Character traits and soft skills in marketing and business are being talked about more these days, because the theory is that you can teach skills to people but you can’t teach them to have passion or drive in their job.
I think there are some things that successful people in the arts (and in other industries too) have and do that unsuccessful people don’t. In this post I’ll explore what those are.
Some of these traits are learned but some are just part of the arts marketer’s DNA.
Passion for the mission of your organization.
I’m sure that this is an obvious thing to mention but sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious. Passion for the mission of your arts organization is paramount, it’s crucial, and it’s vital. In my world I love the performing arts. Theatre, Dance, Music, those things for me make me come alive and free! But if you put me in an art museum, I’m not as passionate about painting, sculpture, etc. It doesn’t speak to me the same way as a musical or choral performance.
Sometimes, I think the HR departments get this incorrect on the job advertisements for positions. They want people who are familiar with Opera or their craft when they need to hire people who love the Opera or choral performance.
Yes, Jonathan, I know that everyone everywhere needs to have the ability to work with people well. That’s a given, right? Well, yes, and no. The truly successful people in arts marketing and anywhere else know that work starts with relationships with others.
But, in the arts you have a wider spectrum of personalities to work alongside. You’ll have to work with the really snooty board member who’s a well known attorney. You’ll have to work with the cranky CMO (chief marketing officer) who’s overworked and underpaid and hasn’t taken a day off in years. You may have to work with the volatile conductor who’s never satisfied with the work.
Really successful people have a knack for being empathetic, understanding personalities, and communication styles of others. They know that if they want to get things done they need to be great communicators.
I wrote about this earlier on what makes a great marketing professional and I’ll say it again. Curiosity is something that can’t be taught necessarily, but could it be inspired? People who are curious about the world and about how things work I think make better team members and better leaders. Why? They look at the world in a whole different way than others. They think differently, they ask different questions. They’re probably innovative and look for ways to do something differently and look to cut through the noise and stand out.
I’m sure that at a particular level, especially at the senior level of arts organizations, it’s clear that those persons have a certain level of drive. Drive is the internal motivation to work effectively on tasks with the overall goal in mind. I don’t think that you can teach people to come to work everyday ready to go, firing on all cylinders, able to conquer the world. That’s something that’s entirely dependent on the person.
Sees the long game, not just the short
There’s a balancing act that occurs when marketing your arts organization. You have long term goals of accomplishing certain things, periods of executing strategies to meet those goals, and days and weeks of completing tactics and tasks to work all those things together. Audience development takes years, not just just days. Really successful professionals know to take a longer game approach.
This not only helps the organization, but it also helps ground the individual. Can you imagine just playing the short game all the time? It would be chaotic and stressful and dissatisfying (at least to me). Arts marketing folk should know that it’s the long game that counts. How can we attract younger audiences while retaining our established patrons who’ve been with us for years? How can we move audience members into volunteer roles like ushers, home hosts for performers, guild members? How can we move our established patrons into a major gift or planned giving program?
How can we take all that we’ve learned and move a young 20-something millennial who’s a single ticket buyer into a season subscriber, into a volunteer with the young opera guild organization, into a leader of the organization, into serving on the board in her 40s-50s and then making a major gift to the arts organization in her 70s-80s and then a planned gift in her will when she passes?
I think that’s what arts organizations should strive to do and that requires a long game.
There are traits that only successful arts marketing professionals have. These separate them from the average. Those are: passion for the mission, interpersonal skills and communication, curiosity, drive, and ability to see and play the long game instead of just the short.
Now it’s your turn! What traits do you see that really successful arts marketing professionals do differently than others? Let us know in the comments below!