Incorporate New Media into your PR Plan

Posted by: Lindsey Hardegree on Sep 2 2010 / Comments (0)

As more newspapers go out-of-print or change format, the newest challenge organizations are facing is how to approach the press in a way that will get them featured in the few remaining column inches dedicated to the arts.  Bloggers and online newspapers are becoming more prominent, and the traditional press release doesn’t speak to these entities.  It’s time to find a way to incorporate blogging and social media into the press releases that we send out to our new press resources.

Many nonprofits have a page on their website which lists PDFs of their press releases and a downloadable press kit.  This Online Newsroom is a great addition to the website, but it needs to be tailored to the online press who are likely to use it.  Keep in mind that not only will the local papers be likely to use your resources, but bloggers will as well, so new media should be available in several different forms to appeal to these differing press people.

Rather than including static press release PDFs, consider creating an online press release via a new page for each release, or a popup.  You can offer a PDF download as well, but by adding the content to your site directly, you open yourself up to several options:

  • Links: You can save links to your Delicious account that relate to the press release (perhaps it’s a release about a show, and you save all the reviews to Delicious) and tag them with a specific tag.  Then  you can add a link to that tag in your online press release so that other press can see what has been written already.
  • Social Media: If your release is about a new job opening, then you can link to the LinkedIn posting.  If it’s about a special event, you can link to the Facebook event.  Incorporating social media gets much easier when the release is online, especially when you consider that it’s super easy to embed YouTube videos and other multimedia that may not other get in front of the press.
  • Search Engine Optimization: To get really great Google juice, optimize your release’s text to make it super SEO-friendly.  This will not only help press members to find your releases, but it will also help your patrons and audiences to find your releases.  When they’re the ultimate consumers of your release’s information, this just takes one step out of the process and gets the information out faster.

Another great addition to your PR arsenal is PR Newswire.  It’s an online press release distribution and monitoring service.  The annual membership fee of $195 is quite affordable, but they waive the fee for nonprofits, which makes it even nicer!

And if you REALLY want to get into extending your PR plan, take a look at PitchEngine‘s video on the social media release:

7 Easy (and Affordable) Steps for Developing Your Arts Career

Posted by: Lindsey Hardegree on Aug 30 2010 / Comments (0)

Large corporations pride themselves on professional development programs that will create the “leaders of tomorrow.” But when you work at a small nonprofit or are your own boss (like many artists and performers), a robust schedule of seminars and training sessions is simply not at your disposal. Or is it? Here are some easy and affordable ways to create your own professional development program for your arts career!

  1. Write a personal mission statement. The first step to any development process is to determine the goal of the development, and your professional development should be no different.  A personal mission statement will give you a sense of direction and something to work towards.  wikiHow offers some quick tips on how to write your personal mission statement.
  2. Find a mentor. When you read over your personal mission statement, who do you know that’s already achieved that which you seek?  Is it a co-worker?  A veteran local artist?  A professor?  A friend?  Pick someone that you want to learn from, and then ask!  It can even be someone who is only a few steps further along than you are in their professional journey.  And if you know of more than one person that you’d like to learn from, there’s no rule that says you can only have one mentor.
  3. Educate yourself. One of the benefits of corporate professional development programs is the training they offer.  But we live in a world that runs on information that flows freely in this thing called the Internet.  It’s great!  So some searching around online for your interest area and see what comes up.  Blogs are a great source for information, and there are many bloggers in the nonprofit management realm who offer webinars (some free, some inexpensive) where you can learn even more.  By educating yourself you are making yourself a more valuable employee and an expert-in-training.  A few that I personally have used include:
  4. Make connections online. Use social media as a professional development tool!  Don’t just follow your friends Twitter and talk about your weekend on Facebook – make connections with your college professors, your co-workers, and people you admire in your field.  Did you really enjoy that show you saw on Friday night?  Tweet about it, and send the director a message on Facebook.  Find ways to connect your personal and your professional life through social media.
  5. Get involved. If your local foundation center is offering a networking workshop, attend and ask questions.  If there’s an opening night party, go and talk to people you don’t know.  When an organization you admire is looking for volunteers, sign up and get to know the people who work there.  By making yourself a visible part of your local community, you’ll be building a reputation for yourself as a dedicated, hard-working professional.
  6. Present yourself well. As you build relationships offline and make connections online, people will begin to pay attention to you.  They may Google your name to see what shows you’ve worked on recently or where your work has been featured.  It’s vitally important that they see good things when they pull up the search results!  Creating a professional website to act as your online resume is not expensive. (Check out my “Get Your Name Online” Branding Package!)
  7. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. As you go through this process, you may find that what you thought you wanted isn’t really right at all!  Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from doing the right thing for yourself.  If you feel like you’re headed down the wrong path, reevaluate your personal mission statement – does it still accurately reflect your goals?  Talk with your mentor – you may be hitting a minor road bump, or it may be time to change course.

Hosting a “Live Tweeting” Event

Posted by: Lindsey Hardegree on Aug 27 2010 / Comments (0)

This spring I hosted a “live tweeting” event for the Alliance Theatre‘s production of Lookingglass Alice, and it was a huge hit.  This was the first time that the Alliance Theatre did something like this with Twitter, so it was as much a learning experience as it was a great way to spread the word about the show.

Preparing for the Event

We spread the word about Twitter Tuesday via Facebook, Twitter, and the Alliance Theatre’s website.  Interested parties were told to email me with their Twitter username.  I did a little bit of screening because we weren’t just giving free tickets to anyone – we wanted some quality tweeting!  The rough guidelines that I used were that the participant must have posted a tweet in the past month, must have made a minimum of 10 tweets overall, and must have at least 20 followers (or 30 followers if their account was private).  By doing this we were able to weed out people who hadn’t tweeted in a year, people who joined Twitter just so that they could get the free tickets, and people who didn’t have any followers, and therefore wouldn’t be helping with our word-of-mouth.

People who were eligible were given two free tickets.  Their guest was welcome to tweet as well, but it wasn’t required.  The day before the event I sent out a reminder email to all the participants with a brief description of the show they were going to see, some guidelines for the evening (tweeting must be done via cell phone, phones must be on silent, no photography/videography during the show, etc.), details about where their tickets would be, and some tips I found online at Twitter Journalism about how to live tweet an event.

The Event

On the night of the event, I was in the lobby of the theatre the entire production so that I could greet people as they came in and answer any questions they may have (either in person or via Twitter).  We purposefully sat all of our Twitter Tuesday participants in the rear of the balcony so that all the other patrons at the performance weren’t disturbed by the cell phone use.  I created a packet for each participant containing a handout with the guidelines from my email the previous day, a copy of the show’s press release, and an article that had been printed that day in one of the local papers about the show.  I placed this packet on each participant’s seat so that when they entered the show they had something waiting for them.

Results

When the Alliance Theatre does free ticket offers, typically about half of the people show up (since they didn’t pay for the ticket, they don’t feel obligated to attend).  For Twitter Tuesday, we had 65 Twitterers and guests RSVP, and 89% of those attended, which was fantastic.  Of those 11% not in attendance, only one was a Twitterer – the others were all guests.  As soon as the show was over I went back up to the office and immediately sent an email to all of those who attended thanking them for attending, giving them an offer for 25% off our next show, and providing them with a link to a SurveyMonkey survey about the Twitter Tuesday event.  About half of the participants responded to the survey, and the results were mostly very positive; on an overall scale of 1-5, we got a 4.31.  By far the most common comment was how fun both the show and the live tweeting experience were.

On the less positive side, our comments were mainly about . . .

  • cell phone reception, which we were able to pinpoint to one particular service provider.
  • seating.  Since we had everyone in the back of the balcony to minimize disruption, a few of the Twitterers mentioned that they would have liked to be closer to the stage – a challenge to work on for the next Twitter Tuesday!
  • other patrons.  Apparently the other balcony patrons did not read the signs in the lobby about the event being live tweeted and felt disrupted by the cell phone use.  We would consider a live announcement or program stuffer for next time.

I counted 508 mentions of the #ATLalice hashtag the night of the event and the next day, which was awesome.  We also made it into the trending topics in Atlanta the night of the show!

Tips for Hosting a Live Tweeting Event

From this experience I got several takeaways that would be relevant for anyone interested in hosting a live tweeting event:

  • Make your participants feel special. We got so many compliments on the packet I provided!  By treating our participants as special audience members we were able to put them in a good frame of mind before the event even started.
  • Set clear expectations. By providing some tips for live tweeting, setting up a hashtag, informing participants of the correct spelling for our username, and reminding them of the rules of the theatre we created a friendly environment that worked for our participants and the theatre.
  • Pick an event that is well suited for live tweeting. Lookingglass Alice is an interactive, fun show with lots of visually appealing scenes.  If we had done Twitter Tuesday with one of our more serious, cerebral shows, I do not believe that it would have been so successful.
  • Prepare all of your audience and staff. Make sure that you let your ushers know that for this specific section, cell phone use is OK.  Make an announcement before the lights go down that lets all the other audience members know what’s going on.
  • Make it work for your needs. We could have easily opened this up to everyone who wanted to live tweet, but by screening our participants we maximized our bang for our buck with those free tickets.  We also picked a preview performance for Twitter Tuesday which meant that all of those great tweets and some blog posts that followed were  out there for the general public to see at the beginning of the run of the show.

The live tweeting concept works well for performances, concerts, festivals, conferences, and galas.  I’d love to hear your ideas on how live tweeting has (and hasn’t) worked!

Image by PechaKucha Night Denver

Book Review: Invitation to the Party

Posted by: Lindsey Hardegree on Aug 25 2010 / Comments (0)

Invitation to the Party: Building Bridges to the Arts, Culture and Community, by Donna Walker-Kuhne, is probably my all time favorite arts management book.  I first encountered this book near the beginning of my graduate studies in the Performing Arts Management program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and it has profoundly influenced my views on audience development since then.

Walker-Kuhne’s approach is a bit broader than it appears on first glance.  One of my favorite quotations is found on page 22 when she says that we must “talk to our potential audience, hear what they have to say, and incorporate their ideas into the work of our institutions. Rather than project what we think other people need or want, or project out intentions onto the behavior of others . . . we need to understand them as individuals.”

I’ve never heard a clearer case for online relationship building, a subject matter that Walker-Kuhne doesn’t approach  at all in her book (probably because it was published in 2005 and new media, like social media and blogging, wasn’t a game-changer yet).  However, Walker-Kuhne’s strategy is so universal and approachable that the entire book can be translated for use in online relationship building.  For example:

The first step that Walker-Kuhne mentions in the previous quotation is talking to our potential audience.  New media is quickly becoming the universal method for communication across all demographic groups in the United States.  New media defies age, gender, socio-economic status, race . . . it’s EVERYWHERE!  Chances are that whoever your potential audience is, they’re likely online.

Next we must hear what they have to say.  In order to hear this, we must provide our potential audience with an outlet for them to tell us.  By building relationships where your potential audience congregates, you create a sense of trust and camaraderie that lends itself to open communication.  Websites utilizing BuddyPress features, Facebook chatter, @replies on Twitter – it’s all too easy to communicate with our potential audience online.

Finally, we must incorporate their ideas into our work.  By programming in a way that will attract and retain your potential audience (without alienating your current audience), all you’ll need to do is build the relationships with the right people, and then let them know what’s happening at your organization.  This doesn’t mean completely changing your work – it could be as simple as adding a cocktail reception for young professionals before one of your shows (and promoting it on Facebook), or offering free acting workshops after your children’s matinee for kids (and emailing all the local mommy bloggers).

Walker-Kuhne’s book primarily focuses on audience development with a focus on expanding the racial profile of the audiences of specific organizations.  She provides ten (fantastic) tools for building audiences, then provides a brief case study of how she used these tools at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Public Theater, and with shows like Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk and Harlem Song.  The key to reading this book is to absorb the strategies and apply them to your own organization’s needs.

Disclosure: If you like this book review, there’s a chance you’ll buy this book.  And since we’re online, you can’t take me out to coffee to say thanks for the recommendation.  So I’ve used my Amazon affiliate link in this blog post, and I’ll get a little kickback if you do buy this book – think of it as Amazon’s way of saying thanks for you!

The Board and Social Media

Posted by: Lindsey Hardegree on Aug 23 2010 / Comments (0)

How do you involve your Board of Directors when it comes to social media?

Social media is a way to connect with our audiences, our customers, and our donors. You share sneak peek videos of your rehearsals, scanned images of costume renderings, and in-depth interviews with cast and crew via a method where people WANT to hear more, so you don’t have to worry about people opting out of your email list from too many messages.

But where does your Board of Directors fit into this?

Should you include your board members when interviewing staff members? Do you friend your board members on Facebook? Do you tweet about exciting news from your board meetings?

There’s a fine line when it comes to the Board of Directors.  In theory they are your biggest advocates, so of course you’ll include them.  You want them to tweet about you and check-in on Foursquare when they come to your events.  Posting an interview with them on your blog shows the community who your board is, why they care about your organization, and why everyone else should too.  But on the other hand, your board members are very busy, important people.  You don’t want to bug them for LinkedIn recommendations and Facebook pokes when you could be asking them for a larger donation to your organization.

So what should you do?  Every organization is different, the best way to answer the question is simple – let the board decide how THEY want to interact with you.  If you’ve got a board member who likes your organization’s Facebook page and is constantly leaving comments, then maybe you do friend that board member (utilizing a designated friends list, of course).  If they mention your recent blog posts when having a conversation, ask if they’d be interested in participating via an email or video interview.  Learn how each board member is interested in interacting with you, just like you would with any other online relationship.  After all, they are your biggest advocates – if they want to feel involved and you make the online community be open to involvement, then they’ll let you know that they want to jump in!

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