Institutional Blogging

The more I look back at the National Performing Arts Convention (NPAC) session on blogging, the more gratifying the experience becomes. The mix of panelists was ideal and if there was any one point attendees could take away from the event it is this: blogging is not only good for performing arts organizations, but increasingly necessary. The good news is compared to traditional outreach methods, maintaining a first-class blog costs pennies on the dollar. At the same time, it is entirely unrealistic to expect maximum results by merely signing up for a free blogging account and publishing a few scattered posts. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what too many organizations do and watching one group after another fall victim to this bear trap has served as the inspiration behind creating a new service to help performing arts organizations, chamber ensembles, and soloists effectively join the new media revolution. Success is as straightforward as having a helping hand…

To this end, I have put together a comprehensive set of service packages designed to provide exactly the sort of initial and long-term support an organization needs to establish an effective blog. In short, they fall into two categories: providing complete start-up support for those wishing to manage their own blog and a comprehensive administrative package for those without the internal resources for necessary blog management. Based on my experience authoring and administering my own blog as well as administering several cultural blogs belonging to a larger collective, the latter packages are strongly recommended for most groups.

Blog Administration

Designed as an all-inclusive and full service program all an organization needs to provide are authors, and learning how to identify the right individuals is something that is included with the service. During the NPAC session, it became clear that an experienced admin who is familiar with blogging and capable of managing all related back-end duties in addition to motivating authors and regulating posts is a crucial component to operating a successful blog.

Coordinating blogging activity with existing marketing, development, public relations, education, and artistic activities increases the ability to measure a blog’s impact and the service provided with these packages aims to maximize results without placing unreasonable requirements on an organization’s current staff. The blog’s overall reach is enhanced by companion social media pages allowing readers who prefer those environments to stay on top of the blog’s offerings.

There are two variants of this package: one designed for a single organization/individual and one designed for a collaborative blog composed of two or more separate performing arts organizations or ensembles. Both options are ideal projects for grant applications and the latter is an excellent vehicle for establishing improved associations and mutually beneficial relationships with other performing arts organizations in your community (click here for more details).

Blog Launch

For those organizations with the necessary human resources to adequately administer a blog but need some assistance to get something up and running, these programs will provide the necessary guidance. Both packages include everything needed to establish a professional, custom blog that can incorporate existing graphic material and style sheets or feature something entirely new.

This project is ideal for building stronger ties between staff, musicians, and volunteers. Since the most successful arrangement is to feature two or more regular authors, selecting candidates from each group of stakeholders provides a unique opportunity for these authors to get to know one another in a collaborative environment. And what organization wouldn’t benefit from improved communication?

In addition to setting up a new blog, the service includes two months of direct back-end administration, author support, and comprehensive admin training for one employee and/or volunteer. Deciding which package to use depends on whether an organization is starting a blog from scratch or has existing content from past blogging endeavors they want to incorporate into a new venture. Those falling into the latter category will benefit from special services to maximize the existing content and seamlessly
integrate it into the new blog (click here for more details).

One of the intriguing components of the NPAC this year was the daily caucus meetings. During these series of dialogues, a strong sense of awareness emerged regarding the need for increased community connections; to this end, blogs will play an increasingly crucial role in how well organizations build bigger and more involved audiences, ultimately impacting how relevant an organization is to the community.

In addition to addressing each of these qualitative issues, the blogging packages are designed to generate revenue from the blog’s launch by incorporating special feeds to concert events, ticket purchase links (provided the organization/ensemble sells tickets online), and online giving opportunities. In fact, a properly designed and managed blog is the definitive value added platform allowing users to maximize traditional audience and revenue development activities.

So many managers I spoke with at the convention were frustrated with the feeling that traditional performing arts are becoming irrelevant and there is nothing they can do to stem the tide or break through the malaise. The good news is one of the answers is right at their fingertips: blogging. After more than four years of blogging every weekday, 1,500 posts, and having my blogging activity featured in traditional outlet  such as the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune as well as new media powerhouses like DailyKos, I sincerely believe that what organizations need to help enter the new media environment is  someone with an intimate understanding of their unique needs combined with an unmatched level of technical and creative expertise in the field of cultural blogging with the right plan of action.

Ultimately, a well managed, creative, and sincere blog fosters a greater sense of ownership in the organization throughout all stakeholders and the community at-large. It increases exposure at the local, regional, and national levels and is limited only by the creativity of the respective authors. It serves as a vehicle to feature artists, managers, volunteers, guest artists, and patrons. There has never been a more flexible, multifaceted, cost effective tool available to the world of performing arts since the advent of the radio.

In short, there has never been a better time to start blogging so why miss out for another season? Establishing a first-class blog isn’t a drain on resources, the deliverables are tangible, results can be tracked in real-time, and the summer months are the perfect time to get a project underway. Depending on an organization’s goals and requirements, any of the above packages can get a blog up and running in as little as two weeks. You can download a special four page booklet which outlines each of the service packages described above or visit my consulting website for additional details.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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1 thought on “Institutional Blogging”

  1. Drew, I couldn’t agree more with your comments here. Interactivity and immediacy are at our artistic fingertips with every blog post, and second only to “face time,” they are the best way to engage our peers and clients. Additionally, it’s as important to participate on other people’s blogs, as it is to offer a window to our world on our own.

    In my case, I’ve found a wonderful balance by using my professional website for… you guessed it… All Things Professional, and then offering a more personal glimpse of my nature-drenched life on my blog, Notes from the Kelp. Artists do not only create art, they create relationships. Everything we do is based on them, and if we can bring people from around the world a little bit closer to knowing us as people, we are most likely succeeding in bringing them closer to what we create, as artists.

    Like you, I was very sorry that our respective NPAC panels were scheduled in such a manner that they were a duel against each other! I was disappointed not to see you last week, and look forward to the next event, wherever that may be!

    Cheers my friend,

    Hooray, someone actually connected to the blog today! (FYI, the blog server has been experiencing MAJOR problems all day). I was equally disappointed that our paths did not cross at the convention and even more disappointed that they scheduled our respective sessions opposite each other!

    I think you maintain an archetypical blog from the standpoint of exactly how to increase connections with readers by allowing more transparency into the personal components. Ultimately, it adds value to the entire endeavor and those on the outside looking in feel a little like they are on the outside.

    It’s a big, beautiful, new world out there in cyberspace. I hope that the world of performing arts doesn’t end up on the tail end of things. ~ Drew McManus

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