Mind the Gap

Hello!

Just wanted to write in a quick post to acknowledge that I…well…haven’t done that in a while. Thanks for those who visit my site and read what I’m writing about. I’ve taken some steps back from blogging while I try to balance the busyness that is my day to day. I hope to be back to you in the months to come with some more Arts Marketing A-Musings. For now, you can keep tabs on me on Twitter, check out Fresh Ink, Boston’s newest new-work-centric theatre company of which I am a proud member, and leave me a comment about the arts marketing musings on YOUR mind lately!

Thanks again for stopping by, and for your patience while I’m on this writing hiatus.

All my best,

Robyn

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Speak Up! Mouth Off!

Details at www.mouthoffshow.comI got 15 minutes of fame today!

Well, more like 3-5 minutes.

I don’t believe I’ve declared it here before, but I’m a big fan of podcasts. My 30 minute subway commute is always made happier by humor, news, stories, and cool commentary, so I load up my queue with the internet’s best. One of my guilty pleasure podcasts is a weekly a cappella show called Mouth Off.

Mouth Off is hosted by Dave and Christopher, two hilarious (humble but clearly very talented) and knowledgable guys who I feel I basically know because they a) really let their personalities shine through their work and b) remind me of some of my artistic friends. Their show presents a brilliant mix of personal views, critiques on the current state of a cappella music, and enthusiasm for the amazing friendships and creative products that can come of an artistic team (a music group & behind-the-scenes engineers in this case), that as a consumer of their show I find I really want to engage with them.

So I wrote them an email! The guys frequently read from their Listener Mailbag, and I decided to send in a note. I’d spent a few weeks addicted to the new album from my amazingly talented friend Ms. Emily Peal, and I had a feeling the guys would enjoy her sound. So I wrote in, linked to Emily, and mentioned a few clips that might be of interest. Sure enough, just a few weeks later they read my email on the show AND played some of Emily’s clips AND included her on the shownotes on their site, MouthOffShow.com. Nice guys! Ultimately, I hope some brilliant a cappella group covers her songs because they’re beautiful, and that kind of artistic interpretation would surely help to grow her following. If nothing else, though, it was fun to share a tip with some friends (or pseudo-friends, as this case may be), which was reason enough to send in the email.

BUT THERE’S MORE.

When they finished reading my email on air the guys mentioned that I had a “fancy” signature and spelled out my name and website. This website. My arts marketing blog that has nothing to do with a cappella music or podcasts whatsoever! And my Twitter handle (they’re @MouthOffShow)! Because I spoke up. The opportunity to share something was enough — the opportunity for a personal promotion to result never occurred to me!

So my brief anecdote today is that simple: Speak up. Say hello. Share something just because you want to spread some good around. Especially where arts content is concerned — word of mouth is our ultimate marketing tool and the ultimate way to connect with other human beings. And, as I learned from Dave and Christopher, make sure to keep your name attached (and maybe a link or two), because you never know who’s going to take notice and mouth off about you!

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Marketing Must-Haves

In the last several months I’ve gotten to work with different organizations on their spring and summer productions. I’ve had a trial and error experience building a strategy and campaign for each group and different type of product. No matter the particular type of piece or marketing plan, there are a few components I deem necessary to launch a campaign.

Here are three of the basics:

WEBSITE: Your company must have a website. Must. Think critically when setting up the site’s navigation, and make sure links to internal and external pages are clearly identifiable. If your latest production is featured on the front page, give it a home elsewhere on the site, too. A dedicated page will be easier to archive when you’ve moved on to the next piece, and you can use the specific page to go into much greater detail on a given show. Link to a Google Maps image, the playwright’s personal website, any sponsors you may have for the show. Bonus points if you host links to the press release and production images, too.

TICKETS: Before you invite people to even think about your show, make sure your ticketing is ready to go. There are several great sites you can use at reasonable costs (shoutout to OvationTix, my personal favorite), and you should choose carefully which site works for your group. Try to stick with the same platform across your season (and beyond, if you’re satisfied).  Once you’re there, make sure the specifics are set up for your show: Do you have a direct box office URL? Are all dates and times correct and buy-able within the ticketing site? Do you have checkout questions? Will patrons get an e-confirmation? If so, have you written and proofed the text? You can really use box office software to find out who’s buying your tickets, how far in advance, and in what kind of quantities, but you won’t learn much unless you’re being proactive with your box office software.

ARTWORK: Do you have an image for the production? Ask your designer to make you variations of the artwork: a poster with all the who/what/where/when details, a more simple version perhaps with just the artwork, title, and dates, a button version that can serve as a thumbnail on Facebook and other social sites, a banner version for your website. Before you call the printer, show the art to someone outside of the production team. Ask them if the information is clear, what draws their focus, how the image makes them feel. If nothing else, ask them to proof for correct times, dates, and prices. Don’t forget your web address!

While those three components might seem obvious, I think it’s vital to address each one with a sharp eye and a careful hand. Your work will speak for itself once people get in the door, but make sure you’re communicating information and getting those tickets out there in a thoughtful manner from the start.

Does your group have a protocol for marketing your work? What components do you find valuable?

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Bus Brainstorming

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Today I write from the 8 a.m. Bolt Bus heading back to Boston after a great weekend in New York. I saw three incredible plays this weekend, yet it’s my mode of transportation that gets my marketing gears going.

There are a handful of cheap travel options between Boston and New York. Travelers can choose from the speedy Acela train to express flights to my preferred method, the super-cheap-reliable-enough coach bus. Easy enough, cheap enough, and sometimes quick depending on the (hateful) traffic. The service is a commodity and bus companies have to be competitive to grab customers. Greyhound has name recognition, the Chinatown busses have the lowest flat rate and don’t land in the middle of Herald Square or Midtown. You can choose the feature most important to you and sit back in pseudo comfort. I prefer the MegaBus or Bolt Bus for cleanliness, wifi, outlets and – here’s the big one – price scaling. You can “bolt for a buck” if you get tickets online in advance, and the service fee is a pittance. These companies know their customers’ demographics. They know we want cheap options at last minutes notice. I used to walk up to the bus and stand by for a seat, because I appreciate the time flexibility of the hourly busses – a big reason I would never fly to the big apple – and I didn’t have a preference for which company I rode with beyond that criteria.

BUT Bolt Bus has won me over with a terrific model arts organizations should follow: if I buy online in advance I get the cheapest ticket in the first boarding group, and after 4 round trips I get one ride free. Sound familiar? Small organizations often don’t have the inventory or programming to create a subscription worth selling beyond family members and roommates, but what about creating a nonexclusive rewards program for your audience? Bolt Bus sells tickets for less than $25, but the opportunity to get a freebie has locked in my loyalty. They provide comfort, flexibility, a few fancy features and they’re strategic in keeping me brand loyal, all for less than the price of a dinner date. Until someone finds a route that beats the traffic, I’m sticking with Bolting to and from Boston.

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Still Swimming!

Hello friends!

Thought I’d take an end-of-day opportunity to say hello, I’m still here, still marketing and musing and seeing an impossible amount of theatre in beautiful Boston.

Thanks for sticking with me while I lag behind in posting. I still very much intend to continue my inquiry into all things Arts Marketing, but finding the time to collect my thoughts and get them posted poses quite the challenge.

Meanwhile, content posters, I’ve got my eye on you! I’m reading your e-blasts, checking out your online content and following your tweets 140 characters at a time.

But: in case I missed you — what are you up to? What arts admin challenges are you tackling? What marketing questions should I seek to solve in upcoming (I promise!) posts?  Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to take the writer of my favorite comment to coffee to brainstorm and muse together.  So, go to!

-Robyn

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Do You Dot Com?

Working in the arts often means bouncing around between different home bases. From one month to the next you’re probably working in different spaces, on different projects, and with different people. It’s one of the most thrilling parts of a creative career, but a lack of consistency is a challenge.

So I ask: Do you Dot Com?

What I mean is: do you own YOU.COM?

I recently purchased robynlinden.com and have linked the domain to my original page, robynlinden.wordpress.com. First of all it’s wise to own the internet equivalent to your name if you can get it. Second, it gives you the opportunity to have a home base. Your fans know where to find you, and you can build and control the brand that is your personality, passion and talent.

Here are a few quick things I strongly recommend:

-Google “GoDaddy.com coupon codes” — you’re sure to find one with a decent %off the purchase of a domain name. Visit Go Daddy and buy the simplest version of your web home. If your name isn’t available try throwing in an initial, a hyphen, a verb (ex. “robynlindenwrites.com”) and make a purchase. You can pay for any number of years of ownership right there.

-Host your name on a free server. I used WordPress because I wanted a blog format, and the particular theme I chose allows me to have additional tabs so I can separate information. Weebly is great for tabbed browsing (ex. Obehi Janice’s fufuandoreos.com), which you’ll want if you need to feature different types of content. Wix is good for building a profile or portfolio — check out the lovely Melanie Garber’s page for an example.

-Talking more specifically about tabs, it’s great to offer dedicated pages with your bio, media gallery, contact info, resume, etc. I love when artists have a News tab that tells me what they’re working on. If you have favorite websites, collaborators, resources, etc. offer a tab just for links — check out Vaquero Playground’s Playmates tab for example.

-Make your contact information clearly available. Embed a Twitter widget, your email in hyperlink (hyperlink “Email Me” text like this: mailto:youremail@email.com), a link to join your mailing list or follow your updates in RSS format (KEY for me, I swear by my Google Reader – use Feedburner.com for help on this one), a Like button that corresponds to your Facebook fan page. I recommend having these links Above the Fold, meaning up near the top of your page so a visitor doesn’t have to scroll down to find them.

So there you have it, a homework assignment. It’s ok if you don’t have a ton of constantly changing content, but you should absolutely own YOU.COM. Give your fans a place to find you, and claim and design a space that communicates who you are and what you’re up to.

Leave questions below if you want me to elaborate or make additional recommendations. And please leave links to helpful articles and free/cheap services if you’ve had success building your home base!

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Break Out: Framing a Conversation

I’m getting ready to present a Social Media Break Out session with Scott Sinclair at the Boston Theatre Conference this Monday.

In preparation for the talk we’re facing a few challenges:

1) Lack of knowledge about the participants’ levels of experience with Social Media

2) Lack of projector and screen to point to and say this [ # ] is a “hash tag”

3) The little teensy fact that SOCIAL MEDIA IS HUGE AND GROWING MORE BY THE MILLISECOND.

Social Media is no longer just for poking your hallmates on Facebook or giggling at celebrity tweets on Twitter.  Every day we see contests, campaigns for social change, incentives to Like and Follow brands, the ability to ReTweet (RT) or Facebook-Share links, photos, Sporcle quizzes, you name it.

So Scott and I are approaching the conversation under three headings:

Using Social Media to Get Information “Pay-What-You-Can at tonight’s performance of…”

Using Social Media to Give Information “World Premiere production opens this weekend…”

Using Social Media to Have a Conversation “Who attended the Boston Theatre Conference? Which Break Out session did you attend? #btc11″

If you search through the blogsphere you’ll find Twitter experts advising the proper ratio for effective Tweeting: X% for self promotion Y% for RTing others’ posts, Z% for talking to someone directly. The same type of ratio should be utilized by artists and arts organizations.

While of course you want to draw attention to your Awesome Theatrical Event, if you only exist on social platforms to promote it, link to your box office, share reviewers’ quotes and promote some more, your community will stop listening. It’s important to recognize the work and efforts of others. Use social media to say you attended another artists’ production or showing. Recommend a blog to follow or Facebook page to Like. Let others know what you’re interested in, and encourage them to participate. Twitter’s tag line, after all, is “Join the Conversation.” Facebook is built for commenting on status updates, photos, event walls, etc. There’s plenty more to do than just shout into the void or sit quietly on the sidelines.

If you follow me on Twitter you know I like to tell you what I’m working on, repost blog entries I find interesting and sometimes use hashtags like #2amt or #indecisivemusicals (the former for theatrical current events and topics, the latter for laughter). You’ll also know I don’t just talk about theatre — I’m a real person (with a real caffeine problem).

Scott and I are working on combing through these points and building an effective, instructive and open dialogue about Social Media. We live in a transparent age, which can certainly be intimidating. However, since the Boston Theatre Conference is centered around lively, local activity, we hope to compel our Break Out students to dive in and keep the conversation going.

If you can’t make it to the Conference you can follow #btc11 (and join in on TweetChat!) to talk with Scott, myself, and our corps of LiveTweeters.

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