Every year or two, the theatre bug gets into me and I get roped into directing a Shakespeare production at North Coast Repertory Theatre. Of course, my pet peeve in local theatre productions is that companies don’t know how to properly promote and market their shows, so with The Tempest, I set out to build an effective marketing campaign from day one. The campaign was successful in filling most of the seats and many people have asked me for a step by step guide for replicating this success. So, since this has information that may be of help to my non-theatre clients, without further ado I present my step-by-step guide to the Tempest marketing strategy.
Step 1: Figure out your primary selling points
Shakespeare knew what he was selling when he wrote the Tempest. More than most of his plays, the Tempest is a show about magic and spectacle. In order to bring in audiences, we needed to transform this from just another play into a major event that even non-theatre goers would be talking about. Our secondary selling point was that the show was very primal and sexy – not at all what people think when they think of Shakespeare.
Step 2: Craft a Recognizable Image
For this step we needed to bring in a high quality photographer – we went with Evan Wish Photography in Arcata. He put together a wonderful photo shoot featuring two characters that I felt most represented the play’s selling points.
Step 3: Repeat the Image in Different Media
Once we had out image worked out, we made posters, two sided glossy business cards, Facebook cover photos for the cast, and even a billboard to put over the NCRT marquee. This last feature also helped to create a mental connection for our target audience between the image they were seeing around town and the location where the event was taking place.
Step 4: Create Social Media Buzz
This is sometimes the most difficult part of the process, but with Tempest it was easy. Whenever interesting things happened in the process, photos were posted on the NCRT Facebook wall and shared by actors. There were photos of actors filming a shipwreck at a car wash, photos of set construction and actors on stilts, photos of the first nymph costumes and make-up. Including people in the process by way of social media caused them to have an interest in the show long before it opened.
Step 5: Get The Word Out
Radio interviews, TV interviews, actors in character at all local art festivals, minor publicity stunts, they all help generate interest. We had two actors walk into the local Starbucks on stilts and order coffee. And of course the next thing we did, was make a post about it on Facebook. Get everyone talking about the play.
Step 6: Heavy Social Media Saturation For The Run Of The Show
In this case it helped to have a cast that was really passionate about their play. If you have troops that you can mobilize, use them. We had multiple posts about the play every day during its run. Two Facebook events were created. All cast and crew were listed as hosts and encouraged to invite friends. Because images are louder than words, we continued posting photos throughout the run. Once reviews were out, we were able to put quotes from the reviews on top of some of our nicer archive photos.
In Conclusion: Make A Plan, Get Everyone on Board, Do the Footwork
This show could not have been as successful as it was if we hadn’t gotten buy-in from the cast. The marketing vision was clear from day one and the cast eagerly jumped in to support it. My best advice for someone seeking to follow this example: know what you’re selling, mobilize the troops, then create buzz in every positive way that you can. It seems like a simple concept, but it doesn’t happen in local theatre nearly often enough.