Thursday, December 26, 2013

360 Creativity

It's been over a year now since I've joined the Performance Network Theatre team as the Marketing and Public Relations Director. I'm happy to say that I have just about every detail planned for the upcoming season's marketing mix, but trust me I experienced personal doubts and a fair amount of stress while adjusting to the new environment. I think we all experience difficulties when embarking on a new challenge, but that's when we learn and grow into the strongest versions of ourselves. I'm now at the point that I know exactly when the postcards need to go out, when I need to begin writing the press releases, when I should be sending them, who's composing the tweets and pins for every show this season... all while making sure there time for new ideas and efforts. SHA - BAM. MAN it feels good to be an arts marketer!

I was recently asked to present at the Search Marketing Workshop to talk about how a 360 view on your marketing mix can impact social media and vice versa. What I mean by a "360 view" is 1) incorporating old school + new school ideas and 2) getting involved in your brand. I'm not implying that I'm sharing revolutionary ideas, but I can offer a unique perspective on a marketing mix based on my experience at Performance Network. My goal is to share this knowledge with other marketers and help you draw inspiration from your company to influence your message!

1) Old School vs. New School / Old School + New School

The world of marketing is in a so-called "transition phase" with old and new media, but some marketers are not adhering to the actual TRANSITION. I hear questions such as, "Is direct mail worth the time and money?", "Does Facebook generate anything for our business?", "Should I really be concerned with mobile?", or "Should I really be concerned about sending letters?". The answer is, yes. Gone are the days when organizations should argue if they should even have a social media presence. Americans use social media more than they exercise. YET sometimes the message doesn't cut through the interweb noise until consumers can physically hold a piece of your product's message. In the non-profit theatre industry arts marketers (including myself) may get antsy about writing a large check toward a mailing when social media can be used completely free of cost (sort of), but we can lower that possibility of our audience ignoring our message by strategically targeting those who are receiving the mail piece. (If you are not targeting your mailings, then yeah, you're not going to see results.) The next most important step is to make sure  your social media and online presence are integrated on your materials (postcards, posters, playbills, etc.). How do you highlight your social media in other mediums? Put your official #hashtags on postcards, place the Facebook logo on a poster so audiences are aware of you the next time they're social mediaizing, bring e-mail newsletter sign up sheets to outside events, and do not forget to put ALL of your social media information onto your website. Email me if you want more tips! Why highlight social media on your other materials? Because we are in a transitional phase and you want to show everyone you have a presence on their favorite channels. (There is also a funky myth that older generations only want old media. FALSE. Senior citizens use social media too, people!)  No more old school vs. new school. Combine their powers and engagement will happen.

2) Get Involved with Your Brand

I am fortunate in my position to be behind nearly every marketing material that is presented to the public. I work at a non-profit theatre that serves thousands of people a year and I am one of seven full time employees and three apprentices. I work with a graphic designer and an apprentice each day. My co-workers are supportive and step outside of the roles of their position to help when it is needed. This is our marketing department and IT'S FASCINATING. There are no mysteries in my marketing mix, because I am lucky enough to oversee all aspects of our brand (community outreach, social media, print, web, press, direct mail, targeting, pricing, consumer experience etc. etc. etc.). If you're involved in only one aspect of your brand, make efforts to reach out to other departments. Attend concept meetings, have lunch with your programmers, swing by the design department and give them all an update in your department. You can collaborate, inform and spark ideas with one another that can evolve into a comprehensive and authentic brand for consumers to explore. When I say get involved, I mean GET INVOLVED! Not that I can hold a candle to our technical team, but I am happy to say I have helped paint and sweep the stage of Performance Network. I helped participate in a 2-hour PNTelethon to raise donations. I helped run the register for our Backstage Sale. All of these experiences have helped me gain a 360 view on Performance Network Theatre and have heavily increased my enthusiasm for the organization. Some of the best ideas come from people outside your department so be ready to get your hands dirty, collaborate and listen!

3) Gather Around the Fire...

...because it's story time! My favorite example of all of these elements coming together is when the Fireside New Play Festival at Performance Network Theatre had its highest attendance in July, 2013. Performance Network is a member of the National New Play Network and strives to produce never before seen works by new playwrights on a regular basis. Three times a year we host the Fireside New Play Festival in which we present four new plays in four days and tickets are Pay-What-You-Can. This is an engaging, challenging, and inspiring program that garners much attention with our audiences, but never resulted in attendance. This was bothering me on an emotional level. I LOVE FIRESIDE. It's actually the first time I got involved at Performance Network when I performed in a staged reading of Joseph Zettelmaier's "Blackwater Ballad". By getting involved in my brand on this sort of level, I had a true desire to boost this program. Even so, we couldn't figure out WHAT we were doing wrong! We sent out press releases, pumped out social media posts, included event info in weekly emails, but we were not reaching the attendance we were certain this program deserved. SO we decided to combine old school and new school media by sending out a postcard. A simple 8.5 x 5.5 postcard printed in-house on cardstock that included the official #PlaysOnFire hashtag to a highly targeted, small list of Ann Arbor residents. THIS WAS OUR HIGHEST ATTENDED FIRESIDE FESTIVAL OF ALL TIME! We packed the house! We had students, seniors, donors, and subscribers that responded to the mailing! This, I believe, is a testimony to the power of unity with all aspects of your marketing mix. We had basically "tapped out" our digital presence for the Fireside New Play Festival and integrated it into another medium...and it worked beautifully!

In conclusion, listen to your voice and combine it with other powerful voices (such as postcards or ideas of other departments!) and you will end up with a successful marketing mix that is totally you and totally great for your brand!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

5 Life Lessons I Learned Through Theatre

1) You Can't Always Get What You Want.
Every actor knows the emotions after an in-tents callback range high and low. It hurts to think about the possibility of rejection yet the idea of stardom is all too tasty. But at this point, it is completely out of your hands. You have done all you could have done and now you wait. After treacherous night sweats and all of the coffee you can stomach, you anxiously search for the cast list, push your way through the crowd gathered around the golden piece of information, and you notice you did not get the lead role. (le sigh.) Okay...perhaps the supporting role? Nope. Um...chorus? NOT A CHANCE! 
And so kids, this is life. All of the effort and desire can ultimately amount to a lesson Mick Jagger tried to teach you long ago. But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need. (And that's probably a glass of wine, a box of chocolates, and your cat.)

2) The Show MUST Go On.
Even the Queen herself admits to feeling tired and overworked in her recent GQ article, but that does not stop Miss B from bringing joy and belted trills to millions of fans. The week before the opening performance feels like a sick game of chicken between your preparation and the date that's marked on all of your friends' calendars! But when that day comes, and everybody is showing up - it's time to get your gameface and your eyeliner on. No more time for nervousness or hesitation, YOU'RE UP so get to it!

3) If You're Scared - So Are We.
Do not underestimate the average person's capability to notice a general discomfort or lack of confidence. If it is time for you to hit the high note to close out Act One, you better BELIEVE you WILL hit that note. Any moment of doubt or resistance can turn a powerful closing note into a meh-worthy awkward shift to intermission. When you present yourself to a group of people you must enhance your strengths to make up for your weaknesses. No one is perfect (besides Beyonce) so use those acting skills to create the smart, successful, talented being that's right beneath the surface. OR listen to Julie Andrews for a little pick-me-up.

Theatre classics are important references to specific points in time and can grant you the opportunity to take risks unlike ever before by banishing convention. Being the Marketing Director at Performance Network Theatre allowed me to witness the reconstruction of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Traditionally The Glass Menagerie is set in a small Southern home with a rather annoying family you desperately want the main character to escape. The direction of Tim Rhoze, set design by Monika Essen, lighting design by Daniel C. Walker and truly amazing heartfelt performances transformed this regular repertoire piece into an imaginative experience anchored by Williams' stunning language. Maintaining the original integrity to any transformational project is key, but find those areas in which you can push the limits and your product we be well-rounded and unique! 

5) Passion + Compassion.
Many times you must play a character whose decisions are questionable, but it is your job to defend your character. There are always two sides to the story and everyone has a different interpretation. When you are placed in a confrontation, remember the person on the other end may have legitimate frustrations as well. Take a strong stand for what you believe is right but remember there is always room to bend, collaborate, and find compassion. 

That's all I have folks! I shall continue posting as I get closer and closer to graduation!! Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Spotify Tells Me What I Like

Ahh, the last day of EMU's winter break. 
A great day to blog and reflect on my holiday jams 
(as in tunes, not preserves).

Spotify tells me what I like. I use it nearly everyday. 
A monthly fee for endless music...Wherever. Whenever.

...It keeps track of my top artists as I listen. 
Here are my (surprising) top five:

1) Lily Allen
I am certainly a fan of Miss Allen, but I certainly did not expect her as my TOP artist. Apparently I enjoy listening to the funk-folk-female more than I projected. Lily Allen is perfect for the "I want to get this party going, but I don't want to be generic" situation. Her sound is contemporary and fresh while keeping the pop-rock love that is rooted deep within my brain. Hiding swear words under bubblegum pop and swinging punches in polka-dots, Lily Allen is perfect for those busy weeks when we don't have TIME to be grumpy. We can just pop our earbuds in, bob to 4/4 time, and have a nice smile. Here's my recommended Lily Allen jam!

2) Fleet Foxes
This is not a surprising rank by any means. I have faithfully listened to Fleet Foxes for about five years. Their skill is genuine and their compositions are soothing yet complex. Fleet Foxes have transcended my expectations for vocal harmonies and musical poetry. If ever Fleet Foxes are performing near you, I highly recommend the ticket. The concert at the Hill Auditorium was unwordly and can be enjoyed by any age group. Take your Grandma, your nephew, a co-worker. It will bring you closer together! Here's my recommended Fleet Foxes jam!

3) Jason Mraz
...What? I don't listen to Jason Mraz! I didn't seem him in concert...twice! In all seriousness - He's a super funky singer/songwriter than mixes folk with hip hop and a taste of musical theatre. This is not something I am willing to glance over. His concerts are a very relaxing experience. I don't lose my voice screaming or get trompled by the crowd. His yogi-cat-lovin vibes spread through the audience as you are busy keeping up with his tongue twisting lyrics (while accessing your diaphragm). Here's my recommended Jason Mraz jam!

4) Dr. Dog
Another obvious favorite, the beloved Dr. Dog. Turning familiar phrases on their ear such as "There's an elephant in my head, so I tip toe around it. There are eggshells on the floor, therefore I never touch the ground," is the quality that allows you to repeat Dr. Dog songs throughout the course of your life. The songs have taken on and helped me through so many different aspects of my life. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO, DR. DOG! Here's my recommended Dr. Dog jam!

5) Gorillaz
Perhaps I HAVE been dusting off some of my favorite tunes from Plastic Beach and Demon Days. They made it big on MTV with the release of Demon Days in 2005 with Feel Good Inc. Oh yea...that was my jam. They were also featured on The O.C. Soundtrack...which...was NOT a part of my collection...especially not all five of them...
The Gorillaz came back 2010 with Plastic Beach which is definitely worth having in your collection. Here's my recommended Gorillaz jam!

I have to give an honorable mention to The One and Only:

Thanks for reading! And listening!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How to "Heat Up" Your Marketing

In efforts to promote Burn This at Performance Network Theatre and to make way around a generic 11x17 poster, we came together as a staff and created something worthwhile. Not every opportunity is as hot as this one, we but thought of some small adjustments we could make to heat up our marketing.

Look familiar? A giant stack of posters and the nagging in 
your brain wondering if it was really worth it...

We took the promo posters to the extra mile in the hopes that they'll get people talking. After all, isn't that the point?

Step 1. 
We left a 4-in margin at the bottom of the poster to leave room for burning, but it was actually too much room. I recommend 2 1/2 inches instead. (The ripping effect along the bottom and the side provided an appropriate stressed look, however!)

Step 2.
GO OUTSIDE and use a torch to burn along the edges. Give it extra burns all over the page to make it look authentic.

Step 3.
Dip the burnt edges in tea to increase the brown-tint left behind by the flames. (Raspberry tea left the most tint!! Mmmm.)

Step 4.

Put them out there! Every poster will be 100% original and it sends the message that you took the time to create something AWESOME for your audience to look at. And you'll have fun doing it.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Life's a Happy Song: The History of the Muppets

For my Post-Modern and Contemporary Art class, I decided to write about Jim Henson's creation of The Muppets for my final paper. Enjoy snippets of the final product!

Jim Henson – Muppets – Puppetry – 1955-Present – Range in size from a couple inches to 8 feet tall –Combination of marionettes and puppets using soft materials such as fabric and durable materials such as wood or steel.

The first Muppets sightings are found in early commercials and a local children’s television show in Maryland, Sam and Friends in 1955. This was the introduction of using the Muppets and the use of “marionette/puppets” to communicate ideas.

In 1955 artists such as Jackson Pollock and Williem de Kooning were beginning to gain recognition. These artists were beginning to gain recognition as a part of the New York School of Art. They were much more focused on the actual action of painting rather than its aesthetic appeal. 

These types of images of women by de Kooning were not well received by the female community. People found these works highly offensive. However, de Kooning was far more interested in capturing the emotional essence of her beauty rather than the way she appeared in real life. Similar to this thought, Henson created non-animal-monster characters to represent certain moods or personalities often associated with humans. (Oh gosh how I love Miss Piggy!)

Another emerging wave in the art world during this time was Pop Art. Artists such asAndy Warhol began commenting on the media’s tendency towards mass production and the popular demand for consumerism. Pictured above is one of Andy Warhol’s self-portrait alongside a line of O.P.I. nail polishes that were named after Muppet characters. It’s this type of marketing and consumerism that led to the Muppets explosion and Henson’s attempt to sell the Muppet franchise to Disney for $150 million.

Even after Jim Henson’s death we still see the Muppets all around us. There has been Muppet Treasure Island, Baby Muppets, Muppets in Space, Muppets Tonight, and the most recent Muppet success was with Jason Segal’s revival, The Muppets, which premiered in 2011.

The graphic novel, Tale of Sand, developed by artist, Ramon K. Perez, is the unproduced screenplay of Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl adapted as an experimental tribute to the late contemporary artists. It's quite the read, folks. Notice the action in the image that correlates with Henson and Juhl's stream of consciousness humor.

The cameo system within the Muppets has also held its incredible and defying success in the entertainment world by appealing to many different and developing audiences. Mickey Rooney, Stevie Wonder, Neil Patrick Harris, Whoppi Golberg, Ethel Merman, Elton John, and Diana Ross are only a small portion of celebrities who have opted to hang around the Muppets. Oh and some guy named Steve Martin's picture came up when I Googled the Muppets. 

The purpose of the Muppets was to use nondescript creatures to communicate ideas through humor. The fact that Muppets are neither monster, animal, or human, makes them relatable to any type of person regardless of sex, race, sexuality, age, education, etc. There is a Muppet for everyone. What this means for audiences and viewers is that it’s okay to be green or tell bad jokes or enjoy bossing people around. Even though we don’t all look alike, we’re all friends and family at the end of the day.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

To Hang or Not to Hang?: Four Reasons to Say No to 11x17 Posters

Four Reasons to Say No to 11x17 Posters
(...but there's always room for healthy debate.)

1) Money Out the Window: If you order a bunch and happen to make a good deal with your printer, you're looking at about one dollar per a piece for a one-way communication device with a 2-10 week lifespan. But the spending doesn't stop there. Commissioning a designer to create a post-worthy poster costs time and creative energy.  And where would our posters be without the Interns of America? It takes an average of 10 minutes to hang one poster (between driving, walking, asking permission, and posting). 

2) Fear the Wall: This is not effective communication! This is clutter. Unless you have a compelling poster  (which doesn't always happen) your poster will be swallowed and surely covered by other meh-worthy paper bits.

Not Everyone Works in Your Organization: Have marketers ever considered the illusion that posters raise awareness is because we're prone to recognizing our brand? Of course you're going to notice your organizations posters everywhere, but how often do you actively seek opportunities by looking at posters?  People want to interact. Not be shouted at by an organization. Posters are not what's causing people to jam through your doors - YOU ARE!

4) There's Enough Waste in This World:  "It is a source of beauty. And without paper, it could not have happened... Unless, you had a camera." - Michael Scott. We live in a world that has too much waste and not enough trees. Think of how many ways your organization can SAVE per season if you eliminated posters all together. 

I believe every problem has a solution. Challenge and inspire your designers to create different forms of print. Target areas and locations and hang their innovative designs somewhere that matters. Take the money you would spend on a typical size to print and spend that on a round cut or a bigger landscape. Or branded coasters! Or temporary tattoos! Anything! All I'm saying folks - 11x17 posters should not be a go-to.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Schoolin' Life

Today I accepted the position as Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the Performance Network Theatre in Ann Arbor! I will finish my degree in Arts Management as I start this new journey! Thank you to Ken Stevens, Pam Cardell, The Staff ad Board of Performance Network, EMU Theatre, MASS MoCA, and all the lovely people I call family!
Let's get to work!