Holy theatrical blogsites!

Another blog-baby so cigars all round – I can’t take full responsibility for this one though, Noël clearly just needed a gentle push in the right direction.

So the production journal for Holy Ghost is up and running, and taking comments. The hope is that this will be a full company affair with contributions from as many people as possible. You’ll be glad to hear that there are RSS feeds both for entries and for comments. They know their RSS from their elbow down in the Carolinas, I can tell you.

Forget the blog for a minute and read the synopsis of the show:

“Set in Lowcountry South Carolina, this remarkable new play brings together a Nazi prisoner of war, American soldiers and Gullah sea islanders during World War II. Trustus Playwright-in-Residence Tuttle brings to life an incredibly relevant story. Be among the first to see a future American classic!”

Attendance at at least one performance is mandatory for all Perfect Path readers to the South and East of Nashville, though readers deep in the Florida panhandle may be excused under exceptional circumstances, such as a poorly leg, a bad cold or hurricane-induced homelessness. Residents of elsewhere in the United States are encouraged to holiday in Columbia, SC this year (right now, I hear it’s 100°F and 100% humidity… so goodness knows what it’ll be like in mid-August!)

While you’re waiting for the next instalment, you may marvel at the power of my mighty googlejuice whether using the British or the American spelling. Mwah hah!

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Blogging a theatrical production

I came across an interesting discussion thread on the excellent Soflow network yesterday (you may have heard Robert Loch, founder of Soflow, admiring my t-shirt on the podcast).

A young lady in South Carolina was asking about advertising for theatre. It struck me as ironic – and I said so – that just as advertising and marketing folk are realising that they have to go for authentic emotional engagement and telling a good story, theatre people, for whom this is their stock-in-trade want to know from advertising bods how to go about it.

Obvious to me it is that a blog about the production would be a really cool way of generating and sustaining buzz. So I stuck my oar in.

These thoughts are where I’m at with it so far – I’m aware that my knowledge of the business is not what it was and that I’m overflowing with ignorance and prejudice in this area, but this is what I think:

What is success for a theatre PR campaign?

I’m guessing #1 is derrieres on the plush velvet seats. Preferably derrieres belonging to people who will love what you do, tell their friends, become patrons of your little theatre, come to every show, tell their friends to become patrons of your little theatre, tell their friends to come to every show.

You also want some press coverage, maybe local TV and radio. The best of this will be persistent stuff on the web, so that whenever someone’s looking for theatre anywhere in SC, say, they see the glowing reviews of your baby and the really, really cool way you went about producing it.

So how could a blog help with that?

Blogs build buzz. By talking everyday about what you’re doing with the production, and inviting people to comment and contribute, you’re giving yourself a platform for building a community of people who are already (positively, I hope) engaged with you before you even try to sell them a ticket.

What I was thinking was of a kind of collaborative production journal, where everyone contributes. This may be too much for you, especially with a small, poorly funded company that hasn’t been exposed to this sort of thing before, but think “The Making of…” fly-on-the-wall documentary style, only on the web, and released in chunks as they happen, day by day rather than being stitched together after the show has closed.

What do we have to work out first?

Who’s going to contribute? Ideally, (ie if I were running the project!) everyone would submit their own little diary pieces (or not) every day as they go along. Now of course a theatre project isn’t the same as, say an IT implementation project – you don’t have everyone working at a computer all day everyday. So it might be worth appointing someone as your blogger-in-chief, someone whose job it is to document some of what happens in the course of the day – maybe you could get a talented grad student from a nearby university who has a love of theatre and would do it on a kind of intern basis for the privilege of being involved. Maybe your PR person should be doing this and nothing else.

I think it will be richer the more people you can involve. I think it would be a mistake to just focus on the director’s view, or an actor’s, or the stage manager’s, or the wardrobe mistress’s – it would be great to see all the facets as they come together – but you might find the only thing you can get done is the diary of a struggling theatre PR assistant!

What media will you use? I think the barest minimum is text and pictures. You should also consider getting some video footage and some audio (rehearsals, performances or interviews with people who don’t like having a camera shoved in their face)

How much of the life-cycle are you going to cover? You could just cover rehearsals or from day 1 or rehearsals to opening night or all the way through from the initial commissioning meeting through to striking the set.

Will you allow comments? I’d strongly recommend that you do – this is where you start to engage with people and show them that you’re real people yourselves, just trying to make a piece of art. You may get abuse – we all do – how you deal with it will also be a measure of your success.

Who is already passionate and authoritative about this play, it’s subject matter, your theatre, the people involved in the production. These are the people that you want to draw into being involved. They may keep you on your toes from time to time, but they can also be a great help, because they already care. If they’re already online, where do they hang out? Go there yourself and politely introduce yourself – you know how to do this already.

How do we go about it?

You can set up a free or cheap blog at lots of places – typepad.com is popular, so are blogger.com and livejournal.com. They are all straightforward to set up – all you have to do then is start writing :o)

You can host photographs at flickr.com or buzznet.com You can host audio and video cheaply at libsyn.com

You can tag your content so that it can be easily found through technorati and other blog-based search engines. These tools will also help you monitor whether anyone else is talking about you.

You can get free statistics on how much traffic you’re getting and who is looking at your site. I use statcounter.com for this.

If you’re new to all this and your head is starting to swim, you might enlist the help of a friendly, experienced blogger who doesn’t mind sharing what they’ve learned (if you’ve ever come across someone like that).

Oooh, what might the grouches say?

There will doubtless be people who are negative about this, both within the company and outside. There’s the whole technology kills art thing. And then there’s the simple fact that this opens people up to some sort of scrutiny and that can be uncomfortable. If you’ve worked in theatre for long, you’ll already know how to deal with grouches – don’t imagine that they’re any more powerful just because they’re online.

Whatever you do, it must support and facilitate both the creative and the commercial processes. I’m sure that, done well, it would add to the overall success of the production, not just the PR side.

There are, of course, no guarantees – this is a new area and it might all go horribly wrong – I’ve only done some quick googling, but I couldn’t find anything like it straight away so you’ve also got the advantage of not having to live up to any expectations.

Anyone in the UK doing anything like this? Anyone want to?

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Photograph by Bev Sykes on flickr

Night of the long noses part II

All Marketers are LiarsSo after Seth Godin had sat down, crumpled in a heap after his marathon hour and a half talking and answering questions, I popped around the room to find out what people in the audience thought.

Quite a few people left straight away (well it was after 9pm – gasp!) but I’m sure you’ll agree a significant part of the cream of the crop remained. Here you can hear from (roughly in order of appearance):

Geoff Jones, Rachel Clarke (saying hello again and nothing else), Paul Birch, Michael Smith, Robert Loch, Helen Keegan and Sarah Williamson, Alistair Shrimpton (sorry still on 3.17 here) and Simon Christy, Max Niederhofer, Loic Le Meur, Andrew Carton, Alison Whelan, Andy Bell, Matt Drought, Feena Coleman, Deirdre Molloy, Charles (?), Mark Rogers.

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The night of the long noses

Seth GodinA fine time was had by most last night at the Texas Embassy. Seth Godin gave a very generous speech and question and answer session, with the only proviso that questioners had to wear false long noses as seen on the cover of his latest book “All marketers are liars” (Can you tell he’s in marketing?)

I recorded all of this as well as a brisk trot round to get instant reactions from those of the crowd that didn’t instantly disappear when the great man sat down.

A chance to talk to Lee Wilkins, Gia Milinovich, Helen Keegan, Ed Daniel, Robert Loch and Paul Birch (and lots of others too).

Audio is still being processed but should be up later today – I will put the post-speech chatter in the feed here, but other stuff will be available on the Marketing Soiree wiki page.

[UPDATE: The audio for Seth’s speech and the Q&A session are now available from the wiki page]

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Marketing Soiree

Wow, 11th July came round quickly – so tonight it’s back to the Texas Embassy again for a night of overexcited chatter and fajitas in the company of another blogging celebrity.

A slightly different crowd tonight for Seth Godin than the Scoble affair (though the coolest people are those who make both) More marketing types and fewer technogeekatroids. I’m therefore expecting more high-pitched chatter, a greater capacity for alcohol and fewer jokes about astrophysics.

I will certainly have pictures and have my minidisc so will at least hope to bring you audio tomorrow of what the great man has to say to the assembled multitude – it’s highly unlikely though that I’ll stop there, so you might also expect some insights from some of London’s greatest marketing brains.

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Podwalk #15 – Podcasting from London post 7/7

london recoversThe first Perfect Path podwalk on the streets of London since the explosions on the transport system yesterday, 7th July. My small contribution to “business as usual”.

I take a bus from Waterloo up to Holborn (apologies for the cut, I didn’t feel comfortable talking on the bus, nor did I feel comfortable about feeding you 6 minutes of bus sounds) and then walk up through Russell Square and peaceful parts of Bloomsbury. Pictures are on flickr in a photoset tagged london and podwalk015.

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Just another day

Today I will, like many other Londoners, just get on with what I do.

I found it hard to write anything much yesterday – shock and fear. I don’t know how much I’ll manage to share with you today, just take it one step at a time.

This morning I’m keeping two pieces of wisdom in mind. They come from men who knew a lot about cruelty and injustice:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Mahatma Gandhi.

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
Oscar Wilde.