Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Sunday Read: Sue Edworthy on Emerging companies and marketing

Pretend It’s Going to Print
by Sue Edworthy
Sue Edworthy Arts Planning offers Marketing + Communications + Planning – For Your Art. This is what my business card says I do. What I actually do doesn’t quite fit on a business card – what I actually do is the current culmination of nearly 20 years of working in not for profit arts and culture, all disciplines, all areas, but with a firm focus on marketing for your show or arts organization. I work with organizations from an independent artist putting up her first gallery show, to small arts orgs working their way towards operational standing, to government run arts orgs. I run (market?) the gamut.
In case you were wondering what else I do when I am doing that, I am Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Toronto Fringe Festival; Arts Advocacy Committee; Artsvote Toronto; Dora Jury, Harold Award recipient, ACCA member. I see a lot of plays, I see a lot of movies, I read a ton of books, I am what I call a “city enthusiast” and I talk to anyone who will listen about the amazing art and artists in our city and the impact all of this has in making Toronto an amazing place to live. I did a 12 hour art marathon earlier this year to prove it could be done.
That is some of what else I do. You may be wondering why this matters, but I’m telling you about it because it really kind of shows that I am fully immersed in the arts community in Toronto, and that MarComm for the arts is something I literally love to do. Some friends give me a time limit to talk about it, as I could go on for hours. I’m the type that gets mad when you mute the commercials, because I want to see them.
CharPo asked me to write an article on me and my company, and “what you see as marketing mistakes on the part of emerging companies”. And my first thought was, “where do I begin?” – Not in a snarky way, but in a “which ones should I talk about that would be most effective to hear about?”

Item: it’s not just emerging companies – we all make marketing mistakes. What we need to do is learn from them. We need to look at each other’s marketing, what’s good, what’s bad, what worked, what didn’t and why. So let’s try – a lot of this will have to do with online/social media because right now that is the cheapest type of marketing you can do. And that’s one of the mistakes. So let’s get right into it.
Assuming everyone is on Facebook/social media – believe it or not, not everyone is on social media. Or they set up an account one day on a whim, and never went back. To a certain extent, it is a quick and easy way to get the word out about your production. But only to folks who are already there. You need to spend some time finding out just where your audiences are online, and put your info there as well. Social media is only one tool in your marketing kit. 
Lazy social media  -  if you build it they will come – this is where you build a Facebook page, or twitter account and assume folks will come to you, searching for your updates and shows. They aren’t going to. Why not? Because there are other companies working at it, working hard to create content for their audiences, and who give some indication that they care about those fans and followers. More importantly, they aren’t simply telling you over and over about their show, which leads to
Conversation, not monologue – it is the bane of my existence that “conversation” is now a buzzword. Everyone has to “create conversation”. Is it really a conversation if you are continually dictating the subject matter, and more importantly, where we can talk about it?
“I was at a party last night, great smart people, the wine flowed, the ideas flowed. I stepped out on to the balcony with a couple of friends to continue a great discussion about a current arts topic near and dear to our hearts. It was great until the host came out and told us he’d prefer that we have that conversation in the living room, as that’s where it had started, and he’d planned for it to happen there.”
Can you imagine?
Conversations happen where they happen and in fact may be inherently more valuable happening off your site than on. Accept them where they are, and monitor as lovingly as you would if it was on your blog. And when the playwright/artistic director/Board demands to know why the post comments are so low, show them the dozens of Facebook threads that popped up because of it, or the fact that your org has a new hashtag created by commenters. But don’t tell people where to talk – or they possibly won’t talk at all. And that is the end of your party, all but the sucking.

This of course means you need to find a balance, because otherwise we get into
Excessive social media - oh my God. Before I get into this, I will say that it is not completely the fault of the org or person using Facebook invites, it is a flaw in the invite set up.  And we now seem to get invites to an event we do not (yet) know about, from a person we do not know. Still, does anyone here know Anastasia Fussbottom?

Anastasia Fussbottom invited you to (HER SHOW!)
Anastasia Fussbottom changed the date of her event (HER SHOW!)
Anastasia Fussbottom changed the time of her event (HER SHOW!)
Arnold Duckpants wrote on the wall for (HER SHOW!)
Anastasia Fussbottom added a photo to the event (HER SHOW!)
Arnold Duckpants was tagged in a photo on (HER SHOW!)’s wall.
Facebook Pages and event invites are the story behind the title of this article. I think we’ve all forgotten what it’s like to go to print. Yes we all print posters, brochures etc. but when it comes to social media we all seem to be content to dive back in and correct things after our audiences have started seeing it.  I don’t think you want me to know you typo’ed your own company name. Or you can’t spell the name of the director. Before you start hitting “invite” – check those things. Because the third time I got a message from Anastasia correcting her show dates, I either hit “decline” or I hit “turn notifications off” – and either way, you lost me. And I haven’t even looked at your event.  Fun fact – odds are very good that the people you are annoying most are the ones who liked you to begin with. That’s no way to treat a friend. Full blog post I did on this and how to work around it is here.
I go into a lot of brainstorming sessions for art, for marketing. There is usually a list of rules up on the wall and one of these usually is “all ideas are good”. I would like this to be changed to “all ideas are valid -  not all ideas will be used.” Too often all the ideas come out of the brainstorming session on equal footing, and time and money (which most of us have precious little of) wind up spent on things and ideas that should have either been a) discarded completely; or b) used as a springboard to a different idea. Come out with your Evernote, or your flip chart paper and go through those ideas carefully. Rate them according to time spent, money spent and ROI. Use only the ones that will get you the most interest.
Know who you are cross promoting with and why -  If you are cross promoting with another show, be clear about why you are doing it. If it’s because you are both producing Victorian melodramas, great! If you are stuffing your host venue’s postcards, awesome! If you are stuffing each other’s postcards because nothing else is playing at the time and you’ve got to get these postcards out of the office or spare room, that is totally fine too, but own it. And by all means if you can do an ad swap – do that. People bring programs home. They put flyers in a neat pile under their seat.
There’s so much noise out there in reference to social media, print marketing, etc. etc. Some folks think it means you need to be louder than others. No it doesn’t.  It means you need to be better.
Assuming things about audiences - we all do this. We assume because our play is about Toronto everyone in Toronto will be interested. Or because there’s one line of another language in the script that anyone who speaks that language will be interested. This is what I call working too hard for people who don’t care. Instead of putting excessive time and energy into trying to make people who don’t care, care, wouldn’t it make more sense to put that time and energy into helping people who already care, care a bit more? Let’s say you know Anastasia Fussbottom is going to come to the show. Wouldn’t it make more sense to drop her note and ask her if she would invite Arnold Duckpants? And comp him if you can? Much less time and energy than running all over the city putting art posters up in sports bars, far better potential of cultivating a new audience member. 
You are a company, not a one-off event -  I can think of five companies who I never hear from until they want something from me. You can count me among the politely disinterested. I can think of another five companies who I hear from regularly, just telling me what they’re up to. I’m interested in them. 
Just say “hi”. I once had nothing to say to our audience and stakeholders for a show I was working on. I sent them a quick newsletter explaining we were working on the oh, so sexy part of plays known as “budgeting” and “contracting” and “choosing print media outlets”. But we’d be back soon with the fun stuff. This is only one of a hundred ways to stay front of mind. Oh and when you say you’ll be back soon with the fun stuff? You need to be back soon with the fun stuff.
Word of Mouth
“What are you seeing?” “What’s good?” “What do you recommend?”
These are questions asked of everyone – friends, colleagues, critics, and strangers – and everyone has something to say. “It’s one of the most credible forms of advertising because a person puts their reputation on the line every time they make a recommendation and that person has nothing to gain but the appreciation of those who are listening.”
And the question we ask is, "How do we get it? We need word of mouth, we need buzz!"

Good article here on generating word of mouth advertising. It’s aimed more at business, but it all applies. Which leads to:

Art is now just another experience - We need to figure out just why people would come see our show, film, gallery opening, poetry reading over a myriad number of other events, including the one where they sit home on the couch. You’re not just competing with other plays, or cultural events. You’re competing with everything else. It’s not enough that this show is your opus, your lifeblood. We need to get people to care as much as we do, and we can only do that by delivering great experiences. Marketing only gets them in the door, you can do everything right in marketing and if it’s a crap experience when people get there – it’s over.
Be great. 

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