With coffee in one hand and laptop in the other, I jumped on the 5:40am train from Glasgow Central to London Euston… Early, I know. I was en route to the UK Theatre Communications & Audiences conference that kicked off in London’s Covent Garden at 11am. After Digital were gold sponsors for the event, and so, I went down to support. I am a Junior Brand Executive, so a conference about Communications is right up my street!
Arts Professional Editor, Amanda Parker, was elected as the Conference Chair. She welcomed us all with a big smile and her warm sense of humour; she really did set the tone for a great day. After some housekeeping and introductions, we kicked things off with a Horizon Scanning session. As we are all aware, our political climate is uncertain and unsteady, so Patrick Robathan opened up the discussion of what was occupying the headlines and what can we expect for political communications post-general election and Brexit. Having worked for Randalls since 1984, Patrick has been providing bespoke monitoring services and advice to clients on the complexity of the political arena throughout the UK ever since and, as such, I found this session extremely interesting. At AD, we prefer not to get too involved in politics when posting on social media, but I did find it useful to generally have an understanding of what consumers’ thoughts and feelings were in order to better target them on our own channels.
After an interesting (and kind of bleak) start to the day, it was time for our Keynote speaker Asad Dhunna to launch his session, ‘Difference Dividend’, on how you can create cultural and commercial currency from diversity. Asad is the founder of The Unmistakeables, who delivered an incredibly inspiring and insightful talk on how we can drive diversity and inclusivity through our communications. From a marketer’s perspective, the key takeaway for me was that it’s so important to deliver a comms-driven, impactful campaign which reflects the thoughts and feelings of your target audience. If you don’t, then your audience is less likely to engage with your brand. A truly insightful talk!
The marketing team at After Digital LOVE data, so I was looking forward to the next session by freelance data trainer, Johnathan Stoneman. Johnathan delivered an interactive workshop on how we can analyse data coming from social media, Google Analytics, ticketing platforms and websites to ensure we are communicating to our target audience in the correct way. He also showed us how to create a pivot table on Google Sheets… But maybe that’s for another blog?
After lunch, it was time for the Social Media Mega Session - the session I was most looking forward to. Jess Young from SOLT kicked off the session with her top tips on how to best utilise social media for your business. Jess has been working as a Social Media Coordinator for 4 years, so it was nice to meet someone who shared the same interest and passion for social media marketing as I do. Most people were surprised at just how complex and essential social media can be for your business. Following on from this discussion, we were introduced to Doulla Croft, the Global Client Partner at Facebook (and whose son was in Game of Thrones). Cool eh? She opened up a Q&A about Social Media advertising and how to make the most of it. And finally, to close the social media session, Sarah Mancini delivered a talk on approaching and working with social media influencers; a role I’m not experienced at, but particularly interested in. I did ask her how she tracked down influencers and worked with them. I assumed there was a platform we could use that looks at all the successful influencers within each sector, but there isn’t! Influencer outreach takes time and patience, from scrolling through Instagram feeds to reading all the Facebook comments on one post. She did advise that it doesn’t matter how many followers an influencer has, it’s all about how engaged their audience is.
I find it incredibly interesting how marketing has evolved over the past 4 or 5 years. Digital technologies and social media have allowed us to use our budgets wisely and specifically segment and target our key audiences. Doulla opened up a conversation about the constantly changing Facebook and Instagram algorithms and how they focus on user engagement and delivering content people actually want to see. She raised a point about the evolution of social media engagement over the past couple of years, going from text to imagery to short-form videos and now long-form video. As a marketer, it was confirmed for me that it’s more important than ever to keep up with changing consumer demands and social media algorithms.
As we entered into the later stages of the day, Marshall Manson and Chris Calvert from Brunswick Arts gave us the energy boost we all needed! It was another interactive workshop, but this time we were looking at Crisis Management. We were delivered some real-life case studies (in other words: PR disasters) and in groups, we worked on how best to respond and communicate with the public and media. Public relations can be a really fun and interesting job, but when something goes wrong it can be extremely difficult to deal with it correctly. Marshall used an example of an employee tweeting “The plant in the office is on fire”, you put out the fire first and then you deal with the comments online. Being transparent and reacting quickly were some key takeaways from this session! A brilliant, thought-provoking session.
We finished up the day with an engaging PR and Marketing panel talk with Jo Hutchison who is the Founder of JHI Marketing, Sagar Shah who is the Press Manager at the Battersea Arts Centre, Philip Lee who is the Head of Marketing at Target Live and Arabella Neville-Rolfe, a Freelance PR Officer. It was interesting to find out what exactly journalists want from press release copy and how to work with clients on delivering a truly great strategy.
Having missed my train home (oops!) I sat and waited for the next one in Cafe Nero (with another coffee in hand), reflecting how well the day went! Admitting I’m still in the early stages of my marketing and branding career, it was awesome to meet so many like-minded and influential people in the industry. Thank you UK Theatre and pulling off this excellent event, we were proud to be your gold sponsors this year!