2018: predicting the unpredictable

We always love getting the industry predictions at the end of each year - they go from the sublime to the ridiculous, of course, because predictions are only predictions... based on differing environments. But, there are always a few that hit the sweet spot and seem to chime with exactly what we've been thinking or what we've started to see with our clients.

At the end of this post are a few articles you might want to read if you're so inclined, but first, our five sweetest predictions that we think will make a big difference in film, art and culture.

1. AI as in Actual Intelligence

Analytics, data collection, audience analysis and segmentation, CRM - this isn't new, but it is often not done well (or at all) in the culture sector. Why? Well, a multitude of reasons, but underfunding and overstretched teams are frequently mentioned when we raise the idea of data analysis with our clients. Most clients recoil, the collection of data or understanding thereof is a burden and quite often, an afterthought. 

We believe that Intelligence is the most critical part of any marketing activity. Not only will it inform your entire marketing campaign or strategy, but if integrated into your day-to-day will help you understand what is working, what isn't, and identify opportunities you had never considered. 

For example, by examining the data of one of our art gallery clients we were able to identify that a significant number of their audiences and customers were also environmentally minded, thus defining a new audience as well as a new way of positioning their products - environmentally friendly paint, recycled paper and biodegradable glitter, for example.


2. Solutions-based, holistic approaches

Firstly, hurrah!

Often, we are approached to "send out a press release" or "do some social media", and we have to consider this carefully. Because, great communications are rounded, holistic, joined up and consistent.

To engage only in a PR campaign that was in no way connected to your social or content strategy, would be almost like inviting a friend out for a drink and then claiming to have no knowledge of that friend's existence when they arrive! Cue this retro-flashback from 1995.

Now, this doesn't mean that your comms manager or your comms agency has to do everything, what it does mean though is that nothing should be done in isolation. You're taking your audience on a journey, step by step, bit by bit, you are building a relationship with them, and for relationships to be genuinely fruitful, you need trust, and trust comes from consistency, which leads nicely on to point 3...


3. "The Best Marketers Will Realize That “Branding” Is Dead And It’s All About Community Activation And Relationship Building" - Forbes

Now, while we wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, we also have to call out Forbes on this because this is not new. Marketing and Communications have always been about relationships. 

Okay, well maybe not in 1909 when Henry Ford famously said "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black," but we'd argue that wasn't even marketing it was straight-up selling.

Our opinion is, and always has been, that marketing and communications are about building relationships. This takes time. It takes commitment. It takes creativity. And now, in 2018, it also means personalisation (this is something we think will be even bigger in 2018); standing for something; being clear about who you are and what you stand for, and delivering (nay, exceeding) the expectations of your (potential) audiences, customers, clients.

Marketing is an investment. Not a spend. Determine what you want from your investment and deliver a plan to achieve it. 

Sidebar: when public money is being spent, as is so often the case in the arts and culture sectors, it is vital to not only understand where best to allocate your investment but also to measure that investment.


4. The Value of PR

PR gets a bit of a bum deal nowadays, "can't we just use social media?" or "we just want backlinks" or "we'll just send a press release to some journalists."

Okaaaaaaay, well, at the risk of repeating ourselves, marketing and communications are all about (all together now)... R E L A T I O N S H I P S.

Yes, social media is fantastic and we should use (but not 'just use') it, and yes, backlinks are important for awareness, audience reach and site authority.  Keep cracking on with those things. 

But, PR; true storytelling, in front of the right audience, builds the foundations for your business in a way that is still necessary and still achievable. Yes, it's hard to get good coverage, of course it is! Would you want it to be easy? Imagine what we'd all be reading if it was as simple as "whacking out a press release to a list of journalists."

Then imagine that you've spent many years cultivating relationships with journalists in your niche and that you don't just send them a press release, you also talk to them, about your projects, your products, your goals, new visions and strategies, expansion or innovation. Imagine that during those weekly conversations, a journalist picks up on something that could be a great story, something they care about writing and want to share with their audience.  

That takes a hella lot of time. Because (again) relationships take time. But that's what a good PR team will do for you. 

5. Video....well, content overall

As a sector, we've got to get onboard for content planning. There's still a feeling, it seems, that what we 'do' is enough, if we do good things, host unique exhibitions, put on fantastic performances, champion a worthy cause, then surely that's enough. Sadly, it's not enough.

People are bombarded daily with literally EVERYTHING. Research says we see 4,000 ads a day. And that's just ads. Never mind every Tweet, Facebook post, article, video, blog, Instagram and so on and so on and so on forever.

So, what do you do? You create your story, you find creative ways to connect with people, and you tell your story to the right audiences on the right channels. And thus - that means, knowing which content you are creating, where it's going and who it is for.

Think about feeding your family at Christmas - you plan it right? You know that Auntie Jean won't eat stuffing and that your niece is a bit of a fairweather vegetarian (i.e. no turkey but she'll have some cheeky pigs in blankets, obvs), your dad doesn't drink, but your step-mum loves a glass of red, and apparently, 49% of us hate sprouts

So, you serve a meal that caters to your guests, because you respect them and you want them to have a lovely time. You wouldn't serve up any old rubbish and just expect them to deal.

Same with your content. Respect your audience, give them something they love, something they love so much they tell other people about it. Plus, make your professional life easier by having a content plan. Which must include video starting right now.

Further reading

Forbes: 2018 Marketing Predictions

Forbes: 2018 PR Predictions

Marketing Week: What's in store in 2018