Advice & Support

Audience development

The concept of audience development is broad in scope and encompasses a large number of activities, but can broadly be defined as an approach to extend the range, scale and/or nature of audiences.

Audience development may have a number of aims

Audience retention

Keeping existing audiences

Added value

Enhancing the experience of audiences; providing audiences with opportunities to develop knowledge and better understanding of film

Increasing frequency of attendance

Making existing audiences attend more often

New audiences

Bringing people who have not attended before


Increased take-up from audiences who may feel excluded from the activity who are not represented in current attenders but who live in the area.  This might include minority ethnic and social groups; disabled audiences; older audiences particularly those with dementia; those on the autistic spectrum; d/Deaf audiences

Cultural diversity

Expanding audience knowledge and taste through programming of a broader range of cultural forms and traditions particularly with regard to work from cultures under-represented in mainstream film

Social inclusion

Increasing audiences from deprived areas and communities

Rural inclusion

Increasing audiences from isolated rural areas

Geographic reach

Achieve awareness of programme/venue across a particular geographic area

Audience Development Plan

All operations need to develop an audience development plan. Tasks might include:

  • Setting priorities
  • Allocating a range of resources to invest (budget staff/skill set, time,) and setting realistic and achievable targets
  • Identifying further research needs e.g. focus groups, other qualitative work
  • Developing tools appropriate for the priority e.g. ticket offers, loyalty schemes, programme added value, social media campaigns etc.

Audience Development Strategies

Existing and Potential Audiences

Use all existing appropriate research findings e.g.

Commission bespoke research that will give specific findings useful to you.

Establish Your Aims

Beneath the overall aim, set more precise targets for your strategy. Make sure these are SMART targets:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Look at the best tools to hit targets:

  • Personal liaison/new partners
  • Target marketing
  • Website development/optimisation
  • Incentive schemes and ticket offers
  • New print publicity
  • Revised copy style
  • Enhanced programming and new forms of engagement
  • Additional learning opportunities
  • Changes to the building/signage/new facilities
  • Improved dialogue with the audience/social media
  • Change of catering

Assess resources needed to deliver the strategy:

  • Skill set within the organisation
  • Staff
  • Time
  • Money
  • Facilities

There are many different types of audience and some will demand more resources (people, time, money) than others. That is why key to your strategy is: a) setting clear priorities for audience development and b) assessing what resources you have in-house.

It’s also very important to work in partnership with other organisations who may have conducted similar research in your area – perhaps you could pool resources or if they have a similar constitution to yours, agree to share results. Test the efficiency of your current spend – is your brochure circulation effective? Do you need a brochure? How about your email mailing lists? Do you know how many of your subscribers attend and how often? When was the last time you revamped your circulation lists? How many attendees respond to your advertising? How many attendees find out information online? What kind of different voices do you use to communicate with your audience? Do you have a strong central venue identity?

Consider your target audience: try and think as they do, find out what else they like to do, where else they go and how they find out information? For example, if you were a teenager,  would you like to go to your venue? If not, why not? What might improve things? Use focus groups of your target audiences. Consult potential constituencies by forming partnerships with local and regional organisations whether they are concerned with the young, the elderly or those who have a disability, for example. Canvas opinion on what you do, on how people view you. Make sure that your front of house operations are fit for purpose and that those on the front line – box office staff, those who answer the telephone are fully informed about the programme and events, and can talk passionately about the content that you show.

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