Using Video to Promote your Show

businessyRebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Rebecca Coleman Marketing and Media Relations, a Vancouver PR company. She blogs at artofthebiz.com and twitters under @rebeccacoleman.

Over the last few months, I’ve been doing guest posts on the topic of visuals to accompany your publicity campaign. We talked about the two photo shoots you need for your show, the publicity shot, and the production photo.

Today, I want to talk about moving pictures. While it’s true that theatre does not translate well on video, many companies are taking advantage of new, and more accessable technology to help get the word out about their shows.

If you haven’t taken advantage of Simon’s video listing services yet, you should. It’s free, easy, and fast. He will meet with you, and then he shoots you, speaking directly to camera, about why the  audience should come see your show. Within the day, it’s up on The Next Stage Video Listings page, and available to you through YouTube. You can embed it to your Facebook event page. This kind of video works because people are very passionate about their shows, and your passion while speaking about it can be very contagious.

If you want to try to get your play featured on the evening news, you need b-roll. B-roll is, essentially, footage of your show that you supply to TV news stations, in hopes that they will do a story on it. Because the quality of your footage needs to be high, this is not something you can just do yourself, unless you are a professional cameraman or director. You need to hire a professional.

The key to B-roll is to keep it short–I recommend under 3 minutes. Chances are, if you are lucky enough to actually get your footage on the air, only about 10-30 seconds will air. You may want to supplement your footage with short interview segments by directors or stars.

Here are some examples of how you can use video to promote your show:

Bard on the Beach
Stuff 2 Do
The Ash Girl
(this is a show I worked on last year–we shot a couple of video trailers for it)
If you are doing a lot of videos online, you can set up your own ‘channel’. Check out this example from the National Arts Centre.


A thorn between two roses

See what happens when you start a blog? I’m sitting a panel at the 2008 Making a Scene Conference today with two delightful Rebeccas; Bollwitt and Coleman, alphabetically. We’ll be discussing The New Face of Marketing: Facebook, text and the bloggers’ world. apparently.

MaS, for anyone who might not know, is our professional theatre community’s annual conference, now in its ninth year. Hosted by the GVPTA, it’s four days packed full of workshops and discussion of this art of ours You can read more info here.

Our panel is today at 1:30 in the upper lobby of the Arts Club Granville Island Stage. Please stop by if you’ve got the time. I’m in pretty good company.

comic-book-guy

The Art of the Business Part 10 – The importance of a good publicity photo

Kirsten Slenning as Kitty. Photo Credit: Cory Dawson

"Business-y" photo of Rebecca by Pink Monkey StudiosIf you are producing a play, you know you need them. Gone are the days of putting the word out about a photo call, and having a bunch of photographers and TV cameras show up to get a shot to accompany a story or review. Those guys just don’t have the resources–you have to bring it to them. And, you gotta be smart about it.

A good publicity photo is more than a necessity. A really interesting and arresting image can actually get you additional media coverage. I recently did publicity for TigerMilk Collective’s Exit Commander Kitty. I got them a preview in the Vancouver Province, but they got themselves on the cover of the entertainment section with this photo.

Here are some tips for getting a great picture.

Vaughn Jones. Photo Credit: Pink Monkey Studios

1. Hire a pro. Having your BFF take a bunch of photos with their Cannon Sureshot is not going to cut it. Figure out how much money you have to spend, then put it out some photographers, and see what they can do for you. Try to hire someone that specializes in theatre photography, and look at their websites and past work. My favorite is Pink Monkey Studios. They did this fantastic image for Metamorphoses.

Mylene Dinh-Robic and Adam Lolacher

2. Go for a theme. Do not, under any circumstances, and I can’t emphasize this enough, take a publicity shot that is a scene from the play. Many theatre companies get caught up in “but the set’s not done yet, the costumes aren’t done yet, we can’t get the shot.” You don’t need the set, you don’t need the costumes, what you need is an idea. Think about your show, and try to boil it down to theme that is only a few words long. And then think about a visual image for your theme. Think ‘iconic.’ This image from Beirut is one of my all-time favorites.

3. Get a little variety. Newspapers will often ask for “portrait” (which means the longest part of the photo is vertical) or “landscape” (which means the longest part of the photo is horizonal). It depends upon what kind of space they have to fit the photo in, so make sure you have good shots in both formats.

4. But not too much variety. There was a time in the past when you needed to have B&W and Colour. Not any more. Just take colour shots. Do B&W if you want, for emphasis, or to fit with your theme, but these guys all have Photoshop and know how to use it.

5. Go big. The newspapers like photos that are as big as you can get them. So that means, a really high resolution, like 300dpi, and big (often they are 4-5MGs each). That way, they can do what they like with them–use them big, like on the cover of the entertainment section, or crop them down or shrink them to accompany a review.

6. Know your cutlines. Cutlines are the information about who is in the photo–the names of the actors, the characters they play, and it’s good to include the name of the photographer, although a lot of papers can’t print that.

7. Timing is everything. Lots of people like to use their publicity shot for posters, etc., so often they are done long before rehearsals even start. Even earlier if you are planning a season brochure. If you don’t have them done that early, I recommend you get them done as early as possible–no less than 2-3 weeks before you open so that you have images to go along with previews.

Publicity pictures are an incredibly important part of marketing your show, so do put lots of thought and care into them.

Look for information on Production Photo shoots and B-roll in future posts.

Until then, here’s to bums in seats everywhere!

Rebecca Coleman

“Business-y” Photo of Rebecca by Pink Monkey Studios

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company. For more of Rebecca’s Art of the Business advise and observations, check out her blog here.


Spinning off….

Well, it is with excitement, trepidation and a big, deep breath that I make this announcement: I am spinning off my own blog. The Art of the Business, which has, for the past 9 months been incubating on The Next Stage, is launching out on its own over at www.artof the biz.com.

Once upon a time, about a year ago, I lost my job, and decided that it was time for me to start doing this publicity thing (which I’d been doing more as a hobby business for about seven years) full-time. So, I took a small business course at BCIT, and wrote a business plan and launched Titania Productions on December 1, 2007. Back then, I had more time than business, and I had this idea that I wanted to write a monthly column of marketing tips and tricks for artists. I had already been in touch with Simon, who had been writing for Beyond Robson. We immediately connected on our joint passion to help artists become more serious about their businesses, so when I pitched the idea to him, he was all for it.

So I started writing, and the column slowly grew into more. I started recording podcasts, and the subject matter for the column started to expand into other areas of business. And I was seriously getting into the blogging thing. And then, about a month ago, I sent Simon an email saying that I was thinking of starting my own blog, and, to his credit, he was very supportive. And today is that day….

I want to say a very special thanks to Simon for being a great editor, and an even better friend. As a sounding board, a spell-checker, and a fount of information on the technical aspects of blogging, he has been invaluable. In my inbox at this moment, there are 196 emails from Simon, and about the same amount in my sent mail to him. It’s been a blast….  In fact, Simon is some of the inspiration for my first blog post.

I will continue to write a monthly piece for The Next Stage. But now the Vancouver Theatre Blogger scene is one stronger. Our quest to build an audience for local theatre and to help artists become better business people continues.

The Art of the Business, Part 5: Staking out your Spot on the Web

For a downloadable or streaming audio podcast of this article, click here.

Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring, through the column, ways to market yourself in more detail. This month’s column focuses on what is probably the most essential, the most indispensable marketing tool: the website.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you: if you are trying to sell a product or a service, you need a website. It’s that simple. This month, I go in a slightly different direction and enlist the help of an expert, but I’ll get to that in a moment. I will also provide a list of resource URLs at the end of the article.

First of all, getting a URL (Uniform Resource Locater), which is your address on the web (ie: www.titaniaproductions.com) is easy enough to do. There are tons of companies on the web who can sell you one. Probably your best bet for a URL is to use your name, if you can, or your companies’ name, or some abbreviation of either of those. Keep it simple. URLs have to be entered exactly right, there’s no margin for error, so the simpler it is to spell, the better results you will have with people finding your site. Also, if possible, ALWAYS go for the .com extension. Get a .ca as a second choice, but try to avoid, at all costs, .biz, .net, etc if you can. Most people are so used to typing .com, it is almost a default.

Quite honestly, I get over my head pretty quickly with this technical stuff, so I enlisted the help of an expert.

David Rankin is a Usability Consultant and an instructor in the Interactive Design Program at Capilano College, and also an (amazing) Jazz singer and guitarist, so I asked him a bunch of questions about building an artist’s website.

David Rankin as his alter-ego, jazz singer Artie Devlin

TAotB: What is the most important thing to keep in mind when designing a website?

DR: Design to meet the needs of your audience. In order to be successful, your site needs to be driven by your audience’s needs and not by your own preconceptions of their needs. This approach, called User-Centred Design, will help users find the information they are looking for on your site more easily, enjoy the experience of browsing your site and (if you keep your content current) will keep them coming back for more.

You can start by observing individuals who represent your target audience, using your site. Take notes. Ask questions. Encourage them to give you feedback as to what works or doesn’t work for them. Let them know the intention of this exercise is to make the site better and your feelings won’t be hurt if there are aspects of your site they don’t like or think could be improved.

Videotape the session if need be. Ideally, this process would begin even before building your website, using early hand-drawn prototypes and/or testing your competitors sites. Focus groups work really well too. Bring in a few representative users and have a discussion as to what they require from your website. Often people are more than willing to do this for a small stipend or for that magical combination – free beer and pizza. I assure you, you will learn a ton by going through this process and will come to understand the needs of your audience more completely. Once you have gathered their feedback, you can then go about the process of redesigning your site to better suit the needs of the people who really matter – your target audience.

TAotB: What kind of information would you include on a website intended to market an artist or arts organization?

Many artist websites would include some or all of the following:

• a short Biography of the artist
Photos of the artist’s work or performances, with thumbnails
• A Media page if there is audio/video content
• Reviews or Testimonials from clients
• A News section that highlights the most current information about the artist or organization that may be of interest to their audience (performances, openings, awards etc). Maximize the impact of a News section by having it on the homepage
• A Contact page so interested parties can get in touch via email, and optionally snail mail or phone. Organizations may also want to include a map of how to get to their actual physical location. Google Maps is great for that
• A Webmaster link to help users report any problems they may be experiencing with the site
• And a Homepage of course!

Some artists also include a Press Kit section containing downloadable high resolution photos, press releases, concert riders etc. You may also want to include a forum or blog on your site. These are good for keeping in touch with your fans and colleagues, but can be quite time-consuming to moderate and maintain.

If you are an organization, your site should always contain a Mission Statement that briefly describes to your visitors the purpose of your organization. Your mission statement should be short–a paragraph or two maximum. They provide context for the rest of the site, so I would recommend putting them on your homepage . By not having a Mission Statement or having it buried somewhere deep in your site you run the risk of confusing and alienating your audience.

TAotB: Do you know of any really successful artists’ website that you can recommend we look at?

Yes. I think Madeleine Peyroux’s website is rather well designed and elegant. Lot’s of negative space in terms of the visual design – yet tons of content that is very well organized.

TAotB: Should you get someone to build your site for you, or is it worth it to try doing it yourself?

DR: I would recommend hiring an experienced Web Designer to create your site. For most of you out there, your website will be your primary tool for marketing your services and as such, you should budget for it accordingly. If this isn’t an option for you, you could approach some of the local colleges and universities web design programs to see if their students may be interested in taking you on as a project. If you have the time and inclination to design your own website, I would suggest you do some research first. There are many excellent websites, free online tutorials and books on all aspects of web design. Whether you choose to hire an Web Designer or choose to build it yourself, always design to meet the needs of your audience and you will do just fine.

Thanks, Dave!

Click to find out more about the Interactive Design Program at Cap College.

So, until next time, here’s to bums in seats everywhere…

******************************************************************************************************************

Here are some URLs you might find useful to look at when thinking about designing your site:

ETSY: if you are selling a something you made yourself, ETSY is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade.

Doteasy: Sells URLs (just one of probably a million, but they are who I use, and I’ve been happy, so I thought I’d give them a plug).

Madeleine Wood: is a friend of mine, and an amazing painter. She is doing really well, and her excellent website has something to do with that.

Provost Pictures: is a company I have been working with for several years now, and we have just completed a complete overhaul of the site that I am quite proud of. This site also contains an example of a downloadable press kit. A big shout-out to Janet Baxter, who is our excellent webmaster, and also a photographer.

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.

The Art of the Business, Part 4 – Repeat After Me: “Facebook is my Friend”

For a downloadable or streaming audio podcast of this article, click here.

You could not possibly be a bigger holdout than I was with Facebook. I resisted joining for a really long time. I thought “why do I need yet another time-waster when I’m online? I already check my email obsessively, do I need to have the temptation to be checking Facebook all the time now?” But, like most other people, finally I gave in. And yes, spent way too much time at the beginning updating my profile and searching for friends. But then I started to realize what a powerful marketing tool Facebook was, and now I use it at least half the time for that purpose.

In case you’ve been in a cave this past year without television, radio, internet or newspapers, Facebook is an online social networking tool. It’s free—basically what you do is sign up and get yourself and account. Then you get your own page, or profile, where you can put information about yourself, what colour socks you like, what you had for breakfast, what your dog had for breakfast. Then, you create a network by asking people to be your friend. Once someone is your friend, you can message them, send them virtual gifts, URLs, that kind of thing. Facebook also has groups and events that you can create or join. If you create an event or a group, you are its administrator, and that gives you the ability to message all the members of the group. It’s fantastic stuff.

A few words of practical advice about Facebook. First off, I wouldn’t encourage you to create a group unless you are pretty famous, or you have something quirky going on (I belong to “If Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea kissed me, I’d be a happy woman”, for example). You can also create fan pages, but again, I’d steer away from that unless you are Great Big Sea, or a decent-sized corporation.

What I do is create an event for all of my clients. Because my work tends to be rooted in dates (show runs, etc), creating events is perfect for me. It allows me to upload all the event information, pictures, and videos, URLs for media stories when they come out, and I am able to message anyone who said they are or might be coming.

If it’s your first time creating an event, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Be really, really careful about your dates. While you can go back and edit a lot of things on your event page, the dates you cannot.
2. Make your event accessible to the “global” Facebook community. I once made it available just to the Vancouver network, thinking that anyone from out of town wasn’t going to come to see the show anyway. But not everyone (even people who live in Vancouver) belong to the Vancouver network. Tricky…
3. When you invite people to your event, encourage them to invite their friends.
4. Know that only your opening night (or the first date you have on your event) will show up in the updated information on your Facebook account. After that, if someone wants to find your event, they will have to search for it. However, you can still message people during the run of the show to let them know it is half over, closing Saturday, etc.

Facebook is good for other kinds of artists, too. Musicians and filmmakers can upload videos, photographers and visual artists can make photo albums of their work. Dancers and actors can upload demos and trailers.

A word of caution: as with everything on the internet, be careful about how much personal information you include. Don’t have your home address up there. A lot of people I know don’t even have their email address. Make your privacy settings high, so that people have to be your friend (ie: authorized by you) to see anything on your profile.

Facebook is a lot of fun. But it can also be a great way of getting the word out, and building a buzz… And yes, I will be your friend, but only if you mention The Art of the Business.

So, until next time, here’s to more bums in seats everywhere…

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.

The Art of the Business, Part 3 – Touchpoints

For a downloadable or streaming audio podcast of this article, click here.

This month’s Art of the Business deals with a term you may or may not have heard before: touchpoints. A touchpoint is any way that your consumer, or end-user, comes in contact with your work. It could be a webpage, an e-newsletter, a poster or flyer, an ad in the newspaper. Marketing theory says that it takes, on average, between 6-8 exposures to your marketing materials, or touchpoints, before someone will even consider making contact with you.

Six to eight! We are so inundated with advertising and marketing these days, that we have learned to tune it out. So it takes a lot more hits, or more innovative ones, before we can actually make contact with our potential clientèle. And I’m not even talking about the sales process—but you have won half the battle just by making contact.

So, your job as an artist who, god forbid, wants to make money from their art practice is to increase your touchpoints as much as you can. Maximizing your touchpoints is going to help get your name out there, and make you easier to find.

How can you maximize your touchpoints? I’m so glad you asked. I will share a few ideas with you in this column, but I gotta save some for future columns…. I have to have something to keep you coming back for more, after all!

Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising. A couple of weeks ago, when I was looking for someone to move my stuff, what did I do? I picked up the phone and called a couple of my friends who had recently moved and asked them for recommendations. It makes my life easier, I don’t have to do a google search, and call 7 different moving companies. I already have the advice of someone I trust—I’m going with that. While I know that art is subjective and not a moving company, and you have to take that into account when you are asking people’s opinions, the bottom line is do the best job you possibly can and people will recommend you. Recommendations sell tickets. Or paintings. Or CDs. You get the point.

In my first column I talked about exploring what it is that makes you, or your show, or your film, unique. Let that idea or concept inform all your decisions about additional touchpoints. Whatever it is that makes you unique, settle on it, and then use it on everything. In marketing, that’s called branding. Think of the golden arches, or the Nike swoosh. You see those things, you know immediately what they mean. Ideally, you want your clients to do the same when they hear your name, or see one of your touchpoints—know immediately what it is you stand for.

Here is a not-totally comprehensive list of other ways to market yourself and increase your touchpoints, some of which I will get into in more detail in future columns:

  • Business Cards: you never know when you might meet Stephen Spielberg in an elevator. If you did, how would he get in touch with you about your fantastic film? A business card is a wonderful way of continuing that conversation.
  • Posters: don’t break your budget with posters, but do try to have one with a catchy, interesting image.
  • Postcards/Flyers: a combo poster/business card. Catchy image, all the basic info, and a way for you to continue the conversation: “You think my show sounds cool? Here’s a postcard with the info.”
  • Webpages: What do you do when you need something? You google it. Enough said. You need a website. Whether or not you pay to have someone build it for you or you do it yourself; what should go on it; etc., will be fodder for a future column.
  • Facebook/ You Tube/ My Space: free, useful, and everyone is on them. I am using these social connectors more and more all the time to market my clients.
  • Newsletters: a great way of keeping in touch with your end-user, or even your potential end-users. The key for newsletters is to make sure that they offer information that is useful and appreciated.
  • E-mail: It’s free! Everyone has it! I send usually between 2-3 for every show I do.
  • Brochures: more in depth than a poster or a postcard, less information than a webpage, it may be a useful marketing tool if you are promoting a season, or offering more in-depth services that require more information.
  • Leave-behinds: this is something that you leave with your client after the work is done. I know a closet-installer (hey, it could be an art!) who leaves a half-a-dozen nice wooden hangers (with his logo on them) in each closet he finishes. A nice touch, and a good way to spread word-of-mouth.

I will flesh out many of these in future columns.

So until next time, here’s to bums in seats….

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.