The Secret Life of a Literature Marketeer by Lara Costello

Hi there! My name is Lara, and at the start of February this year, I began my year long journey as Poet in the City’s Creative Marketing Coordinator. My position was made possible by a brilliant programme called Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries. For those unfamiliar, WJCB is a trailblazing initiative designed to break down the socio-economic boundaries found in the arts by creating forty new, entry level jobs in top arts organisations for recent graduates from low-income backgrounds. Many of you with experience of the arts industry will know how isolating and inaccessible the current ‘unpaid internship’ rite of passage can be for those not lucky enough to come from privilege and WJCB is taking much needed steps to break down these barriers and maximise diversity in arts organisations. I am tremendously proud to be a part of their 2017-19 cohort, and even prouder to be a part of the wonderful organisation that is Poet in the City.
Now four months into my exciting new job, I find myself reflecting on my experiences to date and thought I might share with you some insight into the little-known life a of literature marketeer.

I realised that marketing is potentially not the most scintillating of blog topics – so instead of wearying you with the details of day-to-day life at PinC, I thought I would instead tell you about how my own understanding and attitude towards marketing has changed.
What role can marketing play within a charity, and within the wider community? How does marketing contribute to the overall missions of the organisation? Is marketing really as soulless as it might seem? Read on for my half-formulated ramblings on all of the above.
Prior to PinC my knowledge of marketing was decidedly limited to smaller scale productions and events, mainly within the theatre bracket. Here, my role as a marketer was to encourage as many people as possible to come to see the work not only to experience the art, but to cover the costs involved in its creation and maybe even to make a profit. This tends to be the aim within most commercial arts organisations and justifiably so – but I have found that marketing for charity is a vastly different experience, one with a much more wholesome sense of purpose.
The reason for this is simply that when marketing for a charity, the aim of marketing shifts away from solely focusing on ‘how do we sell as many tickets as possible’ to ‘how do we reach the right audiences’, the ones who will benefit from hearing these stories, from participating in these discussions. This is something that is particularly prioritised at PinC because ‘creating new audiences for poetry’ is at the core of our mission. This means it has been my job to not only find known poetry audiences, but also those who might never have experienced live poetry before.
Our events are usually themed, and it’s from these themes that we choose different organisations and individuals to reach out to. A great example of this is the first event I worked on at PinC: The Sea Opens a cross-artform piece with Turkish Kurdish poet Bejan Matur and jazz pianist Stefano Battaglia exploring the theme of the Mediterranean Sea. For this event I extended my invitations to a diverse range of partners: activist and refugee charities, jazz and classical music organisations, Turkish Kurdish and Italian communities, and even Mediterranean Sea enthusiasts! Reaching outside of the literary box to interact with these different partners means as an organisation we form invaluable connections with so many different pockets of society. It also means that our events become community spaces, places where people can come and hear their own stories being told, that open up conversations and encourage people to come together.
Because of this, our audiences tend to be ever-changing. While we of course have many dedicated faces that pop up at most of our events, the majority switch and change, and we seem to find new audiences wherever we go. This in turn fulfils our mission of bringing live poetry to new ears and we can continue on our way creating exciting new poetry events!
Well…I think that roughly answers most of the questions I posed earlier? I think the only thing I have left to say is no, arts marketing (at least in a charity) is not as soulless as it seems. It is in short, the simple act of making sure the art and the message the art contains is delivered to the people who will benefit most from it and creating connections along the way. I look forward to Poet in the City continuing to challenge and my preconceived ideas of what a job role can be over the next eight months, and to seeing how my own development progresses in this area.
You may even get another blog. Who knows, we’ll see.

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