Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In a Word...Christi Rutledge, Social Marketing Coordinator, Stratford

As a culture, we’re becoming increasingly tech savvy

After graduating from Western University with a BA in English Language and Literature, Christi Rutledge continued her studies at the university through the post-graduate Arts Management program. She started her journey at the Stratford Festival as a Marketing Intern and was hired on as a Marketing Assistant before assuming the role of Social Marketing Coordinator. An avid lover of all things theatre, opera and fine food, she has thoroughly enjoyed working in Stratford and for the Festival for the past two years.  

CHARPO: Your title is Social Marketing Coordinator. Is this a relatively new position at Stratford?

RUTLEDGE: The Festival has been invested in social media for several years now; we’ve had a presence across various platforms since 2008. (That was fairly early on for a non-profit organization). The social media program was initiated and, at first, managed by our Director of Marketing and Audience Development, Lisa Middleton. As the program grew it required a full-time coordinator, and the position was created in 2010. 

CHARPO: What, exactly, is the job?

RUTLEDGE: In addition to posting updates, providing customer service and maintaining our sites I help to set the strategy for our social media program. I assist with developing a structure for the program and creating campaigns that we run throughout the season, including contests, promotions and more. An important part of my job is to collect and analyze data from our social media efforts; this research is important to how we make decisions and how we make plans for the future. I act as a liaison for other departments within the Festival to help share the news about special events, our membership program and our productions. I schedule all of our Facebook Q&As with Festival actors and staff, which are a much-loved feature of our fan page, and write our weekly blog. We are always looking for new ways to expand the program, so the duties change as we add new initiatives. Last year we joined Instagram and Pinterest and began developing the first Festival podcast series, which will continue during the 2013 season. It’s exciting to be working for a dynamic organization in a field that is continuously changing and adapting.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. 

Today, most everyone I have encountered in the theatre community – at the Festival and elsewhere – recognizes the role that social media plays in engaging with audiences.

CHARPO: What's the biggest misconception theatre professionals have about social media?

RUTLEDGE: Perhaps when social media was first being developed, people would have questioned how being on Facebook or Twitter would benefit the work on stage. Today, most everyone I have encountered in the theatre community – at the Festival and elsewhere – recognizes the role that social media plays in engaging with audiences. Our Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino, and our Executive Director, Anita Gaffney, are both invested in developing our presence in the digital space – social and otherwise – and support our efforts with their own Twitter accounts (@antoni_ssf and @agaffney_sf). 

CHARPO: What direction will Stratford be taking in terms of new marketing techniques in the future?

RUTLEDGE: We are really excited to expand our digital presence in the coming seasons by creating more apps (if you haven’t seen our Behind the Scenes App – it’s really cool and is available through iTunes and BlackBerry World), digitizing our archives, creating games, live-streaming events and becoming more mobile-friendly. As a culture, we’re becoming increasingly tech savvy, and we want to be able to reach our fans and share the Festival through media that people are actively engaging with and using on a daily basis.

Another initiative that we’ve launched this year is Stratford Social Ticketing – a new social ticketing engine on Facebook. In addition to being able to book single tickets, the app allows fans to create a Festival Facebook Event, where they can coordinate visits to Stratford with friends and family. It even offers a seat selection function through which users can see where their Facebook friends will be sitting and select their own seats accordingly. We are fortunate to have a very active and loyal Facebook following, and we had a very positive response to the app in our Facebook on-sale period. We’re excited to offer our fans all of these great features as the season continues. (The free app can be downloaded at
CHARPO: Which techniques might the company have set aside as inefficient?

RUTLEDGE: We currently maintain a presence on Google+, Foursquare and Yelp, but our patrons haven’t spent as much time on these specific platforms. We’ll be there if/when they decide to join us. 

CHARPO: You're a continuous presence on Twitter, even off-season, and you're pretty quick to Tweet. Have you ever Tweeted something you really wished you hadn't?

RUTLEDGE: Nothing that I can think of! We firmly believe that we are doing something extraordinarily special on our stages and as a result our tweets and posts are meant to build relationships with new and existing patrons, support the theatre and arts community and connect people to our incredible artists and staff.  

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