Pursuing public portals 

Jessica Di Santo, a self-described Gen-Xer, is inviting 21st century technology to the doorstep of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra as the newly appointed director of communications.

“I was attracted to the ISO [because] it has the perception of being bigger than a building, of being relevant to people of all ages. I’m Gen-X. I’m the next step in new audiences for ISO. How do I want to be communicated with? ISO has the programming, the content [for a variety of] interests. What would I be drawn to?

“I’m a big fan of using new technology for strategy.”

It’s a given Di Santo’s combined “traditional” and innovative approaches works. ISO’s announcement of her appointment cites her recent position at the Indianapolis Museum of Art where “during her tenure at the IMA she formulated strategic marketing and communications plans that increased the Museum’s overall attendance by 50 percent in 2007, dramatically increased the visibility of the Museum in local, regional and national media, and led the promotion efforts for the Roman Art from the Louvre exhibit (Sept. 2007 – Jan. 2008) that attracted more than 100,000 visitors, making the exhibition the most popular in the Museum’s 125-year history.”

Di Santo states: “I’ve been around music my whole life. I’m not trained in music or art,” adding “but it’s O.K. to approach a piece of music and art the way you want. There is a world of emotions out there. It’s O.K. to experience a range of emotions at an ISO performance.”

A basic component of cutting edge public relations strategy is immediate two-way communication.

“I want them [people on the street as well as people in the seats] to communicate with us. The more we learn about our audience and our potential audience the better we can serve them.”

Instant text-messaging following a concert can become a given. The ISO wants to hear immediately what audiences like or don’t like; they we want word-of-mouth to friends and family to travel faster. And they want the art of critical review to be everyone’s provenance. “As we learn to show ‘why’ it’s a must-attend we acquire skills of interpretation and evaluation,” acknowledges Di Santo.

“The ISO faces a lot of challenges. We’re one of only seventeen full-time orchestras programming for 52 weeks. We have to be true to ourselves but attractive to a larger audience. We have to delve into ‘who are these musicians?’ It’s not just about a violin--let’s make connections with human beings behind the instrument. We have to keep connecting with people at their levels of comfort.”

Di Santo points out Prairie concerts are appropriate for families, as are Happy Hour events for young professionals. Even more progam delivery systems have to be offered.

“It’s a great orchestra, but every orchestra needs to improve on content, open choices and two-way communication. The base of the audience will grow with the orchestra.”


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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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