Communications and promotion
This page looks at both traditional and online ways to communicate and market your arts events and activities to everyone, including disabled people. Providing a range of communication channels – the media, social media, brochures, websites, emails – is important so you reach all your audiences. It is a summary of the information in chapter three of Arts For All: Ngā Toi mō te katoa, pages 37 to 43.
- An online world
- Marketing and promotion to the disabled and Deaf communities
- Accessible formats
- Working with the media
So much communication today is online and brings with it opportunities for cost-effective and powerful communications. It’s a great way to promote your arts event or activities and your accessibility.
However, online channels should never be used at the expense of more traditional methods. Some people, including mental health consumers on benefits, and disabled and older people, don’t have access to appropriate technology, or may not feel comfortable using the internet or social media.
Promote your arts event or activity, plus your access, on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Disabled bloggers are increasing in number and popularity. Their posts can create an immediate response to good and bad experiences. Their posts can also help you publicise your event and provide authenticity. They may also be willing to guest blog for you.
Posting a video clip on YouTube (with captioning) is another way to attract audiences and it lets viewers sample what you have to offer. It can be posted to your website and Facebook pages and shared even more widely. Include subtitles or accompanying text so it’s accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing audiences. Transcripts may also help blind and vision impaired visitors with access to the same information. YouTube provides auto-captioning but you need to check the captions for accuracy.
The accessibility of online social marketing platforms cannot be guaranteed but where you do have control – websites, email newsletters and other electronic media – pay attention to accessibility.
Word of mouth has always been one of the most effective marketing tools there is. Including the text “Please spread the word” on posters and brochures, in your email messages and social media posts is a good way to remind people about passing on the information.
Friends and family of disabled people will want to know about a venue or an arts event’s accessibility. For example, an article in a mainstream newspaper about an audio described performance may be read by friends and family, and communicated to a blind or vision impaired person. The article will probably also be posted on the newspaper’s website, then linked and shared on social media.
Disability organisations have newsletters, websites and email mailing lists. They will be happy to promote an accessible event or one about disability.
Does your venue have a café? You could offer it to your target audience as a meeting place and treat them to subsidised coffees. You will build a relationship with the group, be able to talk to them about your event, hand out flyers, and make it easy for them to buy tickets with a box office at their fingertips.
Your marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy should include:
- what you want your event to achieve (the purpose and goals)
- who you want to reach
- how you will reach them, including the various communications tools you propose to use (e.g. specific media, websites, social media, texting, posters, mail outs and email newsletters).
- how you will measure the event’s success.
As part of your commitment to reaching disabled people and building new audiences, always factor disabled audiences into your marketing strategy. In defining the purpose of your event, include at least one measurable goal relating to accessibility.
Allow plenty of time to market your event. Many disabled people have to make arrangements ahead of the event. You also need to book Sign Language interpreters in plenty of time.
Promoting your event
Here are some ideas for promoting your event:
- Use symbols such as the universal symbol for access as an effective visual device on posters, flyers and newspaper advertisements. Use them also on the internet and in other electronic communications.
- Integrating access information into all promotional material for your event is cost-effective and will promote inclusion. Importantly, it will also reach older people and the many disabled people who are not connected to a disability organisation.
- Include accessibility information in a generic flyer, which can be included with the tickets whether you’re posting them out or they’re being collected at the box office. Post the same accessibility information online.
- Use disability organisation networks to publicise your arts event. A longer timeframe may be necessary for this to be effective.
- Include disabled tourists in your marketing by ensuring information about your accessible options and events are available in hotels and tourist brochures.
Word of mouth is powerful in disability networks, and works negatively and positively. Providing easy ways for disabled people to provide feedback about your organisation’s accessibility is important. You will build trust and a stronger relationship if you respond to their feedback and use it to improve your access.
A guide to language
Language – what you say and how you say it – can make or break your communications. It is central to your marketing strategy. It can engage and inspire people, or leave them indifferent. It can turn them on or off your arts event – and, ultimately, your organisation or venue.
The key is to use plain language that says what you mean, details what you can offer and how to access it.
Additional information: What words to use
Having accurate, adequate and meaningful information is critical in providing access for disabled people. They need the correct information so they can make decisions about attending and/or participating in particular arts events or activities. For example, be specific if the only wheelchair access is through a side door.
Make sure the information on your website is current and that you do actually offer the services or access options your website describes as available. It should provide clear and easy-to-find information about your venue’s accessibility, along with more general information about the venue.
There are various ways you can provide information to your audiences to meet their different communication needs, including:
- accessible websites
- accessible emails (text-only options as well as accessible HTML)
- social media
- brochures and posters (including large print and Easy Read)
- signed and captioned videos
- telephone calls and services such as a menu option on your telephone menu.
Blind and vision impaired people use screen readers – software that “speaks” the text on a computer screen (e.g. documents, emails, websites and smartphone devices). This means that accessible websites and e-newsletters are great ways to communicate with them.
The Telephone Information Service run by the Blind Foundation is a cost-effective way of reaching this group, nationally or in a particular region.
Large print documents may work for some vision impaired people. Large print standards include sans serif font type for easy reading and usually 16pt or 18pt.
You could also think about seeking sponsorship to produce a programme in braille.
Accessible websites and emails
Websites and emails are critically important communication tools. But they are a missed opportunity if they are inaccessible or hard to use.
People with a range of disabilities can understand accessible websites and emails by using various assistive technologies. Among those who need particular accessibility features are people who are blind or have low vision; people who can't use a mouse or who can't use a keyboard; people who are Deaf or have a hearing impairment; or people who have dyslexia or learning disability.
Everyone benefits from accessibility and its near relation, usability. This includes people who have lost, broken or forgotten their glasses; older people; and anyone using mobile technology, especially in noisy or bright environments.
The New Zealand Government Web Toolkit details the Government’s Web Accessibility Standard 1.0 and Web Usability Standard 1.1. This is a good place to start to ensure your website is accessible.
Plain English and Easy Read
Plain English and Easy Read are different. Plain English benefits everyone. It uses everyday language; short, straightforward sentences and paragraphs; and avoids jargon.
Easy Read is a specific way of communicating often quite complex information in a style that is easy to understand by adults and young people with learning disability. Information is reduced to essential elements expressed in everyday words with pictures, symbols and graphics to assist meaning. It’s useful for other people as well: for example, people who have low literacy or for whom English is a second language.
People First New Zealand has guidelines to writing in Easy Read and offers an Easy Read translation service.
Let’s say you’re presenting an exhibition or performance that looks at disability and involves artists with learning disability. How do you get media coverage?
Prepare a media strategy as you would with any event you want to promote in the media. Find a fresh and different angle to your story. Think about inviting the media to a preview or a rehearsal.
Stories can run in newspapers, on television and radio, and on various online channels. Disability media outlets and access radio stations are always receptive to stories about their communities.
Bloggers, social media and news websites such as Scoop are also valuable.
- Make sure your story has a strong hook. Know the angle of the story, what makes it different and why the reporter should cover it.
- Use appropriate language about disability when representing your artists to the media. Be guided by the artists.
- Reporters are busy. Give them useful, accurate and concise information.
- Check out the general focus of the interview so the person being interviewed can be prepared. Make sure the people being interviewed are articulate, and you have whatever support they need, such as Sign Language interpreters.
- Have a clear idea how the interview might work best and convey this politely to the interviewer.
- Be positive and thank reporters for taking an interest in your event.
Connect through music: this video was made by Lala Rolls of Island Productions Aotearoa for Arts Access Aotearoa and Chamber Music New Zealand.
Access for all: “The good thing about being focused on access and accessibility is that you create a better experience for everybody,” says Philip Patston in this video, made by Lala Rolls of Island Productions Aotearoa for Arts Access Aotearoa.