published on Jun 24, '16
People have flocked to the stage for over a millennium (long before Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon). While today's audience might buy tickets for the same reasons Elizabethans gathered to see "Henry V", the marketing of theatre events has changed remarkably. Gone are the days of the town crier, and word of mouth travels much faster on the internet.
Theatre marketing in the 21st century depends not only on tried-and-true methods of getting the word out, but also on leveraging technology to reach your audience. Take a look at some of these tips (a few taken from the Shakespearean era!) for event promotion.
Yes, tweet! But each social platform is a bit different, so make sure you match your social strategy to the demographics of your thespi-enthusiasts (a neologism we just coined). For example, Facebook users tend to be older, so if you're trying to get local millenials to come to your avant-garde adaptation of Boy Meets World, stick to Snapchat and "Insta".
Encourage your cast members to share their most engaging scenes on YouTube, or build boards on Pinterest showcasing your set and costume design. Make sure the relevant information about your show (dates, venue, price of tickets) is included in any long form updates on Facebook or your blog.
It may go without saying, but make sure you use hashtags appropriately! Leverage your nightly audience by giving them a hashtag and offering a percentage off of their next ticket if they tweet a quote from the play. If that sounds too financially risky, you could cap the cost by running a "best quote of the play" contest, and awarding just the top tweet every night with an autograph from a cast member (it's inexpensive, but compelling enough to drive your audience to become your advocates on social media).
In fact, putting your cast members to work off the stage is a great way to market the show. While children and young adults might have been hired (or "voluntold") to spread the word about theatrical performances in the 16th century, today's theatre marketing often depends on the cast members themselves. Get your cast out there, in costume, to hand out playbills and tell the public there's something exciting coming to town! Find a table at a Saturday community gathering or just stake out a spot in front of the local grocery store. It's a low-tech way to get all hands on deck in the interest of growing your market.
One tip that can be applied to nearly any type of event marketing, and especially to theatre, is to get the word out early and often. Shows often take place on weekends, and people are busy; be sure to send out promotional material well in advance of your performances. A good time to start promoting is when you start running auditions; by this time, you should have solid dates nailed down. Send out short, monthly email blasts starting at least three months before opening night. Drive early purchases by emphasizing scarcity: only 10 seats remaining for opening weekend!
Don't delay in content marketing, either, because the search engine gold rush has already begun. Both "theatre plays near me" and "live plays near me" drive a good bit of search volume on Google. By optimizing your website for local SEO and generating some content about your theatre, you'll show up when people nearby turn to Google to find a play.
You don't have to be a theatre geek to know that:
dinner + show = romantic date night
Partner with a local restaurant that serves a crowd similar to your audience. Put together a combo-deal so that you can co-market. You'll share your clientele, they'll share theirs. It's a win-win!
The long and the short of theatre and art marketing is that you need to get the entire cast and crew involved, get the word out often and use the platforms that your attendees are using. SceneSquid can help. Rather than spending hours hunting down local publications and calendars, get started on the strategies listed above, and leave the tedium to us!