Education 6: communication and public relations in cultural sphere

Author: Sanja Baković, journalist

Public Relations  — Basic Concepts

PUBLIC RELATION — thought out, intentional and planned communication that builds a positive relationship between a specific organization, company or organizer of a campaign or an event and public, with the purpose of gaining visibility, positive support and audience creation 


– Persuasive communication (different than journalism) 

– Two-way relationship is built, receptivity of audience/client is expected 


Public is all the people reached by information of general interest, group of informed and learned people showing an interest for public and social affairs and events. 

Culture – specificities

  • Culture – Lat. cultura: cultivation /of land/; care /of body and spirit/; improvement; respect, all that is bred, elevated, ennobled, cultivated 
  • We wonder: what makes culture different than other sectors, such as politics, sport, entertainment, show business? 
  • Culture tries to question, raise awareness, indicate social problems, open society’s eyes, be engaged on all its levels, while the other sector deal with activities of different value orientation 
  • Examples for discussion: theatre shows Duet for One and Gypsy, but the Most Beautiful One, and performance of artist Sinišae Labrović Let’s Protect Priests from Prosecution on Grounds of Paedophilia 

Who do We Address When We Talk about Culture

  • “When I hear word culture, I go for my gun”, was allegedly said by Hermann Göring, high official in the time of National Socialism movement in Germany, but it is true that in any time there are always more relevant topics that push culture out of public focus 


  • Who are people that attend cultural events?
  • Who are people that do not attend cultural events?
  • Why do people attend cultural events?
  • Why people do not attend cultural events? 
  • What is it that culture offers and is not offered by a sports event? 

  • TASK: Win over new audience that does not regularly attend cultural events 

QUESTION:  How can we achieve the task?  Who can the new audience be?

Festival Let’s Get Knocked off by Poetry, Bol, Island of Brač, 2018, presentation of book by writer and journalist Siniša Kekez, photo by Sanja Baković

Festival Let’s Get Knocked off by Poetry, Bol, Island of Brač, 2018, reading of hermits’ poetry in the Dragon’s Cave 

Why does Culture Need Public Relations?

  • Any new project, new event or new platform need some kind of public relations 
  • EXAMPLES: New campaign, new festival, new summer cultural festival, new one-off event — we want to inform the public, reach new audience, receive positive feedback 
  • Culture, as specific kind of engagement, that has always had interested smaller numbers in comparison with, e.g. sport, politics and show business, is in particular in need of public relations that will work on its visibility 

                                  Poster for Festival Let’s Get Knocked off by Poetry, Bol, Island of Brač, 2018

The first evening of Festival Let’s Get Knocked off by Poetry, September 2018, performance of artist from Bol Ivica Jakšić Čokrić Puko

Internal Communication

  • Internal communication is a communication among all stakeholders included in the process, prior to public launch of a project, campaign or an event 
  • It occurs among the working team members, associates, organizers, representatives of local government and self-government, representatives of associations and institutions. External communication is not possible without proper and well-prepared internal communication 

External Communication 

  • External communication is a communication towards wide public, at the moment in which project, campaign or event are prepared and take place by use of PR tools 
  • PR tools: 

         For communication towards media: press-conference, press-releases, radio and tv statements

For visitors: to be distributed materials, such as booklets

         For those that like to get informed virtually: activity on social networks, regular update of news, prepared video materials 

         For regular and targeted audience: newsletters

QUESTION: What do we communicate through external communication?

  • What is our project about?
  • We wonder: what message are we trying to convey? Who do we address? What kind of audience we want?
  • Let us consider what kind of audience already exists, and who are new potential members of our audience? 
  • What do we communicate in order to attract new audience?
  • Let us determine what is interesting, why would people follow and support our project/event campaign?

Guerrilla & Informal Communication 

  • Leaving art graffiti (guerrilla)
  • Performance in public spaces                                    
  • Oral tradition
  • Calling people by telephone (smaller events, local communities)
  • Use private contacts

Graffiti in Zagreb,                   author S. Baković

Can we Do it Without Media?

  • Can we truly say that anything happened if it was not published in media or on social networks? We would all agree that the reply is: “No”! 
  • We wonder how to encourage media to break news related to cultural sphere?

TASK – how to win over media space and public from “mass” topics? 

SOLUTION: give something new and interesting! determine what it is!

Communication towards media and social networks: 

  • Regularly send notifications, invitations, texts and materials after events 
  • Inform media about the entire process, e.g. we prepare: 

New island Summer Poetry Festival 

     DECIDE: Where to start? When to send the first news about program and its contents? 

    Inform public during entire summer and when all is over, let the public know through the media that the program is over.

Crisis Communication 

  • Crisis communication happens when there is a situation in which the message sent was misinterpreted in public (e.g. a fragment compromising a festival is sent forward, and good messages remain in shadow)
  • Crisis occurs when things go wrong, reputation of a person, enterprise, organizer, campaign or brand, is at risk (it was found out that Minister of culture was purchasing things with the Ministry card, which threw shadow over her engagement, academic and art work and her political function)

How to Communicate in Times of Crisis?

  • Four elements of communication in times of crisis: 

1) Speed (go public, press-conference, press-release)

2) Truth/correctness of information (no hiding of information) 

3) Present wider picture of crisis, provide more pieces of information/other side of events  

4) Non-conflictual and empathic communication 

Main Steps of Crisis Communication


  • Gather our team together and divide responsibilities 
  • Agree on strategy
  • Follow the situation until the very last moment of crisis and send positive message 

How to End Crisis without Loose Ends?

  • Continuity of communication, e.g. organize press-conferences, inform the media and stakeholders until the issue is resolved 
  • Thinking about public in all phases of problem issue resolution 
  • Sending new positive messages: what have we learned from crisis? 
  • Communication of a new phase: “After this experience, we are wiser for…”
  • EXAMPLE OF GOOD CRISIS COMMUNICATION: going public during the crisis, in spite of the fact that it might not be pleasant due to public pressure; by doing this we prevent even deeper crisis 

Relations with Stakeholders and Partners

  • Commencement of project —on several occasions, the team brainstorms and defines objectives and needs 
  • We decide whose help we need in accordance with the needs:
  1. Local self-government
  2. CSOs
  3. Colleagues who implement the similar project somewhere else can be asked for advice 
  4. Artists
  5. Other institutions

What should relation with stakeholders and partners be like: 

  • Continuous, fast, without stalling, persistent, assertive
  • Honest response as to what it is that we can give back if somebody provides service or assistance to us (we might not have budget for everything)

Financing – Sponsorships

  • Budget at our disposal for project/campaign/event always has to contain share/percentage intended for PR team and its expenses 
  • PR is not the same thing as advertising, but are not free — platform that communicates with public in effective ways 
  • Ways of financing: 

– Funds we received pursuant to calls for proposals of, say Ministry of Culture and County Departments for Culture 

– Financing of EU projects

– Crowd funding campaigns

– Sponsorships of private legal persons, enterprises, companies, corporations, hospitality business entities, crafts and trades 

– Funds allocated by corporate calls for proposals – monitor calls for proposals!

– Private contacts

Enthusiasm: no sleeping – just dreaming!

  • If we work on a particular project, e.g. new Summer Poetry Festival on the island, and we start from the scratch with not-for-masses program, we do not let this project slip out of our hands, we constantly engage new people, we believe in it, monitor it, change it if necessary, we are awake, alive and present! 
C:\Users\sbakovic\Desktop\Katja i Nada.jpg

               Festival Let’s Get Knocked off by Poetry, Bol, Island of Brač, 2018, promotion of books by       Katja Grcić and Nada Topić, Gallery Dešković Atrium, photo by Cultural Centre Bol

Cover photo: Island Movement

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