Tag Archives: theater

artists break rules

I’m on my way up to Boston in a little while to lead a workshop on Getting the Word Out for artists at a conference organized by my friend Kathy Bitetti, executive director of the Artists Foundation.  I’m pretty excited about it — it’s my favorite thing to do, work one-on-one with artists and arts organizations who are feeling their way around social media, trying to build relationships, broaden audiences, and generally raise their visibility.

So I was thinking, trying to come up with recent examples of how an artist or arts organization had succeeded in galvanizing me to come see a show, buy some art, or show my support in some other tangible way, and I only had to think back a few nights, to last Friday.

I had gotten home from school, pretty tired after my long commute, but excited about the long weekend ahead.  Sitting in front of my computer, catching up on the blogs and the twitter streams of my friends, when I received a quick and short little email from the theater down the street.

It was a reminder about the terrific review they had just received from the local paper for their current production, The Invisible Man.  It also reminded me how much I had wanted to see that show before it closed.

End result? I closed my computer five minutes later and headed down the street to see the show. Why is this worth remarking on? Well, it struck me that this email I received broke some classic advice about “effective online marketing.”

Who sends an email promo out at 7:00 pm on a Friday night? Anyone will tell you that it’s sure to be overlooked in Monday’s flood of competing emails, meetings, and crises.

But it was the right thing for the theater to do, because they got me at exactly the right time to make a decision.

Also, that email didn’t have a prominent Call To Action like it was supposed to.  It just pointed me to information I was interested in — how this local reviewer felt about the show — and let me take it from there.

In these harder economic times, we may be tempted to get a little harder about the sell in our online communications, try to push for more returns, more revenue, because that’s what it’s all about, right?

But the social web runs on relationships.  It runs on quirky, and it thrives on rule-breaking.

This is especially true for artists and arts organizations, and it reminds me why we need special gatherings like today’s conference in Boston, just for the arts community.  There’s a lot of advice out there for how to use social media for business, but some of it doesn’t apply to artists, or to cultural organizations.

Lots of it does — especially the basics, which always apply: Be Real, Be Honest, Be Helpful.

But the implementation might vary significantly for you if you’re an artist, a theater, a museum.

Artists, as we all know, are different.

And isn’t that one of the best things about them?

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blogging to advance your core mission

Do you think your organization needs a blog? Or is it just a “someday” thing — a back-burner item that you feel just has to wait until you can get more on track with fulfilling your mission, becoming better known and better respected, building your donor base, getting the press to cover you, and driving attendance to your events?

And what, exactly, is it that you think blogs do?

Many organizations that would benefit from establishing and maintaining a blog are “putting it off” because they think of blogging as an “extra,” an additional, unnecessary piece of PR fluff that will take staff time away from the real, serious matters that are central to their mission.

A blog isn’t a bell or a whistle. A blog is a powerful, easily hefted tool that can achieve several goals at once. They are also cheap, easy, and incredibly low-tech.
This recent article in NPTech News (that’s nonprofit technology news for the uninitiated) spells out very clearly what the benefits of organizational blogging are.

My favorites:

1. Search engine optimization

Hosting a blog on your site can rapidly and vastly improve your search engine results. Why? Because Google (and other search engines) prize fresh content. Updating a blog takes almost zero technical skill and merely a basic business-writing level competency. For that, and ten minutes a day, you can greatly improve your page rank.

2. Expert in the Field

Don’t just be a children’s theater. Be an expert on children’s theater. Don’t just be an art gallery. Be a resource for the artist community. Don’t just sell your art online. Teach others about the process of creating art, about color theory, about outsider art. It’s not marketing – it’s sharing. The marketing is secondary, accidental — and far more effective because of that.

3. Awareness

    Be your own media source. Cover yourself, your mission, your services — relentlessly. Feature your volunteers, your sponsors, your staff, your members as much as humanly possible. Do all this in your own distinctive, human voice.

    4. Events

    Spend less on postage. Annoy your newsletter subscribers less. Maintain an interesting blog, with fresh content regularly served, and people will willingly visit and read your news and information. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.

    5. Fundraising

      Online donation is rising every year, and not by a little. Nonprofits of all sizes, missions, and demographics have successfully used “charity badges” to make it as easy as one or two clicks for supporters to donate online. Each blog post gives your readers a compelling reason to hit that Donate Now! button, and hit it hard.

      …and that’s only five out of the ten cited in the article.

      Do I think it’s a bit of headline-crafting hyperbole to say that “Every organization MUST have a blog?” Sure.

      But I also think that organizations would be harder pressed to make the case for not having a blog than for having one.

      For every core objective you have in your communications plan, there is a way that blogging can advance that objective.

      video snacking for cultural organizations

      The New York Times published an article by Brian Stelter on Saturday about the growing trend of workers watching short videos online during their lunch breaks, either on YouTube, CNN.com, or elsewhere.

      “The trend — part of a broader phenomenon known as video snacking — is turning into a growth business for news and media companies, which are feeding the lunch crowd more fresh content.”

      True story! There are thousands of young, mobile, professional internet users out there who are looking for fresh video content every day. In his article, Stelter mentions that there is a wide variety of tastes, too, citing workers who enjoy watching archives clips from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, daily political commentary podcasts, and wire stories from CNN.

      Stelter also mentions some of the benefits the viewers see in using a little lunch-at-the-desk time to enjoy some fresh, brief bursts of entertainment:

      1. It keeps your hands free to eat, as opposed to clicking through text content
      2. It can be a communal activity, with workers in nearby cubicles sending each other links throughout the day, which they all then watch simultaneously at midday
      3. Staying at your desk keeps the momentum of the day going, and avoids the interruptions presented by traffic, lines, and crowds.

      How can cultural organizations use this information?

      If your organization is a performing arts group, and you are already in the habit of recording some or all of your performances, why not consider creating brief (3- to 5-minutes) clips of those performances for lunchtime broadcast?

      Here are ten tips for cultural organizations (theaters, opera companies, symphonies, chorales, author readings, museums) thinking about trying to reach lunchtime media snackers:

      1. Record a dress rehearsal of your next production. Break the recording up into brief segments and post them on YouTube.
      2. Tag your videos prodigiously, so that people can find them with a variety of different keywords.
      3. Link from your website to the videos.
      4. Link from the videos to your website.
      5. Link directly to the page that promotes that production, so that viewers can learn more about what they watched with just one click.
      6. Post your links to an aggregator site, like StumbleUpon or Reddit (find more here) to further help people find them.
      7. Blog about them on your organization’s blog (you do have one, right?)
      8. Get creative about your recordings, if you have the time and resources. Interview performers, interview the lights guy, interview the popcorn sellers. Interview the crowd before the show starts.
      9. Be consistent about the length of your segments. Snackers are mostly looking for clips of no more than 5 minutes in length.
      10. Be consistent about posting new content. Fresh Content Daily is the mantra of choice.

      What would you add? Is there an organization you know that is doing this well?