A relationship-building approach to arts marketing: Seneca Garber [profile]
Seneca Garber is an arts enthusiast whose background in education influences his approach to marketing. Currently Director of Marketing at Seattle Chamber Music Society (a role he’s held for the past two years), Seneca previously worked at the Seattle Opera in the education department.
“I always loved the arts but knew I wasn’t going to be a professional musician. I often get asked if I play an instrument or sing, and I always tell people, ‘You would NOT want to hear that!’” says Seneca. “However, when I learned about the administrative side of arts organizations, I knew that I could stay involved and utilize a set of skills that would benefit the organization.”
The Seattle Chamber Music Society has two music Festivals a year, one in winter and one in summer, each bringing world-class musicians together to create unique ensembles. In his current role, Seneca is responsible for the Society’s marketing, communications, public relations, brand development, and merchandise. In addition, he speaks at public education programs.
Creating relationships to connect the community with the arts
Arts – and specifically chamber music – marketing poses some unique marketing communications challenges, according to Seneca: “It isn’t a hot button topic like education, human services, or health at the moment, so being able to position ourselves as an important part of the community is a critical factor for the arts. Plus there is a conception that classical music is for a certain demographic only, even though it is for everyone.”
In order to help achieve the goals of the mission statement to build relationships and make music available to everyone in the community, several of the Society’s special offerings include a shorter, free recital before every concert and a free concert in a local park every summer.
Creating a unique brand identity
Having made the move from an organization that produced opera to one that produces chamber music, Seneca identified the need to be able to communicate what makes the Society unique. He factored this need into his work, shaping and building the organization’s brand image.
“It’s important to know what your group does well and tell that story to raise the level of awareness,” says Seneca. “It has been very exciting to make sure that the different pieces from print brochures, to monthly newsletters, to our social media channels all have a unified look that will be recognizable for our patrons, no matter where they see them.”
Putting the audience first
Seneca shares an important marketing insight gleaned from having made the transition from arts education to arts marketing: “I think finding out what an audience is interested in, connecting with them through storytelling, and realizing that the importance of relationship-building is as vital, if not more so, than just selling a ticket.”