BAM, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, NY

By Trudel | MacPherson / May 24, 2013

BAM Talks To Fans Like Friends

“We learned to talk like people, not advertisers and to see ourselves in broader contexts.  It isn’t just about the show or the event – it’s about the artist, the community, the neighborhood, the background,” Stephen Litner, Director of Digital Media.BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building

BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) whose mission is to be The Home for Adventurous Audiences, Artists and Ideas was challenged to manage the “embarrassment of riches” provided by social media platforms.  Using a website redesign as an opportunity to re-think its living brand presence, BAM improved usability and connected all of its sub brands including: Next Wave Festival; BAMcinématek;  BAMcafé Live; Eat, Drink & Be Literary; and Get It Out There: Comedy by BAM & IFC

BAM is a multi-arts center located in Brooklyn, New York.  For more than 150 years, BAM has engaged global and local communities with world-renowned programming in theater, dance, music, opera, film and much more, BAM showcases the work of emerging artists and innovative modern masters.

BAM logo As distribution options have moved from fixed to endless — BAM’s single largest challenge in the digital space was to unite all of its disparate programming into a singular flow of communication. To sort out and maximize impact across platforms, BAM uses its content as a “spine” of information to feed all its online and offline publications and social media outreach.  Striving to balance high and “low” discussions such as academic review of art forms and animated cartoons, BAM encourages visiting artists to leverage their own social networks to promote appearances at BAM.

The tone of BAM’s communications is anything but promotional.  All BAM’s social media is content focused without traditional hard sell approaches i.e. “Don’t miss this show!” “Reviews just in: it’s a hit!”  Instead its content – which often begins on the BAM Blog — provides a ready stream of conversational topics to encourage patrons to engage around whatever is going on at BAM.

Stephen Litner, Director of Digital Media says, “It’s all about animating discussion around key performances – our digital and institutional strategies are united!”  BAM focuses on providing content patrons can’t get elsewhere including interviews or rehearsals, original video content, and curator comment.  Its archival content is rich and dynamic, featuring artist interviews and ephemera from past collaborations with icons like Gertrude Stein and Pina Bausch.

BAM’s approach is eclectic and it uses social media outreach to invite fans and visitors to experience its adventuresome programming however they wish.  Seeing itself as a living “shuffle” culture, BAM keeps its brand consistent across all genres of programming.  One key BAM insight through this re-designing process was that effective social media engagement will deliver accessibility and service – but not necessarily revenue.  BAM focused on keeping traffic flowing and imprinting its brand presence into audiences’ hearts and minds.

Stephen says, “We realized that sophisticated audiences expect more than promotion via their chosen social media interactions.  We now approach communications along a patron outreach continuum of touch points – engaging with patrons before and after any production.  Talking about what we love makes our audience love it too.”

Social media gives BAM new opportunities to shape things around each event and move customers from interest, to engagement to loyalty.  The production is only one of the touch points along an intentional engagement continuum:

Context → Production → Conversation → Community

 Proof Points:

  • BAM creates a platform agnostic constellation of content around its performances
  • BAM capitalizes on its knowledge base to engage with audiences across all genres
  • Content is a spine of information which feeds BAM’s online and offline publications
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Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

By Trudel | MacPherson / April 28, 2013

Taking Audiences on Journeys of Discovery – Creating Cross Discipline Partnerships to Enrich Engagement

One of the most frequently asked questions Rory and I hear from arts marketers is “How can we attract audiences that are totally new to our organization?”  It seems to us that organizations have gotten better at drawing current audiences – the “low hanging fruit” – back to attend additional events but brand new patrons are elusive.  Some of the most exciting approaches we’ve seen are Carnegie Hall’s annual festivals– once a year citywide cultural feasts which bring together a range of performances and events at dozens of partner organizations throughout New York City around a compelling theme. The festivals – now in their seventh year – are working to energize current audiences and attract brand new audiences to the most traditional of settings.Carnegie Hall

Imagining a New Artistic Paradigm:

In 2005 when Clive Gillinson left the London Symphony to head Carnegie Hall, he brought a collaborative temperament and a fascination with the possibilities New York City’s cultural colleagues could offer.  He began to imagine what could be achieved by taking a holistic view of the city’s artistic opportunities surrounding arts and culture. His goal was to build on Carnegie Hall’s 122 year tradition of presenting great musicians from around the world by providing a broader context for audiences -curating compelling journeys of discovery by providing rich cultural content around the music. He sought to present performance in a new way, using the artistic assets of NYC’s cultural community to enrich audience experiences, inspire artists, unlock the creativity of his staff and ignite the imaginations of the city’s cultural communities and citizens.

Placing music at the core of the festival, the cross departmental Carnegie Hall team began with the planned 2007 residency of the Berlin Philharmonic and explored the possibilities of placing the scheduled performances in a broader context of Berlin’s robust arts and culture scene. The team expanded the performing lens to look at Berlin as a cultural incubator, and decided to recreate its dynamic arts scene for New Yorkers and visitors with the first Carnegie Hall citywide festival.  Carnegie Hall – acting as an artistic catalyst and engagement impresario – reached out to visual arts, cultural, community, literary, film and even other presenting organizations, to make Berlin come alive with events occurring all over town for 3 weeks in 2007.

Clive Gillinson / Carnegie HallMr. Gillinson explains the revolutionary concept: “In fall 2007, we added a new dimension to Carnegie Hall’s programming mix with our first citywide festival, Berlin in Lights, a three-week celebration exploring the vibrant arts scene of the German cultural capital with more than 50 events at Carnegie Hall and leading arts organizations throughout New York City.”

“At the time, Carnegie Hall had long been known for presenting incredible performances by the world’s finest artists of all musical genres as well as some shorter series.  With Berlin in Lights and the other major festivals that we’ve since offered annually each season, our goal has been to build on this tradition to develop larger journeys of discovery for audiences.  We’ve worked with the many wonderful partner organizations throughout the city to create extensive specially-curated series of events that explore compelling themes, spanning all aspects of arts and culture,” said Mr. Gillinson.

Berlin in Lights created a Renaissance of collegiality and collaboration in New York City and was the first in a series of annual festivals, bringing audiences, organizations and artists together around cross cutting themes.  Carnegie Hall will launch its 7th festival in Winter 2014, focusing on VIENNA: City of Dreams in collaboration with the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, the Frick Collection, The Morgan Library, the Museum of Modern Art, The Paley Center for Media, The Julliard School, Neue Galerie and Le Poisson Rouge, among other leading NYC institutions.Photo: QUANZHOU MARIONETTE THEATER; performance photographed: Wednesday, October 21, 2009; 7:30 PM at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall; Photograph: © 2009 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine


The overall audience development goals of the festival programming at Carnegie Hall are to draw its traditional subscription and single ticket audiences to new experiences and to attract new audiences to Carnegie Hall’s programming.

The programming of music as part of a larger artistic journey also serves to create a mobilizing “event” to draw media attention and focus staff and partner energies around something bigger than just another concert or series of concerts.  “We want our current subscribers to be surprised and intrigued,” stated Naomi Grabel, Carnegie Hall’s Director of Marketing, “and to create a compelling reason for new audiences to give us a try.”

And it works!!  In a time where we’re hearing that subscriptions are dying and audiences are turning away from traditional art forms – especially classical music – Carnegie Hall reports than more than one third of audiences who buy a ticket to a festival performance are NEW to the organization.  And even more tellingly, 10-15% of attendees who came to Carnegie Hall for a festival, return to hear/see something else during the rest of the year.

“It gives us a way to penetrate the busy lives of over scheduled New Yorkers and visitors by creating a focused cultural journey which engages a variety of artistic appetites,” stated Synneve Carlino, Director of Public Relations.   “And it inspires our staff to work together across departments to creatively market and promote our festivals.”   In recent summers, Carnegie Hall has tried new ways to spread the word about its festivals to targeted audiences, for example, launching street teams at summer festivals to reach Latino New Yorkers in advance of 2012’s Voices from Latin America festival and traveling to the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Flushing, Queens to promote its China themed festival in 2009. ”We want to engage with people who may not be aware of Carnegie Hall and tell them about a range of programming that they might enjoy.”International superstar Gilberto Gil returns to his musical roots with an evening of forró, the infectious dance music from Northeastern Brazil.

A Frame Not a Formula – Making it work:

The realities of making collaboration work call for imagination, flexibility and sensitivity throughout planning and execution.  As Naomi Grabel says: “We don’t take a cookie cutter approach, each festival is unique and calls for fresh thinking about design, collaboration and promotion.”

Some of the key ingredients to success include:

  • Advance planning – speaking with major partners 2-3 years in advance about important artistic programming initiatives at Carnegie Hall – such as building on the 2014 planned seven performance schedule of the Vienna Philharmonic to create the Vienna: City of Dreams festival.
  • Working with leading artists to build programming around themes such as Jessye Norman who imagined the 2009 Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy festival and Carnegie Hall Debs composer chair, Osvaldo Golijov, an artist who provided key advice for the Voices from Latin America festival in Fall 2012.
  • Responding to milestones of mutual interest to partners such as the joint celebration, with the New York Philharmonic, of the 90th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth and the 50th anniversary of his appointment as the Philharmonic’s music director with Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds in Fall 2008.
  • Being sensitive to partners’ unique personalities by encouraging them to present a wide range of offerings within the festival theme.
  • Keeping collaborations simple by letting each partner take responsibility for ticketing, fulfillment and individual promotion for their own performances.
  • Building promotional assets useful to all partners and accessible to all audiences, including a micro web site, sharable signage, background video, ads, brochures, etc.
  • Connecting all internal resources – creating a cross-departmental Carnegie Hall team for each festival with artistic, marketing, development, ticketing and education staffers on board.
  • Respecting and celebrating the culture highlighted – approaching target constituencies such as the Latino audience for the Voices from Latin America festival or the Chinese-American community for the Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: A festival Celebrating Chinese Culture (Fall 2009) with appropriate media outreach, bilingual materials and timing.

And the result is a series of annual events that create a cultural feast for New Yorkers and visitors.  As Mr. Gillinson says, “We hope that Carnegie Hall festivals will tempt audience members to go beyond single performances or the offerings that they already know and love.  We want to inspire them to try new things, exploring interesting themes, painted across a wide cultural canvas.”

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TimeLine Theatre Company, Chicago

By Trudel | MacPherson / March 20, 2013

Are Digital Communications and Social Media Delivering Fundraising Results at TimeLine Theatre?

TimeLine Theatre

That is one of the questions we ask as we continue to research the impact and effectiveness of various social media experiments.  Our national data indicates that fundraising is the toughest nut for arts organizations to crack using social media and digital communications and more than 24% of our respondents reported they were not getting any results at all.

Kickstarter/Indiegogo style campaigns are growing in popularity but have heavy time and resource demands. We believe that before undertaking an external Kickstarter type campaign – with attendant commissions and timetables — arts organizations should consider “do it yourself” options.

We looked across the country for exemplars who had found a way to solve the fundraising challenge, powerfully engaging with audiences to convert ticket buyers into fans, fans into evangelists and evangelists into donors.  Some of the most interesting development work in the country is being done by TimeLine Theatre Company in Chicago.  TimeLine’s marketing and development team leaders, Lara Goetsch, Director of Marketing and Lydia Swift, Development Manager, forged a dynamic partnership to cultivate prospects and help advocates leverage their personal networks for the benefit of the company. 

TimeLine pioneered a cultivation tool – called TimeLine’s Cultivation Pyramid – to guide the company’s marketing and development work.  It’s based on a process that exists either formally or informally in all organizations – rooted in the idea of moving individuals up a ladder, or pyramid, of increasing support. 

Click here for a full review of the process and TimeLine’s unique approach link to:

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Armory Center for the Arts Reduced Printed Promotions and Attendance Increased

By Trudel | MacPherson / November 14, 2012


Armory’s Director of Communications, Jon Lapointe, joined the institution not long after the crash of 2008.  Due to the economic crisis, pressure on the bottom line caused Armory to reduce the communication department’s print budget in a cost-cutting effort.  They did less print advertising and reduced the size and expense of the large, elaborate printed promotional pieces that had previously been the primary means of getting the word out.  These cards were reduced to a postcard format.  Meanwhile Armory shifted to promotion via email and Facebook.  But Jon thinks Facebook is the biggest driver.  “We have more Facebook fans than recipients of our email blasts.  We send 5,000 or 6,000 emails via constant contact.  The open rate for these is 1,200 in the best case.  But we have over 6,000 Facebook fans and there are 2,300 impressions generated by every Facebook post.”

This arts education and exhibition facility in Pasadena substantially reduced its reliance on printed promotional pieces and experienced steady increases in attendance levels and student enrollment.

Even though there have been improvements in the economy and in Armory’s budget condition, Jon sees no need to go back to print.  “We’ve seen steady increases in class enrollment. Last summer was the best we ever had.  Also we’ve had the best fall ever – typically a slow period.”  Armory has also posted a new volunteer form online.  This has brought in more young volunteers, age 30 or younger, than they ever had before.

Recently Jon has been fine tuning Armory’s Facebook presence so it is now not exclusively about Armory.  Items now highlight interesting art installations that may be on view anywhere in the world, from London to the Netherlands projects.  These are interspersed with items about Armory studio classes and contemporary art exhibitions.  Jon thinks the ecology of the feed is important – that it’s not all about Armory all the time.  “It’s like curating the messages on Facebook.  We need a variety because parents of children in the classes don’t really care about the exhibitions program and young art fans without kids don’t care about the studio program,” that Armory promotes with postings like photos of an “Oreo Cameos” project – portraits carved by kids into the filling of Oreo cookies.


– Featured quote from Jon Lapointe

“We substantially reduced the communications department’s print budget, reduced our reliance on print, focused our energies on social media and web marketing and have seen attendance levels increase.”

– Proof points

  • It’s possible to reduce the print media spending and grow one’s constituency.
  • In one’s social network presence it’s important to balance the amount of self-referential material with citations of relevant ideas from a variety of sources.
  • Keep in mind multiple constituencies for the organization and sustain information that appeals to each group.



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Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

By Trudel | MacPherson / November 14, 2012

Milwaukee Theater Invites Fans to Meet in Special Tweet Seats


To build new audiences for its Spring 2011 production of the Lion in Winter, the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCB) reached out to Twitter mavens with strong online followings, creating a designated section in its three level proscenium theater where tweeting throughout the performance was encouraged.  Originally worried about distracting other members of the audience, the company experimented with a special “tweet seats” area reserved for 15-18 tweeters.


Veteran Tweeters occupy their own gallery at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s Cabot Theater, tweeting comments and real time reviews during productions.

The company found the new online activity was worth providing complementary “Tweet Seats” to strong Tweeters, reporting that resulting awareness and buzz about the show have justified the investment.  This Tweet Seats section has become a draw for tweeters who often bring friends, new to theater going.  For each performance, the company takes the first 18 tweeters who sign up and continues to recruit new candidates with strong  followings to encourage attendance.

This real time reviewing has helped MCB to relate to potential new audiences.  Monitoring the twitter feeds during performances has allowed the MCB to take advantage of spontaneous events to alert fans on Facebook to the dynamic “only in live theater” experiences.

The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre has a strong Facebook presence and began using QR codes in the 2011-2012 brochure.  Codes are included on each show page and link to preview video and behind the scenes information about each production.   QR codes are also used on promotional postcards to build awareness of upcoming shows. Video features scenes enacted at the annual season announcement party or interviews with the company’s artistic director or visiting guest directors.

Quote: “Our producing artistic director, Michael Wright, was concerned about annoying traditional audiences with disruptive Twitter action during performances but after we closed off a special Twitter section in the gallery, he was open to trying Tweet Seats to reach new audiences. Our ongoing challenge is to make time to respond to all the positive comments we receive.”

Proof points:

  • Integration of Tweet Seats into ongoing performances
  • Identification of Twitter mavens with strong enough followings to make complimentary seats worth it
  • Monitoring and responding to comments in the Twitter-verse


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