Human Rights Arts and Film Festival + Guardian Australia

In March 2015, the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) announced a new partnership with Guardian Australia, marking the media outlet’s first arts partnership.

Human Rights Arts and Film Festival + Guardian Australia

We spoke with Ella McNeil, HRAFF CEO and Margy Vary, PR and Marketing Manager, Guardian Australia about their new partnership.

Ella McNeil, HRAFF CEO


Early bird or night owl?

The earliest of birds! Mornings are my favourite.


Sea change or tree change?

Sea change, growing up in Perth I’m a coastal girl at heart.


And because we’re talking about partnerships – your favourite TV couple?

Would you believe I don’t own a television…! I’ve asked our Marketing & Development Manager, Vy, and she has recommended I say Ross and Rachel from Friends. An oldie but a goodie, right!

Three words to describe your new partnership with The Guardian?

The perfect fit.

This is a new partnership for the festival – tell us about how it came to be. Did you pitch to them?

Like most successful partnerships, we had an ‘in’ to start us off. A contact was a contributor for The Guardian and introduced us to the then editor in 2014. After a number of months and introductions to various people, I secured a meeting in Sydney with their Marketing Manager.

I had worked hard on a pitch to go through, while also introducing them to the scope of the festival, she saw the fit straight away and liked the opportunities it presented. Six months later when they were finally starting to secure media partners, we became their first one!

What do you see as the main benefits to HRAFF of this new partnership?

  1. High visibility to our target audience via advertising and editorial on The Guardian website
  2. Strengthening of our brand and reputation
  3. Opportunities to collaborate and access content and speakers, as they are so aligned with what we do.

How are you getting The Guardian involved in the festival?

As this is our first year, and we’re The Guardian’s first arts partner, we’ve been testing the waters a little. Their editorial team are keen to cover the festival and share their thoughts on the program (their Top 5 Picks came out when we launched).

Their journalists are featuring as panellists on our diverse range of panel discussion and speaker events, and looking forward to 2016, we hope to collaborate earlier on some ‘Live Guardian Events’ that form part of the program.

Many of the other benefits are branding, audience development and advertising benefits, however we’ll involve our program team next year and build on what we’ve started.

How important is it for HRAFF to find the right fit when seeking private sector support?

So much work goes into servicing and activating partnerships to their full potential; we want to make sure it’s worth it by finding support from organisations whose values always match up with ours. The closer the alignment of values and goals, the longer lasting the partnership will be.

We’ll both be willing to go over and above the agreements, and build on the relationship, if we know our partners focus won’t be changing too quickly.

Your top tips for arts organisations seeking partners or sponsors?

Be creative and offer something interesting that others can’t. Intimately involve them in whatever you’re doing as much as possible, keeping them updated with the process so they feel part of the end product.

People want to see your passion for the project, so make sure you bring that to the pitch!

Margy Vary, PR and Marketing Manager, Guardian Australia

Three words to describe your new relationship with HRAFF?

Mutually beneficial partnership.

What benefits do you see this partnership offering in addition to the obvious branding opportunities?

This partnership with HRAFF offers us the chance to associate with, support and enjoy an event that both our brand and personal values are closely aligned with.

The partnership not only has commercial benefits for our business but also helps our staff, both commercial and editorial, feel proud of what they are contributing to.

Staff engagement is important for every business that relies on attracting the best talent, and when you are a relative newcomer entering a market with big established players, as we are, people really are your best asset.

When assessing sponsorship opportunities, what is your team looking for?

Here are the questions we ask:

  • Does it build brand awareness among new (to us) progressive audiences, for example, outside inner city Sydney and Melbourne?
  • For major partnerships, does it embed our brand in Australian culture and topical issues? For smaller partnerships, does it support grass roots culture and Guardian brand values?
  • Will it deliver opportunities to bring our brand to life, for example, through speaker appearances and live events, and offer a mechanism to drive traffic onsite pre, during and post event?
  • Can it offer desirable trade/PR relationship opportunities, eg: corporate hospitality?
  • Is it measurable to a satisfactory extent, eg: through a dedicated survey / click throughs, exposure numbers?
  • Can they offer a discount for our staff and members?

Give us three reasons the private sector should support the arts?

  1. The private sector should support the local arts and cultural organisations because this is where grass roots community engagement starts, and where people are encouraged to explore and discuss topics of interest to them. For the private sector – this is an opportunity to engage with audiences in a very direct and intimate way.
  2. The local arts and cultural organisations are an important part of the development of creativity and offer a place for experimentation, risk taking and innovation. Private sector business frequently draws from this creative pool for their own benefit. Without support from the private sector – resources are limited and ideas are curtailed.
  3. People participate in the arts and cultural activities as a way of feeling part of a community, expressing their inner desires, concerns and joys as well as trying to make meaning of the absurdity of life – why wouldn’t you want to support that? But also, every business is based in a community and it makes complete sense to nurture the community that feeds you.

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