Dear Theatre Managers:
The marketing practices of your theatre sucks!
Every week, I trudge out to into the wilderness to find the hidden treasures that our community has to offer. I sift through hidden Facebook posts, trawl websites that are sporadically updated, and even visit woefully out-of-date calendars; a process that takes me hours per week! I have a process which works (mostly), but is terribly inefficient and very error-prone– despite my best efforts, I will inevitably miss events, thus why I have my disclaimer at the bottom of the Weekly Roundup posts. And I’ve been around long enough to have innate knowledge of many of the companies and how to find their information; but for the casual actors or theatre-goer, you are utterly failing them and by extension yourselves by having a mis-managed marketing process.
Consistency is key in marketing
Patrons do not want to hunt for your production information; there are enough companies properly promoting across multiple channels to catch their attention. So, if you typically post show information on Facebook, continue to post information there. There is nothing more frustrating as a patron (or, as an event aggregator) than to be trained to use a platform for gathering information, only to discover that you missed something because it was posted on a website or hidden in a calendar somewhere. If you have not trained a patron to look somewhere, they’ll likely miss it.
Get your actors and crew involved
Many of the larger companies have gotten better at this, but far to often, the only promotion I see is from the theatre itself. Your actors and crew should want people to see the show, so encourage them to post about the show, the process, any media coverage, etc. There are lots of ways to facilitate this: Take pictures and share it with them, then allow them to share them with their friends and families; consider doing a “teaser” for the show (it seems like a lot of hard work, but I knocked out the one for Catch Me If You Can in about 3 hours); find opportunities to perform with agencies around the community, such as the library, schools, and news outlets to whet the appetites of existing and potential patrons; provide them with plenty of posters; and so-on. That said, don’t force your actors! Nothing will turn them off from the promotion process than to force them to take part in schemes that they don’t feel will work or require too much extra effort (remember, they are busy with day jobs, memorizing, character development, etc).
Update your website and social media content
I have been to too many sites that are infrequently updated, and so I start to question whether the content is still correct. One local company had a post from over a year ago pinned to the top of their site, so when you’d visit their page, it looked as if the page hadn’t been updated in over a year. I missed two events because I thought there was no new news.
Additionally, don’t fall into the trap of trying to promote on a social media site that you won’t keep updated. If you aren’t going to keep it up to date, then don’t bother.
Unlike my site (robertyoung.net), GreenroomOK (http://www.greenroomok.com/) relies on YOU to post your own information. And since it is considered the “theatre hub”, many people are directed there. If your information is out-of-date, a good chunk of people will miss it.
I could go on for days about ideas to keep your patrons engaged in your theatre company through marketing; but in the end, you are responsible for developing a quality marketing process that fits your needs. What I hope that I have given you though are four must-haves if you wish to compete in this market.