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Public engagement

Public engagement encompasses the policy threads of participation, audience development, marketing, learning and entitlements work

Crowds on the Royal Mile; Photo: Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Audience development

The Scottish Arts Council sees audience development as a planned and targeted management process which involves programming, education and marketing (underpinned by research and evaluation) working together to deliver an organisation’s overall objectives.

For further information and useful links please visit the Scottish Arts Council Audience Development web pages.

The Scottish Arts Council assumes that every arts organisation will have three broad objectives: artistic, social and financial. We are interested in how the process of audience development is contributing to achieving these objectives. How this might be possible is illustrated below. 

Please note the terms audiences and participants are used interchangeably and are taken to mean members of the public who attend, visit, read, listen, view and participate in the arts, and who purchase works of art in any artform.


How the organisation is demonstrating its commitment to 

  • ensuring that its audience is meaningfully engaged with work of the highest artistic quality
  • ensuring that consideration of the composition and motivations of the current and potential audiences/participants informs artistic planning.  However, the audience or participants would not dictate the programme, unless there are particular reasons for this.


How the organisation is demonstrating its commitment to

  • maximising its audience numerically to ensure as many members of the public as possible engage with its work 
  • broadening the range of people who engage with its work to reflect the local community and/or catchment area (aka social democratisation)
  • ensuring that its audience enjoys a high quality arts experience in the fullest sense 
  • ensuring that any additional events or activities it offers follow the same pattern as its core work (ie maximising numbers, broadening the range, ensuring a high quality experience).


How the organisation is demonstrating its commitment to

  • maximising income generation from ticket sales, sales of visual art or crafts, readership, membership etc 
  • creating opportunities for ancillary services that meet the audience’s needs.

Understanding audiences: Points to Consider

  • How much information do you have about your current core audience (current attenders/ purchasers/ visitors, etc) and your potential audiences (the wider community for your work)both in terms of numbers and composition?
  • What mechanisms do you have in place to gather and analyse this information, and how do you act on it?

Please note that Area Profile Reports and Catchment Area Analysis (thirty minute drive time reports) are available free, to any arts organisation in receipt of funds from the Scottish Arts Council, members of Glasgow Grows Audiences and subscribers to The Audience Business. 

If you'd like to order Area Profile Reports, please see our Audiences section for full details.


Marketing is broadly an understanding of the needs of a target audience; delivering relevant benefits of work to them, and; communicating appropriately.  We expect organisations to take a strategic, long-term approach to marketing, and use a similar approach in marketing one-off projects.

The different components of marketing are often referred to as the Marketing Mix, or the four Ps of:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

Marketing tools (which would come under ‘communicating appropriately’) are items such as printed publicity materials, websites, distribution, use of direct mail, telemarketing, e-marketing etc.

Education guidance

One of the three corporate aims of the Scottish Arts Council is 'to place the arts, culture and creativity at the heart of learning'. Successful arts education is an interactive process involving organisations, artform and the public that results in change and progression for those involved.

Mum and baby in audience; Photo: Edinburgh International Book Festival

Education is a bridge between artform excellence and increased access and participation, it is people centred. Providing opportunities for learning and progressing in an artform or using an artform to address other, non artistic outcomes are equally valid, in either case a high quality, strategic approach is required in order to benefit the participants and the organisation.

For further information and useful inks please visit the Scottish Arts Council Education web pages.

The integration of education into the core business

  • The organisation should have an education strategy which is related to the long-term plans/strategy of the organisation 
  • Personnel responsible for education within the organisation have a mechanism for interdepartmental working 
  • Education is the responsibility of a senior manager and is represented on the board 
  • Feedback/evaluation from education events is used to inform future planning at senior management level and is regularly discussed by the board
  • The organisation should have a proactive approach to establishing and developing partnerships 
  • Training is available to all staff to raise awareness of the education strategy/work and the potential contribution of each staff member

Writing an Education Strategy

Some starting points to consider:
  • What is your target audience and why?
  • How will you use the artistic programme and focus to deliver creative education provision?
  • How do you evidence that the whole organisation has been consulted eg Board discussions and within artistic programmers
  • How do you collect information and use it to inform future activity for the whole organisation?
  • The role of artists/leaders
  • How will you manage partnership or project initiatives?
  • How will you manage activities?
  • Monitoring and evaluation

For full information, please download our Developing Education Policy publication.

See Also
* Quality Framework: guidelines for arts organisations
* Area Profile Reports and Catchment Area Analysis
* Audience and Organisational Development: Quick Guide
* Arts Education: Quick Guide
* Glasgow Grows Audiences
* HI-Arts
* Growing Audiences North East
* The Audience Business
* Audience Development publications
* Education publications
* Providing the Best: Arts Council England
* A Stage Further: Imaginate
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