Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Notes from NAMP #3

At the Table: Making Marketing’s Voice Count in Organizational Leadership
Speakers: Jerry Yoshitomi, MeaningMatters, Port Hueneme, CA; Brian Jose and Susie Farr, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD

1. At the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, they implemented several organizational changes after their staff turnover got to be really high. First they learned that a director’s loyalty needs to shift to the success of the organization and the leadership team, rather than being with their individual departments. This meant that each director needed to become more expert in other department activities. The director of artistic initiatives and the director of marketing shifted to become joined at the hip. Decisions were made together by those two and the executive director, and the offices of those two staff members were moved to be right next to each other.

2. Always challenge the prevailing organizational wisdom and make improvements because the world is changing quickly and you must adapt. Try to draw attention to issues without drawing attention to specific individuals. Gather the people in the organization who can influence change.

3. As a strong team member, you can’t just be an expert in your discipline—you must now know about other departments. If the finance director wants to know why you aren’t hitting the ticket sales goal, then work with him to develop an understanding of the problem so he/she better understands marketing. Overall knowledge about all departments by the leadership team will promote better understanding and therefore better decision-making. This understanding has to be a two-way street—invite questions. Questioning is liberating and genuine, constructive conflict can be very good. “Artificial Harmony” can destroy an organization.

4. Strive for complete clarity and transparency in the organization.

5. People who get defensive about questioning can inhibit growth and can support a stagnant environment. The idea of running your department as an entity by itself is detrimental—be open about your process, invite questions, work with your peers. They all have different strengths.

6. Maybe some questions we should be asking: What are we doing that is ground-breaking? Are we setting an example for the rest of the country? Are our processes outdated? Are the practices of the American regional theatre outdated? Where are we stagnant? Where are we dynamic?

7. Two to One ratio – you have two ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as you speak.

8. Suggested reading: “Five Dysfunction of Team” and “Death by Meetings” by Patrick Lencioni and “Leading with Limited Authority

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Notes from NAMP #2

Direct mail in the New Frontier: Here to Stay or Only a Click Away
Catherine Carter, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Shelly Felder and Howard Levine, 92nd Street Y, New York City; Rick Lester, Target Resource Group, Woodland Park, CO; Laura Sullivan, Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts, University Park, PA

In 2006, direct marketers mailed 116 billion pieces of direct mail. Quantity increased by 15% over the previous year, primarily because there is no spam filter to get through or “Do Not Call” list to deal with. Plus many people seem to prefer a tangible, paper offer. Direct mail expenditures in 2006 were $59 billion.

  • National response rate for all offers was 2.15%
  • On a national average, one year lapsed subscribers had a response rate of 3.3%, traded names 0.14%, rented names 0.05%, and current single ticket buyers 2.6%. It was suggested that it is too expensive to mail to rented names.
  • New rule is in place: always step on your offer. Usually you will mail first, then you should follow up with an e-mail solicitation. Houston Ballet sent out a postcard and had a 3% response rate. Then they sent out a postcard and followed up with an e-mail and got a 4.5% response rate.
  • Even though people are not responding by mailing in an order form, Target Resource Group has found that people refer to the order panel before they go online. When they removed the order panel, they got a lower response rate.
  • A/B test everything. What offers work best, which list segments work, sequence of mailing
  • Increase the frequency of your message in front of the target groups which regularly over produce on mailings.
  • Nationally 96% of all subscribers come from contacts already in an organization’s database and only 3.5% come from trades, while 0.4% come from rented names. It should be noted that of the 96% of all subscribers within an organization’s database, on average 6% of all subscribers are on the organization’s “do not contact” list.
  • We should build a predictive model of people who are likely to respond and then target lists with this predictive model.
  • The 92nd Street Y covers events around the country on their website and then they tie it back into their programming. Often other blogs pick up their articles and link back to their website or blog.
  • YouTube has now launched a non-profit channel. The 92nd Street Y video was featured as the non-profit video of the week, and had over 100,000 views. YouTube now gives non-profits their own landing page which can be tailored with your graphic identity.
  • They also started making restaurant reservations on behalf of their ticket buyers through

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Notes from NAMP #1

Well I got back from the NAMP conference almost two weeks ago, and I was planning on blogging about all the exciting things I learned. Then I realized I had to move into the house that I closed on three days before the conference. I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to switch jobs and buy a new house all at the same time!

Things are starting to get back to normal so I wanted to share some of the notes I took at the 2007 National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Miami. Below are my notes from the Keynote Speech from J. Walker Smith:

Keynote Address: J. Walker Smith
President, Yankelovich, Inc.
Chapel Hill, NC

  • Check out
  • Marketing is now shifting to the intangibles—you can’t market the product, you have to market the experience. Loews theatres has a program for moms and children to see a movie in a movie theatre. They lower the volume and keep the lights on because its not about the movie, it is about the mother/child experience.
  • ¾ of Americans say that they are time starved and the average consumer says their time is worth $1.25 per minute. If you keep them on hold, they will get upset and expect to be compensated. If you keep them on hold, then give them something worth a $1.25 per minute. Try to make all interactions “zero time interactions” with instant gratification. Telemarketing calls better be worth their time otherwise just the act of hanging up the phone on the caller will be deemed as 60 cents worth of wasted time.
  • We live in a world where everyone is different. Being different is “cool” because there is no longer anything to conform to. By 2030, 40% of our population will either be Asian, African-American or Hispanic. White people are going away because their birth rates are lower than their death rates. Everyone will be different.
  • The control has now shifted to the consumer. If you try to force them into something they don’t like, they will just fix it and then post the solution on the internet. A great example is 20 year old George Hott who figured out how to modify the iPhone to work on platforms other than AT&T, all because his family had a T-mobile family plan and didn’t want to spend more money. He then posted his solution on several websites.
  • In 1960, ¾ of people by age 30 had left home, finished school, married, had children and were financially independent. By 2000, only 30% of the population had done these things by age 30. Difference is the only common value today. People want to be treated like individuals and differently. People want intangibles (the experience) to be tailored to them in the marketing and execution. People now expect to be treated as differently as they are.
    Put your consumers in the loop—in 2006, 56% of consumers spent more than 2 hours researching purchases over $100. They want to know all the behind the scenes information.
  • One of the reasons that traditional print newspapers are declining is that you can’t get a customized newspaper tailored only to you. But with RSS feeds, you can set up interests and only get information you want and it is sent to you. Put your consumers in total control (chad’s note—is this why subscriptions are failing?). The car manufacturer Scion now manufactures cars that are built to individual and unique specs that consumers send to them via the internet. They will build you a car like none other. Their tagline—“we relinquish all power to you.”
  • Meyer Gas sends their consumers a text message to their phones alerting them when gas prices are going to go up so that they can drive down to the station and purchase before the prices increase.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Power of Print Media (or lack thereof)

TCG is holding a monthly teleconference for marketing directors from their member theatres. It seems that everyone is talking about how major daily newspapers are losing power with their declining number of subscribers. Lately, I have been noticing something similar in the Washington, D.C. area. The major daily paper is The Washington Post, and according to our sales reps, it is the fifth largest newspaper in the world when looking at circulation. So, you would think that a strongly positive or negative review could potentially determine the success of a production (much like how New York City waits for Ben Brantley to send his word from on high).

To be honest, I have seen the exact opposite since I have been at Arena Stage. Arena Stage opened its season with Moises Kaufman's world premiere 33 Variations. The show got a lackluster review from the Post critic but was an immediate hit with our audiences. The second show of the season was Lisa Kron's Well which got an amazing review from the Post critic, but didn't seem to have the word-of-mouth that 33 Variations did. From a financial point of view, even with a not-so-positive review, 33 Variations performed very well. In years past, I have heard that if a show didn't get a positive review from the Post, it was very unlikely to succeed at the box office. However, that isn't the case today. So if potential audiences are no longer being influenced by reviewers from the major dailies, who are they listening to?

30% of 0ur audience when asked states that their decision to purchase a ticket was influenced by word-of-mouth from a friend. That is way above any other factor. So I have started to concentrate on how word-of-mouth travels, especially as it relates to new technology. New technology allows discussions to happen instantly. Audience members can text their friends from intermission, giving either a thumbs up or thumbs down. These are the people who have the real power -- the audience members themselves. And that is how it should be. Empower your audiences to be your advocates and sales will increase.

I would also pay attention to a relatively new website called Yelp. allows the average person to experience an event and then review it online (much like a travel website). However the Yelp community is growing very rapidly. Recently I invited several "yelpers" to attend a performance of a show and asked them to honestly review the production. We treated them exactly like a member of the press. I would encourage you to do the same. The power now resides in the hands of "citizen reviewers" instead of the reviewers from the major dailies.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Virginia is for lovers...

First off, my apologies again. I have been on sabbatical from my blog for a little over a month. Soon after coming on board as the Director of Marketing & Communications at Arena Stage, we announced our groundbreaking on the Mead Center for American Theater. The company is in an amazing place in its history, and has raised over $100 million towards its $125 million goal for the new complex. But with growth comes growing pains. With that said, when we announced that Arena Stage would be breaking ground on the Mead Center in January, we also announced that the company would cease to operate in southwest DC for 2 and a half years while the building was being built. Instead, we would transfer our main headquarters to Crystal City (a section of Arlington, VA) and perform at a newly renovated, underground theater and at a separate DC location called the Lincoln Theater. And all of this would happen in a matter of months in the middle of our 2007-08 season. So how do we move a quarter of a million people annually to a separate location, across the river in another state from a place where people have been going for fifty years?

Over the next two months, I will be blogging about what we at Arena affectionately refer to as the "transition." For an arts administrator and arts marketer, the "transition" is incredibly complex, and therefore very interesting. I love taking on projects which I know will push me. So far I have become much more adept in city zoning and sign regulations than I ever thought I would be.

One of the goals of our transition communications strategy is to make the move as easy as possible on our long time subscribers and supporters. The new location is only three miles away from our permanent home, however in DC, the Potomac River serves as a physical barrier. In my eyes, we have one shot at getting our subscribers from Maryland and DC over to Virginia. If their first experience is difficult and aggravating, they won't return. So we have developed a reasonably extensive campaign to alleviate the stress on these folks.

Part of this campaign involves using PURL technology. I first learned about PURL technology when I was working as the Director of Marketing and Communications at Americans for the Arts. PURL stands for personalized URL. A direct mail piece is created for each individual with their own personalized website landing page. When they visit the landing page, they find information specifically tailored to them. A personalized website might have an address like this: We are sending all of our subscribers and ticket buyers a personal note from our Artistic Director with a PURL listed in it. Recipients will then go online, type in their personal website address, and will find the following: step by step directions from their house to the new theatre, a seating diagram showing them the location of their new seats, promotional offers from local restaurants, and an opportunity to sign up for our e-newsletter. I at first was a little concerned that some of our long-time subscribers wouldn't be on the internet, however Arena Stage conducts annual market research that shows that a huge percentage (over 95%) of our total audience is on the internet.

Hopefully the PURL campaign will be one tool that eases the transition to our temporary location.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Marketing Silo

First off--apologies for not writing much lately. As you know, I am in the middle of transitioning jobs which put me in a place where I was working two jobs at the same time for a period of three weeks. Needless to say, that didn't give me much free time (or sleep). Now that I am settling in to my new position at Arena Stage, I am happy to say that I would like to concentrate a little more on writing.

Today's topic: the Marketing Silo. I find it interesting the more I work with large organizations, mostly from a consultant stand point, the more I find marketing departments which are functioning almost as a separate entity from the rest of the organization. For some organizations, the marketing department is somewhat of a mystery for people who don't have an external relations function in their job.

For most arts organizations, marketing is a critical function. Due to tight cash flow situations, marketing departments are expected to consistently hit their goals while reducing expenditures. To accomplish this, marketing must be looked upon as a central decision-maker for almost all operational decisions, not just the ones that obviously affect external affairs. For example, a shift in valet parking companies might cause longer waiting times resulting in unhappy customers and subscriber attrition. Although valet parking might not be viewed as a marketing function, it definitely affects the customer. I would encourage marketing directors to become involved in all decisions that affect or touch the customer.

With that said, marketing directors need to become ambassadors, especially at large organizations. Go out of your way to meet everyone, and encourage everyone to give you feedback on the activities of the marketing department. Yes I know, you might get that person who is incredibly nit picky and will visit you every week trying to convince you that if you increase the point size of the text in your ads one point that you will bring in exponentially more income. However, I have been incredibly lucky to work with brilliant people who came up with amazing ideas whose job function has nothing to do with marketing.

Marketing departments are being taxed with becoming more creative as budgets are cut and sales goals increase. If you work at an arts organization, you have a wealth of creative people just outside your door--reach out to them. Share your marketing plans. Invite feedback. Give thanks and recognize all contributions.

In just my very short time at Arena Stage, I have been visited by our Producing Artistic Associate, Master Sound Engineer, Director of Audience Development, and several others who have floated some absolutely fantastic marketing ideas my way. So if you by chance are working in an environment where marketing is consider an island to itself, break down those walls and eliminate the silos, and I guarantee you will be happy with the results.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On a personal note...New Job at Arena Stage

After almost a year as the Director of Marketing & Communications at Americans for the Arts, I will be leaving the organization to become the new Director of Marketing & Communications at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. Arena Stage is the largest of the six major non-profit professional producing theatres in the metropolitan area. They currently operate three venues under LORT "B+," "B," and "D" contracts and see roughly 275,000 patrons per year. They are very close to finishing a $120 million capital campaign to build the Mead Center for the American Theatre, a 250,000 square foot, three-theatre complex to be opened in 2009-10. I will be responsible for leading their marketing, communications and public relations teams. Most exciting to me is the opportunity I will have to work on some amazing projects at a truly legendary theatre.

This is a bittersweet moment for me because I love Americans for the Arts. The organization does some amazing work on behalf of artists in the United States, however my heart belongs to the theatre. Americans for the Arts will always have my support and I will continue to assist the organization in any way that I can. I will continue to serve as a trainer for the National Arts Marketing Project including previously scheduled sessions in St. Louis and Delaware.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Future Speaking Engagements...

In the next few months, I have a couple of speaking engagements lined up. If you are in the area, I would love to see you at one of these events:

2007 Delaware Division of the Arts "Arts Summit"
October 1, 2007
Keynote Presentation: "Communicating in a Whole New World," Chad Bauman, Americans for the Arts
Other Speakers: Elena Park, Metropolitan Opera; Mark Brewer, President of the Community Foundation of Florida; JD Hixson, Patron Technology; The Honorable Ruth Ann Minner, Governor of Delaware

St. Louis Regional Arts Commission Marketing Training
August 31, 2007
Presentation: "The Role of Technology in Reaching Generation X & Y"

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Artists in Second Life...

By now, most people have heard of Second Life, the virtual world sensation that is sweeping the whole world and has attracted millions of visitors. It has also attracted the attention of some prominent artists, including Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Arena Stage, who spoke about Second Life at the TCG National Conference in Minneapolis this summer. The past couple of months have seen some really exciting projects come to "life" in this virtual reality:

Second Front Performance Art Group

Jeremy Owen Turner, also known as Wirxli Flimflam, is an online performance artist and a front man for Second Front, a group that stages events and performance art pieces in Second Life. Second Front is a pioneering performance art group in the online avatar-based VR world, Second Life. Founded in 2006, Second Front emerged as the first performance art group in Second Life and quickly grew to its current 8 member troupe with artists from around the world including Italy, St. Johns, Canada, and the United States. Second Front found its roots in the theatre of the absurd movement, and currently stages performances that challenge notions of virtual embodiment, online performance and the formation of virtual narrative. Second Front is perhaps best known for their performance piece Breaking News, a text-based performance in which Second Front stormed the Reuter's building in Second Life announcing 'Breaking News' headlines about Second Front's “clandestine operations and notorious affiliations in-world.”


Artopolis is an artist colony like no other in Second Life. This tropical paradise hosts fifteen studios scattered around a flourishing jungle environment, with tons of places to sip a virtual Mai Tai with your closest Avatar friends while enjoying the sights. The goal of this simulated island is to promote all of the arts, which includes art, music, poetry and theater. This sim was created by the combined efforts of Filthy Fluno (Manager), Esch Snoats (Builder), Xtasy Veil (Terraforming and Landscaping) and Maxim Deharo (Financial Management.) It took about a month and a half to complete and is still considered a work in progress as the sim will always adapt to accommodate the community of artists who call it their home. People are encouraged to visit the artist colony, and while you're at it, you can also support the artists by purchasing their work. One of Second Life’s most influential artist-celebrities, Filthy Fluno (real name Jeffrey Lipsky), has a high profile gallery established on Artropolis.

Mixed Realities & the Andy Warhol Foundation

In the art world, the Andy Warhol Foundation has helped fund exhibitions and projects in Second Life, including the well-know exhibit “Mixed Realities.” "Mixed Realities" was an international juried competition that resulted in the commissioning of 5 networked art works to be exhibited/performed in 2008 at; Huret & Spector Gallery; and Ars Virtua, a gallery in the online 3D rendered environment, Second Life. Each commission is $5,000. "Mixed Realities" challenges artists to created simultaneous exhibits in three distinct environments: the Internet (Turbulence), an online 3-D rendered environment (Ars Virtua), and physical space (Huret & Spector Gallery). The works will evaluate the concepts "virtual," "simulation", and "real" and will feature a series of experiences in which participants connect with one another and contribute to the creation of the work.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

All Marketers are Liars. Well, we shouldn't be...

According to marketing guru Seth Godin, all marketers are liars. This is no attack on Seth, as I view him as a rock star in the marketing world, but I am writing this post to simply ask the question, wouldn't we be better off if we weren't liars? As I write this post, I am reminded of a second book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. We were taught then that lying is bad, so why is it accepted now?

We might be tempted to "spin" the truth when things aren't going our way, especially in crisis situations. However with the speed of information these days, the more you spin, the more likely you will be caught and exposed. The role of the citizen journalist has become paramount in the information age, and due in part to the popularity of user-generated content and newer technologies such as blogs, anyone can write an expos'e. So if you are caught in a crisis, avoid the temptation to spin.

Tactics for crisis communications:

1. If you have made a mistake, acknowledge it as soon as you realize it. We all make mistakes, and we have all been in situations where we have had to apologize. The first step in any crisis communications plan should be to acknowledge the mistake, own the mistake, and publicly address it in some form (i.e. an apology).

2. Transparency is the key. Many media outlets love a good juicy story. However, there isn't a story to break if you are the one breaking the news. Don't let the media beat you to the punch. Be as transparent as you can be. Don't hide or restrict information flow. It will get out, and when it does, you will look like you did everything in your power to prevent it, putting you in a compromised situation.

3. Seek feedback from your key stakeholders. After acknowledging the situation, apologizing for the situation, and keeping your stakeholders (or customers) updated, seek their feedback. Invite them into the process. You only exist because of them. You are there to serve their needs. If you haven't done that very well or have offended them, find out how you can be a better partner.

4. Release an action plan. There are those who will be satisfied by an omission of error and an apology. There are others who could care less about an apology, but want to know that a similar error will not occur in the future. They want action, and you in turn want to avoid the same mistake as well. So examine the error or situation, consider the feedback you received from your stakeholders, and develop an action plan to address the situation. And don't be shy with it...share it with all.

Remember, business is about relationships. Relationships with the press. Relationships with your stakeholders. Relationships with your customers. There isn't a business in history who hasn't misstepped. How you handle the misstep will communicate a lot to your customers. Although unfortunate and damaging, it can also be a perfect opportunity to solidify your relationships.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

In an attempt to personalize, make sure you don't offend...

I am a huge proponent of personalizing direct mail so that the recipient feels like the package and/or offer was developed specifically for them. I think the invention of PURL (personalized URLs) technology and digital printing have created great opportunities for personalized messaging. One word of caution however -- If you don't trust all the information in your database, be careful! When pulling information for personlized direct mail campaigns, make sure that the information fields you are pulling from are correct and complete, otherwise you might end up addressing the solicitation to the wrong name or no name at all. In which case, not only did you fail to personalize the package, you have also most likely offended the recipient.

The Arts Invade Second Life...

Would you like a very inexpensive way to display your artwork in front of over 7 million people? Can't afford a gallery space in the real world--why not open one up in Second Life. Check out this article in the The Art Newspaper about the art scene in Second Life.
For video tours of exhibitions and performances on Second Life, go to:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Developing a Participation Matrix...

During a session of the ASAE Membership Marketing Conference, one of the presenters encouraged attendees to keep a close eye on the participation levels of their members. His argument was that membership was about participation, not about revenue. Although I understood his point, membership and subscriptions are about both revenue and participation.

Keeping this in mind, I would encourage marketing directors who are responsible for growing membership or subscriptions, to monitor the participation levels of their "members" (for our purposes in this post, I will use the word members, but please note this includes subscriber programs found at most performing arts organizations around the country). I am in the process of building a participation matrix that gives quarterly reports on the participation levels of members. That way, I will know, especially with our important donors and members, how active they are with our organization. Usually a member's participation level is a steady predictor on whether or not the member values their membership, and subsequently decides to renew. If I notice at the end of the first and second quarters that a certain portion of our membership isn't participating, that will give me enough time to find ways to engage that segmentation before they are asked to make the decision to renew their membership for the following year.

I would also suggest sending a participation report at the end of the year to each member along with a renewal solicitation. Something along the lines of --

Did you realize during the 2006-07:
  • 30% of your employees participated in member's only listservs
  • your organization saved $1,400 by using your membership discount through bookstore purchases and convention registrations.
  • you attended 7 performances at the magnificent PLUG THE NAME IN HERE theatre, which received 5 critics picks and 3 RANDOM Awards during the year.
  • you enjoyed an evening with acclaimed artistic director SOMEBODY FANTASTIC and the cast of AMAZING PRODUCTION #5.
Keep your members involved, and remind them of the value of their membership when you ask them to renew. Members who don't use their benefits or tickets aren't likely to renew--so catch them early, and find a way to get them active.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Living your Brand Promise...

For the past two days, I have been attending the ASAE Marketing & Membership conference in Baltimore, MD. I went to a session entitled "Brand Image vs. Brand Identity: What do your Members Experience?" The presenter defined Brand Identity as what the organization wants to project--the brand promise that the organization is making. The Brand Image on the other hand is what people actually experience and what they really think of your organization. So the presenter proposed a relatively simple, but very thought-provoking question--is everyone on your staff projecting and living your brand?

Now this session was in the morning, and I still had my mind on my experience with the Hyatt Regency Hotel that I stayed at the previous night. I was excited to arrive at my hotel, because I booked late and the only thing I could find was a room a the luxurious, four-star Hyatt Regency Baltimore. I was shocked that the room cost almost $350 but I figured it was a splurge that I rarely take.

When I think of a Hyatt Regency Hotel (my Brand Image), I think of fantastic service, luxury and an overall great experience. In fact, Hyatt's website lists its Brand Identity: "Hyatt Hotels have long been known for going beyond simple accommodations to create rewarding experiences for its guests. Through dramatic design, innovative cuisine, and attentive service, Hyatt approaches the hotel stay as an opportunity to inspire. Now, that philosophy known simply as The Hyatt Touch®."

I was expecting The Hyatt Touch. What I got:

1) a double bed instead of a king because they ran out of king rooms.

2) an environment where everything was "pay to play" -- parking: $32. Internet: $1 per minute in their business center, otherwise you had to pay the T-mobile charge for wireless.

3) a locked mini-bar, so I went in search of where I could purchase a diet coke. I found out that there were no vending machines or convenience stores in the hotel which sold diet coke, so I asked to have the mini-bar unlocked. After three phone calls (one in which I was on hold for four minutes) and fifty minutes later, a repair man showed up.

4) the repair man had to come back to fix the television because it was stuck on the menu (again it took three phone calls).

If this is the Hyatt Touch, I don't want it. Even my $100 per night Holiday Inn in Minneapolis had a working television, free Internet & parking, and vending machines with Diet Coke. In this case, it is obvious that their Brand Identity (the Hyatt Touch) and their Brand Image (what I experienced) are not the same. They aren't living their brand, and therefore I won't return.

You can produce thousands of brochures with your brand promise, but if you aren't living it, it doesn't make a difference.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It has worked for the movies...why not us?

The Royal National Theatre in Great Britain launched a YouTube channel recently to showcase trailers for its upcoming productions. We did something similar at Virginia Stage Company when I was there and it is much easier than it sounds. All you have to do is get a stock and standard digital video recorder, capture some video of a dress rehearsal, edit it using a easy to use editor like Adobe Premiere Elements, and tada--you have a trailer. Only warning I have here is that if you are a union house, make sure you are staying within the rules. If you aren't sure, I suggest contacting your bargaining representative or an attorney. Don't expect movie quality in your homemade trailers, but they will definitely be a good enough quality for YouTube and your patrons will love the sneak peak.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Have you ever taken a rental car to the car wash?

I just wrote a blog on my experiences at the recent TCG National Conference on the Americans for the Arts ArtsBlog. I figured you guys might be interested in it as well since it talks about our responsibilities for developing new audiences. Check it out HERE.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

What happens when the packaging doesn't match the content?

I am in Minneapolis for the TCG National Conference and the host theater is the brand new Guthrie. Let me start off by saying that I don't want to rain on their parade. The new Guthrie Theater is absolutely amazing--it has three performance spaces including separate thrust, proscenium and black box theaters. It is situated right on the Mississippi and is a glorious example of modern architecture. Not to mention, they have been fantastic hosts. So what seems to be the problem?

As I approached the building, I thought to myself, "what a wonderful place for experimental, new edgy work. I bet it would be fantastic to work here." Then I entered the space and I was surprised to see that their two large productions in June were George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara and the musical 1776. Neither of which would I consider bastions of modern, edgy or experimental theatre. Future productions include Private Lives, Jane Eyre, King Lear, The Seagull, A Christmas Carol, and Peer Gynt. The edgy, modern, or experimental productions when produced are for the most part confined to the smallest of the three spaces.

I know that with the opening of a new, large theater comes an increase in expenses, which demands a relatively "safe" season. However, why choose to build a brand new theater that stands as a pillar of modern, experimental architecture and program it with standard fare that you could find at any regional theater in the nation?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Only Thing to Fear, is Fear Itself

I am writing this blog from Minneapolis, where I am attending the Theater Communications Group National Conference which begins tomorrow. It seems that June is a very popular month for conferences. I just got back from the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, and when I return to DC, I am off to Baltimore for the ASAE Membership Marketing Conference. Keep an eye on the blog and I will share with you some of my thoughts from these various events.

Since I was working the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, I unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to see most of the speakers (however, they are going to post audio and video of the keynote speaker and the six innovator speakers on their website and blog). I did get the chance to hear keynote speaker Lyn Heward from Cirque du Soleil. One of the things that Lyn addressed which has stayed with me over the past couple of days dealt with risk taking. She contended that one of the most dangerous things an organization could do was to remain stagnant and avoid risks for fear of failure. I couldn't agree more. Usually I see this problem with large organizations which rest on their past successes, and choose to stick with the status quo. However successful organizations are in a constant state of flux--always examining their market position and how to better serve the needs of their stakeholders.

I have been very fortunate to work for organizations which embraced calculated risk taking. I would encourage every marketing director to set aside a small portion of their budget for experimental marketing campaigns. Sometimes you will lose, and sometimes you will win, but it is part of doing business. Maybe some of these very large respectable theaters which have either closed lately or which are currently struggling at some point became comfortable and stagnant rather than remaining dynamic and addressing the needs of the current market place. Don't be afraid of failures. Embrace them. Learn from them. And move on. With that said, below is a list of some of my most brilliant failures, and quick successes:

Recent Brilliant Failures:

1. Hot Spot Marketing. A salesman from this company came to me to see if I would be interested in advertising on their new information kiosks that they were placing in hotels and destinations around Virginia Beach. It sounded very interesting. A tourist in their hotel would be able to go down to the kiosk, search for theater listings, see upcoming shows, and print out coupons and directions to the theater. Virginia Beach is a tourist hot spot and we were trying to tap into that market. So I used some of my experimental marketing funds and took a gamble. Total flop -- the tourist market in Virginia Beach is mostly over the summer and we stop producing in late May (not to mention, I don't think there were enough of these kiosks around to make a difference).

2. Concierge Guides. We created 150 concierge guides and invited several other arts organizations to send us information on their current offerings. Once compiled, we hand delivered them to the largest hotels in a 20 mile radius of our theater. At first it worked just fine, but quickly we discovered that we needed to update these guides several times a year to keep them current and if we didn't hand deliver updated information, it never made it to the concierge. It was costly and time consuming to drive to 150 hotels on a regular basis, which made it tough to keep up-to-date. Other companies were having the same problem. Soon these guides became out dated and were no longer being used.

3. Welcome Home Kits. We contracted with a national company which produced welcome home kits for new movers into our area. We would pay them a sum of money, and in return, they would insert a coupon for us into their welcome home kits. We soon found out that our coupons were being lost in the crowd, and that we could create our own welcome home kits and mail them at a cheaper cost. Lesson learned.

Recent Successes:

1. Necessity if the mother of invention. At Virginia Stage Company, we couldn't afford a ton of billboard advertising because it was controlled by one company which was very expensive. So I got to thinking how we could accomplish the same thing for a cheaper price. I worked with our master electrician, and for a $250 investment, we bought a Source 4 lighting instrument and created a custom gobo advertising our upcoming shows. We then mounted it on a building in downtown Norfolk, put the light on a timer, and beamed the image onto an adjacent building in the evening. We got permission from the owners of the buildings. It turned out great. And got a lot of attention from passersby and the press.

2. We noticed that our subscription audience was aging so we took some non-traditional methods to advertising subscriptions such as creating a DVD brochure instead of a print brochure, creating video and putting it on YouTube, etc. Over a period of two years, we had double digit growth in subscription income and over 2,000 new subscribers.

Take calculated risks. Expect and be prepared for failures, and welcome the successes. This is a part of doing business. The worst thing we can do is fear failture so much that we no longer take the creative risks that we so desperately need.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Would you like a DVD with your happy meal?

So I have been putting in a lot of hours lately getting ready for the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, which means many of my meals unfortunately have been from some of the best gourmet fast food places in my neighborhood. On one of my treks out to pick up some lunch, I stumbled onto a McDonald's which had a DVD rental kiosk on the outside. Maybe this isn't new to anyone else (I guess the project was launched several years ago), but it got me thinking. What an ingenious idea. Not only does it provide convenience for the customer, but the customer is required to come back to McDonald's to return the video, at which time it is likely that he will order another McDonald's product. I am seeing many theatres lately who are trying to become social destinations--not just a place to view a play, but to do several other things at the same time. There are your GLBT nights. Your wine sampling nights. During Contact at Virginia Stage Company we even offered swing dance lessons before and after the show. Are our patrons expecting more than just a theatrical experience? Do they want a one stop shopping destination for entertainment?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Metropolitan Opera Follow Up

This just in from the New York Times: The Metropolitan Opera is Going to Expand its Simulcasts.

Mr. Gelb anticipates that the number of people who attend live Metropolitan Opera productions and those that view them in the theater next year will be about the same (around 800,000 people).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Met Opera Tickets Selling Like Hot Cakes!

Where are all the naysayers now? You know who I am talking about. Those folks who said that Peter Gelb was crazy for simulcasting operas from the Met to movie theaters around the world. Wouldn't it hurt ticket sales? Wouldn't people rather pay a cheaper price and see a Met opera in the movie theater? Apparently not.

Give credit where credit is due. Ticket sales at the Metropolitan Opera, which has been striving for a broader audience under new General Manager Peter Gelb, rose 7.1 percent in the 2006-07 season. It was the opera house's first ticket-sale increase by season in six years! Check out this article: Metropolitan Opera Ticket Sales Rise for First Time in 6 Years.

Congratulations Mr. Gelb. Excellent work.

P.S. Hear about it all straight from the horse's mouth. Elena Park, the Metropolitan Opera's Assistant Manager in charge of creative content, is a plenary speaker at the 2007 National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Miami, November 2-5.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday morning marketing brilliance...

Elisa Zlotowitz, Human Resources Manager at Americans for the Arts, sent me these photos that were forwarded on to her:

Friday, May 11, 2007

Web 2.0 -- The Machine is Us/ing Us

Three Blog Posts to Read

A friend of mine who works at the American Association of Museums sent me a link to a new blog which he said I would be interested in. I have been reading it for the past couple of weeks and have found it fascinating. If you get a second, check out Nina Simon's Museum 2.0 Blog.

Several things have been on my mind lately, but nothing as much as Americans for the Arts Annual Convention which is coming up in three weeks. We are constantly trying to find ways to improve the convention experience for our attendees, and this year's convention has many new bells and whistles. Needless to say, I have been reading a lot about conferences lately, and found Nina Simon's blog post Game Friday: Conference Connections really interesting. It solves the whole "I don't know anyone here" problem.

I have also been struggling with the phenomenon that is Second Life. For those of you who don't know what it is, check out the website. The best way I can describe it is a virtual earth, much like the video game SIMS. It has been getting a lot of press lately because of the role that it is playing in the political arena. It was announced recently that Second Life would host the first virtual political debate, and that presidential candidates are giving out virtual "I support XXXX for president" t-shirts that avatars are wearing. So how are the arts are going to play a role in this new environment? Check out this blog from Nina Simon about how museums can take advantage of Second Life.

Last but not least, I found Lewis Green's blog post Web 2.0 Reality Check and thought--are we all just wasting our time?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Regional Theater Crisis (and how you can help)

Look at the recent headlines:
Coconut Grove Playhouse Closes its Doors (Miami, FL)
Empty Space Theatre Calls it Quits over Debt (Seattle, WA)
Charlotte Repertory Theatre Closes its Doors, Lacking Money & Support (Charlotte, NC)
Crisis at Papermill Playhouse (Millburn, NJ)

I hope that the current crisis in American regional theater will be addressed at this year's Theatre Communications Group (TCG) Conference. Below are my completely unsolicited and biased opinions on what regional theaters (and the marketing professionals working at them) can do to help stabilize the industry:

1. Invest in Education Programs & Market them Aggressively.
I truly believe that investing in education programs will prove to have the best return on investment in the future. Consider it an R&D expense (research and development). No Child Left Behind has had disastrous effects on arts education, and one of the very few indicators on arts participation in adulthood is an early exposure to the arts. Future marketing directors will thank you for focusing your resources now on exposing children to the arts.

2. Take a Look at Your Programming.
Try to become a trusted advisor to your artistic director, so you can advise him or her on the development of your organization's programming. In my opinion, regional theaters have a responsibility to push the envelope--expand the craft of theater. Too many are ignoring this responsibility in favor of developing "safe" seasons packed with shows "guaranteed" to bring in revenue. I would classify Papermill Playhouse and Coconut Grove as two theatres who had very "safe" offerings, and it didn't seem to serve them well. On the other hand, there are those theatres who have such progressive seasons that they ignore the preferences of the majority of their audience. I believe Empty Space and Charlotte Repertory may have chosen seasons that wouldn't attract a majority of theatergoers in their respective cities. So, I suggest everything in moderation--give your audience a sampling buffet. Go ahead and choose a show that will push the envelope. Throw that ever popular musical in your lineup. Feature a world premiere by an unknown playwright. But balance your season...too much of any one thing might lead you to a disaster.

3. Continue Your Education.
Always focus on keeping up to date on the most current marketing theory and practices. Just as a doctor needs to attend continuing education classes, you too must stay current. I hear too many marketing directors say that they just don't understand new technology because they are from "the old school." How would you like it if you went to a doctor who advocated using 1970's technology because that was how he was trained and he never focused on keeping up to date on practices? Go to conferences. Read books. Scan blogs. Keep current. Talk to your colleagues—I have learned so much from my friends in regional theaters across the country.

4. Be Passionate About What You Do.
There is almost one thing in common with successful marketing directors--a passion for the work of their organization. I have been successful primarily because I truly love the organizations I have worked for. When you begin to "phone in your performance" as a marketing director, be mindful of that and recognize that it might be your time to leave. To many people become bitter and trapped because they don't leave when they should. If you no longer have the passion, it will affect your work, which will in turn affect the earned revenue of your organization.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why I go to church...

I can read the bible at home. I can download my priest's sermons the week after every Sunday. There is even a Yahoo group for the congregation. If I need anything, I know I can call the clergy and talk to them on the phone. So why do I go to church? It is for the collective experience. I like walking into my church and feeling like I am at home. I get to see friends. Share experiences. Find support. Sometimes get a cheap supper, not to mention the free wine at communion. I like to see my priest deliver his sermon, live and right in front of me. These are things that I couldn't get from a podcast. Or by reading the bible alone. Or by listening to a televangelist at 6am on a Sunday morning.

So why is everyone so concerned that the uses of new technology are going to drive audiences away from live performances? This has been on my mind lately as we discuss the concerns that arts organizations will face in the next five years as part of our environmental scan at Americans for the Arts. Then Andrew Taylor hit on the subject again in his blog entitled Time to Rethink the Professional Arts Conference. In his blog, he criticizes arts service organizations for not providing content from conferences for fear that releasing the content would deter actual attendance at the conference (rest assured that Americans for the Arts will offer videos of our keynote & plenary sessions for free on our website after our conference). He refers to the concept "that people pay their registration fee for the content of the event, rather than the context of smart people together in space and time" as "flawed." I tend to agree with Andrew, and this is why a live experience will never die.

Maybe we should ask Peter Gelb at the Metropolitan Opera if the ticket sales at the Met have fallen since they started to simulcast their operas to movie theaters across the nation. Or if they fell when they started to broadcast their operas on Sirius Satellite Radio. I haven't seen exact figures, but I have heard that ticket sales are doing better than ever, which is refreshing since it has been reported that prior to these efforts, ticket sales have fallen every year since 2001.

So even though on a beautiful Sunday morning, I might be secretly praying that my priest delivers a very short sermon so I can hit the golf course early, I will still be in my pew, because a podcast doesn't substitute for the experience.

Nationwide Survey on the Arts

Please participate in Americans for the Arts' Nationwide Survey on the Arts by clicking the image below:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Unhappy Customer

Most of us would like to operate a business or organization that rarely has unhappy customers. However, unhappy customers can become your greatest supporters if they are handled properly. Coming from a performing arts background where I almost always was the final authority on customer service issues, it is really easy to fall into the trap of doing only what you have to, or abiding by the organization's policies no matter what--especially if you happen to be really busy. But I would encourage you to view each unhappy customer as an opportunity to create a lifelong customer. If you go the extra mile for an unhappy customer, they will remember it. It seems as each year passes, customer service on a national scale is getting worse (just check out the airline industry). Set yourself apart by treating your customers like family.

For example, how would you handle it if the weather is bad and a single ticket buyer calls the box office to see if they can switch their tickets to another night, and your theater has a policy that only subscribers have that privilege? I would advocate saying something like "normally it is our policy that this is a subscriber option, but the weather today is horrible and I wouldn't want you to risk the safety of you or your family by trying to get to the theater. I would be more than happy this one time to switch your tickets to another night, as long as there is availability. Please keep in mind when you are purchasing tickets in the future, that subscribers always have this option." Switch their tickets, mail them the new ones with a note that said--glad we could help out, and we look forward to seeing you at the theater.

When I first started at Virginia Stage Company, I wanted to get to know our customers better so I attended most of our shows my first season. Parking was a problem so many customers would pull up to the front door to let their passengers out, and then would try to find a parking place. I made it a habit to try to greet people at the door, and when some of our elderly patrons were dropped off, I would walk out to the street and help them into our lobby. Or on rainy days, I would walk them in with an umbrella. Most of our patrons were amazed at such personal service, but these were golden opportunities for me. Not only did I get to visit with our patrons and learn more about them, but our patrons felt special. Two years into my time with Virginia Stage Company, the theater had the highest subscriber renewal rate of any theater in the nation.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Back to the Basics #2: Capture Those E-mails

Everyone I talk to is trying to reduce costs while increasing revenue. One of the best ways to do that is through e-mail marketing, but you have to have a good pool of e-mail addresses before your e-campaigns will be successful. So try to capture e-mail addresses in everything that you do. With this in mind, here are some suggestions:

1. Put a "For More Information" button on your home page. When someone wants more information on your organization, they click this button and can sign up for your e-newsletter. In doing so, you capture their mailing address and e-mail. There is debate on how much information you should require. I am a proponent of requiring only two fields: name and e-mail address. The more you require, the less likely people will sign up. However, you should always give them the opportunity to supply more information, such as their mailing address, performance preferences, etc.

2. Do a product giveaway. Many non-profit advocacy organizations use this technique very well. For example, the Arts Action Fund gives away free decals which are very popular. To receive the free decal, you have to go to the website and register to get one. In the registration process, the Arts Action Fund captures your name and e-mail address.

3. Run a contest in your lobby. Give away something that will attract a crowd. Make them fill out a very quick form which captures their basic information such as name, address and e-mail to register for the contest. Make sure that you ask for an e-mail address as the first question and state that the winner will be notified via e-mail.

4. When you send out an e-blast, run a contest for the people who forward their e-blast on to all of their friends. For every 10 friends they forward the e-blast on to, they will be entered into the contest one time. Make sure they CC you on the forward so that you can count the number of e-mails the e-blast was forwarded to. Then you can capture those e-mail addresses and send them a solicitation of interest. Make sure though that when you send the first e-blast to this group, that you identify who you are in the subject field so you are compliant with the CAN-SPAM laws.

5. Use an email append company. There are companies out there now that if you send them your database, they can return your database with e-mail addresses for those that you were missing. There is a charge of this (usually something like 25 cents per e-mail) but usually it is worth it and the e-mail addresses are accurate.

6. Encourage patrons to sign-up for your e-newsletter or e-blasts by giving discounts or other premiums only to those who are on your e-mail list.

7. Make sure every e-blast that you send out has a forward-to-a-friend link and a way for an individual to sign up for your e-blasts if the e-mail is sent to them. This is a very powerful viral marketing technique, one which allowed Hotmail to become so popular.

There are several other ideas out there, and I would encourage you to talk to you colleagues and see what they are doing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

National Arts Marketing Project Conference (Registration Open)

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately, however I have so many things I want to write about so keep an eye out. I have been working on the National Arts Marketing Project Conference, and I am pleased to announce that registration is now open.

The theme of the conference: Flourishing in the New Frontier: New Media, New Audiences, New Opportunities. The NAMP Conference team has put together an amazing lineup for you, including a fantastic keynote speaker, several stimulating plenary speakers (including a marketing expert from the Metropolitan Opera and speaker extraordinaire Ben Cameron), a preconference sponsorship bootcamp, and of course many social events to interact with your friends from around the country.

We are getting ready to roll out the marketing visuals for the conference. I hope that you all really like what we have put together. Try marketing a conference to marketing professionals... no pressure there. Well we have our secret weapon as well--the conference is being held in beautiful Miami during November!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Back to the Basics #1: Testing & Direct Mail

A new colleague of mine at work brought up a good point in the past couple of weeks. Before spending a lot of time on exploring new marketing techniques, you should first make sure that you have the basics in place. How many of us are exploring the uses of new technologies in the marketing mix, and ignoring some of the basics? With that in mind, I am going to spend the next couple of weeks talking about a few basics.

This same colleague is a direct mail expert. I will confess that although I know my fair share about direct mail, it isn't my favorite thing to discuss. It isn't as sexy as some of the newer techniques out there, but it is definitely something we all have to deal with. I have been reminded lately of two important things when looking at your direct mail campaigns: 1) the success of any campaign is directly related to testing, and 2) although testing is important, make sure you are not too aggressive with test campaigns. I think most of us know something about the first is important to test messaging, packaging, promotions, timing, etc. to see which combination of the aforementioned variables work the best. If you aren't testing these sorts of things in your campaigns, you need to start. Even small changes in copy or design can make a huge impact in results.

I will go on a limb and guess that many of us already know the importance of testing, but we might be too agressive with our test campaigns. If you have a mailing of 100,000 pieces, how many should be part of a test campaign, and how many should be part of your control group? If you have a control group which is still performing well, I would suggest not having more than 20% of your total mailing be part of a test group. That way, the group should be large enough to gather results that are statistically valid, but not enough to kill the entire campaign if your test groups completely fail.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No More Masterpieces (or why are we still teaching this?)

One of the things that I really love about working at Americans for the Arts is that I get to interact regularly with our numerous interns, most of whom are either in their final year of graduate or undergraduate programs in arts administration. It hasn't been that long since I myself finished graduate school, so I always like to compare notes on what is currently being taught.

When I was a theater management/producing graduate student at the California Institute of the Arts, I was required to read The Theatre & its Double by Antonin Artaud. One of the chapters in this book was entitled No More Masterpieces. In this chapter Artuad argues that works from the past "masters" (i.e. Shakespeare, Moliere, etc) shouldn't be produced regularly in current day because they are no longer topical--they no longer connect with current day audiences. In fact, they should be studied for a historical reference and viewed almost as museum pieces.

This is how I regard Danny Newman's book Subscribe Now!. Danny Newman is a legend in the arts marketing world, and definitely changed the wayperforming arts organizations marketed their products. His book was ground breaking in the 1970's. People started designing subscription campaigns around Danny's advice. He was the guru of subscription packaging. However times have changed. Theatre Communications Group for the first time reported that in 2005, revenue from single ticket sales surpassed subscription revenue. We all know that subscriptions (especially traditional ones) are becoming less and less popular. So why do we continue to teach the subscription method as the gospel in our arts administration classes?

Still to this day, a great majority of interns are still reporting that they are being taught the single ticket buyer--subscriber--donor pyramid that was developed in the 1970's. Why not teach this model in the proper context? Danny's book revolutionized arts marketing. It was responsible for the tremendous growth of hundreds of companies. But the tide has turned. We now need to address the fact that audiences are no longer subscribing at the rates they used to. We can either continue to teach an outdated model and send our students into the world unprepared, or we can present the current facts and hopefully one of them will be the next Danny Newman and come up with a brilliant solution.

Don't get me wrong. Danny Newman's book should be required reading for all arts administration students, but more in line with other historical texts such as Uptan Sinclair's The Jungle. The Jungle is a riveting description of the meat packing industry in the 1920's and was a catalyst for huge amounts of change, but is no longer considered an accurate description of the industry in current day.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Thrill Seekers vs. Fear Avoiders

Having problems convincing those at your organization about the marvels of new marketing technologies and practices? You might want to check out Seth Godin's blog entry on Thrill Seekers. I think this sums it up, don't you?

Let me just go on the record and say that Seth's blog is brilliant. I love his observations. While you are at it, check out his blog entitled Where Do You Park?

So now that you have read these two blog entries, which are you: a Thrill Seeker or a Fear Avoider? Do you park right in front or do you park down the street? Now, overall, what type of organization do you work for?

Obstacles increase drama, but kill sales

Back when I was in college, I had to take two years of directing class because I was a theatre education major, and it was well known as a theatre teacher that you would have to direct at least one play a year. I had a professor in my second year that said to heighten the drama, a director needed to increase obstacles which would increase the level of conflict. This approach might work in directing, but the exact opposite is true in sales.

I was invited to speak at a graduate arts management class at George Mason University. One of the things I discussed was the concept of eliminating obstacles. It is very important to get feedback from your prospects, because they will tell you all the potential obstacles in their way. Your job as a marketing professional is to eliminate those obstacles. Make the purchasing process the easiest thing in the world. Take every credit card (unless you get killed in processing charges). Have an online box office so that the insomniacs can order tickets at 2am. Consider offering subscribers a payment plan so that they can make several smaller payments instead of one major one.

When looking at obstacles, remember that perception is reality. For example, when I was working at Virginia Stage Company (VSC), there was a perception that parking in downtown Norfolk was really difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth. The city has over 20 public parking garages and there was a huge mall right across the street that offered parking for $2. Our patrons were remembering a time almost ten years prior when downtown Norfolk wasn't a thriving arts district. However, we had to address their perceptions, so still to this day, VSC operates a very busy valet service.

All things being equal, the company that goes out of its way to eliminate obstacles will fare much better than one who ignores them. If I have to get in my car and deliver your tickets to sell a subscription, then so be it...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Thinking about creating a blog (Part 2)...

If you are thinking about creating a blog for your organization, there is one thing I cannot stress enough: make sure those who will be contributing content have bought into your idea! I have created a couple of blogs for different organizations, and I must say that I have learned this the hard way. Don't get me wrong. I think that blogging is very effective if done right, but that is a really big IF. Many organizations launch blogs and don't do it right, and when the blog fails they blame it on the ineffectiveness of the technology.

Readers of a blog don't want to get hit with your marketing messages! If you try a hard sell technique with every blog, of course your readers are going to start tuning out your blog. You need to offer your readers a reason to read your blog, and a way to do that is to offer exclusive content that they can't get anywhere else. This is the reason that while at Virginia Stage Company, I started to post video clips of rehearsal and "behind-the-scenes" footage on our blog. People want to hear from the artists. They want to see what is going on behind-the-scenes. No matter how effective you are at crafting marketing language, I am telling you now that they don't want to hear from marketing people.

So this leaves us in a pickle. It is a great way to market our organizations and create stronger bonds with our audience, but we have to rely upon our artistic staff (at least in part) to populate the blog with content. So before you launch a blog, make sure that there are several people on your artistic staff that would be willing to take some time out of their day to share their experiences. Without their input, the blog will be boring.

On a side note, in a conversation I was having a little while ago, I heard one artistic person say to a marketing staff member that they weren't interested in blogging because "getting the word out about the show wasn't their job." Let me leave you with these thoughts, and yes they might be a little controversial--if you want a paycheck, or better yet, the opportunity to produce your art, then yes, it is your job! I once worked for a very well known producing artistic director who at every annual meeting said to all the staff "you might work in another department, but remember we all work for marketing and development." And he was an artist! But he understood that in order to produce his work, he had to help with getting the word out. In my experience, I have found that many more artists are willing to help out if given the proper direction than unwilling, but if you get into a situation where the entire artistic staff isn't willing to help market a production, you have a problem. And the organization you work for has a much bigger problem. Just my two cents...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

MySpace and Arts Organizations...

Still having a tough time convincing administration about the use of MySpace? Check out today's article in the New York Times:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Thinking about blogging?

Check out Mark Collier's blog today about content:

When I talk to folks about setting up a blog for their company, I tell them to really think about how they craft their language. People don't want to get a hard sell from the marketing department every time they read your blog. They want something interesting. Something exciting.

Dale Carnegie, one of America's most prolific writers on networking, once said "the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it. Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course, you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want."

Remember that thought when you are writing your company's blogs...

Growth for an Established Brand

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have been giving a presentation entitled New Technologies in the Marketing Mix to several different groups, including the Arts & Business Council of New York. Every time I give this presentation, I warn folks before I begin, that it will look like I am advocating new viral strategies over traditional marketing techniques. In all honesty, they should be complimentary. I would never advocate completely eliminating direct mail campaigns. Those types of campaigns are very effective with certain demographics. What I do advocate is diversification. Just as your stock portfolio should be diversified, your marketing plans should use all the tricks in your bag.

In the United States, there are four generations dominating the economy: World War II generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. If you have an established brand, most likely you will have a strong presence amongst the World War II generation and the Baby Boomers. These two generations respond well to traditional marketing techniques. If you want your established brand to grow and expand, you need to look to Generations X and Y. New marketing technologies make it cheap and easy to reach these generations, however they require a time commitment. You need to learn how to use them. You need to learn how to craft your message properly. You need to be committed to providing an interactive, on demand messaging system. For those behind the curve in the technology department, really look at how you are reaching out to Generation X & Y. If you aren't, you might want to think about how to hit these important market segments. These folks are going to be your new donors, new board members, and new audiences.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What do airlines and arts organizations have in common?

Let me leave you with this before I depart for NYC.

There has been a lot of talk about pricing tickets similar to the way airline tickets are priced. Well check out the story in the Chicago Tribune.

New posts coming...

Sorry guys...I am frantically trying to get ready to fly to New York tomorrow. I am presenting a session on viral marketing and the arts at the Arts & Business Council of New York. I have many things that I want to blog on including "tryvertorials," direct mail testing and online fundraising. So as soon as I am back from NYC, I promise I will catch up. Thanks for understanding. Now I have to cross my fingers that the huge snow storm coming doesn't mess everything up. Sometimes I wish I still lived in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Personal Rant: If you are going to criticize the NEA, at least get it right...

As reported by Americans for the Arts:

"NEA Grant to Sundance Festival Falsely ReportedFebruary 12, 2007—An “Action Alert” issued by the American Family Association falsely reports that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) gave grants to the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival to support the showing of the films Hounddog and Zoo. The organization has urged its members to write and e-mail their members of Congress in protest.

To set the record straight: The NEA did not provide support for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The NEA did not fund the two films. The NEA had no connection whatsoever to the films. Regarding the NEA, the action alert is all wrong. The NEA did fund the summer educational workshop last year at the Sundance Institute, which trains people working on careers in film, including directing, screenwriting, and producing. In the past, the NEA has sometimes been criticized for programs it doesn’t fund. This instance is another such example."

Granted--the National Endowment for the Arts has funded controversal things in the past. Whatever your feeling are on these types of instances, I think we can all agree that if you slam the NEA, at least have your facts right.

As late as 11:21PM EST on February 13, 2007, the homepage of the American Family Association still maintains the falsely reported information. If you feel so inclined, you can contact the American Family Association at (662) 844-5036 or via their website.

Check out Andrew Taylor's Blog on Enabling Your Fans...

There has been much talk in the last week about how 2008 presidential canidates are going to use the web to activate their masses. I have even heard one blogger refer to this phenomenon as Politics 2.0 which I found to be very clever.

Andrew Taylor wrote a great blog entry today on Enabling Your Fans, Connecting Their Friends. Check it out.

In his posting, he cites Barak Obama's new social networking website, which offers "lots of opportunities for any supporter to start a blog, build a buddy list, schedule local events, and raise money for the cause."

Now a time for a shameless plug. I can't wait for Americans for the Arts annual convention in Las Vegas, June 1-3. Primarily because it will be the first time that I get to meet many of our members, but also because Matthew Gross is a speaker. For those of you who don't know Matthew, you definitely know his work. He was the one who rewrote the rules of presidential politics by launching Howard Dean's blog and designing an online campaign for Dean which raised over $25 million in 2004.

Don't Wait, Innitiate!

The key to any successful viral marketing campaign involves finding and activating innitiators. Different marketing directors call these people different things. I prefer the use of the term innitiators. Basically, these are people that have two things in common: 1) they have a lot of friends (and are usually early adopters), and 2) they have a lot of influence. The idea is to sell them on your product, and them have them peddle it to their friends. Social networking sites are great for finding initiators because many of them tell you how many friends a person has, and therefore how large their network in. In the above graph, you can see our friend network graph from our Care2 site. All those in blue are people Americans for the Arts has a direct connection with, and then all of those in purple are the friends of our friends. Our Care2 site is relatively new, so we only have around 120 friends, however because we have purposely sought out innitiators, we have over 77,000 people in our network.

So how is this appicable in your everyday life? Take for example Virginia Stage Company's fall production of CROWNS. I was still working at that time as the Company's Director of Marketing and Communications. CROWNS is a "play with music" based on the African American gospel tradition. Early in the marketing campaign for the show, we developed an innitiator strategy that proved to be quite effective. We invited all the ministers of the numerous historically black churches in our area to an exclusive preview on a Saturday evening. We provide them not only with a sneak peak of the performance, but dinner and drinks as well. We gave them promotional kits and asked them to advocate on behalf of the production. The hope was that the following Sunday morning, they would mention the show to their congregations and activate them in spreading the word. It worked like a charm and we had several very large group orders (100 tickets plus) come from local churches. The production went on to being the third best selling production in the company's 28 year history.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Quick Tip: You like filet, but you only need hamburger...

Remember that when you are looking to get a better return on investment (ROI) for your direct marketing campaigns, that you need to increase returns AND decrease your expenses for maximum impact. Seems simple enough, but most folks fixate on getting better returns without looking at the expenses.

When examining your expenses, remember that almost every study that has been conducted on the effectiveness of direct marketing campaigns has showed us that the "creative" element of the campaign (i.e. design, print, etc) has less to do with its success then the proper targeting and pitch. However, how many of us get sucked into spending a majority of our budget on high dollar graphic designers and top end printing?

So here is my advice: unless your campaign absolutely needs a top dollar graphic designer and premium printing services, save your money and invest more time and energy into compiling your mailing list, analyzing the data in your database, and putting together your pitch.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

If you want to be a guerilla...

I guess you should have a good attorney?

Check out CNN's article on the two men who were arrested today for a guerilla marketing stunt in Boston.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Congratulations my friends...

Congratulations are in order for two of my colleagues here in DC!

Kevin Moore, Managing Director of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, has accepted a new job as the Managing Director of the Cleveland Playhouse. Kevin has been the Managing Director of Woolly Mammoth since 1998, during which time the company raised over $9 million for the construction of their new theater.

Patrick Madden, Vice President of External Relations for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, has accepted a new job as the Executive Director of Sister Cities International. Madden has served as the vice president of external affairs and the publisher of Inside Arts magazine at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters since 2003, where he managed fundraising, government affairs and membership departments, in addition to directing the organization's communications outreach.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Evolution of the Bulletin Board, ListServs and Blogging

At work, I am preparing a couple of sessions on viral marketing and the use of new technologies. As part of this process, I started a discussion with my colleagues at Americans for the Arts about the pros and cons of using blogs, based upon an entry in Andrew Taylor's The Artful Manager blog about how blogs are now being used as PR tools.

I am lucky to have as colleagues at Americans for the Arts some of the nation's foremost experts on arts marketing, including Gary Steuer (V.P. Arts & Business Council), Will Maitland Weiss (Executive Director of the Arts & Business Council of New York), Julie Peeler (Vice President of Arts & Business Programs) and Suzanne Ruley (Coordinator of the National Arts Marketing Project). I threw a couple of questions out to this group concerning blogging and started a great conversation.

I wanted to share with you an e-mail that I got from Gary Steuer yesterday. Gary not only provides some great insights on blogging, but gives a very good description of the evolution of bulletin boards, ListServs and now blogs.

From Gary's e-mail:

OK – time for me to weigh in – very interesting conversation! Opening up cans of worms not a bad thing – can’t fish without worms. While I have not entirely jumped on the RSS/Blog bandwagon yet, I suspect you are right Chad [on predicting that new technologies such as blogs will replace ListServs]. In many ways it reminds me of the way ListServs have replaced bulletin boards. In the early days of the internet (I am dating myself, but I go back to the early 80s when it was not even “The World Wide Web” yet and there was no GUI…), bulletin boards were all the rage, allowing users to post ideas that others then responded, creating an ongoing dialogue. One of the problems with bulletin boards was that they required users to visit them frequently, and actively participate, otherwise they sat there dead. In the beginning this was not hard to do, but over time, interest in bulletin boards waned, because it was too much work to remember to regularly visit them. They continued (and continue) to work only in certain very specific instances – when there was an issue people were truly passionate about, like medical and health issues, sports, or technology tech support. Once ListServs began growing in popularity, people found that means of communication much easier than bulletin boards because they had the dialogue “pushed” into their inbox, rather than having to visit a web site to participate. We had to respond to this even with the ArtsMarketing.Org Web site – in the early years it featured a bulletin board, with occasional guest experts to facilitate topical conversations. We could never get enough people to regularly visit to make it work. We had to switch to ListServ and e-newsletter communications which allowed us to push information into people’s in-boxes, making it easier for very busy people to stay informed.

However, as ListServs and e-mail volume in general have proliferated, I think there is something of a backlash against ListServs, and with ListServs you also lose the ability to follow a thread of conversation, since each contribution tends to exist as an individual nugget not easily connected to the larger conversation. As with bulletin boards, they still work, and I suspect will continue to play a communications and community-building role. But the advent of blogs, with the combination of RSS technology, multi-media, and now blog widgets, has created a new more dynamic communications medium that retains that same “push” feature – delivering the conversations you want right to your desktop.

The challenge will be that as more and more groups adopt blogs and RSS feeds, how much time and screen-space will people be able to devote to the thousands/millions of choices available to them, and how long will it take before we overload Blogs and move onto something new? Can direct feeds into our brains not be far behind? (Anyone ever see the movie “eXistenZ”? If so, you will understand what I am talking about…)

I do think it is important for us (and the arts as a whole) to stay at the leading edge of these trends, especially as we try to engage younger audiences – and field members – who will not respond to or even tolerate what they view as outmoded means of communication.