Sonia Sin is the head of the Communications and Sponsorship area of Zaragoza Cultural. With a degree in Journalism and Political Science, she worked as a journalist for several years until she joined the municipal sphere. Now, in 2023, she already has almost 20 years of experience working in cultural communication.
In an interview with Go Aragón, Sin reviews aspects of the work done from the area such as co-creation, the importance of Zaragoza as a breeding ground for artists or successful proposals such as the virtual Ofrenda, “a magnificent tool for external projection”, she emphasizes.
What are the main lines of communication of Zaragoza Cultural?
We have been working in the field of audience development in recent times and our goal is to connect people and culture. We have gone from a time when we did a more transactional communication, when we had an activity and we advertised it through more traditional channels, but already in 2006 or 2007 we started to do what was then called guerrilla marketing; doing exhibitions on buses, taking supports to the street to surprise… because we realized that sometimes we had difficulties to bring the public to our activities. Then there was a huge leap with social networks and the Internet, which changed all forms and channels of communication, but we have never neglected the offline part. There is an audience that requires different communication, although the pandemic has connected us to everyone.
We work along the lines of building communities around culture. There is one around the Teatro Principal, another around the Auditorium, around the Pilar festivities… we work with very different age groups, very different tastes, and we have created ZCultura, the community of communities, which encompasses everyone who participates in the cultural life of the city, both the people who participate in activities and those who propose them. The communication plan of Zaragoza cultural, if I had to define it in some way, is the construction of a community of communities, both online and offline circuits, because outdoor advertising is a very important communication tool because, as a public administration, apart from connecting to bring public to the activities, we have as an obligation to inform citizens of what we are doing with public money.
I understand that, especially in the online part, everything that has to do with data management and big data will have its importance?
We have been working for years with Business Intelligence, with advanced CRM systems, with data cross-referencing… it is not quite big data, but we have been making sales forecasts for years, working with segmented databases, we have ticketing, which is a very powerful way of building communities and, from there, since 2015, when we participated in the European Adeste Plus project, we have developed a digital strategy based on data, but not only data. We have been working on data for many years and, in that sense, Zaragoza Cultural already presented in 2018 at the Ministry of Culture the work it was doing in that area.
And, in terms of co-creation, would Pilar Joven be a good example?
Pilar Joven is an example of how to involve the audiences themselves, the kids who participate in cultural life. We realized in our regular surveys that kids from 12 to 18 years old were lacking their own activities specifically designed for them. Initially, we created some parks linked to the children’s parks, called ’12 and over’, with BMX, graffiti… which did not work. They didn’t want to be there; a 12-year-old kid doesn’t want to be next to his 7-year-old brother who is playing, even if he is in a separate area. We then began a process of participation with the colleagues of the Youth Service to work in a coordinated way with young people, so that the young people themselves would design their activities, helped, of course, by the technicians of the city council. This is a good example. Co-creation is also being done constantly at La Harinera, with all the community culture programs we have.
How do you approach children’s audiences?
It is the one that generates the least problems for us. We work very closely with the Education Service of the City Council and we have activities such as the Carnival, in which we involve the Infant and Primary schools. This public is quite involved in the activities; the problem is with the teenagers.
I understand that one of the important points is to create loyalty in this public, to turn them into people who enjoy culture…
If you want your son to go hiking in the Pyrenees, if you have never taken him to do routes when he was a child, the day you take him for a three-hour walk he will protest. In culture it is the same, if he has had experiences since he was a child, he has gone to see the puppets at Arbolé, to a concert at the Auditorium, that is something very important. That is why we work hard so that the family is not a barrier to access, with the Education service, so that all children in all schools can have access to culture. The idea is that, to try to work with all audiences and children of all socioeconomic profiles so that they can experience culture.
What is the audience in Zaragoza like?
The audience in Zaragoza is very loyal. That has an advantage; for example, in the Auditorium we have an example of a subscriber who has been a subscriber for 20 years and is very loyal. But there are certain difficulties for the transfer of audiences. From that need we created Zaragoza Cultura, which is that giant community where we put the different communities and our communication policy is to inform about the activities we do in other facilities. If you are a jazz lover and you are closely linked to the festival, if there is a concert in the Oasis hall, we try to let you know about it because you are a target audience.
Zaragoza premiered the Vive Latino festival last year, what does it mean for the city?
Vive Latino is a consolidated international brand, which strengthens the city’s relations with Latin America. There is no other activity that has that kind of projection abroad and at a national level, too. Vive Latino has been a very serious bet for the external projection of the city.
The city and Aragon have very powerful names associated with the cultural sphere, such as Goya and Buñuel or, in music, Amaral or Héroes del Silencio. What do they mean for the promotion of culture?
We have always been very well positioned abroad as a source of artists. When I joined, Amaral was an emerging group that played at the Pilar festivities, at the Pablo Gargallo. And two years ago they played in the main concert of the festivities in the Plaza del Pilar. I think there is a lot of talent and that there are groups that have not reached such a high commercial impact, but the proof is every weekend in the venues, which are programming live music with a very high level of artists. The local cultural fabric, despite the damage it has suffered during the pandemic, at the level of creation is a real delight.
Now that the worst of the pandemic seems to have passed, have there been any changes in the public?
What we have observed is that the public in Zaragoza, which was always waiting until the last minute, is now even more so. The pandemic taught us that everything changed very quickly and people got used to waiting to buy tickets. And that generates, especially for promoters, a certain insecurity. There is a certain tendency to leave the purchase to the last minute, unless they are very popular concerts, where you know that tickets are sold out.
Regarding digital communication, is there a boom in newsletters?
Right now it’s the communication tool that works best for us in terms of conversion. It really communicates with the people you want to be communicated with. In the case of the Auditorium, for example, it’s a super effective tool. The ZCultura newsletter, which we send out every Thursday with the weekly agenda, works spectacularly. In the Auditorium, when we sell more is two hours after sending the newsletter. Segmented communication is helping us a lot. We have a strategy called ‘Culture explained’, with which we try to use quality content so that citizens can find out about the cultural activities we program.
Zaragoza Cultural is a partner of Adeste Plus…
We have just finished four years of the project. It has been a magnificent experience; hard, because it has meant a lot of work, but we have been working with the popes of European culture; the Fitzcarraldo Foundation, the Audience Agency, the CKI of Copenhagen… it has helped us to learn a lot and to realize that we do things better than we thought, too. Our Zaragoza Cultura strategy, for example, is a reference within the project. I think we should be in more European projects because the exchange of knowledge between people in different countries with the same problems and needs is very enriching.
What are Zaragoza’s strengths when it comes to communicating and generating a community?
Our strong point is that we were one of the first city councils that bet on building communities, in which both the public and the people who generated activities were involved.
You have a degree in Journalism and Political Science. Has having those two visions allowed you to have a broader vision to exercise your position?
I always say that journalism helps you to be curious and to ask questions. When it comes to audience development and data, in the end, it’s useless if you don’t ask the right questions. When you start working with them, you go crazy, because business intelligence gives you a lot of information and there is an overdose of data. But the key is the questions. For future journalists and people who are studying communication, I think that data is a professional outlet, because sensitivity when it comes to prioritizing information and asking questions, people who come from the world of communication have it.
And then, this is still a job within the public administration, we have many minor contracts, sponsorship contracts, contracts with suppliers… and the background that gives you a more legal training gives you a lot of security when dealing with any internal procedure. Both, which are closely related, have given me a lot of security when facing my day-to-day work.
What is your assessment of the virtual flower offering?
It is an experience that arose from a need for communication that we have in post-confinement. When we were confined we started to work on three scenarios, without knowing what was going to happen: to make a normal Pillar, to make a semi-normal Pillar, with restrictions, and no Pillar. In the end, it was the latter option. Within this need to give channel to that moment of expression, of collective identity, we contacted different companies to see what solution they could give us to make a virtual offering of flowers. One of them was Imascono, which offered us the most elaborate project and the one that best fit our communication needs. The virtual offering, now, with the amount of public we have from outside Spain, has become a magnificent tool for external projection.