Mentoring is never linear.
For the past three years I’ve been honoured to be mentoring ‘fellows’ from the cultural sector via the the Arts Marketing Association, Digital Marketing Academy.
Fellows are invited to devise, test, develop and share digital marketing experiments with the help of a leading digital specialist as their Mentor. The experiments are developed on real audiences in order to trial and adopt good practice and achieve new ambitions and perspectives in digital marketing.
Every year, I’ve been working with three fellows and although many experiments have seen fruition, like using printed flyers to promote digital offers, connecting schools with arts and cultural organisations online and using online data to drive digital efforts, the most important learning is that everything is beta.
Ideas don’t follow a neat, linear pathway to actualisation, there are just too many factors which influence things, like resources, time, other projects, literacies, organisational culture etc. Developing pathways to action is sometimes more about understanding deeply the causalities of the hurdles and / or clearing the route rather than walking them.
The two most common challenges facing the fellows during my time as mentor is that of capacity and expectations. The first relates to simple the amount of ‘other’ in the professional portfolio the mentee is juggling. Space for reflection let alone experimentation is rare so even being part of this initiative is a fantastic opening of potential. The latter is obviously an internal, softer set of attitudes which the organisation manifests. Again, another ongoing, sometimes abrasive hinderance to the intent of the projects, which is specific and is tackled by rephrasing or positioning the efforts in a digestible and values / outcomes based manner.
Without at least attempting to address these factors then experiments rarely gain deeper traction.
Put another way, the axe needs sharpening first.
Big thanks to my mentees this year: Rachel and Ryan from the digital team at Barbican Centre plus Helga who’s heading up the marketing team at Pavilion Dance South West.