Chautauqua Institution was built on principles of discussion and discourse. As leadership begins to construct a new strategic plan, conversation with the community is the first step.
At the weekly 9:30 a.m. Institution Porch Leadership Discussion on Wednesday, August 8, at Hultquist Center, Vice President of Marketing and Communications and Chief Brand Officer Emily Morris opened the discussion by asking the audience to close their eyes for a moment.
“Think of one word that, for you, describes Chautauqua,” Morris said.
The answers from the audience included “learning,” “tribe,” “arts” and “education.” Morris used the variety of words to describe the obstacles that the marketing team faces.
“A brand is intangible,” she said.
According to Morris, the logos, taglines and advertising campaigns that the Department of Marketing and Communications work on are only a small piece of building Chautauqua’s brand because the Institution means something unique to each visitor.
“Some things related to brand-building are things we simply can’t control,” she said.
Morris said that building a brand is like building a house. The first step in building a house, she said, is creating a blueprint of what that house should look like. The same happens with building a brand; one must create a blueprint by asking questions like, “Who will this brand serve?” and “What is Chautauqua’s purpose?”
Next, she said, comes the frame of the house. For Morris’ team, this means finding and establishing Chautauqua’s values, deciding which of those values should be evolved to better fit the current needs of the Institution and how those values affect the decision-making process of the leadership.
Finally, Morris said people need to decide what style of house they intend to build: Tudor, Victorian or ranch. In the marketing of Chautauqua, this means looking at the four pillars: arts, education, religion and recreation.
“This is where we have to make decisions about who we are,” Morris said.
This includes looking at the original mission, the current mission and making decisions to morph Chautauqua to better fit those intentions.
“You cannot build a brand intentionally if you are not purposeful with those three questions,” Morris said.
The other major piece of Chautauqua’s marketing strategy — which includes the taglines, logos and advertising— is what Morris considers the “tactical areas” of her department’s job.
She said that those areas, too, should be influenced by the answers to the three questions raised by the stages of building a brand.
“We have been working to create an alignment across all of these areas,” Morris said.
After Morris’ discussion, she opened it up to the audience for a brief Q-and-A. Community members asked questions about housing capacity problems, the access and equity plan through the diversity and inclusion strategic plan and the potential target markets for Chautauqua.
Cathryn Dorsey, a resident of Chautauqua for three seasons, suggested that there should be an online portal that compiles marketing materials for people who do recruiting of their friends from their own hometowns.
“It would be incredibly helpful if you could create a little toolkit to help the natural recruiters of Chautauqua,” Dorsey said.
Leadership Porch Discussions occur at 9:30 a.m. each Wednesday at the Hultquist Center. Next week, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sebastian Baggiano and the CEO of the Chautauqua Foundation Geof Follansbee will discuss the Institution’s financial plan as it fits into the new strategic plan.