The people who achieve greatness are usually the ones who take an active interest in pursuing it.
In other words, if you sit back and wait for life to reward you, it might be a long wait. But if you grab the bull by the horns, you have a chance to achieve your dreams.
VALUE OF A GOOD REVIEW
In the world of live theatre, getting a good review has long been seen as the Holy Grail. And, while a good review can be great for marketing, for it to be really effective takes a lot of work after the fact too.
Getting a review is just the first step, because a review that praises a show is only going to be effective if people read it. That means you can either hope that people read it, or you can maximize the chances that the maximum number of people are exposed to that review. You can take an active role in your own success.
POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
It used to be that the newspaper was the primary medium for promoting theatrical events. If your PR person did their job, you got a review in the paper. Hopefully people would read it and books tickets.
Then marketing people started taking those reviews and pulling out small quotes that summed up the sentiment and put them in advertisements. This extended the reach and shelf life of the words of praise from the theatre critic.
Now we live in the world of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Those good reviews you get might still be in printed format in some areas, but more likely than not they are alternatively or additionally available online. More and more so, online is where people go to access information these days.
FOUR LEVELS OF EXPOSURE
Generally speaking, there are four levels of how a potential online reader might get exposed to a review that could lead them to buying tickets to your production:
- Natural Readership
When you get that review from an online source these days, your first exposure is going to come from those who already visit that particular website. This is what I call Natural Readership.
Take for instance the Chicago Tribune. The Chicago landmark is one of the top news sources in the Midwest, and home to the writings of renowned chief theatre critic Chris Jones. The print version of the paper has a circulation of just over 100,000 readers. By contrast, ChicagoTribune.com gets about 11.4 million visitors per month.
That means that a review in the Chicago Tribune has a chance to influence a lot of people. But a good PR person is going to do everything possible to take chance out of the equation.
That’s where putting a link to the review on your own website is the next important step in maximizing the impact of a theatre critic’s praise.
No matter if your website has 5,000 visitors a month or 500,000 visitors a month, if you share a link to a positive review on your website, your existing followers can now also be influenced by that praise.
These are people who are already interested in your theater company. Perhaps they are past patrons. Perhaps they’ve been considering becoming a subscriber. Somehow, they have an interest in you already.
If that potential patron is not a Chicago Tribune reader naturally, they might not have ever seen the review. But by putting a link to the review on your website, you are now increasing the odds that person will see it and move from potential patron to active ticket buyer.
QUOTE ME ON THAT
The next step in maximizing the effectiveness of a theatrical review is to use its highlights to your benefit.
Relying on existing visitors to the website of a review publisher or your own website is fairly passive. The more successful theaters also take the active step of pushing the distilled content of those reviews out.
Take for instance my recent review of Into the Woods at Paramount Theatre, part of Chicago’s vibrant theatre scene. While I say many enthusiastic and sincere things about the Jim Corti/Trent Stork production, Paramount has taken one quote that sums it all up and is using it in their online advertisements: “Paramount Theatre’s Best Musical Yet’.
That powerful quote says a lot in just a few words. Investing in things like Facebook ads to push that kind of endorsement out into the Metaverse is exactly what is going to put people in seats. It’s a third party, unbiased endorsement that speaks volumes.
However, I caution you to always respect your audience. I have seen theaters lose a lot of money and credibility by running Facebook ads with clearly fabricated quotes from ‘anonymous audience members’. This has all the credibility of a junior high kid talking about his Canadian girlfriend.
SPREAD THE WORD
Well crafted Facebook ads with quotes from respectable sources work. They don’t cost much, and they provide a big return on investment.
But whether or not you invest money in running ads, you should still invest your time and energies into spreading the positive reviews you get.
The more people who see those reviews, the more people who might buy tickets. That’s pretty basic math. So, your goal should be to make sure the maximum number of people see the reviews of your show.
Madeline Franklin, vice president of Elgin Theatre Company, is an example of a master of sharing reviews.
When a positive review come out, she posts a link to it on every single Facebook group that it could possibly relate to. This includes theatre groups, special interest groups, and even groups for each town and neighborhood in close proximity to the theatre.
There are over 10 million groups on Facebook, with over 1.8 billion people using them each month. And they’re all free. My advice is that you set aside time to post to all that apply to you and your show.
And don’t forget about other social media platforms either. Whether it be Instgram, TikTok, or any other trending platform, make sure you are sharing your reviews with as many people as possible.
EVERYBODY PLAYS A PART
And it shouldn’t be a one-person effort either. Think about all the people associated with your production.
Between the cast, the crew, the creative team, and the theatre staff, there can be a lot of people involved in bringing a show to life. What if each one of them shared that review on their Facebook feed? What if each one of them shared that review in their special interest groups?
If each member of the team shared a link to a positive review, you dramatically increase the chances of having a sold-out run. So, here’s a suggestion: ask them to. Ask your cast to share. Ask your crew to share. Ask your friends to share. Most of them will do it and it costs your nothing!
When you put on a show, you’re doing it because you want people to see it. You want a sold-out house at every performance.
Getting a good review can help make that happen. But if you take an active role in pushing that praise out there, you can almost guarantee a sold-out run. Make the review work for you.
I’ve had the honor of handling marketing and public relations for a number of theaters and entertainment organizations. In addition, I am the former head of public relations for Empire Today and Other World Computing. I currently handle public relations for a select number of celebrity clientele.
If I can ever be of assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out. I truly enjoy helping people.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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Excellently written! Points well taken and great mention of Madeline Franklin asa successful example!