Japan Society is Best Society

I’ve been interning at Japan Society between jobs for two months now. I’ve been trying to gauge for myself how well I’ve tackled being thrust into a media/marketing position with only an outline of what to do. I’ve been given responsibility enough to come up with my own methods, but I’ve largely gone with general suggestions from full time staff.

Praise: Doing press clips and getting an inside look at JS’s breadth of contacts and programming has left me flabbergasted. I had no idea, besides in dollar terms—over $10 million—how successful JS’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund has been until I read about all the celebrities, companies, and non-profits who donated their time, skills, and money directly to JERF. Even manning the welcome desk gave me a glimpse of the effort at a grassroots level: time and time again ordinary people would come in with checks or sacks of money in hand to generously donate.

Now I’m working on marketing to textile professionals and schools/workshops JS’s upcoming fiber arts exhibition, “Fiber Futures.” I looked up various non-museum professional associations and classes that would be interested in the event, symposium, and workshops. So far the response has been enthusiastic and encouraging.

Aside: One of the professionals I corresponded with is Dr. Jacqueline Atkins, an expert on Japanese quilts and textiles, and self-proclaimed costume geek. We exchanged stories on how costume anachronisms in period movies drive us insane: she mentioned a zipper on a toga, I cited a zipper on Voldemort’s cloak in Harry Potter. When I was younger I thought I might have liked to work in costume design for movies, but that never panned out for well thought out reasons. Dr. Atkins, from what I gather, looks at costume design from a psychological standpoint—what works and what doesn’t, and why. Not being creative enough to design on a regular basis, I was excited to see evidence of a psychological approach to costuming, something I never explored, or thought even existed, before. Any and all academic work on costuming I’d seen was historical in nature…not something I’d want to dedicate a lot of my time to. Though I still do not see myself dedicating professional time to costuming, corresponding with Dr. Atkins has opened a new door in my hobby.

Defeat: I achieved only mild success at best when I marketed JS’s film festival Japan Cuts to Asian film buffs around the net. I targeted niche markets for specific films (samurai films to bushido practitioners, the French collaboration film to Francophiles, etc). I also tried using Meetup.com to promote the films as meetup opportunities, but those efforts did not pan out. This was, however, the first time JS used Meetup.com in any capacity. I unfortunately had to miss a JS meeting with Meetup.com founder Scott Heiferman (who was a part of JS’s Innovator’s Network) to discuss how Meetup would be best utilized for JS, but I don’t think that simply suggesting meetups on relevant groups and hoping they take off is the answer. Meetups’ successes rely on interest, and if interest isn’t generated quickly, meetups will die in the water. I suggested instead sponsoring certain meetup groups to increase brand awareness and promote JS’s image as a supporter of Japanese culture exchange. That idea was kabashed.

Marketing strategies are useless if their effectiveness cannot be measured, and I did not follow up on many of my small initiatives. I need to be able to say what concrete contributions I’ve made, if any. I did suggest and write comment cards, though, when the person I worked under said, “I wonder how most people find us,” but so far I don’t think they have been put to use. I was hoping they’d be available after the movies.

Lesson learned? Plan, execute, measure, assess.

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