Rebecca Coleman is founder of Rebecca Coleman, Marketing and Media Relations
for Artists in Vancouver, British Columbia.
1) Why did you write your e-book, “Getting Started with Social Networking for Artists and Arts Organizations”?
My bread and butter is doing publicity for theatre companies, which in the past meant getting them as much mainstream editorial coverage as I could. Those kinds of media outlets are going the way of the dodo, and those that still exist have fewer column inches for my clients than ever. We need to find new ways to reach audiences, which means thinking outside traditional forms of advertising and PR. The good news for us is that social media is ideally suited to fill the void.
Why an e-book? I’ve found that there are lots of e-books on social media, lots on marketing, but none on how to create an arts marketing plan using social media. My book combines the two. And because it’s an e-book, I’m able to update it on a regular basis, and keep up with the pace of change in the social media space.
Truth be told, the true genesis of the book was my blog: The Art of the Business – that’s where I created the skeleton for this beast.
2) How is marketing arts different from – say – marketing soft drinks?
First, our budgets are vastly different. I don’t know any arts organizations that can afford TV commercials. What’s great about the arts, however, is that what we lack in advertising dollars, we are well equipped to make up for in creativity. And again, social media, for the most part, are free and pre-populated with potential clients.
Second, soft drinks appeal to huge, mass markets. In the arts, largely because of the subjective nature of our work, we need to market to a niche. The greatest mistake many artists make is trying to sell their niche product to a mass market.
Theatre companies, however, can take a cue from soft drink companies. Brands such as Coke and Pepsi are sold on “cool.” The age of the average theatre-goer here in Vancouver is 40+. If we want to survive and thrive, we need to create theatre that is “cool” and market it in kind. Most young people think theatre is boring, stogy, and expensive. The reality is much different.
3) How are the 2010 Olympics changing the playing field for theatre marketers in Vancouver?
Presentation House Theatre is a client of mine who’s participating in something called the “Cultural Olympiad.” Its mandate is to show off Canada’s “world class” culture to the world during the Olympics. Sounds great on paper. But it’s only promoting shows that are part of the Cultural Olympiad program. So, if you’re in town for the Olympics, and you decide you’ll catch a play or you want to see some jazz or a gallery show, the first place you’ll go to look will be the Cultural Olympiad site.
Among theatre companies that aren’t included in the Cultural Olympiad, there will be a few that try to put on shows during that time – and they’ll do their best to bring in the crowds. But the prevailing attitude seems to be that reaching that audience will be too tough.
4) If you could change one thing about mass media marketing in Vancouver, what would it be?
Vancouver’s media market is dominated by one company: Global. It owns our two daily newspapers, our most watched Canadian television station, several radio stations, and a bunch of the smaller, regional weeklies. It’s crazy to me that one company can control so much of the media. I’d change that by taking power back and giving marketers more tools to create and distribute their own content.
5) What’s your favourite brand and why?
The brands I love are brands that make my life easier, and have good ROI. I work on a Mac, for example. And even though it cost me twice what a PC would, it was worth it to me because I don’t have to defrag it, reboot it, worry about it getting viruses, etc. I’m also a dedicated Volkswagon driver, and, at the risk of sounding like a loopy west-coaster, seldom does a day go by that I don’t wear some piece of lululemon clothing.
Instead of the “spray and pray” marketing methods, we should be creating our brand ambassadors. If people love something, or it makes their lives easier, or it represents a great dollar-cost-average, they’ll tell other people. We need to make it easy for them to do that. Being active on social media is a good way to make that happen.
6) What’s a marketing lesson you’ve learned the hard way?
Never count on a “sure thing.” A newspaper says they’ll do a story on your client? Don’t believe it until you see it in print. Cautious optimism all the way.
7) Any predictions as to where social media marketing might be 10 years from now?
More tailored marketing. Instead of it being spread to the masses, we are able to be specific with our demographics and tailor our message to people who may actually be interested in what we have to say about our brands. It’s the return of the door-to-door salesman.
I see a future in which you’ll just have to think, “I really need a new pair of jeans,” and an e-mail will arrive with a coupon for your fave Levis.
8) If theatre was advertised on more billboards, would it sell more tickets?
I don’t think so. For a couple of reasons. First, theatre doesn’t always appeal to a mass audience, so advertising it as such is futile. Second, theatre needs to be affordable. When I look at huge touring shows that come to Vancouver and advertise heavily (yes, even on billboards), those shows are inevitably selling tickets in the $60-100 range. It’s a select group of people that can afford that kind of theatre.
We have to make theatre relevant to people. We have to make them care and buy in emotionally. And I don’t think a billboard has the power to do that.
9) What would you do with a $1,000,000 grant to market theatre in Canada?
First I would rub my hands together like Mr. Burns. Then I’d create the coolest website ever: A hub for theatre in Canada. Broken down by province and region, fully searchable. Any theatre company that wanted to could have a page, and they could interact with it as deeply as they wanted – blog, videos, you name it. We would give the audience a chance to post reviews (Yelp-style). We’d give away tickets. We’d create a “free night of theatre” like they’ve done in the States. We’d have a section for theatre nerds to talk and connect and go on about theory and cutting-edge techniques and shows. It would be magnificent.
First person to Tweet this post gets a free copy of Rebecca Coleman’s e-book:Getting Started with Social Networking for Artists and Arts Organizations.