How can we find an audience?
There is nothing more disheartening than spending lots of time and energy setting up a space for public engagement, only to find that no one comes in and takes part. Alongside the work preparing the space and activities you will also need to communicate to as wide an audience as possible in preparation for the opening of the Urban Room.
As well as having a clear strategy to publicise your Urban Room before it opens it’s important to keep reaching out to build and diversify your audience throughout the UR programme. Identifying and understanding your targeted audience(s) is crucial and needs some careful consideration as you plan your Urban Room activities.
Try to avoid generalisation and develop a more specific situated understanding of potential audiences - for example, what groups do the terms ‘the general public’, ‘the community’, ‘students’ actually refer to, in your local area? Making connections with local schools, colleges, universities, libraries, friends groups, social clubs, art collectives, places of worship and shopping centres can help you to gain a more specific understanding of potential audiences in your area. Indeed, the term ‘audience’ also needs consideration - we look at this in the section ‘How can we build a sense of community?’.
Here are some more tips from the Urban Room Network on how to ensure that whenever you open the door to the Urban Room people are there, ready to come in and participate:
try to open during busy times of the day, week and (school) year - can you coincide your activities with market days, annual festivals and local celebrations?
publicise the UR before its opening with social media announcements, local press articles, ‘coming soon’ posters on the premises, community radio/tv
ask your community, professional, civic networks, and their leaders, to spread the word
produce well designed and engaging graphic material to use in your publicity and in the UR itself - bear in mind that people may not know what an UR is, so use clear and jargon-free language to explain
once the UR is up and running ask participants to spread the word to their friends, family, colleagues - have well-designed clear pamphlets available to take away and share
partnering with other groups in the community and publicising through their networks can help to promote the UR to under- represented groups
keep up the publicity of the UR throughout the programme, invite local press to specific events, updates on social media
present information and communications in a number of languages, especially if engaging in areas which have diverse communities
Maximising the numbers of people coming into the Urban Room, engaging with activities and participating in discussion about the local area is important. However, just as important is the quality of those encounters, and we turn to this in the next section ‘Up and Running’...