Wisconsin’s Emerging Arts Leaders

December 5, 2009

Thursday saw the convening of the third annual Wisconsin Emerging Arts Leaders conference. Our topic yesterday was social media. If you hadn’t noticed from my previous posts I’m a fan of social media and this seemed to be an apt topic for us to discuss with many organizations and individuals struggling to determine how best to use these tools and tailor their messages to their patrons, constituents and audiences. Based on the feedback from folks I talked to at the conference and the twitter feedback the topics were well chosen.

One of the most important lessons I gathered from yesterday’s conference was the importance of building relationships. Social media is after all just a new form of networking and the heart of networking is building relationships. Many people pooh pooh these new networking and connection methods, but outside of the newness, the tried and true principles of building networks and realtionships all apply.

What’s important to note about these new communication and networking tools is that interaction can happen ANYTIME. Sure, the same holds true for traditional networking, but not necessarily when you are driving, sitting in a hotel room (as I am while writing this), or in the oft trotted out example of at home in your pajamas. But with computers, laptops and smartphones you can communicate and network anywhere, anytime.

The first presentation of conference turned into a bit of performance art as two presenters that had just met, Matt Richardson of the Creative Coalition’s Technology Task Force and Katie Moreno of Smart Interactive Media, decided to combine their individual breakout sessions into one single presentation. The two played well off of each other, Matt focusing mostly on using tools like Twitter and Facebook for the message and how to build the communication and relationships, which was really good information no matter where you use it. Katie played off of that and talked more specifically about the power of social networking sites and did some in-depth explaining of Ning.com which is a tool that allows you to create a customizable social network of your own, built around your organization or common interest.

During the conference we had a live twitter feed going under the hashtag #artwileader09 and my favorite part of the morning was the twitter conversation I had with @mod_art (Katie Waters who blogs over at modernartsmanager.com) about communication tools, networks and the nature of communication. (If you’re interested you can find that conversation in the hashtag feed from the conf, again #artwileader09)

The one thing I will say is the man from Smart Interactive Media that was there with Katie Moreno (I don’t know if we ever got his name) kept interrupting and talking over her. It was quite annoying and really broke the stride and rhythm of Katie’s presentation. That being said I hope he takes the advice that was given by him and others yesterday and responds to this bit of criticism appropriately!

Lunch followed that and then we had a panel discussion about managing your message, and while the bent was supposed to lean towards social media, it really focused on the need to elevate and integrate strategic communication in an organization. The panel was comprised of Evan Zeppos of Zeppos and Associates, Susan Loris of the Milwaukee Symphony, Bonnie North of WUWM’s Lake Effect and someone else I confess I can’t remember and didn’t write down. The panel was moderated by Christine Harris, President of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee.

The important part of this discussion was the need to have a plan for your communications and message. It doesn’t have to be mammoth plan either, just a plan that everyone follows and a plan that reflects the mission/values/goals of the communicating organization. Then once you have that plan, make sure the PR people are at the table for everything.

The best part of the day was the milk and cookies break. Not because of the milk and cookies, (although they were delicious!) but because we had a good half hour or more of time to talk with other folks at the conference. I got to catch up with friends, meet new folks and chat a bit with Katie after tweet conversing from across the room earlier.

We wrapped up the day with a discussion of MARN, the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network, The Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee and RiverWest Artist Association. They talked about the wealth of resources available to artists in Milwaukee and Southern Wisconsin.

All in all it was a great day yesterday, and I’m always glad I have the opportunity to participate in these conferences.

These yearly conferences are presented by Arts Wisconsin in partnership with statewide cultural organizations. This year the presenting partners were The Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee and Milwaukee Artist Resource Network with support from the Florentine Opera Company, Wisconsin Arts Board, National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts and RiverWest Artists Association.

Full disclosure now, If you haven’t read my bio I serve on the Board for Arts Wisconsin, which for those unfamiliar is the statewide arts advocacy organization, the only organization in the state speaking out for the arts across the entire state of Wisconsin. This includes work like these conferences, Organizing the annual Arts Day conference in Madison every year, as well as day to day work helping arts organizations throughout the state, and advocating for the importance of creativity and the arts to the people, state and economy of Wisconsin. We also provide resources and toolkits for artists and organizations in Wisconsin and we strive to fulfill our mission of advocating for the arts in Wisconsin so that everyone in Wisconsin can experience the arts.

Arts Wisconsin is a non-profit membership organization, and so I’m going to make the ask now. If you don’t want to hear the ask, stop reading.

Please support Arts Wisconsin through a membership donation. Donations can be made directly on our website it’s quick, easy and helps us do our work to keep the arts in the forefront of important conversations around the state.

-Spyros Henaidis


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