Showcasing your talents

 

Case study 1: A European Premiere in the world’s largest arts festival

The challenge
Erewhon, New Zealand playwright Arthur Meek’s collaboration with Edinburgh’s Magnetic North, was coming to Summerhall for its European Premiere. This multi-media play, adapted from a Victorian science fiction novel by Samuel Butler, brought together an iPhone and its 19th-century predecessor the magic lantern. Well known for his one-man shows, Arthur Meek was joined on stage by electro-folk-pop musician Eva Prowse.

Our tasks were to encourage the press to review the show early, and to reach specific audiences to hit attendance targets. We had three months lead time and a small communications budget to work with.

What we did
This was the first time we had to fill a theatre every day for a month. A communications plan with solid research behind it was vital.

In May, we read the Bible of Fringe show success, kept a close eye on Fringe tips offered by journalists, and digested the webinars offered by the Fringe society. The Fringe audience was hard to pin down in terms of discovering effective marketing channels, and we knew that their booking habits would create heart in mouth moments.

Early on, we made contact with the theatre critics we’ve worked with before – flagging up the show and asking how they like to plan their Fringe diary. We wrote and distributed a media release, and contacted journalists with a variety of angles.

For digital channels, we put together a content plan, so we’d have a library of materials for the website and social media. These included producing a trailer, arranging competitions, sourcing guest bloggers, and pulling together images and music from the artists involved.

Erewhon at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 – Trailer from Magnetic North on Vimeo.

Magnetic North told us that we needed to work hard to reach specific interest groups. James had long admired the poster distribution methods used by circuses. From talking to Edinburgh shop owners, we discovered that circuses offer retailers free tickets in exchange for putting up posters. With that in mind, we hired a team to visit shops related to Erewhon – bookshops, antique shops, computer, gaming, magic, music and sci-fi stores. We built our own poster distribution network to reach new audiences and to encourage word of mouth from retailers.

As 1 August approached, we sent reminders to the press about the opening night, and posted a box to key critics containing an invite card and a magic lantern slide.

Once the show was running, we were on hand to provide images and arrange press interviews. We supervised a flyering team and managed the production of a vox pop video. Every day we were in close contact with the venue – checking that reviews were live on their website, and that they were added to the posters outside. Throughout the run, we tracked sales and maintained contact with the press.

Erewhon: audience reactions from Magnetic North on Vimeo.

We also:
>Worked with Creative New Zealand’s PR contact
>Email newsletter production
>Approval of comms materials by Playmarket New Zealand, Playwrights’ Studio Scotland and Creative New Zealand
>Briefing and managing print design, production and distribution
>Social media management
>Outdoor media buying
>Media partnership with The List
>Media monitoring
>Online advertising.

What we achieved

The show was seen by over 700 people (breaking the attendance target). Press coverage included reviews by Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, The Herald, The List, Broadway Baby, Fringe Guru and The Stage. Erewhon was a Lyn Gardner pick of the Edinburgh Festival in The Independent. Four reviews were published in the first week of the run. A huge bit of excitement (for James at least!) was generated when we secured coverage in the science fiction blog BoingBoing.net (one of the most widely-linked and cited blogs in the world).

We built a network of specialist Edinburgh retailers who displayed show print and came to the show early on to boost word of mouth.

On digital channels, features were repurposed into blogs, email newsletters, and social posts, including ‘Using technology in theatre’, competitions to win artwork by magic lantern slide designers. There was also a set of bad jokes. Guest bloggers included a historian of technology, a Digital Pedagogy Specialist from Indiana University and the Chairman of the Magic Lantern Society. There were an incredible 3,600 views of the video trailer on Facebook.

Our team witnessed first hand how cost effective flyering can be – as long as the targeting is spot on to reach an adventurous Fringe audience.

During the run, a number of venues and festivals came to see the show with a view to future touring.

So, did Erewhon rise above the 3,547 other shows? According to The List, Erewhon ranked in the top 10% of ‘Shows of 2018‘.

If you are bringing a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019 or 2020, please get in touch if you would like us to help with PR, audience development, cross promotion or advertising media title selection.

Case study 2: launching a new company and managing a corporate identity change

The challenge
Promote YT wanted to reflect the growth in scale of Scotland’s youth theatre sector, to better represent their membership and  communicate more clearly what they do. I managed the implementation of their company name and identity change from Promote YT to Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, the development organisation for youth theatre arts in Scotland.

The work
I created copy to communicate the change to specific segments using email, Facebook and Twitter. I also managed the production of new online collateral: a website re-skin and content update, social media profile photo and wallpaper, and email templates. I wrote email newsletter articles for the CEO and commissioned additional articles for the emails. To raise the profile of the name change, I drafted and distributed a press release and handled media and other enquiries.

The strategy was achieved by:

  • Planning the communications of the name change to specific segments
  • Informing key stakeholder groups of the change in advance, addressing concerns and building comments into future plans
  • Finalising brand guidelines
  • Communicating the name change to membership (email newsletters, Facebook and Twitter campaigns)
  • Ghost writing email newsletter articles for the CEO and commissioning ‘Conceiving the name’ articles
  • Producing new online collateral: website re-skin, content update, social media profile , photo,  wallpaper and content update, and an email newsletter template
  • Printed collateral production
  • Managing social media URL and naming changes
  • Managing website and email address changeovers and redirects with IT companies
  • Writing a press release about the change and the appointment of a new patron, Outlander star Sam Heughan, and managing distribution and press liaison
  • Addressing search engine optimisation of the new website: page titles, meta headings, keywords, XML sitemap generation and submission
  • Writing and scheduling tweets and website pop-ups for three months post-launch.

The results
Since the Youth Theatre Arts Scotland launch, email newsletter clicks are up from 15% to 21% and unique website visits are up by 57%. Press coverage was received in the Edinburgh Reporter, the email open rate went up from 31% to 42% and a survey of members revealed that 74% had seen the new logo. More than 60% agreed that the new name and identity gave a ‘professional’ and ‘dynamic’ impression: key elements of the new brand personality.

 

Case Study 3: A Little [More] Conversation

The Challenge Facing Us
Bassoon players dressing up as Elvis is not something you see every day. Hebrides Ensemble toured ‘Dead Elvis’ (1993) by American composer Michael Daugherty, which draws inspiration from the King’s cultural legacy. A rare chance to see the work in the UK, the concerts visited one of Edinburgh’s largest venues – the Assembly Rooms, as well as Perth Concert Hall, Dundee Gardyne Theatre and Sage Gateshead. The thing that we really needed to do here was to attract audiences to two venues new to the Hebrides’ fanbase. We were also careful to make sure that the marketing campaign represented an American/jazz classical concert: not a tribute act.

What We Did
We developed and implemented a multifaceted marketing strategy for the tour. An unusual element was sourcing photography for the campaign from a photographer based in America. Acting as a social media producer, we created a raft of creative online content so there was enough material on hand to sustain a conversation about the tour. And, of course, we also:

  • Commissioned and managed suppliers: designers, a film-maker, media buyer,
    printer and distribution agencies.
  • Venue liaison to maximise promotional opportunities
  • Online advertising management (Twitter/Facebook Ads)
  • Email newsletter management
  • Social media management
  • Photocall/photocall notice
  • Press release
  • Direct mail campaign
  • Concert video trailer
  • Interest group outreach (music groups/departments)
  • Flyer
  • Posters
  • Press adverts: The Journal and The Courier
  • Concert programme.

What We Achieved
Results included a record peak of website unique visits (885 in November). The campaign delivered 1,375 new Twitter followers in 90 days, thanks to a Twitter Ads campaign. There were 430 plays of the video trailer (which was also embedded on stv.tv). Michael Daugherty himself was encouraged to take part in audio interviews and we wrote features that were repurposed into blogs, email newsletters, video trailers, press releases and social posts. We collaborated with the artistic team to produce music and book lists influenced by the concert theme. These were then turned into Spotify playlists and Amazon book lists and shared on a website, social media and in email newsletters. A photocall featuring a student of the bassoonist generated a picture insert in the news section of The Herald, and other press coverage included eight preview items and five reviews.

The audience was quite literally ‘All Shook Up’: “Never been to a Hebrides concert before – did not know what to expect, but it was fantastic.”

Case Study 4: Attracting digital natives to youth theatre

The Challenge Facing Us
Four plays about fame, sex, Govanhill and the gritty lives of Liverpool’s young people. Launching the first Chrysalis festival, featuring performances by young theatre-makers at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, was not for the faint of heart. We needed to attract an audience and to start to challenge the existing perceptions of youth theatre.

What We Did
There was a lot of brain power used in this campaign. We commissioned audience research agency Culture Republic to analyse youth theatre attenders in Scotland and the existing Traverse audience. The findings were used to select audience target groups and to build the communications strategy.

A key group we wanted to engage with were young people in their 20s and 30s. Heavy users of digital devices and the internet, we had to be careful to avoid falling into the trap that social media was the only way to reach this group. The research told us that email marketing, our website and traditional print media (brochures, flyers, popular press and TV coverage) all needed to be part of the mix as well.

The brand identity for the festival was carefully nurtured. A fine line was tread so we did not look like we were promoting a club or trying too hard to be ‘cool’. We worked with a French abstract artist and a Scottish illustrator to create the festival identity. A young festival producer helped to advise us on the identify development.

The performing theatres provided content for the online campaign; blog posts, videos, photographs, reviews and features: all related to their scripts. We made sure that a variety of types of content were produced and used on channels that suited them. Horizon scanning was also part of this project – finding out what else was happening in the city that could provide extra content ideas for the online activity (such as Movember).  We also:

  • Commissioned and managed suppliers: designers, a film-maker, media buyer, printer and distribution agencies.
  • Venue liaison to maximise promotional opportunities
  • Online advertising management (Facebook Ads)
  • Email newsletter management
  • Social media management
  • Photocall/photocall notice
  • Press releases
  • Liaison with the Cabinet Secretary team – briefing notes, event planning
  • Video trailer
  • Flyer
  • Posters
  • Press adverts
  • Programme production
  • Media partnerships.

What We Achieved
The festival itself became famous – over 1,152 tickets were booked (86% of capacity) against a target of 780. The Traverse Theatre felt that the festival was ‘surprisingly busy’ and highlighted the younger profile of the audience.

When we asked ticket buyers how they had found out about the festival, half of the information sources they mentioned were managed by us. There were many positive comments about youth theatre in the national press. The festival was selected as ‘Top Pick of the Week’ in The Guardian, and the Patron of Youth Theatre Arts Scotland Sam Heughan (star of Outlander), was interviewed on The Fountainbridge Show (STV Edinburgh) and The Riverside Show (STV Glasgow).

You can hear James talk about the Chrysalis festival campaign on the Culture Republic podcast.

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