Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Furthering Stamford’s Cultural Identity with Professional Theatre

I like how that sounds don’t you? Andy and I came up with that marketing blurb in response to my question: “What problem does a theatre solve for a community?”

Reading the book The New Rules of Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott ( is a dangerous thing for me.  I get five thousand ideas after reading two or three paragraphs.

Old or standard marketing talks about the four P’s - Product, Place, Price and Promotion as being the most important things.  Meerman says that is nonsense and that in order to succeed on the web under the new rules you need to consider your organizational goals and then focus on your buyers first. (read: solving problems for your audience and donors first, not promoting your shows)  He suggests segmenting your ‘buyers’ into groups via a profiling process. 

Most theatre sites I have seen use a mass marketing approach treating everyone who lands on their sites the same.

I also love the book, Attracting Perfect Customers by Stacey Hall & Jan Brogniez, which focuses on identifying your perfect clients/audience members/donors and not being tempted to recruit everyone. Build your tribe with the right folks who line up with your own thinking and they will build your business for you.

The best blogs, websites and programs are not about companies and their products, but about customers and their problems. 

So what problem does a theatre solve for a community?

Yesterday I was put in touch with a great young web designer who is excited to help me create a progressive website for the theatre and who is also willing to let me coach him on the new rules.  I provide the ideas, he provides the tech know-how. I want to start building our audience or tribe right now by educating and involving them.  My web tech also happens to be a student at the University of Hartford where I teach and I can reward him by putting him on stage once we get going and connecting him with the artsy powerbrokers I know. 

As I read more and more new marketing books. As I speak with my business marketing mentors. As I see the new marketing working in my internet marketing business so well that we had another quarter of growth, I find this the perfect time to express my resistance to these phrases from well meaning folks who only know me as “Kristin the actor”. Instead of solving a problem they inadvertently add one…bless their hearts. “Well…Stamford doesn’t really come out for theatre”. Or “It’s going to be hard to raise money” or “You better talk to all the theatres I know that folded first so you know how hard this will be”. Stuff like that.  I don’t want to be rude to anyone meaning well, but I am expressing to the world that I don’t really want to talk to the folks who aren’t thinking progressively enough and utilizing new marketing…starting now.

Before you say “rose colored glasses”, my thinking is that it’s best to speak with successful business owners and to pick their brains, not speak to the ones who encountered difficulties that they couldn’t “pick and roll” around.

Sure, I want to think that everyone needs theatre to exist because it’s wonderful and adds value and is creative and inspires people, just like you do.  But that kind of thinking “just build it and they will come” is not the kind of marketing I am interested in and could just be why some theatres have gone under.  Especially if they didn’t keep up with the social media times. 

As I look at some theatre websites, they seem to create a “big brochure” for their theatre season, “writing for their ego and not their buyers”, as Meerman says.   As I work with my web designer, it will not be to make the splashiest pages. It will be to provide info and to educate my soon-to-be audiences, donors and others interested in theatre, with participatory podcasts, webinars, white papers, videos and audios connecting them with casting directors, photographers, makeup artists, performers and others that have a lot to say about theatre before we even have a physical space. We will build these after we have developed bios and profiles for our customer/donor groups to find out what they need. Not just what we want them to do.

I am interested in solving problems and right now the theatre industry has a couple problems.

But instead of focusing on the theatre-funding and attending problems, I want to focus on how theatre solves a problem for a community and then by providing a website and a new theatre that solves those problems, let them convince themselves that they need this in their lives. Art… Schmart. I know it, you know it. Higher SAT scores, value, right/left brain thinking, outside-the-box development, inspiration.  All attributed to the study or participation in the arts.  I think my job right now is to listen to the folks who are “reinventing Stamford” and find out what they think their problems are and then market our theatre experience right into their brains as one of the solutions.

I am clear that it’s ok to be unpredictably enthusiastic when it comes to a new project and I have always been rather strong-willed on this subject. For example, there is no reason I should have won Miss Ohio and been a runner-up to Miss America. I was not the typical “mold”.  I just told myself I was going to win it that year. There is no reason I should have made my Broadway debut at my age. J   I just kept banging on doors and networking and improving my skills until the right thing came along.

So, I don’t dispute that this endeavor will be hard work. That a lot of people fail and that by speaking to those people, I might understand how their projects failed.  Got that.  I could also have spoken to dispirited beauty pageant contestants and disillusioned Broadway wanna-bes and gotten depressed and quit.  But I didn’t talk to them, I avoided them. I actually told the Miss Ohio people that I didn’t want to hear the gossip about who was supposed to win Miss America. I didn’t want to hear anything negative because it’s that little voice that means well, that can snag your progress.  I would rather be blissfully ignorant and make up my own rules than be forewarned.  That’s just me. Apply it to your life if it fits and gets you to a new place with unpredictable possibilities.

Here is where I would love your imput.  What “problems” does a theatre solve for an area?  1. Entertainment, yes, but why live entertainment verses a cheaper movie or netflix?  2.  Social. That is a big one I think when you are trying to reinvent an area right?  3. Cultural identity.  Again, if you are trying for a ‘greener’, more hip ID that is consciously resilient the culture has to go with it.  4. Involvement, especially in educational ways and perhaps in encouraging diversity.

I know Stamford is aiming for the 25-35 year old group to grow.  Steppenwolf theatre commissioned a report I just read called “Tipping the Culture”. It’s a report on ways that global brands are reaching Milleninials or the 15-31 year olds. Much of our marketing plan already has elements they suggest. For example, this group is not prone to being passive or anonymous in an audience and they want to create content as much as consume it.

 “Kristin, do you know how much work that will be?” Yes. I am already doing it for our internet marketing business.  I just need to transfer it over to the theatre.  I actually have the whole crew of folks that will be contributing to the above.  I promote them, they promote the theatre.  Links, classes, intern opportunities, business to business PR, and an entire web series devoted to promoting Stamford, the new American city.  (their words) 

Out of vogue for me are these words and phrases:  Conventional wisdom.  Typically. Calm down. Be reasonable.  How it’s always been done.   Statistics prove…  Standard. Safe. Bad economy. Naïve.

In vogue:  Unpredictable.  Wild.  Charismatic.  Fun.  Persistent.  Driven.  Exciting. Feels right.  Sexy.  Artsy.  Balsy.  Bitchy.  Make a difference.  Listened more than talked. Progressive.  Awesome.  Brilliant.  New Possibilities. Fling it against the wall and see what sticks. New template. New paradigm.  Against the grain.  Thought leaders. Consciously resilient

Now for your feedback. The positive voices in my life! 

1 comment:

  1. Kristin, this is the most inspiring post yet. It gets me very excited to know that I might one day sit on the Board of such a progressive Stamford institution!