The days are sadly gone where marketing amateur theatre groups was as simple as sending a press release to the local paper and hoping for the best. Much of the local press charge large amounts for adverts, sponsorship can be hard to find (at first) and audience members seemingly thin on the ground. So, I asked myself the question, what should you be doing in 2016 to have successful marketing for your group.
It’s naive of anyone to think that not having a group social media presence on (at least) Facebook nowadays is acceptable. You may not like it but this is where your future audiences are going to be looking for events in their communities. You may not be relying on the free marketing now but if you haven’t already got a profile you’re already behind the trend and one step behind your competition. Most theatre groups I work with have a Facebook Page, a Twitter profile and a Facebook group (members only) where they share information about their latest auditions, shows press releases and production pictures. It’s also a great alternative if you can’t afford a website (and a great companion to it if you can). There are also other uses for social media that I utilise- Pinterest is great for finding set and costume design images and visual social networks like Vine, Periscope, Instagram and Snapchat are all great ways to provide your communities with a sneak peak of rehearsals or other more visual styles.
It’e great for your group to be able to have a website for lots of reasons including recruiting new members, advertising shows, sharing documents and rehearsal materials and keeping a public record of shows including programmes and production pictures for years to come. Today’s audiences often view websites on smartphones and tablets as well so if you can make sure your website is responsive and can be easily found via popular search engines like Google. If you can’t afford a professional web design company to produce your website what about a member who is interested in coding or graphic design? Failing this there are lots of free website builders that can help you create your own like Wix and Weebly. I would advise using wordpress.com which has an easy-to-use blogging style setup and has lots of mobile-friendly templates and themes to choose from.
It’s never been easier to set up your own email newsletters whether you want to send out to the general public or just your own members. I would recommend MailChimp which is a great, free tool for sending emails and it’s very rare that an amateur theatre group would exceed the level of subscribers needed to go to a paid package. Your venue and your group can both collect email addresses and audiences theatrical preferences (Straight drama, musicals, panto, comedy etc.) from patrons and send out emails aimed directly to them (with their written permission only). Mail Chimp is also great because it gives lots of hints and tips along the way to setup your newsletter, it has lots of preset templates and makes sure you aren’t breaking data protection law by giving you check points along the way.
A great way to help out and support local businesses asa well as gaining support and awareness of your production, sponsorship offers all sorts of opportunities for everyone involved. When putting together sponsorship take a look at my guide and try to tie it in with some of the other points on this blog. Offer reciprocal marketing opportunities on your email newsletters and social media, logos on your website and positive press about the business that’s supporting you.
This strand of marketing is still as important as every but what is most relevant to you is which pathways and types of advertising you use. Most small groups (especially those in rural areas) might find adverts in the local paper useful (even though they do take up a large part of the budget!) another option is social media advertising which can give much better results for your spending budget. It also allows you to test your adverts based on gender, interests, location and other variables as well as providing tangible results to every campaign based on click-through and viewing rates. Sometimes my local group orders plenty of low-cost leaflets and in the run up to a production hands them out in the middle of busy shopping centres and public places. You can even do flash mobs and perform extracts from the show to passers by- this always creates quite a stir and raises plenty of awareness.
Engaging in your community
In the same way that local charities, dementia friendly groups, transition town organisations and other similar community groups do, your amateur theatre group should have a strong presence and awareness in your local community. This might be holding charity events on your premises, organising or taking part in the local fair, showing support for local people and engaging with decision makers and business owners in your community. It never hurts to have these people on-side for sponsorship and other opportunities so make sure you’re doing some great things to keep up your reputation.
If you can ensure you’re implementing these things over the next year, you’re sure to be putting your group on an even keel and en route to a bright and sustainable future.