Essential tips for online marketing success

16 October 2015

Peter Di-Toro shares his top tips for being noticed in today's music industry, ahead of his recent appointment as the Marketing Manager for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

I don’t know about you, but this ‘digital world’ we live in terrifies me. It’s not so much the rise of companies such as Apple and Google and the explosion of social media, but more the pace at which everything is moving. Just when you think you’re beginning to feel you understand it all, things change. Know the feeling? Yes, it’s frustrating and at times overwhelming, but the way I see it, you can approach this two ways – stick your head in the sand and hope it will all go away, or embrace the change and open your eyes to the exciting opportunities available to us. The answer’s easy, and yet, despite all of these exciting developments, one thing at the heart of my work and all the campaigns I have run has remained constant – the importance of our audience. This is who we’re working for and the ease with which we’re able to communicate with them (and with which they can communicate with us!), now makes them more important than ever.

Over the last 10 years working with major and independent record labels, venues, orchestras, choirs and artists, I have found myself in the eye of the storm as the classical music industry has faced the challenges presented to it in this fast-paced digital age and I have seen first-hand how it has adapted to speak to this ‘always on’ generation.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with some of the leading marketing professionals in the industry and have been inspired by their relentless quest to communicate and understand their audiences. This has resulted in some truly creative campaigns that have helped drive the industry forward (with a few tantrums and tears along way) and make this very niche world of ours exciting and relevant.

So what was it about these campaigns that made them so great? Is there a secret formula to success? The honest answer is no…but there are some key elements that I believe resulted in them making a real impact with the audiences they were trying to reach. I have summarized these below and included some examples that I hope will be a source of inspiration.

© Peter Di-Toro 2014.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

1. Set a clear strategy

Strategy. The buzzword on everyone’s lips in any marketing meeting at the planning stage of a new campaign. You will have lots of fantastic ideas and will be eager to get the project underway, but this stage is essential in delivering a well-structured and effective campaign. This point warrants a blog to itself, but in short, my starting point is always to ask the following:

Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How will we get there?

A nice summary and guide can be found on CultureHive here.

2. Make content that will live on

With ever dwindling marketing budgets, it is becoming increasingly important to create content that ensures a good return on your investment. Therefore, creating audio and video content that lives on after the campaign ends and continues to sell your brand is essential. Always ask - Is this something people will want to keep listening to or watching after my concert / festival / event? Someone who’s doing this brilliantly is the online classical music site – Sinfini - where through films, podcasts, comic strips and animations they’re making fresh and unique content that audiences want to keep going back to. LSO’s interactive orchestra site - LSO Play – is also something I keep revisiting and recommending to my friends. From my time at the Barbican, I’m particularly proud of getting Stephen Fry into one my videos to promote the operatic adaption of The Importance of Being Earnest composed by Gerald Barry. It’s still getting hits three years later.

3. Make it fast. Make it slow.

What does this mean I hear you ask. I attended a talk given by Mark Bell – head of Arts commissioning for the BBC – and he said this phrase which really resonated with me. One of his guiding principles is that the content we produce needs to be short, snappy and to the point. The thinking process of devising the content, however, shouldn’t be. Time needs to be taken to plan in order to be clear as to exactly what you want to create. A nice little mantra I think which ties in well with point number 1.

4. Make it personal

As organisations start to invest more of their time and financial resources into audience analysis, campaigns have become ever more bespoke to the individual. Some organisations have taken this a step further by actually featuring audience members in their work. A game-changing moment for me was the Orchestra Age of Enlightenment’s inspired ‘Not all orchestras are the same’ campaign evolving into ‘Not all audiences are the same’. So clever. The last major campaign I worked on at the Barbican was to re-brand their classical music programme. Using the audience segmentation analysis - Culture Segments - as our starting point, we created our ‘Where will the music take you?’ campaign. This focused on the audience member’s internal response to the music, therefore enabling us to tailor our campaigns to our different audiences. If you would like to read more about this, watch the trailer I created here and this nice blog talking about the campaign.

5. Make it human.

These days, battling with automated call centres and writing emails is the norm, but isn’t it nice sometimes to just speak to a fellow human being? To enhance audience engagement and trust with your brand, I really believe that it’s essential to make your social media channels feel more ‘human’. A lot of progress has been made here, but I still see lots of organisations and artists failing to do this. A good blog with useful tips and examples of good practice can be found here.

6. Don’t be afraid to be different

Getting inspiration from other campaigns is absolutely fine, but copy-catting won’t make you stand out. There have been a handful of organisations in recent years who, through brilliantly creative, witty and alternative campaigns, are consistently communicating with their audiences in exciting news ways. Examples include the wonderful Aurora Orchestra launching their 2014 season with a 3D mini orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra telling stories behind their productions. A P.S. to this is…don’t be afraid to be you. The Barbican Centre turned their self-image worries on their head in recent years. Instead of apologizing for not having a riverside view or plush 19th-century interiors, they have put their iconic building centre-stage, embracing and celebrating what makes them unique. You can see this throughout their communications – such as their social media channels and through specially commissioned video content.

7. Enjoy communicating

After working so hard to build up your online audience, have fun speaking to them. I understand it’s time consuming, but questions or comments sent to you should never be ignored and if they require a reply, should be on acted on as quickly as possible. I’m still amazed when I come across artists or organisations who fail to do this. The great Joyce DiDonato in many respects is leading the way with her vlogs, backstage selfies taken with colleagues and her very entertaining twitter feed. I’ve also been impressed by the exciting young pianist Yuja Wang, who so clearly understands the importance of her brand, and injects the energy and personality so apparent in her performances all the way through to the way she communicates with her audiences online.

8. And finally…sell your content

If you have spent time creating fantastic content that you’re proud of, there’s nothing worse than to see to it get lost in the ‘social media ether’. As an example, with the recent changes in Facebook’s algorithms, the chances of those who ‘like’ your page seeing your content has been greatly reduced. If possible, in the planning stage, try to allocate some budget to promoting your content on Facebook and YouTube. Another angle to this is to actually sell your content. Through YouTube, you can monetize your videos in a number of ways. Check out YouTube’s criteria to see if this might apply to you.

Do you have any ideas not included here that have worked for you? What other online marketing campaigns have you seen that have inspired your work?

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About the Author

Peter Di Toro is a freelance professional tenor, and marketing manager. He is currently Marketing Manager at the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and has previously worked with the Monteverdi Choir, SDG Recordings, The Barbican and EMI Classics.

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