• arts & culture

In the creative industries, attracting a diverse audience is essential for the future of any organisation, and festivals are no exception. The Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) is one creative organisation taking grander steps in their marketing towards a bigger, and more diverse, future.

Melbourne Writers Festival

As part of Asia TOPA in 2017, MWF presented a pop-up experience of India’s Jaipur Literature Festival, JLF Melbourne, specifically targeting a new audience - the local Indian community. This event allowed MWF to welcome more people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, something that was also in line with the organisation’s broader inclusivity goals.

Over 57% of the JLF Melbourne audience identified as being from a CALD background, with 26% identifying with the Indian subcontinent. MWF were delighted to find the feedback from attendees indicated a real desire and interest from the community to be involved in such events: ‘Opening me to new and diverse stories, perspectives and histories – stimulating and fabulous’; ‘Wonderful, welcoming, mind-expanding’.

Inspired by the success of this event, MWF has developed a pilot program for a Community Engagement Toolkit, funded by a Creative Victoria marketing innovation grant. The goal was to create a systematic approach for building new audiences that could be tested, scaled and repeated.

The focus was on developing a practical process to understand audiences and cost-effective ways to use online marketing to drive attendance, that can be rapidly iterated and applied across sectors. MWF implemented an agile marketing framework to create the Community Engagement Toolkit, using various research techniques - including one-on-one audience interviews and focus groups - to understand the motivations about attendance at the Festival. This information was then used to produce targeted bespoke content to be distributed online to test marketing messaging against engagement and ticket purchase to the 2017 Melbourne Writers Festival.

From left: Brendan Gleeson, Cathy Alexander, Sam Alexander and Robyn Eckersley from the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.

The project allowed MWF to learn about the real and perceived barriers to Festival attendance and develop skills to create relevant communications for diverse audiences. “It provided an amazing opportunity to speak directly to our potential audience about what stops them from coming along to our festival,” says Kylie Eddy, Marketing & Development Manager at Melbourne Writers Festival. ‘It was very revealing to hear first-hand why people attend events and how they make their decisions. By speaking to a relatively small group of people we have so much more information to develop our marketing campaigns.”

The Festival now has significantly more data about these potential customers. This Community Engagement Toolkit will form an integral part of the overall marketing direction for MWF in the future, and will be used as a blueprint that can be modified for the specific needs of different communities and future attendees.

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