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NEA Big Read Survival Guide: Marketing & Promotion

Planning a community-wide arts engagement program can be challenging. To help ease the struggle, we’ve put together a series of posts which we lovingly dub The NEA Big Read Survival Guide. Each post contains some of the best tips and tricks that NEA Big Read grantees have learned over their years. We kicked off the series with a week on Partnerships — the relationships and community connections that are the foundation of every successful NEA Big Read. In this week’s section, we’ll be tackling Marketing & Promotion. How do you define your audience? How do you build key messaging about your program? How can you leverage your partnerships to help you share that message?

Defining your audiences

Through their NEA Big Read programs, many organizations have found ways to broaden their programming beyond usual audiences and participant bases: both through partnerships, and through marketing and promotion initiatives. Brainstorming and identifying your audience early on can be one of the most effective ways to guide community outreach as you build marketing around your program. In doing so, you can make sure that your program will reach the people who’ll benefit the most; especially those outside of your organization’s usual audience.

Past NEA Big Read organizations have found that they are most successful at identifying their audiences when they have first taken a closer look at their communities: e.g. how are you defining the term “community”? Is it your city, your town, your neighborhood? Who do you already reach in your community? Who would you like to reach? Remember to consider all aspects:

  • Include groups such as book clubs, students, library and museum patrons, academics, and theater-lovers, who may already be reading.
  • Then consider groups who may not be reading: sports teams, busy professionals, parents of young children, millennials, any other groups in your community who may not be not choosing to read for pleasure.
  • Next, consider groups that may lack access or have a barrier of entry, including people who would benefit from books or events being translated in various languages, hearing- and sight-impaired individuals, those without transportation, those who do not have a library card, those who are unable to purchase a book.

“Our community is anyone who wishes to connect with us.”
Waukesha Public Library

“We strive to promote the literary arts throughout the metro-area, sharing the benefits of reading and writing with people who might not describe themselves as readers or writers.”
Lighthouse Writers Workshop

“From seniors to infants, affluent to economically strained, artists to engineers, rural to semi-urban, and all the walks of life therein, our libraries welcome and seek out all the members of our community.”
Santa Barbara Public Library

Other posts in this series

Explore the full Survival Guide