Creative Business Wrap – February 2023

Our newsletter is coming out perilously close to the end of the month. February’s seen a sudden influx of work and as the days cantered past, I was tempted to hold this edition over until March. But then I thought, “better late than postponing until a month which is probably going to be equally busy”. So, within you’ll find some interesting ideas about Instagram, negotiation and why Enid Blyton was an expert creative businessperson.

Adding to the general feeling of chaos this month is the addition of two rescue dogs to our family (and frequently to my home office). Daisy (a chihuahua/foxy cross) and Arlo (a chihuahua that’s more cross, less foxy) are pictured above. Distracting, aren’t they? Ask for them on our next Zoom call, and they’ll come running.


National Cultural Policy released

Revive, the National Cultural Policy, was announced on January 31, with its key actions being the rebranding of the Australia Council as Creative Australia, the establishment of new agencies for contemporary music (rock and pop, to you and me), first nations art, literature and workplace safety, and the establishment of local content quotas. The big number is an additional $199 million in funding over 4 years, restoring the infamous Brandis cuts from a few years back. You can read all the detail here and a summary in Arts Hub by Kate Larsen.

They’re funny things, cultural policies. If you read through the action plans for each of the plan’s “5 pillars”, you’ll find a familiar mix of welcome new initiatives (like the headline items above), random funding boosts (many of which read like they’ve been waiting for a vehicle to be attached to), things that are already happening or were going to happen anyway (and therefore, cheap) and vague motherhood statements (choose your favourite but “Ensure bodies within the newly established Creative Australia represent contemporary Australia” is a choice example).

But don’t let me be a grinch about it. Are we better off as a country by boldly and proudly stating that the arts and creativity are important? And demonstrating that importance through a national policy? Yes, indeed.


Resources for SWOTs and for PESTs

This month, I’m working on a number of applications to Screen Australia’s Enterprise program. The process is fairly onerous as grant programs go, asking applicants to supply a business plan, a business case, a budget and a 4-minute pitch video. Not for the faint hearted, but it is a useful process to consider the rationale for funding for a business initiative (rather than a creative project) and thinking about how that initiative could grow a company.

One part of the application which seems to throw people is the market analysis section, which asks for a SWOT analysis and a PEST analysis. The SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) is used to consider what position a business is in, while a PEST (political, economic, social and technological) is for considering the wider environment in which a business operates. Both can provide useful indicators for which strategies a company should pursue.

Given that they can be a little intimating if you don’t use them regularly, I thought a couple of resources might be useful. There’s plenty to find on SWOTs and PESTs on YouTube, but as a starting point, this 2 minute video introduces them both (don’t be put off by increasingly absurd sounding extensions to the PEST, like PESTLE, PESTLIED, STEEPLED and LONGPESTLE!). And a useful case study is provided in this 10 minute video from Tulane University which performs both analyses on Starbucks. (Starbucks being enduringly popular in tertiary courses as a go-to example to explain a concept.)


The Psychology of Negotiating

Selling an asset or a business is stressful and getting expert help is to assist is always a good idea (more about this next month). It’s useful to know some of the skills and tactics of negotiating to help get the best deal.

I liked this article about negotiating because it identifies how the skill of “anchoring” can be used to set an expectation at the start of a negotiation. When selling, the idea is to put the anchor point which is higher than your target price into the mind of the buyer. Using real estate as an example, a landlord might say, “my research shows that rents in this block are up to $500 m2.  Because I’d prefer a long-term tenant, I’m looking for $480.” The buyer uses the first number they heard as an “anchor” and negotiations start from that figure, hopefully landing on or above the figure the landlord is actually willing to take. As a buyer, you can also use it to set a lower starting point for negotiations. Anchoring bias is based on sound psychology, described by the “fathers of behavioural economics” Tversky and Kahneman (writer of Thinking, Fast and Slow, which is well worth picking up, if you’re interested in how people make decisions).

Want more on dealmaking and negotiation? There’s a top tips style guide available from our website for free.

Reels rule on Instagram

Instagram’s new algorithm which promotes video content is drastically reducing views for artists who use images and infographics to build their brand through the platform according to this article on The May 2022 update prioritizes reels, so artists and small businesses who can’t easily adapt their content to video format may even be forced off Instagram, or to switch platforms.

Sudden changes in algorithms can be a huge risk factor for business which generate revenue through social media. Instagram actually uses a number of algorithms for different parts of the app. This article explains the complexity of how it works and provides very practical tips on how to get the most engagement on the platform such as encouraging more comments, and using, question stickers and emoji sliders to drive interaction which will improve your chances of getting on the Explore page. Its number one piece of advice is “create fun, bite sized reels” and keep them short. Not what many artists want to hear.

Blyton: an early influencer

I was surprised and impressed by this article about how prolific English Children’s writer Enid Blyton built and managed her own brand right from the start of her career in 1920s. She produced masses of content (up to twenty books per year, as well as magazine articles, serials and resources for teachers) and often repackaged and reused content in different forms. Like a modern influencer, she connected personally with readers, writing about her home, her garden, her children… – in an idealised way, of course. She aligned herself with worthy causes, starting fundraising clubs for charities and consistently sought feedback from her readers and used it to shape her future work. She negotiated hard with her many publishers, insisting on large print runs and having creative control of the illustrations and cover art. She wasn’t bothered by the backlash from academics and librarians and the BBC who refused to air her work. After all, over the course of her career, she sold about sic hundred million books. (My childhood favourite: The Magic Faraway Tree)

Things to do in (what’s left of) February

A few ideas of quick and easy steps to take this month to help grow your business.

  • It’s time to reality check your hourly rates vs salary levels vs utilisation rates. What in this formula needs to change?
  • Review your employment contracts. Are they up to date? Do you have an effective performance management system and a professional development plan for each staff member?
  • Have you thanked your staff lately? Find something good that each of your staff have done and thank them personally. Let them know how their action directly benefited your organisation.
  • How is your team functioning, especially if they’re spending less time face to face? Ask them what they would like to do for teambuilding (Please no barefoot bowls!)
  • Take a moment to get up to speed with workforce legislation like the new family and domestic violence leave, and while you are on their website, The Fair Work Ombudsman has a load of useful resources including communication templates, best practice guides and factsheets to help manage your workplace obligations such as employment, pay and record keeping.
Found a great article on the business of creativity that is worth sharing or
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