Murphy, Weinert focus on marketing at Trustees Porch Discussion

Chautauqua Institution is a place that is difficult to describe for those who have never experienced it themselves. It is the job of the marketing department to find ways to describe Chautauqua’s programming and community to attract and retain visitors.

George Murphy, vice president and chief marketing officer of Chautauqua Institution, discussed the ways that the Institution is marketing itself at Wednesday’s Trustees Porch Discussion.

Murphy said there are four steps in Chautauqua’s marketing cycle that encompass the life span of a visitors’ relationship with Chautauqua: attract, retain, advocate and give.

In terms of attracting new visitors, Murphy said the Institution markets to specific audiences based on location and programming.

“You can’t go out there and say we do 2,000 events per summer,” he said. “You have to be very targeted and specific about what the message is.”

Empty-nesters between the ages of 40 and 65, young families and young adults and artists are three of the targeted audiences that are lacking on the grounds, Murphy said, and the marketing department is working on reaching out to more in the future.

An alumni association for students in the arts programs on the grounds is in the works, and Murphy said that could bring those students back to the grounds and keep them more involved with Chautauqua after they leave.

Retaining visitors is a more difficult task, Murphy said. Of the 25,000 long-term tickets the Institution sells each season, 40 percent of those people do not come back the following year.

Customer service is something Murphy thinks has a larger influence on retention rates. The Athenaeum Hotel has been a large part of this initiative to improve customer service for short-term guests.

Vanessa Weinert, marketing manager for the Institution, said that integrating the hotel into marketing efforts for the Institution has made a big difference. She said the hotel’s all-inclusive packages have been helpful in clearing the confusion for new guests trying to book their stay, and get their gate and parking passes.

One of the struggles of retaining short-term guests is getting them to feel like they are a part of the community, Murphy said.

“We are spending a lot of time with first-time people and short-term people telling them about these ‘secrets’ of Chautauqua, or unique programming that you won’t get anywhere else,” he said. “Through that engagement, you get a unique bond to Chautauqua. It brings people back.”

The lecture platform is another aspect of Chautauqua that brings in visitors for the first time or brings people back to the grounds. One-third of visitors come to Chautauqua during a specific week based on the lecture platform. Weinert has been conducting surveys about why certain week’s themes or lecturers attract visitors. Of the 2,000 people who have been surveyed, Weinert said 48 percent pick which week they come based on the title of the theme.

Another initiative Murphy discussed is the engagement of the Chautauqua County community. Access to the grounds is free on Sundays, and Wednesdays are free for students, educators and administrators in Chautauqua County schools.

Murphy said one of the biggest complaints is a lack of strong Sunday programming, so the community isn’t attracted. The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will have a matinee performance Sunday for this reason.

“The idea was to put our best foot forward on a free day and see if we can attract a different mix — a younger mix — somebody else from the county,” Murphy said.

Getting the best young adults from the county to work on the grounds is another way Murphy hopes to get the community more involved at the Institution.

Advocacy for the Institution during the off-season is something Weinert has been developing with Chautauquans. She has set up a program for Chautauquans to connect with each other during the off-season and to advocate for the Institution with people who have never been to the grounds before.

“It’s a great way to reach out to the community and empower Chautauquans to talk about their experience off-season,” she said.

Trustees Porch Discussions take place at 9:30 a.m. every Wednesday on the Hultquist Center porch. Each discussion focuses on a different theme relevant to the Chautauqua community.