Advertising for the Poor AND “Killer” marketing with “Assassins”

Below I’ve posted the two most recent posts from Geoff Short’s “Call-Back” blog. You can find Geoff’s blog and these original posts here. If you’ve never checked it out it’s worth spending some time–Geoff has one of the best blogs on the community theatre scene in the Cleveland area.

In addition, Geoff has a background in marketing, and over the past few months I’ve seen him do some great and unique things to promote his show. Read below what he has to say about targeting your audience, as well as how he markets online through blogging and social networking (something I’ve been saying theatres should do for years!). Remember–whether it’s theatre, film, commercials, or whatever–it’s a business, and needs to be treated like that!

Read all the way to the end–Geoff had a great series of videos he used to promote the Cassidy Theatre production of “Assassins” that he recently directed. Brilliant!

Friday, November 7, 2008
Advertising for the Poor (Like Community Theatres!)

Performing arts organizations need to advertise as much as any for-profit commercial company. But affording paid advertising? That is, indeed a comedy of errors! So should small non-profits throw in the advertising towel and depend on the kindness of their ever-dwindling senior citizen subscriber base? I think not.

Theatre artists are some of the most creative people in the world and the magic that comes out of their heads and onto a stage is often nothing short of miraculous. But when it comes to marketing and advertising we often get as creative as an I.R.S. agent (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

While expensive paid advertising is often not an option for theatre groups, there is a lot we can do to effectively promote our shows. Grass roots marketing and generating word-of-mouth buzz is the best way to generate interest in a production. Along with the normal generation of press releases, photos, flyers and video on a regular basis for each show, creative use of social networking sites has also become vital in the effort. For instance, recently the theatre I’m involved in – The Cassidy Theatre – had no less than 3 current or recent shows being talked about on Facebook – through cast photos postings, video and chats. This is free and goes a long way to generating that all-important buzz.

Theatre directors and marketers should look for the interesting stories within your cast and crew and let your media contacts know about them. Editors and producers don’t care if you’re putting on a show. They have a bigger responsibility to a larger population, much of which could care less about theatre. But they do want to know about the fact that a cast member recently returned from duty in Iraq or that everyone in the cast is volunteering at a soup kitchen or something. Encourage your cast to take candid rehearsal photos and video of their own and post them to various social networking sites. Write blogs, create MySpace and Facebook pages and event invitations. These have become invaluable (and free!) sources of generating buzz about shows and it helps cast members get even more involved in the production of your project. I recently created a series of online promotional video trailers for a production I directed of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Assassins” here in the Cleveland area. Each promo featured an actor playing a different historical presidential assassin revealing brief glimpses into their motivations. Of course each promo ended with show information. I got a lot of email response – soome quite controversial – which I promptly forwarded to the press, under the heading “Debate Erupts Over Assassin Promotion”. The result was a front page feature articlein the local paper.

Ideas sell!

Posted by Geoff Short at 10:28 AM 0 comments

Thursday, November 6, 2008
Generate Audiences Like Barack Did

Barack Obama’s campaign for president is being hailed as one of the best in recent history. The timing of certain campaign activities, his ability to raise millions of dollars and cultivating one of the largest volunteer armies ever seen all have contributed to his success. Whether you voted for him or not, all of us in the marketing and advertising community should study this campaign and take away valuable lessons from it to apply to our efforts. For instance trying to attract voters is not unlike trying to attract audiences for theatre productions (which happens to be my interest). One of the things the Obama campaign did was to identify people who were registered voters in the last election but who, for some reason did not actually show up to vote. These people – obviously identified as prime targets – were then personally contacted. As we know voter turn-out hit record levels. What if we applied the same strategy to our customers – or potential customers? It’s should be fairly easy to identify every theatre season subscriber and when they actually did or didn’t show up for a show. I could then contact those people (who are warm and hot leads because they actually have “opted in” for my services) to find out why they didn’t attend, address those issues and personally invite them to the next show for an improved experience. How many times have we tried to find new customers (or audiences) by cold calling or by otherwise blindly trying to reach as many people as possible, whether they had an interest in our product or service or not? Anyone in sales or marketing knows that a qualified lead – a warm, one – is like finding prospecting gold because it can save endless amounts of time and greatly improve the chances for a sale. And someone who has signed up for our service – or registered to vote – in the past is someone who should be contacted again. Can you say “low-hanging fruit”?
Posted by Geoff Short at 11:36 AM 0 commen

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