This has been a tough article for me to write as I am not 100% sure how I view publicity, events, and advertising for community theatre IN the community it resides. I did realize however that not all publicity is an event and not all advertisements leads to revenue.
- Publicity events for the Theatre, especially local community ones
Let me start with say that I am secretary of my theatre – I sit on the Board of Directors (BOD) and am responsible for keeping meeting minutes for our monthly discussions and tracking our history of this season (it’s already done and a post on our website is pending publication June 2018 – that’s how good I am). I don’t own publicity – we actually have a person who fills in that chair on our BOD. Well, we had a person who was elected to the BOD June-July but had resigned by the beginning of August. Thankfully, our previous Publicity chair stepped up to the plate seamlessly.
That’s a good thing, right? Then why do I worry about it?
I don’t worry about it per say – I have full faith in the capability of our now-was previous chair. Possibly ‘worry’ isn’t the right word for what I do or why I do what I do – I am the webmaster and I currently own the Facebook page of our theatre. Facebook has become one of the main forms of advertising and publicizing our events to our community (note: I never advertise more than 25 miles away because who would actually travel that far? I have a funny story about people who do for the wrong reasons, but that’s a different blog post). It was last year when our then secretary resigned (it’s a trend, two different people but still a trend at least in my time) and our then-now President had to step down into their shows and … it was basically a giant reshuffling that lead to me assisting our former President-then Secretary-now President with our online presence. She handled the website, our brochures, our programs, etc. I handled our Facebook.
I mean.. I am a connoisseur of the book of face. I loved it. The first year was a test – how far could I push the envelope of the 501(c)3 and their online presence? What were other theatres doing that lead to their success? Events! We had always had a calendar and our website had blog posts about when our next shows auditions were but it didn’t circulate. Every one in awhile, and this is not the fault of our past Secretary’s, they’d post on Facebook about upcoming events – mainly shows or auditions that didn’t have a good initial turn out.
I consider myself the creator of our cadence on Facebook – every show now gets two events for their auditions (a third if necessary), and, depending on how the directors wants it broken down, several event postings for their show weekends. But that’s not all – I share these posts on several, let’s say state-wide, Facebook groups that focus on supporting local community theatres together. Not just for auditions but also for talent scouting (light board operators and make up artists are hard to pin down, the rascals), advertising and building up general awareness of each others events. It’s a beautiful and symbiotic relationship.
Again, going back to last year, even with these initial efforts which were *not* regular or perfect – our season opener might have been impacted by our lack of advertising. This is no fault of mine or of our publicity chair. It is extremely hard for people to dedicate time during Labor Day (that was opening weekend) to see a show that they may never have heard of (Boys Next Door). Since then, I now have the permission of the BOD to spend $40 (it was $25 but it’s been upped recently) per show to advertise and sell tickets. So far, for every $40 I spend, I can confirm that we earn anywhere from $100-$150 bucks – not great, but not terrible. Some of that might be from poor ad design, again unknown shows are hard to sell in general – many, many things can impact that. It’s been making minimal returns and I think that’s enough for us for right now.
However, paying for advertising is not always the best practice. The theatre, courtesy of our General Productions chair, actually hosted a Script in Hand event a few Friday’s ago (I actually read as a fill in for The Laramie Project). It was basically a look ahead into our season, each show read a few excerpts from their scripts and/or sang a few songs from their scores. We expected a turn out of approximately 30 people, half of which would have been production staff from the shows and a sprinkling of actors from the two casted shows. 68 people showed up. We were floored – we didn’t have any idea that 1) that many people had nothing to do on a Friday night in August, 2) that many people were interested in our season (it really is going to be an amazing and strong season), 3) that we had that many interested patrons – and some of which, hadn’t even been to our theatre before, they saw our advertisements (*kudos to me*) online and were interested to see what we had to offer.
That was reward in and of itself. I think it’s really a balance between advertising and content – you can’t advertise that your season is amazing if it isn’t really amazing, you can only pull so much wool over someone’s eyes before it’s thinned our and see-through. The previous BOD made the right judgment call in picking the season and we have been advertising it well enough through both Publicity and our online-web presence. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship in and of itself. It’s only going to get better, too. ‘Til next time.