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Marketing the Orchestra

0 Christopher Stager
christopher_stager Editor's Abstract

Chris Stager, a nationally-known consultant in audience development for the performing arts, has agreed to answer all those questions we musicians have about the proper way to market an orchestra. Is it a science or an art? Or a little bit of both?

His first column explains the difference between PR and Marketing, an often misunderstood distinction.

Please send in your marketing questions so that Chris can address them in a future column.

Ann Drinan

“What is the difference between PR and marketing?”

An important distinction, often misunderstood. While specific definitions of the two disciplines may vary between professionals, I would submit the following:

Public Relations (PR) is the process by which institutional information is communicated to the local and national print and broadcast media. The goal is to regularly inform the public of the institution’s latest news and activities. Consequently, PR is more about “press relations” than “public relations.”

Marketing is the process by which proven tactics (direct mail, print advertisement, broadcast advertising, and Internet postings) are employed to sell the institution’s series subscriptions and single tickets.

So the two functions have a mirror-image complement: PR focuses on the institution, while marketing focuses on the customer.

Far more than marketing, PR links the institution to the public. It aims to interest the public in the organization’s activities, and by extension, helps to build receptivity for subsequent marketing activities.

There may be concerts that “resist the sale,” particularly those featuring contemporary music or little-known repertoire. These concerts have more of a story to tell – one that exceeds the limitations of space (in a print ad) or time (in a radio spot).

Thoughtful, targeted PR efforts can best communicate the artistic assets of such programs. PR can tell the back story of an artist, a composer, or the work, delivering more compelling detail than advertising can hope to. PR can pique interest, which coordinated marketing can then convert into sales.

As Marketing departments build promotional partnerships with media sponsors, PR can complement these relationships by coordinating artist interviews and other elements around the paid advertising schedule. The PR effort adds resonance to the marketing investment.

Jo Labreque-French, Director of Marketing and Communications for Houston Grand Opera, oversees both functions.

“I think the primary difference between marketing and public relations is money. In marketing you make money, at least in theory, for a company and in public relations, you cost a company money. It is very difficult to quantify the value of PR to a company or a Board. Everyone knows they need it; they’re just not sure why.

Public relations is built on relationships. With the media, the company, the public. It’s about building public trust by getting others (i.e., the media) to report positively on your company’s efforts and products. The theory is, if someone else says it, it must be true. The PR professional wants to position their company in the very best light possible by downplaying negatives and playing up positives, but most importantly by staying as visible as possible to as many people as possible. PR is a 24/7, 365 day effort.It’s all about image.

Marketing on the other hand is more suspect. A company pays someone to design advertising, write copy, and produce spots to sell product. A marketer is in control of what is said, how it looks, and where it is seen or heard. The only thing a marketer cannot control is whether the public will believe the campaign and if they will buy.

Like the PR professional, the marketer does have to work on their relationships, but in this case it is with their buyers and potential buyers. Good customer service and public trust is essential to a good marketing effort.

I’ve often heard it said, “Good sales – marketing’s done a great job. Poor sales – there wasn’t enough PR.”

Structurally, as in Houston, PR and marketing can coexist under the same department, or they can be individual departments. No one structure appears superior to the other.

PR duties may vary from institution to institution. The basic work is the accurate, regular delivery of routine institutional announcements and concert listings to the media.

More strategic is an overarching view of PR as a tool to build the organization’s ever-developing relationship with its community. It is often suggested that outside PR counsel be retained to move the institution beyond the Arts pages, deeper into the newspaper and across the spectrum of broadcast journalism. The institution can then begin to communicate its values to a wider constituency, engendering broader support and attracting new ticket buyers.

Christopher Stager
CRStager marketing & audience development

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