Do you infographic?

Palm Beach Opera’s infographic is featured in a post on the awesome NonProfit Communications Blog!

Infographics & Data Visualization: Not Your Grandmother’s Pie Chart – Part 1

Guest Post by Julia Reich of Julia Reich Design

Introduction
Charts. Graphs. Spreadsheets. Most organizations have important data to present to their clients, members, boards of directors, and other audiences. Yet we live in a world where we are bombarded with information, where our attention spans get shorter and shorter. Who has time to read, or understand, the charts and diagrams created by your overworked staff?

Infographics are a communication trend that illustrate data in an attractive, easily digestible format.  Read the full post…

 

Project Management in the Cloud

Are you tired of maintaining multiple Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and Outlook calendars to run your events?  I’ve got some cloud-based project management solutions for you that can greatly help staff communication and collaboration on events,

Full-Featured Solutions

Basecamp is probably the best of the full-featured cloud-based solutions out there.  It has super great functionality including a high-powered calendar, staff/contractor management, and task management.  The cost is VERY reasonable for what you get.  It starts at just $20/month for 10 projects and goes up to $150/month for unlimited projects.  That range is quite doable for most nonprofits when weighed against the benefits.

I’ve recently discovered Teambox and started playing around with it.  So far, I like the interface very much and it is very easy to use.  It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as Basecamp,  but it is much less expensive; offering a free plan where you can manage up to 5 projects.

File Sharing

My favorite file sharing app of all time is Dropbox.  It will revolutionize how you are able to access your documents.  Start out with a free account and it can be set up to sync documents on your office PC, your personal Macbook, your iPhone, and your iPad automatically.  Their enterprise level does come with a cost, but it is quite reasonable when you think about the fact that you won’t have to maintain a server in your office anymore. You can add as many staff members as you’d like which is great for seasonal employees who may work mainly offsite.  You can also assign a unique URL to files and folders to share them with people who aren’t employees of your organization.

Box is another way to easily share files.  It is totally cloud-based and must be accessed via the internet.  It is a great way to keep important files in one place an be able to send them to others either directly via email or via a unique URL.  Does your organization’s Exchange server not like to send large files like photos and you find yourself sending multiple emails with one photo each?  With Box, you can simply create a folder, put all those photos in the folder, and then email a unique URL so that the recipient can download the photo quickly and easily.

Personal Project Management

For personal document and schedule management, I like Smartsheet which is like a high-powered Excel that has the ability to easily create Gantt charts and calendars.  This is great for keeping track of budgets and ad schedules.

I also love Springpad and Evernote.  At this point, it is a personal preference which one you use, but  both are great for keeping notes, webpage links and content, and files.  You can group things into notebooks to easily stay organized.  Also, both have extensions for Chrome and Firefox so you can easily put interesting web links directly into a notebook on the go.  I have to say that I’m liking Springpad best between the two at the moment as it is more clean, chic, and has more functionality than Evernote.  I’ve been an Evernote user for years, but Springpad is definitely giving them a run for their money.

UPDATE – 5.31.12

Since writing this post, I’ve found a couple additional sites that look very compelling:

Flow is a task-based collaboration tool that is gaining traction.  Pricing starts at just $9.95 per month per user, but the more users you have, the bigger discount you get.  For example, 10 users is only $49.95 per month which is quite affordable for any nonprofit.

 

Podio looks like it will give some real competition to solutions like Basecamp with robust functionality and CRM and event management tools built right in.  I’m so impressed with what it says it will do that I’ve signed up for the trial to check it out. (Thanks to the folks at IWearYourShirt.com for featuring Podio as a sponsor.)

Technology Integration at Palm Beach Opera

This post was originally written for the Culture Builds Florida Blog.

You may think that opera and technology don’t go together, but the arts are quite perfect for integration with all things digital.  Here are 5 things that we use regularly that enable Palm Beach Opera to get the word out about what we do and further engage our audience.

1. Website – Everyone knows that having a website is imperative to any arts organization.  However, a website is only as good as how well it is managed and the quality of information contained within. A few years ago, Palm Beach Opera switched from a traditional CMS (content management system) to WordPress, an open-source CMS.  This small change has revolutionized how we are able to manage our website.  You may have heard of WordPress.com which is a free web-based blogging platform but WordPress can also be used to create and manage a website on your own server.   Any website is a kinetic entity that should be updated often to reflect upcoming events and using a web-based open-source CMS like WordPress allows us to do that quickly and easily from any computer or device with an internet connection.

 

2. Website Analytics – Website analytics are nothing new, with most people utilizing the powerful platform of Google Analytics to monitor website activity.  (If you don’t look at your website stats at least a couple times per week, I highly recommend that you do.  What you see will most likely be quite eye-opening.)  In addition to the standard analytics, we use two other sites that give incredibly useful information: Chartbeat and Crazy Egg.  Chartbeat shows real-time analytics so that we can see how many people are on our site at any given time and their activity as it happens.  This ability can be especially useful to track traffic after an enewsletter or other email communication has gone out to ensure visitors are visiting the intended pages.  It also is great for monitoring traffic during any kind of web promotion or contest.  You will be able to immediately see if conversions aren’t occurring as intended and make the necessary changes.

 

CrazyEgg is a fantastic site that gives you heatmap data for any page on your website.  In the past, heatmaps were available to only large for-profit companies because of the high cost.  With Crazy Egg, heatmaps are now available to all and the cost is very minimal.  Studies have shown that there is a very high correlation between eye movement and mouse movement and that is how Crazy Egg is able to give this sort of data.  Heatmaps will show you where people are looking (and clicking) on any page of your website.  This is especially useful in optimizing your homepage and landing pages throughout the site.  When used in conjunction with an easily-updatable website, necessary updates can be made quickly and easily to improve performance.

 

3. Social Media Management – At Palm Beach Opera, we use Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube as our main social media platforms.  (It is important to remember to only be on the social media platforms that work for your organization.  Don’t feel pressured to be on too many if they don’t make sense or you don’t have time to manage them all.) It can be tough to keep up with multiple platforms especially if your organization has a small staff or the responsibility falls to one person only.  To help with this, we use Sprout Social to manage social media activity.  Sprout Social aggregates the activity on our social media profiles so that it can be seen in one place making it much easier to manage.  It also gives stats and data so that you can have useful demographic information about your friends and followers as well as statistics about activity and engagement levels.  Sprout Social is very nonprofit friendly as they offer a $9/month plan that will fit most organizations’ needs plus a 50% nonprofit discount.

 

4. Mobile – When we debuted our iPhone app a few years ago, Palm Beach Opera was one of the first arts organizations to have an app but now being mobile-friendly is becoming more and more important.  We were able to build our app using InstantEncore’s platform and it is very cost-effective.  It may not make sense for every organization to have an app but you do need to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly.  More and more people are surfing the web using a mobile device and, whether it is on a phone or with a tablet, arts organizations need to be ready and keep up with the trend. If you happen to be using open-source CMS to run your website, there are a variety of plugins that will create a mobile version of your site quickly and easily.

 

Also, sites utilizing responsive design capabilities will do this automatically for you.  The first step is to view your site using a smartphone or tablet to see what it looks like.  Is all of your content visible?  Does the navigation function?  Is it easy to move around the site?  If the answer to any of these is “no,” you will want to put a plan in place to improve the mobile viewing experience as soon as possible. You never know, your next ticket purchase may come from someone viewing your site on an iPad or Kindle Fire!

 

5. Tweet Seats  – There has been a lot of attention on tweeting during performances recently giving cases both for and against it.  There is no one way to do tweet seats, and they might not be appropriate for your organization depending on your venue or programming.  We decided to try it out this past season not for our regular performances, but rather for our final dress rehearsals.  We offered a small amount of seats to the dress rehearsal to people who signed up on our website who are active on Twitter with the understanding that they would tweet about what they were experiencing during the show.  They were encouraged to be honest and use their own voice in their tweets and to give any thoughts or feelings that they had.  The first event went very well and word started to spread and soon we had a great number of ticket requests for subsequent dress rehearsals.  We were lucky to attract people who wouldn’t be considered “opera-goers” and many of those who came to tweet had never been to an opera before.  Coincidentally, we also attracted some members of the media at local TV stations, which resulted in additional media coverage for the opera.  Based on the success of the events this season, we plan on continuing to offer tweet seats in future seasons to bring opera to members of the community at large.

What is Your Cultural Organization Doing on its Summer Vacation?

By Katie Walsh-Edwards

For many South Florida cultural organizations, summer means an end of the programming season as snowbirds head north. This easy, breezy slowdown might seem like a welcome break; but arts marketers be warned, you could be heading for a HUGE mistake:

Silence.

Think about it. You have worked hard adding interesting content to your Tumblr, and discovering what kind of media your Facebook audience responds to. Reporters and critics know your Twitter handle as well as they know your name. You have cultivated an audience who has gladly accepted you into their daily social stream. Do. Not. Mess. This. Up.

So what do you talk about when you don’t have very many events to promote?  Well if you are following the 80/20 formula (80% engagement/20% broadcasting) then a slowdown in programming shouldn’t be a dramatic change. Nevertheless you still want to keep your organization‘s name out there. So let’s look at three ideas that will help you answer the question:  “What is my organization doing on its summer vacation?”

1. Advocate.
Politics and religion are almost always no-no’s, but arts advocacy is unquestionably important. Highlight people or groups who support the arts in your community, such as organizations collecting instruments for school kids, or a congressional representative speaking on the importance of arts funding.  Show your patrons that you aren’t just there to sell tickets, you truly believe in the product.

2. Treat your audience to a private tour.
Behind-the-scenes tours and artist meet-and-greets don’t have to be limited to VIP donors anymore. If you have in-house musicians or performers, capture a jam session or a rehearsal. Take pictures of the stage crew working on scenery or art handlers de-installing an exhibit. We take for granted all of the interesting things we get to see when we work for a cultural organization. Giving your audience a peak of what goes on behind the curtain will help people feel engaged and supportive of your organization.

3. But remember, it doesn’t always have to be about you.
Art touches all areas of our lives, and that includes holidays and milestones. For the Fourth of July, if you don’t have  relevant footage from your own organization, it’s OK to share someone else’s great performance. (My personal favorite is the Boston Pops “1812 Overture” set to fireworks.) August 18 is National Bad Poetry day, which sounds like a great opportunity for a Facebook contest.  You could even take a moment to spotlight another arts organization’s program. Playing well with others is a skill that has helped many arts marketers develop successful and innovative partnerships. Who knows, maybe the favor will be returned when you have an event in the future.

With a little creativity and planning, nonprofit arts marketers can maintain or even strengthen relationships with their social media audiences during the off-season. Rather than looking at this as downtime, use the quiet as a chance to stand out, and showcase your organization as the dynamic, nonstop cultural force it really is.

In addition to being a super cool gal, Katie Walsh-Edwards is the Marketing & Development Director at The Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida.  She is also on the board of the Palm Beach Chapter of the PRSA.