Arts for Learning is a nonprofit organization with a mission to introduce students (ages K-12) to new art forms in a fresh way while supporting various curricular areas. The goal is to empower children to achieve their creative and intellectual potential through arts and education. Arts For Learning provides programs for any school, classroom or community center that are lead by professional teaching artists and encompasses music, dance, theatre, visual arts, writing and more.
The organization’s Communications Coordinator (slash Graphic Designer slash Events Coordinator), Megan Watson, had a nice little chit-chat with me about their marketing efforts, organization re-name and thoughts on the value promotional products to help boost awareness and advocacy.
Distinct Images: How did you stumble upon DI?
Megan: Our Director of Development, Joli, had a contact and started working with you as a result of that relationship. After a few orders, we stuck with DI because of the good service and quality.
Distinct Images: What promotional items have you ordered that excite you the most?
Megan: This year we are most excited about our two t-shirt orders. One relates to our growth as an organization, “Run For the Arts”, which is a flexible fundraising program. The t-shirts are reflective of this program and will hopefully help it grow. Our growth continues through means of marketing material like these shirts, as the children wearing them serve as our little tiny billboards all around the community!
Distinct Images: Why do you think there is value in branded promotional products?
Megan: One challenge we have to overcome is that our clientele is primarily children in K-12 programs. There is value to the promotional products and apparel we do mainly through the child who can spread the word to their parent/guardian by way of the item they come home with (i.e. wearing an Arts For Learning tattoo on their cheek). It’s important we have a way to relate to the child and relate to the parent. Our marketing material reaches the parent through the child who is attending the program.
Distinct Images: Have you seen a direct increase in organization involvement and/or brand awareness due to your distribution of promotional products?
Megan: We hope to have increased awareness as a result of them. We recently changed our name from ‘Young Audiences’ to ‘Arts For Learning’ to better reflect what we do. The old name was more ambiguous and it was a movement of the entire group to change the name. Our main reason for the promo materials is to get the word out about our new name through catalogs, t-shirts, products and our new website. We have issued a big push towards the use of promo in an effort to raise brand awareness for the same brand under different name.
Distinct Images: Do your competitors use promo products as a marketing tool?
Megan: We are the oldest and largest program that the state of Indiana offers and don’t have ‘competitors’ in a traditional sense. Other programs offer art lessons, but our interaction with those programs is limited since we have so many artists. Our goal isn’t to out-do other programs, but to build ours to their maximum potential and benefit the children.
Distinct Images: What has been the most successful promo products you’ve ordered and why?
Megan: As simple as it may seem: the pens. Everyone enjoys them and uses them for a very long time. Our mugs are a close second, as they are used for internal meetings and ‘thank you’ gifts. Long lasting is key for us in the majority of our promotional product purchasing decisions, and both of these items seem to achieve that.
Distinct Images: How would you describe your marketing approach (budgeted, spur of the moment, strategic…)?
Megan: We have a budgeted marketing account, but our marketing approach is staggered based on our events at that time. For example, the Chocolate Fest event is coming up in October, so our spending is up in preparation for that. We might order a large bulk of t-shirts that we use all year which helps stretch the marketing budget for us.
Distinct Images: Do you have a busy season? What do you do “off-season” to keep your name circulating?
Megan: All year. You would think the busiest time would be during the school year, but in the summer we partner with community centers and parks all over the state. Summer Arts for Youth has grown so students don’t have “the brain drain” and you will not find even a few days that we don’t have a program somewhere. Frequently, many artists are out on any given day. We are hired by parks and community centers, as well as religious facilities, to come in with a program. Then during the actual school year, our time is spent typically going into schools, both public and private, that reach out to us because they have a specific need. They might learn about us and our services through the catalogs we send out and benefit from our programs because of a specific need within their school.
Distinct Images: You are active on social media, how is that helping your organization?
Megan: Social media is helping. Our main goal for a strong online presence is to raise awareness and advocacy as we relay the importance of arts and education as a whole for children. Helping people understand WHY we’re important is a driving objective to as much PR as we can do.