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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Theatre Thursday: In the Event of Play . . .

Hey, remember my list of tips for coming up with content for a blog? Well, add one more to the list:
Ask your friends.

I was hanging out with Jeff Gamet of The Mac Observer, Digital Dimensions, Design Tools Monthly and more and mentioned that I hadn't thought of anything to write about for today's Theatre Thursday entry. Jeff reminded me of a tweet that I had sent earlier in the week about receiving an event notice on Facebook for a play that included all kinds of information but omitted both the dates of the play and the price of the tickets. He suggested that I use that as a launching off point, so, thank you, Jeff.
So today, I will give you a list of things that I think should be in most of your online promotions of your theatre production whether by e-mail, Facebook event page, or link to your website (and what you should have there, too.)

Number 1: What it is?
Obvious, maybe, but I can't tell you how many times I get a notice about some theatrical event, and I'm not clear whether it's a full production, a staged reading, a musical cabaret, or a fundraiser mixer. Be clear. If it's a production, include a brief description if it's not well-known. If you've got millions of dollars to spend on a deliberately cryptic ad campaign to generate lots of buzz, then go for it, but expect that a lot of people are simply going to say "whatever" and move on to the next thing in their inbox.

Number 2: Donde está?
Do not underestimate the importance of location. Some people will make a decision about whether to see something based upon where it is presented. It can even add interest, believe it or not. I have gone to see a show I wasn't originally interested in because it was just around the corner from a friend I've been meaning to have lunch with, but just haven't found the time. The location didn't sell just one ticket, but two. In a Facebook event, definitely put the address. On your website, put in a map or a link to a map website. Make it as easy as possible to get to your production. I also highly recommend typing out directions or cross streets on your website. Remember, sometimes people are looking at your website on a smartphone. They may not want to click on a link. If you've got a limited amount of space, then at least give your area: Arvada, Littleton, Denver, North Denver, West Denver. Don't assume that everyone who sees your promotion has even heard of you, much less knows where you are.

Number 3: Peeps
On any given week in the Denver area, there are twenty, thirty, or even more productions being staged. Even if people can afford to see everything (few can), there is just not enough time. How do people pick and choose? Well, the "what" mentioned above is a major factor, but don't forget about the importance of the talent you've hired. Just like people will go see anything with Sean Connery in it or directed by the Coen brothers, your local theatre audience has their favorites, too. It's on a much smaller scale, of course, but what if you could sell even twenty more seats to your production because someone saw a name they know and like on your website or in the Facebook event page?
Remember, too, that a large part of your audience is made up of theatre folk themselves. Again, I've gone to see a show only because someone I once worked with was in it. (I've gone to see a show because someone in it helped me move.) Don't assume that person remembered to tell me that they were in it.
Again, I hear many people in the theatre community say, "Oh, I didn't realize [so-and-so] was in that show, and now I've missed it!" It happens more often than you might think. List your cast and crew on your website, and on your Facebook event page. In e-mails and flyers going out to the general public, I recommend at least mentioning the director and possibly the leads. Photographs can be even better as some people will recognize a face before a name.

Number 4: That'll be the day.
As I mentioned, I received a notification about a musical opening "soon" and that was it. It was probably just an oversight, but I'd say it was a pretty big one, wouldn't you? I ran into someone the other night who missed a show because the date was wrong on the Facebook page. It was right in the e-mail she'd received. it was right on the flyer that came in the mail. However, the last place that she saw the date - and the one that stuck in her memory - was wrong. I was at that show, and it wasn't sold out. Follow me?
Get the dates right and list the times in an easy to find place, too. Again, remember, people are now looking you up on palm-held devices, and you don't want to miss out on a dinner party spontaneously deciding to come see your show because they can't find out if it starts at 7 or 7:30. Yes, they can call, but what if you're on another line?

Number 5: It's all about the Benjamins, baby.
List your ticket prices: Adult, child, student/senior. If I'm trying to decide between your show and somebody else's, and you don't list your ticket prices, but they do: I'm going to assume that your tickets are more expensive than theirs. If you are presenting reasonably-priced theatre, then make it known.

Number 6: Click me!
Give us a link to your website. (Please tell me you have a website.) On your website's home page, have the basic information about the show and some basic information about your company. Remember, this may be as far as I get with my smartphone.
Think this:

Obscurely-Named Theatre Company
North Denver's 3rd finest musical comedy troupe!

by Guy who writes for your favorite TV show,
but you don't know it
Directed by That guy who directed the last show you saw and liked

March 11th through Holy Cow! It's closing soon!
Fridays, Saturdays 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm Matinee
Tickets: Adults $Hey not bad! Students/Seniors $Hey, really not bad!
No kids' price? Maybe this isn't for kids. Let's call a sitter.
321 19th-Century-Genocidal-Maniac Street, Denver, CO 

Then, after that, put a link to a separate page with more specific information: cast, crew, synopsis, and more. (This is also the stuff you'll want to include in the Facebook event page.)

Your website designer (yes, you should hire one) will have most likely given you clearly-marked buttons on your page with directions and maps, box office contact info and more.
Quick Tip: Flash may look cool, but not so much on mobile devices, which may be how people are visiting your site. Consider using less flash or make a flash-free version that can be linked to the front page.

Now, I'm not saying that you can't still make your cool, artistic posters with minimal printing (just don't be surprised if they obfuscate). I'm saying that where you have the opportunity to present the information more completely (i.e. your website, Facebook), you should really do so.

You can't tell why someone is or isn't going to come see your show, all you can do is present them with the information. Give them the what, the when, the where, and the who, and let them come up with the why.

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