Topic 5 Promotion

Promotion is the process of communicating the cultural organisation and its products to the Market. Its purpose is to promote the benefits and value of the organisation and its products to the target groups, in order to increase awareness and create interest, facilitate sales, expand and diversify attendance, but also to create in the public eye an enduring positive image for the organisation that can attract funders, advocates and supporters.

Promotional means comprise:

  1. Advertising
  2. Personal Selling
  3. Sales Promotion
  4. Public Relations
  1. ADVERTISING is a standardised form of impersonal communication used to convey a specific message to a target group. The organisation has control over the content of the message, the channels that present the message, and the frequency the message is presented to a large audience. The aims of advertising can vary according to the organisation’s goals. For example, advertising by a cultural organisation may aim to:
  • Inform about a new product or service.
  • Support a positive or change a negative image.
  • Promote elements that differentiate the cultural organisation from similar organisations or products.
  • Increase market share compared to the competition (e.g. attract visitors, intensify attendance; increase customer loyalty, stir interest, etc.).

Advertising media for cultural organisations can be printed, electronic, or digital. They can be produced in-house (like programmes, guides, brochures, banners, etc.) or be produced in cooperation with production and advertising companies.

The choice of advertising media depends certainly on the target groups the organisation aims to reach, on the advertising capacities of the organisation but also on the available budget, since, for example, TV advertising is almost prohibitively expensive for non-profit organisations. However, since TV reaches larger audiences, some organisations seek communication sponsorship from TV channels, allowing them to present advertisements free of charge.

Digital media have opened up a world of affordable advertising possibilities for cultural organisations, which exploit social media and webpages increasingly to reach larger audiences.

Sources: Pixabay & Rene Asmussen, www.pexels.com Graph by Maria Kouri

  1. PERSONAL SELLING relies on interpersonal communication. Designated members of staff contact members of the organisation’s target groups personally, attempting to induce them to “buy the product” (i.e. visit the museum, buy a ticket, attend a performance) and, ideally, to enter into a long-term relationship of mutual trust and development with the organisation. This process is preferred, when one-on-one communications are required, for example, to provide more specific and detailed information that advertising can’t offer; namely, a cultural product’s artistic or scientific interest, the logistics of group visits, etc.

Cultural organisations opt for Personal Selling mainly to approach critical target groups, such as schools and other educational institutions, businesses, community groups or associations, etc. Accordingly, personal selling is more costly in terms of resources and time and its success depends on the “chemistry” and the trust levels between the representatives of the organisation and of the target group. On the other hand, it allows the communication of more complex and detailed information in more personalised, flexible and, thus, persuasive ways, and also the collection of the target group’s data and preferences. Sincerity, empathy, and trust are the keywords for success in personal selling.

  1. SALES PROMOTION provides a wide variety of incentives to encourage the prospective customer to make a purchase. Such incentives include sales and promotions, coupons, product samples, gifts, prizes from sweepstakes and competitions, premiums (=gifts coming with purchase), etc. All these incentives aim to boost sales or entice a new customer to try the product. However, to be considered as incentives, they need to be offered short-term.

Using sales promotion in the cultural sector is a bit different, as the core “product” is not always tangible, but focuses on the visitor’s total Experience, while it cannot easily be sampled prior to purchase. Open days, previews, virtual tours and audiovisual excerpts from museum collections, performances, programmes, and the organisation’s venues are some sampling possibilities

Moreover, organisations reward their loyal supporters by offering a wide range of membership premiums and benefits. Take a look at the membership benefits offered by the British Museum or the Metropolitan Opera.

  1. PUBLIC RELATIONS (P.R.) is a from of non-personal communication programmes, aiming to form, protect, enhance, or change the image of an organisation. It uses various means, including among others:
  • newsletters; factsheets and press releases; press interviews;
  • presentation of the organisation on various public occasions (conferences, TV etc.);
  • organisation of publicity events (e.g. opening nights, outreach activities, previews and special events, donations);
  • cultivation of good relations with the media, celebrities, the organisation’s various stakeholders, businesses and funders, members of the community, etc.

PR is much less expensive than Advertising, since an organisation does not buy advertising slots or time to present its messages. Thus, contrary to Advertising, in PR an organisation does not have total control over the content, whether or how its messages will be communicated. However, if a cultural organisation earns the respect and attention of the media, it may gain much greater publicity and media exposure than it could pay for, and so reach greater numbers, including non-participants.

Accordingly, a cultural organisation needs to invest in PR systematically and include PR in its overall long-term communications strategy, to influence positively the public’s attitudes and shape an enduring positive image in the public eye. This can prove quite useful not only in attracting audiences, advocates and funders, but also in helping the organisation land more softly when hit by a crisis, caused, for example, by accusations of mismanagement, complaints regarding contested cultural content, mistakes in overbooking, pandemics, or funding cuts.

Sources of pictures: www.pexels.com. Graph by M. Kouri

PR Categories (Kotler & Scheff, 1997: 378-379). Graph by Maria Kouri