Paul Hanrahan
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Below you will find swash buckling insight into all things arts marketing and the future of our craft. Those averse to nautical puns and phrases look away now.


Ahoy there, and welcome to my review of the annual AMA conference. The message is clear, value everything – particularly your passions and wellbeing.

Titanic Proportions

Evening meal at the Titanic Belfast was a good introduction to what to expect from the week. As a first time voyager of the good ship #AMAConf this was a good way to get introduced to new people and what to expect of the next few days.

view from the Belfast Waterfront
Photo by Paul Hanrahan

Second Day – Get underway with the AMA

Day two saw us move venue to the Belfast Waterfront offering equally stunning views of the river and city. Today was a real eye opener into the breadth of work going on out there and the sheer passion and determination people have for the arts across the UK.

Swab the deck with Ronseal

My first session was “Thinking Bigger: adding value to your communications in a fast-changing landscape” with Phil Woodford from Here Comes the Calvary Ltd. His message was one of repetition.

classic Guinness pelican ad
Guinness by Denis Simonet (CC BY 2.0).

Repeating your message frequently across your channels is a successful technique. An example that resonated was close to Belfast – Guinness’ Slogan “Good things come to those who wait”. It’s a strapline that you can repeat frequently across your promotional material and channels. Word of warning though, you have to be credible. “Strong and Stable” didn’t work for Theresa May because she wasn’t believable. Sometimes repetition can be annoying, but if its creating intrigue it’s serving its purpose.

Who doesn’t remember the Ronseal slogan? In fact, it has becomes so ingrained in our psyche, other people do the job for us. David Cameron even used the Ronseal slogan in 2013 when Prime Minister to sum up the state of the coalition government at its halfway point, saying, “it is a Ronseal deal – it does what it says on the tin“. Your message can snowball if you get it out frequently enough and it’s intriguing. We also got an insight into a world of times gone by, where repetition in advertising actually inspired people to drink Carling Black Label, or as I like to call it – cooking beer.


All hands on deck – Actionable Insight Making the Most of Google Analytics

Speaking of things that do exactly what the say on the tin, this session with Devon Smith, Co-Founder of Measure Creative was a whizz through the most appropriate things to record for your organisation. There are many methods to get the answers you are looking for but Devon’s savvy for analytics taught me new shortcuts and segments to get to the points quicker and more effectively. The automation application for those of us using Slack, Statsbot gives us a super quick insight into the metrics, and results we want to interrogate instantly. And the future of Google Analytics looks very exciting.


It’s kind of like the ‘Ask Jeeves’ of the analytics nerd future. Exciting.

Feeling high and dry? Get substance from the Sensei

I’ll start by saying – I’m generally not a fan of buzzwords. Marketing is rife with them – ‘low hanging fruit’, ‘bring it to life’, ‘unravel the onion’. However, this session titled ‘Going Ninja’ created enough intrigue and scepticism to hook me into session three of the day. I am absolutely delighted that I did. Debris Stevenson’s session looked at the value of our wellbeing and how this ties into our productivity. In break-out groups we got to talk to other people from the conference about their lives, their goals and their reality. The key message here was time is of the essence and we can do more things that we enjoy with it as well as become more productive at work. Mental wellbeing comes from within and should be supported by your organisation. 🌟 Arigato Debris. This was my session of the conference. 🌟 I’ve since taken up running at lunchtime in the spirit of kunoichi.

Third Day – Know the ropes

Having taken opportunity for a small get together dinner on the Wednesday evening at the wonderful Molly’s Yard (great beer and goat burgers – vegan options too), I had to ensure that Thursday didn’t start with me feeling “groggy” or ropey. This was an excellent way to spend a night and I left having met some excellent folks along the night. The conversation went from museums, poppies, how to speak Afrikaans to the Game of Thrones tapestry. Standard arts chat really.

Push the boat out – Pressing ‘Reset’ Refreshing our Arts Marketing Philosophy

Having listened to an excellent keynote on the value of content in modern day marketing it was refreshing to move into a session that continued to push the boat out in terms of thinking about our arts marketing philosophy. James Fluery helped us to challenge the generally accepted norms of promotion, direction and artform asking how we should challenge these as marketers and be involved in the decision making process. He shared an example of organising an event that brought together a traditional classical orchestra, The London Mozart Players and modern artists such as chart-topping electronic artist Shift K3Y to perform at Croydon’s Boxpark In July.

The performance was a huge success for both parties and opened up the orchestra to a new audience which they will continue to work with next year whilst considerably increasing LMP’s Facebook following. Thanks to James for a very inspiring presentation.


Don’t walk the plank if you can’t fly – How to be a Marketing Superhero

As I alluded to earlier when discussing the Ninja session – buzzwords are only of use if there is substance. And therefore – It was no mean feat to live up to the title of “How to be a Marketing Superhero.” Beneath the buzz there was some really practical substance from Sarah Ogle from Liverpool Everyman Theatre and Liverpool Playhouse. It’s always reassuring to hear from another marketing point of view. For me, the key was to embrace planning, challenge perceptions of what is right and to analyse and interrogate your data to make changes throughout the year. The most important thing to consider here and always is what’s in it for your audience. Always start with that in mind. Super session – thank you.

Set a course for … The Art of Modern Storytelling

Ok so buzzword number three and it’s a marketing hat trick – storytelling. My dad is an actual storyteller by trade, and it doesn’t feel to me that this is a new marketing skill. On second thought, my dad might need to brush up on his digital storytelling if this session was anything to go by. 360 degree video, Facebook Live and Instagram stories – it’s essential that we utilise these tools to grip our audience. Glen Miller gave lots of excellent examples from the Tate and cast of Hamilton among others.


In the modern age the value of everything we do will need to come through on these channels. It doesn’t have to be polished. In fact the grainy nature and live aspect can help to cause intrigue. Our marketing content often gives insights into the trends that are coming so be sure to follow us for more and sign up to our newsletter.

Conclusions? It’s no plain sailing

The AMA Conference was an excellent opportunity for me personally and Culture Republic as a company to network and gain insight into how things are for other organisations out there. I haven’t touched on the key notes, which were all extremely insightful and interesting. The conclusion I have from my first AMA conference is that times are hard for many of us (funding, time, and resource) but there is a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from others and use new and emerging methods to move forward. It might not be plain sailing but go out and tell your story, wear your cape and kick on.

Main image credit: Titanic by Nancy I'm gonna SNAP (CC BY 2.0)