Archive for May, 2011

May 18, 2011

Coffee and Other Sources of Engagement

It was an early morning meeting day  today – my first was up at Yonge and St. Clair (I say up as I am a downtown girl) with Sean Howard. Sean is the author of Craphammer – a blog I love reading, mostly because it’s fiercely intelligent like he is, and partially because I adore Sean. Sean and I first worked together when he was with Spinglobe and I was with Artscape and we’ve never lost touch.

I like having coffee with Sean – for me, Sean manages to strike just the right balance between art and digital engagement.  Right now he’s working on a presentation  for an international arts and culture group so we were talking about social media, going through examples of engagement that I’ve really liked in the past while. I mentioned that many companies are getting really good at making Youtube videos for their upcoming productions, no matter what the budget  – Groundwater Production’s Montparnasse  was my first thought, followed by the ones that Soulpepper have been making. In terms of overall season commercials, This Is The Place  by Theatre Passe Muraille made me really happy. (Although I wish it were posted to YouTube as well as Facebook).

We also talked about contests we’d found effective – Vancouver Opera’s contest “Where’s Nixon?” was a fantastic idea, extremely interactive and well executed.

Why am I telling you this? To make the point that none of these ideas and videos are recent ,as in they are less than a month old. But they’ve stuck in my head. They’re good and worth sharing. When was the last time you shared a flyer with a friend? Rarely, I would guess. But all these videos take are an email, or Facebook post and three magic words – “Check this out”.

Just as importantly,  they’ve got staying power – long after the flyers are recycled and the posters taken down, the programs in scrapbooks or archives and the website changed for the new season’s productions and colours –  these videos can be viewed again and again – and that means your company benefits from that staying power – they’ve gone past being an ad for a specific production and into becoming an ad for your company as producer. In short –  they’re excellent examples of what else are you going to do?

SIDE NOTE – delighted to announce I will be working with the amazing team over at Expect Theatre on their upcoming production of AWAKE – I’ve known Chris and Laura (the talented folks at the helm) for years and can’t wait to collaborate with them on this fantastic piece of theatre. You can follow them on Twitter @ExpectTheatre.

Reminder that the OAC Compass deadline is still approaching – June 1st, folks. Let’s talk.

May 17, 2011

Gorgeous Posters! Fabulous Flyers!

….which one is your show again?

I had a great meeting with a theatre company today to talk about marketing for their upcoming show. It was mentioned they were doing posters and flyers – but once we’d all nodded in confirmation, we moved immediately on to what else could be done to market a show.

The photo above was taken at the 2011 Toronto Fringe – it’s the ‘poster board’. Frightening, isn’t it? How do you choose what show to see when there are so many shows competing for your attention?

Okay maybe that’s not fair – it’s the Fringe, and there’s huge competition while that’s going on. Fair enough. So I took this picture today.

This is one example of tables, windowsills, shelves and nooks all over the city where people have put their flyers in the hope that you will see it, pick it up, and go to see the show. Technically this example could be called niche marketing as it’s in the Distillery and there are lots of artists there. But at the same time it’s spray and pray – putting down a bundle of flyers where you think people might pick them up. We all do it – but that’s not really marketing – it’s distribution and should be only one line item of many in your marketing plan.

We need to remember that most marketing tools are simple a reminder to audiences that your show exists. By the time someone sees a poster or a flyer, you want them to already have something fixed in their mind about your show.

What else are you going to do? Let’s talk.

May 16, 2011

Today’s PSA: Facebook Pages and Helping Each Other Like Things

So Facebook is making some changes – again – with their whole groups and pages concepts. I thought I’d do a little research as I get several requests a day to leave a group and join their page instead, plus I administer a couple of  myself so I am dealing with both sides of the stick. So I did some digging – let’s start at the start. Facebook will begin archiving all groups created using the older format, in a push to get everyone onto the newer version of the feature. Recognize this message?

Over the next few months, Facebook will be archiving all groups created using the old groups format. Moving forward, you can create groups using the new groups format, which makes it easy to share with the important groups in your life.

Facebook offers pretty thorough guidance about the forthcoming archiving and upgrades in the site’s help section, so you can check that out too.
The site explains that old groups that get archived will automatically also become available in the new group format. Most of the associated content will remain available in the upgraded version, with some notable exceptions. The things that won’t make it over are things like:Recent news, Group officer titles, The information  box under the old group picture, The group network, The members of your old group.
Yup, you’ll have to redo your membership list in the new group if you wait for Facebook to do the archive and upgrade for you. Grr.
The archived version will include:Group photos and wall posts, Group discussion threads, which become wall posts, The group description, which can be found at the top of the page when you click “see all” members in the new group. (thanks to Jim Hanas at allfacebook for organizing into one section)

So! I spoke with a few people who are as inundated as I am with “please click like!” messages these days, and donating a heck of a lot of status updates and time to the cause of their page. It frustrates me that if I have a group with 1000+ members I have to hope I’ve bugged them enough so that they switch over, but not so much that they don’t. You can also look at it as a way of cleaning your lists without a lot of work: the folks who were just there for the sake of there-ness may not come back, the folks who are invested enough in you will be back immediately. It may drop your numbers, maybe even considerably, but this tightens up your group of followers to those who are not simply clicking for the sake of clicking, but have a real interest in you and your work. 100 people who come to every show, bring friends and tell others about your work is much more useful than 500 followers who don’t even remember that they’re following you.

Enter today’s blog post, disguised as a PSA.  I’m listing a few of the requests I’ve recently gotten to switch from a page to a group, and if you would like yours listed too, feel free drop the  old group name/new page name and the new link into the comments section below. If you don’t have a new page that you need this for, feel free to forward the offer to another friend who does. We are all in this together.

For the moment here are a few I’ve rejoined, and think you should too – the links below go to the new page.

The Harold Awards
The Toronto Fringe
Andrew Shay Hahn (the mad craft shoppe)

Brick, A Literary Journal
Expect Theatre/Spark Collective
Small Print Toronto
The Way I see It Theatre Blog

good luck and happy clicking!

May 15, 2011

Sunday Roundup – May 15

So this has been the first week of blog posting. I`ve decided Sundays might be a roundup of the week`s posts, and other news that didn`t get a post but is still cool in my circles. If you have a tidbit you think is interesting, you can send it to me here.

Customer Service: Are we Falling Down? Great article from the Creative Trust blog about Customer Service in the arts. You can spend a ton of time on marketing and PR initiatives, but if your front line isn’t in tip-top shape, it all falls apart.

So THAT’s Why We Do It… fun article by Max Read over at Gawker on how looking at art mimics falling in love. To our brains, anyway.

The Ten Best Theatre Production Companies in Toronto – repost from an article on BlogTO. This got a lot of traffic of course. I’m still not sure I agree, simply because art is subjective, and hard to compare.

Will You Be Participating In Culture Days? well? will you?

Have You Checked Out Today’s Google Doodle?  – Happy birthday Martha! One of the best Google Doodles I’ve seen, and in honour of one of the doyennes of modern dance.

Fill It Out. Shape Your City. This is a big one, folks, and the one I recommended you work on today. Since I’ve posted there has been more information sent out, including a great initiative from OneToronto, and a couple of articles indicating “Ford Nation” is more invited  to participate than the rest of the folks. Fill it out, register for a roundtable. The arts are a HUGE industry in this city, and our opinion matters.

You’ll Never Guess Where I’m Posting From!  – Thoroughly Modern Sue posts to you live from a sushi joint thanks  to the miracles of modern technology.

Painting Yourself Into A Corner – why we hire professionals to do things.

Other News

Although Bixi officially launched May 3rd, last week was the week when I really started seeing the advertising, the racks and the posts from friends about getting their Bixi keys. It’s an exciting initiative and one I’m proud Toronto is participating in.

The elephants are heading elsewhere. The Toronto Zoo pachyderms are going somewhere more appropriate to retire and enjoy the rest of their time after 30+ years in showbiz. Think warm and with space for them to roam. Perhaps they’re heading to Florida with the rest of the snowbird seniors. Either way – good.

Speaking of migrating,if you were a member of the Harold Awards group, or the Artsvote group on Facebook, new pages have been created – visit The Harold Awards or ArtsvoteTO to keep yourself in the thick of things.

Interesting piece on how we waste food from the gang over at Folks Gotta Eat. Makes you think.

A friendly reminder that if you’re wondering how to come up with the cash to initiate a bigger picture strategic marketing and communications plan for your org,  the Ontario Arts Council deadline for their Compass program is June 1.  Happy to chat about how I could help you with both the grant and as the specialist you apply to work with.

And finally since it wouldn’t be Sunday without the comics, here you go. It’s from 3eanuts by Daniel Leonard – a site I absolutely love and you should check out.
Happy Sunday!

May 13, 2011

Painting Yourself Into a Corner

I hired someone to come and paint the accent wall in my living room today – it looks gorgeous. As many of us do with excruciating bits of life minutiae, I felt compelled to post it on Facebook:  “The painter is here! Painting!”

A friend of mine jokingly commented: “You HIRED a painter? For ONE wall? OMG.”

Speaking of OMG you may be thinking, “Five days in and she’s reduced to talking about paint. Will the next paragraph be about it drying?”

No. It’s about my response to that comment, which was that I was confident in my knowledge of my skill set. It does not include painting. (For years I was convinced that paint rollers were designed for right handed people. THAT bad.) So rather than spend a morning buying too much or too little paint, applying it badly, putting on too much, too little, getting it on the ceiling and the baseboards and hating the result, I hired a professional to do it. It’s done, it’s done well and I just referred him to a neighbour.  And I went on my merry way to the meetings I had today.

Which leads to my skill set. People hire me to do very specific things: marketing, communications, press releases etc. They know I am a professional, they want the job done right, and don’t have the time to do it themselves. In addition – they know i could do a better job than them, as I am focused on doing those things.  It’s what I’m best at, and  it leaves them free to do what they do best be it writing, directing, producing or dancing. I focus on my skill set, they focus on theirs, and both the marketing and the project are better as a result.

But how hard can it be to write a press release and drop some postcards and make a Facebook event?” you may be thinking. “and I don’t have the money to hire someone to do it.

You don’t have the money not to.

(keep in mind – I have worked in and with and for arts organizations of all sizes and stripes. I understand your budget.)

Sure – lots of people can do those things. But if your press release has no hook, it won’t get picked up. And if you’re busy with your skill set, you won’t have time to follow up with the press to try to get interviews, previews and reviews. Heck even submitting to the listings takes time.
You can order a ton of postcards – if nobody has figured out the plan for distribution, they aren’t going anywhere. Or they’re winding up in places that do you no good – like underneath the eight thousand other postcards lying on a dusty windowsill in a cafe. And those are the hundred or so  you personally managed to get out. Putting up a Facebook event IS easy – for people to ignore if there is nobody monitoring it, using it , feeding fresh content, promoting and publicizing it.

So when I say you can’t afford not to, I mean the money it costs is nothing compared to the amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, grant writing and rehearsing you’ve put into your project. What does it cost you if nobody knows about your show? More than money, I think.

You see where I’m going. When you hire me, you are investing in the success of your own project.  You are getting a marketing plan that we create together, and you’re getting assistance in carrying it out. A marketing plan isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on unless you have someone working with you to make it happen. And thats where I come in. So lets chat.

Arts Planning and Painting. Seemingly different, but very similar – sure a lot of people can do them, but isn’t it better to have someone do it well the first time around?


– got a note from the Toronto Arts Council reminding  me about the City Services survey that I posted about the other day, they’ve shaped it well to talk about the effects it will have on arts and culture, so  have a read and do the survey this weekend over a second cup of coffee or tea. Fill it out, shape your city.

– also a friendly reminder that if you’re wondering how to come up with the cash to initiate a bigger picture strategic marketing and communications plan for your org,  the Ontario Arts Council deadline for their Compass program is June 1.  Happy to chat about how I could help you with both the grant and as the specialist you apply to work with.

Happy weekend! I haven’t decided if I’ll post on weekends or not. You’ll obviously be the first to find out – well, second. I’ll know first.

May 12, 2011

You’ll Never Guess Where I’m Posting From!

I remember in the early nineties, I had a boyfriend who worked for a telco. As a result, he had one of the first cellphones, an absolute brick of a thing in size and weight, with a thick rubberized antennae. And I remember him letting me make a phone call and of course the first thing I said was, “You’ll never guess where I’m calling from! Bay and Bloor! No – ACTUALLY I’m walking down the street!!”
Item: I wonder how much that call cost.
So from that crackly shouting into the phone call, we’ve progressed at an alarming speed. We stopped being tethered to landlines to make phone calls over twenty years ago. And that’s the least of it.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I’ve been out on the run all day and haven’t been home to write and post on my blog. And that isn’t a problem. This might have meant no or a late night blog post today – except for one thing. The descendant of that brick of a phone is in my hand right now – my Blackberry –  and it allows me to write and post on my blog from my phone.
You’ve got to admit – it’s incredible. A very high percentage of the work I do can be done from anywhere as long as my battery is charged and I can get a signal. A friend of mine refers to his iPhone as his ‘office’. My office is anywhere I want to be. So today my office has been a sushi place, the Cameron, and later tonight, Buddies. And when I finally do hit home tonight – my work will already be done.
You gotta admit – that’s pretty cool. Take a minute to think about all the stuff you can do on the fly now. That spaces are being built on the concept of some industries and jobs not needing permanent bricks and mortar.
The tools of my trade are in my head and my hip pocket. The future is here.

May 11, 2011

Fill It Out. Shape Your City.

I saw a link today to the Toronto Services Review page on the City’s website. In a nutshell Toronto’s 2012 budget  will have a gap of $774 million, and City Council has launched a review of all of its services and implemented a multi-year financial planning process. It’s a complex project/topic/undertaking and now there’s a website. They want our advice on how to fill this gap.

So I took the survey. I’m a sucker for a survey. It is long. It is involved – there aren’t any simple answers to this conundrum and this survey proves that.  You’ll be choosing which things you consider “cannot live without” to “City can do without”. You’ll be choosing from folksy answers such as “I don’t care, as long as the quality is good”, or “I don’t care, as long as it’s cheaper”.

Item: The phrase “I don’t care” kinda bugs. Shouldn’t you care? I mean if you’re doing an opinion-based survey? Just my opinion.

So! We know what I think is important right? Arts and culture! And off I scrolled to find the arts and culture parts where I DID care.
And scrolled.
And scrolled.

Oh THERE they are! Generally near the bottom, below the questions about “I don’t care” about the environment or public libraries.  So a word of advice – you’ll need to scroll if you care about certain things making it into the very survey you’re creating.

One warning bell went off – there was an entire section devoted to “three live theatre spaces”. If you know anything about these “three live theatre spaces” – I suggest you scroll and care your little heart out. “Three live theatre spaces”? Oddly specific, that.

There are also sessions you can attend, heck you can run your own session and there are other ways to voice and understand.

Anyway between the scrolling and the “I don’t care”ing and three as the magic number – I am recommending you go fill this out. I repeat, lengthy, complex. Twenty or so minutes depending what letter of your game you are on. Scroll, fill, shape your city.

I care.

May 11, 2011

Have You Checked Out Today’s Google Doodle?

here it is.

And here’s who it’s about.

Imagine – Google is the search engine. According to Search Engine Watch, 91 million people a DAY use Google.

So today 91 million people will see what I think is a very cool animated Google Doodle, and hopefully click on it to see what it’s about, and learn a little about someone “whose influence on dance has been compared with the influence Stravinsky had on music, Picasso had on the visual arts, or Frank Lloyd Wright had on architecture.” (source: wikipedia)

What a nice surprise and bonus/boost for arts and culture for a Wednesday.

Happy Birthday, Martha!

May 10, 2011

Will You Be Participating in Culture Days?

Culture Days is returning for its second year on September 30, October 1 and 2. According to the website, Culture Days is  a collaborative pan-Canadian volunteer movement to raise the awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement of all Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities. A national Steering Committee, together with provincial committees (known as Provincial Task Forces) self-mobilize at the grassroots level to implement concurrent, annual, province-wide public participation events that take place throughout the country over the last weekend of September. The first annual Culture Days event was held in September 2010 in over 700 Canadian cities and towns and, by all accounts, was a great success.

here’s the Globe and Mail article that got me to thinking: Culture Days returns.

One one hand, any access to the arts is a wonderful thing. By being a free event across the country that embraces all disciplines, it allows anyone and everyone to participate in art, maybe try out a skill they’ve always wanted to, or didn’t know they had. And maybe it will ignite an interest in the companies and artists who are participating. Which is what our sweeping goal is right? Maybe it will.

The website has a list of reasons to participate. All of the valid:

As an activity organizer, you can participate in the collective Culture Days movement happening across the country and here are the reasons to do so.

They are all excellent reasons, and excellent means to an end of shining a light on the arts.  It does a lot of good in communities, neighbourhood and towns where art is hidden.So it is valuable.

Personally i am a data geek. I love the stuff. So phrases like “by all accounts was a great success” aren’t enough info for me. Whose accounts? The participants? The public? What is a ‘great success?” It’s one of the challenges of working in the arts – quantifying the qualitative.

My questions are always the ones that would require some analysis. How much work did a company have to do to participate? Did it lead to things like ticket purchases, website hits, magazine subscriptions, social media WOM like tweets and Facebook postings from the public?  Was it worth it?

I’d love to hear from people who did participate, and hear from them what they felt worked, and what they think they got out of participating. Drop me a line or a comment and let me know.

May 10, 2011

The Ten Best Theatre Production Companies in Toronto

So sayeth BlogTO – or more specifically, so sayeth BlogTO readers who nominated them and voted on them. Based on the comments, a few people disagree with the choices made.

I wonder…. Is it possible to nominate the “ten best” theatre companies in TO the way you’d rate and rank the “ten best” lattes (cough Gladstone) or the ten best old-school bars (cough  Park Hyatt ). The diversity of our theatre community is such that it’s not even a question of comparing apples to oranges, it’s more apples to something that isn’t even fruit. At the same time, I have to applaud BlogTO as their coverage of theatre is getting better and better.

Go take a peek at the article. Thoughts?

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