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Planning and Development Program Arts Marketing and Audience Development Program

Refreshing Perspectives on Branding and Publicity

PMP professional development activities strive to engage music groups across the spectrum of organizational concerns. Alongside a variety of seminars, grants, and field trips, PMP’s two consultation programs effectively bring together arts specialists and local organizations for oneon-one discussion, reflection, and brainstorming.


Arts Action Research founder Nello McDaniel Deborah Obalil and Aleba Gartner relax following their PMP roundtable

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Deborah Obalil and Aleba Gartner relax following their PMP roundtable.

PMP’s Planning and Development Program provides free consultations for growing music organizations in the five-county region through the New York-based firm, Arts Action Research. Now in its fifth year, the program has offered between one and three years’ worth of bimonthly meetings to twenty-eight organizations, currently serving fourteen groups. The program’s ongoing participants include Peregrine Arts, the Folklife Center, Lifeline Music Coalition, the PRISM Quartet, Orchestra 2001, Choral Arts Society, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Composers Forum, and the Music Group of Philadelphia. The Bach Festival of Philadelphia, Chamber Music Now, International House Philadelphia, Ars Nova Workshop, and Haddonfield Symphony are all new this season. Arts Action Research began its PMP consultancy with founders Nello McDaniel and George Thorn (see a description of Thorn’s recent seminar, Leading Arts Boards, on page 30). However, in 2002, Thorn, who had been managing the extreme commute to Philly from Portland, Oregon, chose to refocus his efforts on the West Coast. AAR then brought in Lynn Moffat, Managing Director of the acclaimed New York Theater Workshop. Nello and Lynn’s wide-ranging expertise in building and maintaining organizational capacity has helped these nearly thirty music organizations with a wide range of goals: identifying and enabling key leadership, achieving clarity in mission and purpose; cultivating effective decision-making and problem-solving processes; developing an appropriate approach to the scale of one’s organization; and achieving overall organizational health and balance. The Arts Marketing and Audience Development Program, also initiated in 2001, brings marketing and public relations specialists to Philadelphia for one week per year to meet with a larger pool of organizations. These visiting consultants provide individually-tailored advice to program participants, and return for follow-up meetings in the following year. The first two consultants that PMP engaged were marketing maven Deborah Obalil and new music publicist Aleba Gartner. In 2004 and 2005, Kate Prescott and Vicki Allpress worked with local groups on both general marketing strategies and online marketing, specifically. PMP will be inviting new consultants to visit with local organizations during 2006. For more information on the Arts Marketing and Audience Development Program, please contact Program Associate Alyssa Timin at

Approximately fifty individuals gathered at Settlement Music School in South Philadelphia for a seminar and roundtable discussion entitled Advanced Branding Strategies for Nonprofit Music Organizations. Featuring Deborah Obalil, Executive Director of the Alliance of Artists’ Communities in Providence, Rhode Island, and Aleba Gartner, President of Aleba Gartner Associates in New York City, the event offered regional organizations an opportunity to refresh their understanding of marketing strategies and hear feedback from the speakers on their experiences consulting with Philadelphia music groups through PMP. Deborah Obalil began the event with a presentation on identity development that explored the nature and purpose of branding, addressed its relation to better knowing and attracting audiences, and analyzed examples of the visual identities of several national music organizations. Reviewing the basics of branding, Obalil noted that a brand serves as both a trusted promise and encapsulates a “big idea” behind the organization. For example, she illustrated, though Nike sells shoes, its big idea is winning, and behind Starbucks are the ideas of sociability and consistency. Branding defines organizations relative to their competition and articulates what it has that is worth the attention, time, effort and money of potential audiences. Obalil went on to delineate the steps in identifying customers, and particularly, the importance of audience segmentation. Quoting Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerilla Advertising, she commented, “Segmentation is saying something to somebody instead of saying nothing to everybody.” Obalil’s tips for effectively segmenting one’s audience include improving audience surveys, for example, sorting single from season ticket buyers or asking what other activities audience members do with their leisure time. Following customer identification, Obalil suggested that music groups consider their competition: what are the strengths

the event offered regional organizations an opportunity to refresh their understanding of marketing strategies

and weaknesses of competing activities, and how does your organization compare and contrast with those? What distinct position might you claim? In order to gain an accurate sense of one’s organization and its competition in the eyes of a customer, Obalil encouraged groups to employ an objective observer and to analyze the total customer experience, up to and including the atmosphere of the venue where events are held. Finally, she offered the “kitchen table test:” throw all marketing materials of yours and your competition’s on a table and compare the materials for their ability to speak to the heart of their intended target, ability to stand out, and internal consistency. The last component of Obalil’s presentation regarded “core competency,” or the ability to articulate and utilize an organization’s uniqueness. Exercises to identify uniqueness include listing ten things only your group does and imagining, if it died tomorrow, how it would be eulogized. When what is unique about your organization can be clearly stated and wedded to what your audience values, Obalil argued, a strong brand and visual identity can be established. Afterward, she and Ms. Gartner provided observations from their consulting experience and fielded questions from the audience regarding Philadelphia-specific branding issues. Ms. Gartner emphasized the importance of using efficient, professional language in press materials. Many questions from the audience focused on particularities of communicating with Philadelphia-area press and competing for limited arts coverage.

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DEBORAH OBALIL AND ALEBA GARTNER WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2004 PMP 29 Deborah Obalil and Aleba Gartner relax following their PMP round- tabl...