42nd Street Moon Blog: 42nd Street Moon (Theatre)

10/11/2005

Biz Blog Profile is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits and higher education institutions are using blogs to support their marketing goals. As of this post, the Biz Blog Profile Series will be including arts organizations.

Blogging for arts groups is a natural fit. At its heart, art is about an emotional connection between artist and audience. At their best, blogs are about creating a connection between author and reader. Both strive to open the doors of self just a little wider and provide an experience that makes a difference. Be that difference a new awakening of the soul or a new understanding of a company.

42nd Street Moon is a regional theatre group based in San Francisco that stages "lost" or "forgotten musicals." The name is derived from the bright lights and the home of American musical theatre at 42nd Street & Broadway in, of course, Manhattan. The theatre has an interesting blog story to tell; not the least is that they've hired a blog copy writer, Elisa Camahort, to pen their posts. (Who just happens to be a Diva Marketing blog buddy and one great blogger.) Thanks to Elisa for providing the back-story.

Come along and listen to the lullaby of broadway ... in San Francisco at the 42nd Street Moon!

42nd_street_moon_logoBiz Blog Profile: 42nd Street Moon Blog

About 42nd Street Moon

42nd Street Moon celebrates and preserves the art and spirit of the American Musical Theatre. They contribute to its evolution and continuing vitality by presenting staged concert performances of classic and rarely performed musical works.

Worker Bee's Involvement

I (Elisa Camahort) acted professionally with the 42nd St. Moon, appearing in about a half a dozen productions during the course of four years. Although I hadn't performed with them since 1998, I still knew the folks involved with the theatre and their PR firm's president. When I began working with theatres (on marketing projects) it was natural for me to approach the theatres which I had existing relationships.

I didn't pitch them solely on a blog; I pitched them on an online marketing program that included search engine marketing, online community outreach and yes, a blog. I was able to make the blog pitch based on work results from another theatre I was working with; I could also speak to the culture of the theatre and the nature of its audience in language they could relate to.

The Artist Director happens to be a great writer, but is also very busy. He wanted the freedom to contribute sometimes, but not be responsible. Because they knew me, knew I knew the theatre, they were confident that I could write engagingly about their theatre and the world of theatre in-general.

Why 42nd Street Moon is Blogging

Live theatre audiences love the gossip, the inside scoop. And live theatre audiences are often motivated by knowing someone involved with a production, or something about the piece itself. Since 42nd Moon focuses on rarely-performed gems, they've built more of a following around their actors and artistic staff. By blogging they could increase even further how close the audience felt to those people. Plus blogging could help the audience develop some familiarity for the material that was being produced.

Theatres often struggle to get single-ticket buyers to come back and maybe even subscribe the next year. The blog was a way to make audience members feel more invested in the company's personnel and its success. And yes, they hoped it would broaden their audience and bring in a more youthful demographic.

I believe that one of the reasons that this theatre, in particular, has an affinity for blogging is their own work in reviving and restoring classic, but rarely-performed works. There is a great deal of archival work in what they do, and I think they like having their daily life chronicled for posterity. This has never been a stated goal, but I sense that it is nonetheless, one of the qualities they appreciate about having a theatre blog.

How Blogs Fit Into 42nd Street Moon's Marketing or Community Outreach Strategies

Some productions show a bigger pop in sales than others, but what the Managing Director most often passes along my way is when an audience or Board member mentions how much they enjoy the blog to her. It's very literally word-of-mouth response that seems to carry the most weight with the theatre.

How 42nd Street Moon is Marketing/Promoting Its Blog

The blog was featured prominently in the 2005/2006 Season brochure that went out, and link is featured on every page of their traditional website. I also send a weekly email to an opt-in group to tell them what stories were featured on the blog the previous week. In addition, we do one email blast per production to the theatre's entire database, telling them about the show, the blog and the blog reader's discount.

The blog reader's discount consists of a promotion code (and associated discount) created just for online promotions. But the theatre actually limits the availability, particularly on shows that they expect to sell well. (The house is quite small) They mostly seem to provide the discount because I insist that blog readers have to have something that's exclusively theirs. They (the theatre) seem remarkably unconcerned with calculating a quantitative ROI. Which is a little disconcerning for me, the marketer, although nice for me the writer.

Reactions From Artists, Patrons & Staff

99.99% positive. Some actors get much more into it than others, but every production finds me getting at least a couple of actors who really get into participating. The Artistic Director actually seems to love it when he can correct me on some bit of theatre trivia or lore :-)  As I mentioned, the Managing Director passes along info about feedback she's gotten more often than she passes along ticket sales information.

Selling-in To Management

It was started as a short-term experiment. We were going to do it for last year's fall season and see how it went. And we have been continuing ever since...over a year now. The biggest challenge is balancing content when the theatre is dark. I talk about Broadway; I talk about other local theatres; I talk about what Moonies (our affectionate name for regular 42nd St. Moon performers) are doing in the world. Being a blog I feel it has to stay pretty active, but when the theatre's dark there isn't always as much going on to talk about. They don't mind my doing that, bu they prefer that a 42nd Street Moon post is always "top of blog", sort of traditional website thinking. So I plan my posting to accommodate that request.

Blog Strategies Gaining Acceptance With Arts Organizations

I think blogs will catch on with arts groups. I noticed that California Shakespeare Festival had a few of their actors blog this summer, and a couple of other theatres have made some attempts. The problem is you need consistency and commitment...and theatres often run so short-handed, and so over-loaded.

Most groups will either have to invest in someone on the development or business side who can commit to the consistency and ferret out stories that feed the creative side of the blog (which is basically what I do) or they'll have to find someone on the creative side of the business who is so passionate about sharing with the audience and will adhere to a schedule. It's like any other tactic: if it is given priority, and the group is willing to spend either the dollars or the time required, they will make it happen.

Lessons Learned

It is very important to decide ahead of time what you want from doing any marketing outreach. I have one theatre client who most definitely wants ticket sales, and we pay very close attention to that that. 42nd Street Moon seems more interested in creating word-of-mouth among its patrons. So we collect those stories.

The only "failed" theatre client I had, had an unstated strategy but didn't enable tactics to support that strategy. How do I mean? Well, they didn't give a promotion to blog readers. No promotion means no trackable code. No trackable code means no sure-fire way to measure quantifiably the results of the program.

Second, they didn't want to give me access to much inside, backstage info to me to write about ... meaning it was very hard to make the blog engaging content-wise. And therefore, tough to build readership. They enjoyed the content within their own team, but felt disappointed they weren't getting "their money's worth."

There was no point arguing that they had done almost nothing to support even knowing what they were getting, let alone having it be substantial. This was early on, even before I was working with 42nd Street Moon. The Lesson Learned was substantial. When I work with clients today I'm much more blunt about what they need to do to be able to measure, let alone get them! If they don't seem committed or prepared to participate (or give me access) then I may still work with them but I'm very clear about what they can expect.

Future Directions

So far I've been blogging and posting photos, but it seems like audio and video are the next steps. It's a little tough when there are professional actors involved. I would love to have guest bloggers. I often do get blog posts via email from guests, and I post them as is. But so far no one has authorship rights directly.

Elisa Camahort's Take On Blogs

Artists seek to communicate and connect with their audiences. As do bloggers. Blogging lets artists continue the communication, the connection, the conversation even after patrons have left the four walls of the theatre. In a way blogging is a marketing tool that is uniquely suited to promoting the arts because at its best, blogging is an art.

 

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Comments

I'm a student @ NSU theatre department. I am a junior about to graduate. I was wondering if you could possibly help me. i was wondering how things work in a regional group, say how things a split up in a techniacl sense.? Please we are having some problems with communications and whose responsible for what!
Thanks very much!
Elizabeth

Posted by: Elizabeth Breitling on Nov 8, 2005 3:29:25 AM

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