Applying Audience Awareness at the Alamance County Arts Council

Guest Blogger Will Stiefel

My name is Will Stiefel, and I am a rising senior English major concentrating in PWR here at Elon. I only declared my major near the end of my sophomore year so, admittedly, I have been relatively new to the field. However, over the course of this past semester I have built on my previous knowledge of rhetoric and laid down the groundwork for how I now understand its application.

Recently, I began interning at the Alamance Arts Council in Graham, NC (along with fellow PWR guest blogger Hillary Dooley). The Alamance Arts Council is a non-profit organization that works to help make art a tangible presence in the lives of Alamance County citizens. The organization engages people in art through the delivery of programming and education, and through the provision of facilities, advocacy, promotion and funding.

Right off the bat, the Arts Council has given me great opportunities to apply some of the rhetorical techniques I’ve learned through my coursework. Currently, I am responsible for putting together their monthly newsletter. This entails not only writing the articles within the newsletter, but working to gather the information, organizing it, and constructing it to appeal to our readers. Many of the art functions and artists we include within our newsletter do not receive much promotion outside of this publication. Therefore, it is essential to grab the attention of our readers when they pick up the newsletter, hopefully encouraging them to attend the events advertised within it.

After looking at previous newsletters, the task of putting one together did not seem too difficult. Then I realized how wrong I really was. Dealing with clients in order to gather information for the articles proved frustrating because people are busy and have other priorities than my email inquiry. I couldn’t continue approaching every individual the same way if I expected to get efficient feedback.

I needed to analyze who my audience was before deciding how to work with them. If I was dealing with a museum, for instance, I could not simply send an email to their inquiries page and expect a quick and detailed response. Instead, I began to call these larger organizations and inquire about specific employees who dealt with organizing their events. Then, if I could speak with that person directly I could cut through all of the time it would have taken them to finally locate my email and process it. If that person did not answer, at least I then had a name and email address to use. I noticed that when I could construct my message, and know it was going straight to the source of my inquiry, there was a better chance it would not be altered or abbreviated. As a busy head of an organization, you may glance by messages which do not seem urgent and are simply forwarded by lower level employees. However, if I am able to send a message directly to this person, then I can construct it appropriately knowing my tone of importance and urgency will get across.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I sometimes need to contact older artists or ones who are more secluded. Therefore, I would stick to phone calls mostly, knowing that they usually do not check their email often. If they did not answer or return calls, then I could contact fellow associates and try to obtain a cell phone number or more accurate contact information. Basically, I had to constantly alter and adapt my method of communication until I uncovered the most effective means for the given audience. Without realizing how complex communication can be, as I have learned through my PWR classes, I would have simply applied the same strategies to every person I dealt with. This would have surely slowed up my progress on the publication and made reaching my deadline much more difficult.

I am still working to put together all of the articles for the newsletter then, once that is finished, I will move on to organizing them aesthetically into the final product. More to come on my progress!

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