James Coutts - Arts Marketing with infectious enthusiasm. Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Chris Hill

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Growing Your Own Audience

Wrote a piece last night for ArtsProfessional on how are non-arts firms are using podcasting. What arts organisations can learn, and how to get started. Out (if they like it!) on Monday 5 November 2007. A little preview:

Plodcast, by the West Midlands Police, wants more 'budding bobbies to join the force'. In their surprisingly fun radio-style podcast, presenters respond to and encourage listener feedback and interview those working in the force. Find out what Scene of Crime Officers do on the job, from those doing it now. Bringing a potential career choice to life in ways the traditional job description can't, this podcast gives applicants more confidence on what to expect from the actual position for over 15,000 happy listeners.

The non-profit Green Thing makes it easy to be a bit greener. Every month, subscribers (and only subscribers) get emailed or fed two videos from world-class filmmakers showing a different Green Thing to do. October's Green Thing was to 'Walk Once'. The community aspect of the website allows visitors to see how many users did the 'thing', and how much CO2 was saved in total by all the viewers. Their videos inform, help their site obtain regular visitors and encourage participation.

Nine tips for more art sales

A few months ago, a painter holding a show in Edinburgh wanted my thoughts on what else he should do to sell more work, increase his audience and get gallery directors to come. Useful tips for promoting cultural events - not just painters.

1. This is the most important one - I missed your price list when I walked in. Buy an A4 perspex holder, and put it on the counter with the price list in (as you walk in - facing the door). I totally missed it on entry as it was flat on the desk - without prices, I have no idea if anything is for sale, or for how much.

2. Add some more info to your price list. At the very least contact details - what if I liked something, and decide to buy it when I get home, but you have not given me your contact details? - you lose the sale. Ideally also include a 'welcome to my show' type line, a very brief biog and some info on how to buy at the top of the price list (how do you accept payment - cash/cheque?) - also encourage people to contact you to discuss buying/commissioning.

3. Put your 'about you' laminated wall biog right at the start. That way people walk in, see your price list standing up, and then can read more about you - the traditional way to start viewing a show.

"Nine tips for more art sales" »

More bikes on the street

I've been asked to think of ways I would make the bicycle more popular.

How have other sectors altered perceptions of unattractive products, services or brands?

The humble push-bike has problems connected with its use. The most common ones - 'I can't wear smart clothes', 'I'll get wet', car fumes, traffic worries and 'I'll get hot and sweaty'.

The exercise industry turned the problem of 'I'll get hot and sweaty' into an opportunity for a gym to shine. If members get hot and sweaty, there are luxury bathrooms to get clean in. They lay on nice shampoo, clean fluffy towels and lockers. They open early and late - so I have time to workout when I want to and don't go to work looking a mess.

The gym offer focuses on one goal - losing weight. The experience helps members to achieve this - personal trainers, classes when it suits me, all of which become movements in their own right. If I'm too busy to go to the gym, it can come to me with a video and some basic equipment.

"More bikes on the street" »

Article for JAM

The Journal of Arts Marketing asked me to write a glossary of tech terms. Here is what I emailed them today:


Stay alert, listen and respond. The basic concepts of taking part in the Blogosphere. If you don't stay alert you've lost control, you can't respond, you can't initiate conversations: you'll look like you are stonewalling.

Blogs (especially) are best when their authors are authentic. They may include long sentences, detailed analysis or critical opinions. Typically, those things run counter to traditional public relations.

Life-like representation (or not) of a user's appearance in MMORPGs such as Second Life.


A weblog, web log or simply a blog, is a web application which displays time-stamped posts on a webpage. Blogging allows you to quickly and easily update website content, encourage user interaction, boost name recognition and increase traffic.

Consumers use a RSS reader (such as the online service www.bloglines.com) to read all their favourite Feeds in one place quickly and easily.

Blogs facilitate the spread of buzz - honest, informative or thought-provoking posts about issues important to customers tend to be spread more often. Bloggers are often buzz spreaders, and they can funnel many others like themselves to your blog and your organization.

"Article for JAM" »

New Job

After the most intense interview ever, in April I started as marketing manager for National Museums Scotland. Home of Dolly, Concorde and where I spent most of my childhood, art college and more recent years!

Speaking Gig

I'm giving a 'get them thinking' keynote on the latest web techologies to Forward Scotland and six other partner organisations on 28 March in Stirling.

Forward Scotland are re-thinking their main website and sub-sites. The idea is to bring together the seven sites, redesign and implement a new approach - a big task.

UPDATE: Talk went down well. Gave away two copies of The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil, in a novel deal which included me promising to Debbie that I would email her a photo to prove I did the handout! Think she is going to blog it too. Thanks Debbie!


My 30th gathering takes place tonight, 27 Jan from 7pm at The Village, 16 South Fort Street, Edinburgh, EH6 4DN (on the 7, 14 and 21 bus route). Hope to see some of you there.

UPDATE: A great night was had by all I think - lovely to see so many people and catch up. If you came along thank you.

British Council and SAC Talk

On February 5 I'm giving a talk to a group of international curators for the British Council and Scottish Arts Council from Germany, China, Hungary and Russia on craftscotland international plans. Should be fun. I wonder if there will be translators (which is always interesting - it is amazing how a very short sentence in English can result in quite a huge translation!).

Employee Alcott

Employee Alcott was born today. After speaking many times on what companies are doing in the virtual world of Second Life, I _finally_ materialised in SL this weekend. My representation in world (called an avatar) is Employee Alcott. There are ideas brewing for producing and exhibiting a series of resident-created work-inspired artworks, and commissioning the design of items not yet available in SL (including a tennis game, green items that generate income for resident owners and a car I love. Watch this space.

Falkirk Council Keynote

On 17 February 2007 I'm keynote speaker at a Falkirk Council event for their Visual Arts and Crafts Department. The talk will be on building a website - practical advice on creating and maintaining websites for their craft membership. Taking place in Callendar House. More details later.

That Was the Year That Was: 2006

The end of 2006 is nigh. This year has been a busy one - getting married, a honeymoon in Moscow and St Petersburg, doing up a home out of the city, selling it and buying a new one in the city and making it over too. Visiting New York twice, and San Francisco once, for work. Staging an exhibition of world-class designers in the real world, and four virtually. Public speaking became an addiction - I love the pressure and working with an audience. In the next year I'm going to have a good 30th birthday (scary!), I'll start the print series based on office life I've been talking about for two years, get fitter and travel and work internationally. It would also be great to get at least three of the ebooks I've been mulling over out the door on arts marketing topics.

A Smashing Entrance

The two talkdo workshops are over. Made a great entrance - arrived, walked into the cafe, picked up a glass of water, and a second glass (attached to the one I was holding) drops and smashes on the floor. Nine people look at me. Great start! I pray that these nine are not attending my sessions later. Excellent sessions. Make use of some more tips from Scott - encouraging the audience to shout out and do 'hands up'. This made the sessions much more interactive. Over 20 minutes of Q&A for each workshop - which I loved.

"A Smashing Entrance" »

Thoughts on Blog Talk

Well, the talk on 'Blog or Be Blogged' for Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is done. Other than being late (I'll remember to set off even earlier next time!), it all seemed to go well. When I walked in, all those at the event were having a really good chat - so I'd caused a bout of networking as a nice side effect! Although there was a lot to pack in (wikis, podcasting, RSS, Second Life and blogs of course), most seemed to get something from it. Funny points included a gasp from the audience when I told everyone how much was spent on virtual designer clothes in Second Life in September ($6 million!).

"Thoughts on Blog Talk" »

Blog or Be Blogged

I'm a speaker at two events in the next month - at both I'll be talking about blogging. First up: a workshop for Glasgow Chamber of Commerce on 31 October, 2006. More information on the other one later.

Update: The second one is the Scottish PR Conference in Crief, on 24 November.


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