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.... of Publicity and Things ...

.... how come I hadn't heard/ didn't know about the latest exhibition of the Tapestry ...

The Battle Trust has received more than a few 'friendly' comments from visitors to the ten exhibitions so far arranged by Arran Johnston since July 26th 2010 that 'they had only found out by accident or word of mouth - and couldn't more have been done to publicise them'.

So, could the Battle Trust do more?

There's a simplistic answer and a strategic answer ....

First, the strategic reply. Given the financial resources, the Trust could have undertaken press, radio and tv advertising of each venue and many more interested people would have heard and in all probability come to visit. But needless to say this has always been a community project and no such funding is available. The primary vehicle selected for cost-effective publicity and promotion has been PR which since July 26th has been stunningly successful with coverage on radio, tv and in all the national and local press as well as in professional magazines - Stitch carries a feature in its issue out on November 28th. Scots Magazine which reported the actual battle in 1745 has reported the 2010 Tapestry describing the battle in its November issue.

However, the above approach does little to draw attention to specific dates and venues. It has talked of the massive contribution of the volunteer Stitchers, of Andrew Crummy's outstanding design and leadership, and of the Trust's determination to create a Living History Centre in Prestonpans that will include a Tapestry Pavilion as the Tapestry's permanent home. An Appeal for the necessary millions of pounds for that permanent home is about to be launched.

... and now the simplistic answer concerning publicity ..

The Trust, knowing it didn't have the resources to 'publicise' major exhibitions or to afford to 'hire' well known venues, embarked on its campaign of community exhibitions. Communities, and the Dovecot is very much a 'community' too with its supporters and friends, that wished to arrange an exhibition were gratefully obliged on the condition that they informed and gathered in their own clientelle and network members. Nowhere was this more brilliantly demonstrated than at Dunblane Cathedral and Gullane where some 700 visitors came in each day.

This approach is continuing into 2011 at the Scottish Story Telling Centre on the Royal Mile in February; on tour in East Lothian in March/ April; in Kirkcaldy in May; and at St Mary's Cathedral in June/ July/ August - that last month also being a Fringe event when we shall of course be proactively at work!.

This seemingly 'no-publicity' approach has thus far brought some 11,000 visitors to see our Tapestry. It is working well and is very very cost-effective.

.... but surely the Trust could do more to assist each venue reach its clientelle more effectively ...

Certainly the Trust offers artwork for posters and flyer designs, but to attempt to 'publicise' additionally on its own account would defeat the cost effective approach adopted. It is the Trust's steadfast belief that each venue knows its own clientelle best and to attempt to second guess would not be cost effective.

Yet in talking of 'publicity' there is a danger we overlook the major impact the continuing support of the Stitchers and Andrew Crummy at each exhibition has on each exhibition's 'effectiveness' for those who do attend - and on the strength of the word-of-mouth publicity generated thereby.

In conclusion, there's a very powerful, if obvious, lesson that's been learnt. If word-of-mouth is to be one of the major communications approaches adopted at guest venues, each exhibition needs to stay open for long enough for that effect to work its way through the client group! That seemingly implies at least a week if not considerably longer. Only in the most exceptional circumstances, and where the most powerful community referencing is present, can a one or two day exhibition 'make sense'. This was clearly feasible in the Highlands and East Coast Tour from July/ September and may well suit East Lothian in the Spring, but at Kirkcaldy and St Mary's and the Story Telling Centre it would not be appropriate.

... here's trusting this explanation helps ...

The Trust has indeed thought long and hard about its 'publicity' and does have a strategic and tactical approach. We realise that those who do visit by accident/ word-of-mouth are but a tip of the icebergs of potentially interested people not yet in the know! But we do believe the visitor numbers demonstrate that we have devised a viable cost-effective strategy thus far, no matter what the future might hold! And please know that we're certainly not complacent ... there's millions of pounds to be raised .... and since 'seeing is believing' those as yet unseen visitors must clearly be reached ....

Published Date: November 22nd 2010

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