E-marketing E-ssentials: The E-mail Renaissance

Christina Blodgett with Susan Summers
July 2008

Joseph Campbell wrote that a real artist is someone who has “learned to recognize and to render the radiance of all things as an epiphany or showing forth of the truth.” In our culture, we often look to artists that are part of our canon for truths that transcend space and time. As modern-day stewards of the classical, arts marketers are entrusted with the role of strengthening the bridge between old and new. Susan Summers, Publicity Director and Arts Events Director at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, has successfully expanded this bridge by using the tools of e-marketing to juxtapose past andpresent.

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center is a treasured link to the past, a tranquil setting of a beautifully restored estate and one of the liveliest and finest arts education centers in the Southeast. Completed in 1920,Callanwolde is a magnificent Gothic-Tudor style home on twelve acres built by Charles Howard Candler, the oldest son of Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Company. Callanwolde offers arts instruction to over 5,000 students; presents musical, dance, and literary performances; and plays host to over 200 social and civic events each year. On any given day, one might find paintings and photography by local artists exhibited throughout the Callanwolde Gallery; poetry reading in the conservatory; toddlers taking Kindermusik® classes in the library; aspiring ballerinas warming up in the living room; pottery students molding clay in the basement studio; or adults studying drawing and painting in the Carriage House.

“E-mail creates a bridge between the old and the new”

In her dual role at Callanwolde, Susan plans, publicizes, and coordinates an ongoing schedule throughout the year of concerts, literary events, gallery exhibitions, and fundraisers for all ages. E-marketing is a key component of Callanwolde’s marketing strategy, not only for its cost-effectiveness and high return on investment, but also for its ability to serve as a central portal for news and information. According to Susan, e-marketing’s fundamental components are perfectly in line with Callanwolde’s overall mission.

“Communicating with our patrons through e-mail creates a bridge between the old and the new, just as Callanwolde does. Callanwolde is a haven for learning and for a love of the arts. People of all ages can leave the busy hubbub of Atlanta and come here to feel the history of Callanwolde, a bridge that nurtures and sparks their creative potential. Through our e-mail newsletters, we regularly create publicity for Callanwolde’s special arts events: music, theatre, and dance performances, as well as the ongoing gallery exhibitions, storytelling nights, coffeehouse poetry readings, and tango dance nights. Our 16-page class catalog, which is printed and mailed four times a year, announces the ongoing events as well as the classes and workshops offered for adults and children. We send current event calendars and e-postcards each month to the media and to Callanwolde’s patron list to spread the word about our education and arts programs. An e-newsletter is created and mailed on the first of every month, publicizing the arts events, offering new updates, and including information about class offerings and class registration.” The newsletter links to Callanwolde’s Web site, where patrons can find comprehensive information about Callanwolde and can download the current class catalog in PDF format, as well as register for classes online.

In each e-newsletter she creates in PatronMail, Susan uses eye-catching content, beautiful images, and creative headlines to capture the diversity of the Callanwolde community. As a result, open rates regularly exceed 30 percent for each e-newsletter, which translates into an increase in attendance at Callanwolde’s events. Susan cites designing a newsletter that follows best practices while catering to the diverse interests of their audience as a major factor in this success.

“Since we started sending e-newsletters, we have found that several of our events had a much larger attendee list than ever before in the past. The number of attendees increased for several events that we hold at Callanwolde, including Storytelling Night, Tango Night, and Poetry Readings. Our student attendee list was also very high for our Winter 2008 sessions. I believe some of this is because the e-newsletter brings attention to our registration dates and creates links to our beautiful class catalog as well as other information on our Web site. In particular, in our February e-newsletter, we included an article about Storytelling Night with an intriguing photo of a storyteller-in-costume, and our attendance at least doubled that night. The colorful, attractive photos and newsletter content really have the power to pull more people to attend events. I am constantly collecting images — pulling favorites from our files or shooting new photos — and I am always conscious of readability. Overall, I try to maintain a consistent look with the Callanwolde Web site, and I use fun, attractive colors and come up with stimulating headlines for the articles.”

“Our e-mail list consists of patrons who truly want to know more about Callanwolde”

To build Callanwolde’s e-mail list, Susan uses a strategy that reaches out equally to patrons who visit their Web site and patrons who attend events and classes in person. Susan believes that the ease with which patrons can register for e-mail newsletters, as well as the many opportunities to do so, have contributed to nearly doubling their e-mail list in the past year.

“We have a button to subscribe to our e-newsletters as one of our navigation links, so it shows up on every page on our site. Every quarter as new classes begin, I provide each teacher with an e-newsletter sign-up sheet. Instead of taking their e-mails when students register, we ask them at another time if they would like to receive our monthly newsletter. This way our e-mail list is by request, which leads to a higher open rate. Our e-mail list consists of patrons who truly want to know more about Callanwolde. We also keep lists around the Callanwolde grounds where parents can sign up to receive our e-newsletters. Our patrons are people that want to know more about our events, and that pulls in every age group, whether it’s parents signing up for their children or for themselves.”

In the future, Susan hopes to expand her e-marketing strategy to include more segmentation and targeted mailings to reach out to people based on their specific interests. As their list continues to grow, she hopes that these targeted mailings will give people a greater understanding of Callanwolde’s offerings and their own potential.

“The new technology of e-mail and the Internet reaches out to more people, letting them know about Callanwolde, a historical place as well as a place that nurtures what is new within everyone. It is a place where one can be inspired to explore their creativity in a relaxed and inspirational atmosphere. It’s a juxtaposition of the old and the new. We’re here to teach them the basics of arts, the true combination of the classical and the new. We just want to bring joy to people and share the arts and be a place where people feel comfortable, a place to get away from the mania of the anxiety and stress in the real world. It’s a really magical place here, and we want people to be part of this experience.”

With a background in print marketing and graphic design, Susan has a unique perspective as both a marketer and as an artist. Before she started working at Callanwolde, Susan attended classes there. Not only did this help nourish her love of the arts, it also showed her firsthand how Callanwolde fosters the artistic spirit. By using marketing best practices grounded in new media, Susan will continue to build that bridge from the past to the present so that individuals can evolve into the artists they always imagined becoming.

Susan Summers is Publicity Director and Arts Events Director at at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Christina Blodgett is the Director of Client Services and Consulting at Patron Technology. Join them for Patron Technology’s July Arts Marketer Town Hall webinar on Thursday, July 31st at 2:00pm EDT – click here to register.

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