Dear Brisbane Theatre … Who’s the media?

As I write this, an Arts Queensland sponsored tech forum ‘LowFi’ is just finishing up in Brisbane. I was due to attend what was planned as a day-long gathering of speakers, workshops and quick conversations on digital media and its application in the arts. I couldn’t make it so I’ve been following the proceedings today via hashtag on Twitter. Some of the tweets sang the social-media mantra re developing relationships with ‘customers,’ and not just using social media as a marketing add-on. Yes, of course, but the strategies and the actual daily process of using social media for marketing – for getting the word out and engaging with potential and current audience members – are still being discovered and developed. In a time when arts coverage appears to be receiving less coverage in ‘big media’ there is both challenge and opportunity for individual theatre companies to change the landscape of the wider media modus operandi. (The embedded tweets below are from today’s LowFi twitter stream)

#lowfi it's not just about digital marketing guys!
@LeahBarclay
Leah Barclay
RT @ 'All online interaction is a performance of some kind' @ at #lowfi #LoFi
@alexadsett
Alex Adsett

At a gathering of pre-show theatre barflies downstairs from !MetroArts in Verve Café (in the dark corner up the end) the conversation turned last Saturday night to the local buzz – barflies are good at buzz. One fly was heard to say how exciting it all was – that very night audiences would be able to see a couple of shows back to back if they chose to, and wouldn’t more late-night theatre in the city in small, welcoming venues be a thrill? Another opined that Brisbane was a get up and go to bed early town so, maybe not. Another was quite hopeful but felt that it would take time for people to get used to the idea. It was all about building audiences – that’s the challenge – all agreed. Of course, the barflies buzzed on about other things like the quality of the work being seen around the city, and so on. It was time for the first show, and then the second, but then … Continue reading Dear Brisbane Theatre … Who’s the media?

Social Media and Theatre: it’s ROE not ROI that matters!

It’s return on engagement and not return on investment that Devon Smith‘s research shows is possibly the best way of considering social media and its current use by theatres in the United States.  I’m betting it’s much the same here.

Building audiences – which for many marketing managers equates to selling tickets – is really a mid to long-term strategy, and that’s about building relationships – building loyalty and long-term engagement between the organisation and individuals (near and far).  And for those hungry marketing managers/producers, Smith notes that you are going to sell tickets at your website, and it’s social media will assist in driving the traffic there.

Theatres in Brisbane and some further afield in regional Queensland are getting the social media message, albeit slowly.  Their websites invite visitors to follow via their Facebook pages,  Twitter feeds, and YouTube channels – to name the big three in social media.  Few yet have gone the way of the blog, which is a pity, as it’s a great way for a company to engage in conversation.  As Smith says in this smart slide presentation (below) given this week at the TCG (Theatre Communications Group) Conference in the US, a company blog linked to your website is a surefire way of managing conversation, whether or not they are saying good or bad things about you.  She notes that, of course, they will say bad things anyway, so why not manage it at a central point.  It’s archived too when it’s on your own site.

Check the last couple of slides for further resources on social media and theatre.

And here’s Leon Cain who is currently in rehearsal for La Boite Theatre’s next production I Love You Bro’! Leon will be posting an entry in the company’s YouTube Channel every day – this is the first.  Given the ubiquity of  YouTube – again see Smith’s facts and figures in the slide show – this is a clever strategy to engage with potential audiences and to spread the word about just what does go on backstage.  And, of course, the video blog (aka vlog) is another, perhaps even more engaging and personal way of  managing the conversation.  Good job La Boite!

View more presentations from Devon Smith.

Devon Smith’s blog: 24 Usable Hours – where numbers meet art

On personal branding and being a business on two legs

This is one out of Groundling’s archives – May 2007 in fact – but it’s worth a face wash and a review. I’m gone from academe but I see the need more and more to ‘become your own mouthpiece’ as an freelance artist. Greenroom was established (in part) to introduce people to the power of digital networking.

You know how the old saying about mothers goes …. they’re sociologists, counsellors, tutors, managers, chauffeurs (add your own personal favourite). So it is these days that I find my role as a university lecturer diversifying in the oddest ways. Now this has probably got more to do with the nature of the discipline field … theatre, and preparing young artists for a professional role in the entertainment industry. Most of my classes are involved with training students for careers as actors. Yes, I teach and direct, but also (and for nearly 10 years now as the industry has changed its face) I’ve been training them to think about themselves and their work in a business-like way – empowering them to engage in what the economists like to call disintermediation and which, in the arts industry, means extracting yourself from the middle man and the control they can have over your work (aka agents of all kinds). The jury’s out on whether or not it’s a good thing to cut the painter entirely, and let’s face it, actors wouldn’t be actors if they didn’t have an agent to blame for most things.

Which brings me to something I’d never have thought about even 3 years ago (make that 5 7 now!) but which seems pretty important right now. I’m finding that I talk a lot more about the importance of establishing and taking care of your online-identity. Now this was not even vaguely on the horizon until a year or so ago, and nor was that ghastly ubiquitous term ‘branding’ … that was something stockmen did to cattle as I recall. Now it’s everywhere. Anyhow, it seems that personal branding is also something a start out professional needs to tackle. Want to know more? Try the discussion on a post from Michele Martin on the issue of online identities. There’s also a great slide stack from R. Todd Stephens on professional personal branding, and whilst I might find the term distasteful, the advice is sound.

There are some other fairly basic things that anyone in business or the public eye should consider: a professional-looking email address … ditto a voice mail message on the phone. It’s also smart to take care what appears on your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Embarrassing tweets, apps and messages under your name on any site may never go away. It’s also getting almost mandatory to consider a personal webspace or at very least an e-portfolio to promote your work.

The bottom line is that artists and creatives more and more these days act as producers and freelance agent-distributors of their own work. They need to start treating what they do as a business and to think of themselves as CEOs of their own companies. I coined the phrase a small business on two legs years ago, and it pretty much still holds up. The days of the disempowered ‘artiste’ are on the way out.