PBA's Atlanta PlanIt: Bringing Arts & Culture to the Web 2.0 Generation

logo_pba.gifSince 2009, Public Broadcasting Atlanta (PBA) has been working with the Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition (MAACC) to curate and maintain Atlanta PlanIt, metro Atlanta's premier free online guide to the region's diverse arts and culture events, organizations, and venues.  The comprehensive site promotes the work of nearly 450 local organizations and venues and provides tools for visitors to easily locate events, purchase tickets, or simply learn about the vitality of the arts in metro Atlanta.  Through interactive web content, e-mailing lists, and PBA's Advantage Card program, has proven to be a powerful public media tool for arts and cultural organizations in Atlanta.

With its vast collection of free arts and culture information, Atlanta PlanIt builds upon PBA's mission to educate, entertain, and empower the communities it serves.  The site has played a vital role in achieving the organization's goal of becoming a central hub for all cultural arts content relevant to metro Atlanta.  The site also fulfills an internal need at PBA by helping to promote arts programming to site visitors while serving as a facilitator and congregator to help the organization reach arts administrators for potential partnerships and underwriting opportunities.

Earlier this year, PBA continued its partnership with MAACC by re-launched the site with an exciting new design and increased functionality.  However, the most exciting aspect of Atlanta PlanIt's current success is that it is still growing.  In the coming year, the site will be used as a platform to develop and launch a central arts marketing campaign in the Atlanta region to help educate citizens about the breadth of arts in and around the city. 

PBA is also planning to use Atlanta PlanIt as the central arts and culture component of Lens on Atlanta, a first-of-its-kind online social community that provides regional institutions, community organizations, elected officials, and individuals with a free social media platform to build stronger relationships, engage in user-driven discussions, and raise awareness of community initiatives.  Additionally, in an effort to help the arts community grow an even larger audience, PBA plans to encourage the multitude of arts bloggers and writers in metro Atlanta to utilize the site as a larger platform to publish professional arts criticism.

PBA maintains Atlanta PlanIt with two full-time staff members: an Editor and an Operations Manager.  The organization also utilizes three part-time employees to serve as the site's data entry staff.  Rather than having arts organization enter their own events, the part-time staff and Operations Manager manually enter all events into the site in order to maintain a set of strict standards and quality assurance.

Nicole Jones, Lens on Atlanta's Arts & Culture Manager and Editor in Chief of, offers this advice to stations looking to put a similar service into motion:

"1.    Do extensive research to determine if the service would fill a significant need in the community and, most importantly, if it is a service that the arts community strongly desires.  Many cities have sites like this, but many aren't partnering and need major promotion.
2.    From the start of the project, determine how it fits within the station's long-term strategic plan and how its services might be able to enhance or promote the station's other services and initiatives.
3.    Work with a Web site development company that either has experience creating a similar site or has worked with non-profits.  Make sure that the company is clear about what you hope to accomplish with the site before moving forward on the project.  Most of Atlanta PlanIt is built on a customized database, which means greater expense, but also helps us provide the most unique and comprehensive of services.
4.    Fundraise - many corporations are pleased to see the arts organizations that they support collaborating and want to support those initiatives
5.    Have a monetization plan in place - we do underwriting and some services, offer memberships, etc.  We are having to look to more long-term initiatives, such as tickets or syndication to bring in significant revenues.
DO  NOT make any decisions about the site without the input and/or support of the region's arts community.  Arts organizations and artists are notorious for requiring a great deal of engagement and input to be involved.   Their support is essential to the success of a project like this and to ensuring that it stays relevant.
DO NOT assume that if you built it, they will come.  Ensure the arts organizations will help market the site and plan on telling as many people as you can about the service - an email campaign is nice.
DO NOT hire folks that know nothing about the cultural community for which you live.  To help meet the needs of this particular industry, you need someone who knows the industry and is trusted."

PBA is harnessing the power of social media and web technologies to create an exciting and effective hub of arts information for the Atlanta region.  To take a look at the hard work of the staff working on the project, please visit Atlanta PlanIt.

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