REACH: Strategic Audience Development course

Film Hub South West provides bursaries to support Film Hub members to attend a range of festivals, events, courses and conferences to develop their professional practice and increase skills within the exhibition sector. Here Plymouth Arts Centre Operations Manager, Manon Le Tual, shares what she gained from attending the ICO’s REACH course with support  from Film Hub South West.

 

“I am the Operations Manager at Plymouth Arts Centre. Our Marketing Manager recently went on maternity leave and I have taken over some of the marketing responsibilities while she is off. It was therefore perfect timing for the marketing newbie that I am to attend this year’s edition of the REACH: Strategic Audience Development course, a course managed by the Independent Cinema Office to support film exhibitors to develop a wider range of audiences.

Module One of the course took place at the end of September in Birmingham, at the mac. This was an inspiring and lovely choice of venue, with the arts centre opening on Cannon Hill Park. Summer was back for the 3 days we were there, and although the geese, ice-cream vans, swans and pedalos were inviting us to go enjoy the sunshine in the park, the great contents of the course kept us inside our meeting room for 3 solid days without too much regret.

Module One is where the 15 course participants get to learn about the current cinema audience landscape and audience development through a range of presentations given by experts and peers, from national data about film exhibition to local case-studies. Each speaker gave us tools and tips to aim high with our audience development plans, while remaining very practical, down-to-earth and realistic about the financial and time constraints faced by cultural organisations.

It’s hard to sum up in a few words what I learned over 3 intensive days but here are some key points:

  • Going to the cinema is an experience, it’s more than just a watching a film.
  • Young audiences already go to the cinema. But they mainly go to mainstream multiplexes. The challenge is not to develop a new audience but to migrate an existing audience to independent cinema.
  • Partnering up with another organisation for an event is a great opportunity to get your organisation more visibility, and reach new audiences BUT the audience needs to recognize you are involved and learn about what you can offer them after the event is over.
  • When reaching out to new audiences, it is vital to develop human relationships and sustain them. People will come back if you continue to have something for them, then they will trust you and explore other things you have to offer.
  • Diverse audiences require tailored communication but then it is what we share and have in common that make people stay and come back. I like this idea a lot: for instance just because we want to attract young audiences doesn’t mean we suddenly have to show blockbusters and sell hot dogs. We offer something different than what people can get in a multiplex and we want them to discover that.
  • Communication and training across all staff members is KEY.
  • When it comes to accessibility for audiences, it is the whole journey, from the advert through the booking process to the screening, which needs to be accessible.
  • Only do audience surveys if you’re going to use the results. Don’t ask about things you can’t change.
  • Don’t be too precious about PR and learn to let go.

The course now continues with the development of pilot projects, where each participant has to design and implement an audience development plan for their organisation, with the assistance of an expert advisor. We’ll present our plan to the rest of the group in March in London. Time to get to work!”

  • Manon Le Tual, Plymouth Arts Centre Operations Manager

REACH: Strategic Audience Development course

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