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.

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