DOCUMENT WAS COMMISSIONED BY
Prepared by The Cogency Designed by Design at London Colour MOKO Dance DanceEast Jerwood DanceHouse Ipswich IP4 1DW MOKO Dance is supported by Arts Council England
MOKO Dance partners
www.mokodance.com /MOKOdance @MOKOdance