Marketing vs Comms

Photo of Paul Seven Lewis

I’ve never worked in a business large enough to separate marketing and communications. Even at the largest organisation where I was an employee, I was responsible for both. So what is the difference?

As the head of the department, I concentrated on the marketing while carrying out some of the communications. So I was the person who determined the marketing strategy and plan. To grossly oversimplify, I worked out what story we had to tell and to whom we should be telling it.

Communications is about telling the story. Because my team was small and I had certain skills, I continued to oversee brochure production and wrote copy. Others dealt with the practicalities of communications through advertising, social media, PR, the website and mailings.

So how do you plan your communications?

  1. Consult the marketing plan. As an expert in communications, you should be talking to the Marketing Manager to make sure you fully understand who you need to communicate with (clients, customers, funders) and what you are expected to achieve.
  2. Set targets in a time frame.
  3. Carry out an inventory of your resources, both human and physical. Human resources could be a press officer, a digital marketer, an advertising agency etc. Physical resources would be a website, social media, print media, email list etc.
  4. Allocate the resources, single or mixed, that will best deliver each target.
  5. If you have been given a budget, allocate it to the resources that will achieve the best return. Otherwise, work out the budget you will need and negotiate your final spending allowance with the management.
  6. Create the stories in images and words that are appropriate for each medium. I’ve said it before but I can’t stress enough that it is never the case that one piece of copy fits all: an email will be personal while a press release will be quite neutral; a tweet will be snappy while flier copy will go into detail. On the other hand, the ‘voice’ and branding should be consistent.
  7. Test and monitor, adapting as you go.

The above is about external communications. An internal communications plan will be similar but will not take its lead from a marketing plan. Instead it will involve researching the stakeholders and understanding how best to communicate with them- most likely emails, postal mailings, social media groups, presentations and digital forums.

Paul Seven Lewis is the owner of the marketing & website design company Seven Experience Limited and presents the YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews. He was formerly Head Of Marketing at The Mayflower Southampton and Marketing Manager at Theatre Royal Winchester.

Why the Back Page Is Page 2

If you think your brochure or flyer will never be displayed back to front or left lying on a table on its front, then ignore this article and continue living in your fantasy world.

In the real world both of the above do happen. Ignoring the selling power of your back page is a sign to the world that you have money to burn. Who but someone above the rough and tumble of the market place can afford to leave the second hottest page of their brochure blank ? Well, one of my favourite theatres, it seems. I’m not going to name them but I can assure you there were some great shows in their season that could have benefited from a plug on the back page. If that’s too vulgar, the least they could have done is put their name at the top so that someone seeing the back would know to pick it up.

In viewing terms, your back page is page two. That’s why magazines charge advertisers more the back page than any other. Here are two random examples. The Lady charges £2750 for a standard full page but, if you want the back page, it will cost you £3450. Private Eye charges £6000 for a full page and £7200 for the back cover. Enough said. A picture is worth a thousand words so here are three.

Paul Seven Lewis shows blank back cover of brochure display at front of rack
Back To Front

Paul Sevn Lewis criticises blank back cover in middle of rack
Who’s there?

Paul Seven Lewis criticises marlketing error of blank back cover of brochure
Face Down

To remind you, the other hot spots are the inside covers and the centre spread. Please don’t waste them with seating plans, terms and conditions or a list of sponsors (unless they’re paying you a lot of money). Here are two more marketing articles I’ve written on producing brochures 7 Ways To A Winning Brochure and A step-by-step guide to producing a season brochure.

7 Basic Lessons I’ve Learned About Marketing A Mid-Scale Theatre

Paul Lewis of Seven Experience marketing consultancy sitting in a seat at Theatre Royal WinchesterI’ve just completed my marketing contract with Theatre Royal Winchester. This is what I’ve learned about marketing a mid-scale theatre.

Previously I have marketed a large scale theatre which is like piloting an ocean liner. The first thing I discovered was that a mid-scale venue is like a dinghy. You’re constantly tossed from wave to wave.

The procession of shows is relentless. Most weeks you’re dealing with three or more shows. In fact, a show on for a week is considered a long run. This means you are constantly making decisions, choices, compromises. It’s no place for a perfectionist or a prevaricator. So here are seven basic things you need to know.

1. You have very limited resources and the pressure is always there to reduce costs. I didn’t stop believing that you need to spend money to make money but at the same time I do hate waste so I analysed the effectiveness of all marketing tools. I used Return-On-Investment data from the Spektrix box office system about purchases made by people who received eshots and postal mailings as well as questionnaires filled in by customers and click-through data from digital advertising and sales patterns before and after promotions.

The result was that I was able to cut drastically print advertising which was not delivering. This saved thousands of pounds.

2. The season brochure was the most effective marketing tool for the majority of shows, especially drama and dance. Even so, I cut the print run. Why? I saw that the response rate was poor for what was supposed to be our best way of selling tickets. So I removed people who came only to shows on which the brochure was shown to have no effect (e.g. stand-up comedy, a large percentage of the panto audience). This gave me a reduction of 40%. In an ideal world, you continue to mail everybody who ever came to the theatre- but the cost is prohibitive. I got the same response in terms of numbers of transactions and saved thousands on printing and mailing costs.

3. On the subject of print, I believe in the importance of getting paper into people’s hands. It’s sticky. Therefore I increased and refined the distribution of print around the catchment area. I found a supporter who had the time to give it his personal attention, which gets much more from the outlets than using an agency. I also continued the weekly small targeted mailings, fulfilled in-house by a team of volunteers.  ‘Targeted’ usually meant people who had bought similar shows before but hadn’t yet bought this one.

4. I ramped up the digital marketing. We sent out more e-shots but carefully targeted so people weren’t overwhelmed by them. Something I didn’t learn at TRW but put into practice while I was there was the necessity of using the knowledge of the team. I inherited an excellent digital specialist. His knowledge of the box office system and other analytics was vital. I learned quite a bit about using social media from him.

Don’t expect straightforward ads for shows to work on Twitter. What engages people are stories and photos about people and news from behind the scenes. Creating a community and having conversations build the loyalty and trust that leads to increased attendance. The same rules apply to your Facebook page but ads can work on the Facebook medium because you can target them so well.

5. I learned you have to use PR very carefully. Like word-of-mouth, a mention in a respected newspaper, magazine or website generates sales among followers. The trouble is, with so many events, I didn’t want to rely on editors’ choices. I concentrated on the shows that would generate the most money for the theatre or needed the most help. The others I ruthlessly ignored so that the editor wouldn’t be tempted to publicise a sold-out comedian rather than a half-full play.

I made sure we sent all the listings website and freesheets the information. Some said they wouldn’t write about us unless we advertised. I took the view that paid-for editorial doesn’t impress anybody.

The main thing is, I didn’t economise on PR, tempting as it was. Even so, I found I didn’t have the time to generate enough of the fun stories that often get coverage but don’t necessarily sell tickets.

6. Nor did I economise on copywriting. Producers will provide copy for brochures, mailshots and press releases but that doesn’t mean you have to use it. There are two good reasons for writing your own copy. Firstly, you should have a house style in your copy, a personality that fits your venue.

Secondly, a lot of the supplied copy is pretty poor. The great Drayton Bird said, ‘How can you make more money without investing more money? Run good copy instead of bad copy.’ What makes it bad? Well, that’s a whole article in itself but failure to understand the medium for which they are writing, failure to produce selling copy and failure to provide up-to-date information are just a few reasons for taking the time to research and rewrite it.

7. Timing is always important but it couldn’t be more crucial when you want to get the most out of limited resources. So I looked at sales patterns to make sure that e-shots, postal mailings and PR hit the ‘sweet spots’ or ‘zero moments’ when people made decisions to buy.

It’s also important to create synergy by working with colleagues from other departments. I helped the Head of Development establish a Friends scheme which gave the theatre much needed income from subscriptions and gave me a list of people likely to be among our most frequent attenders, people who could be nurtured and who would spread the word.

If you’re a producer, please understand that your show is competing with lots of others for the attention of the venue’s marketing people. I have three P’s for you – Provide good easy-to-use information and photos. Make Personal contact. Pester.

That’s just a taste of what I learned. If you already work in a mid-scale venue, I’m sure words like ‘Granny’ ‘eggs’ and suck’ come to mind but, if you’re new to marketing a mid-scale venue, I hope you’ve gained some useful tips. Please contact me if you want some advice or would like to run an idea by me.

Paul Lewis is a freelance marketer and owner of Seven Experience. He is available for marketing projects or short term contracts.

Print versus Digital- It’s All In The Mind

Theatre Royal Winchester brochure cover
Theatre Royal Winchester season brochure

If you’d asked us ten years ago, we marketing folk would probably have said that our season brochures and postal mailshots were on their way out. More and more people were getting digitally connected, websites were well established and getting faster, emails were all but ubiquitous. We couldn’t be blamed for thinking our print would be going the way of paper order forms and letterheads.

Yet here we are and our print is still going strong. This despite the fact that over 50% of the population have constant access to the internet via smartphones and tablets. At Theatre Royal Winchester, which I market, questionnaires, filled in by about half our customers, tell us the season brochure is still the number one source for their decision to buy a ticket, it can be as high as 60% of customers in the case of a play.

Digital has undoubtedly had an impact. The website is the second most mentioned of our marketing tools. E-shots are now the third best way of selling individual shows.

So why does print maintain such a hold in our digital world? There are some practicalities. Brochures are usually easier to navigate than websites, try as we may to tailor the UX to the visitors’ needs. You can flip through, dip in, and hang on to it through the season. But there’s more to it than that. Research suggests our brains may be wired for print.

Take this study sponsored by Canada Post and carried out by True Impact Marketing1. It found Direct Mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than Digital Media, meaning that it is both easier to understand and more memorable. Print created 20% higher motivation to act than digital. The ratio of these two factors means print is much more likely to lead to consumer action.

More than that, the impact lasted longer- recall of the brand was 70% higher for direct mail than digital. And print gets its message across more quickly.

In a study from Temple University2 using brain scans, physical did better than digital on the time a customer spent on an ad, the emotional reaction, how quickly and confidently they remembered it, how much they subconsciously wanted it and valued it. Digital only scored better on focusing attention on key elements. Other factors like the amount of information processed, how accurately they remembered it and how willing they were to purchase were even-stevens.

This could be the clincher. The ventral striatum area of the brain was activated more by print advertising than digital media, indicating that the former was more successful than the latter at create desire and a sense of value.

Brain scans were also used in a case study by Millward Brown in collaboration with Bangor University3. It found ‘physical material is more “real” to the brain. It has a meaning, and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with its spatial memory networks.’  ‘Physical material involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations.’ ‘Physical materials produced more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater “internalization” of the ads.’

Two more studies show the power of print. One found that comprehension is higher when people read print4. The other showed that digital readers browse and scan and don’t pay sustained attention5.

Even though print may be a better marketing tool than digital in oh-so-many ways, digital comes into its own when you compare cost. You may not sell so many tickets per e-shot as per mailshot but you can send out thousands of them for the cost of a handful of letters. So I find it’s best to hit customers first with an email and, only if they don’t respond, send a mailshot, and even then only to the best prospects.

The power of print means your season brochure should be your strongest marketing tool. Direct mail selling individual shows may fall down on the ROI but, in one piece of print, a brochure can cover dozens of products, thus spreading the cost and maximizing ROI.

1 Canada Post / True Impact Marketing, Understanding the Impact of Physical Communications through Neuroscience, February 2015

2Predicting Advertising Success Beyond Traditional Measures: New Insights from Neurophysiological Methods and Market Response Modeling. Journal of Marketing Research, August 2015

3Using Neuroscience to understand the role of Direct Mail. Millward Brown

4Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, Vol 58, 013, Pages 61–68

5Ziming Liu, (2005) “Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 61 Issue 6, pp.700 – 712

What’s more important- Length or Quality? Houdini & Heaven Eyes

Mr Swallow in Houdini
Mr Swallow in Houdini

Should you tell them the length or let them find out? The theory of not saying anything is that by the time they find out how short it is, they’re committed and they’re going to enjoy the experience so much, they won’t mind.

I would like to think that all that matters is the quality but I can’t deny that, when we’re talking about theatre, the actual performance is only part of an evening out. There’s also the travel, the drinks, maybe a meal before or after. An hour long show isn’t exactly a full evening out. Does that matter if it’s good or are you left you feeling shortchanged?

I went to see Mr Swallow in Houdini at Soho Theatre a couple of weeks ago. I loved it and laughed more than I have in a long time, so I certainly didn’t mind that it was only an hour long. Even so, it started at 7 o’clock so my wife and I were back on the street just after 8.

We could have been wondering what to do next but fortunately we’d been forewarned that it was an hour long so we were prepared to go on to a restaurant afterwards. Otherwise we might have found ourselves a few hours short of an evening out.

As someone who markets Theatre Royal Winchester, I always try to let people know if the performance is short but this raises a number of questions.

Does taking the trouble to point out that a performance is only a hour long suggest that I think you may think it’s not good value? At what point does a performance become standard length- 90 minutes, two hours?

There are other questions when it comes to describing the mechanics of a performance. Should I say if there’s no interval? Should I tell people if it’s extra long?- Hamlet usually runs to three and a half hours.

On the website, we do give the running time of every show, when we know it. But, to me, these are the kind of details that take up valuable space in a season brochure that I would like to use to tell people about the content of the show.

A brilliant play called Heaven Eyes, full of suspense, mystery and magical realism, is coming to Theatre Royal Winchester on 6 March. It’s about an hour and a half long and there’s no interval, so as not to break the spell. I think people will be so gripped that they won’t notice the length. However, their bladders might tell them it’s time for a break unless we forewarn them.

I’m happiest when I can use a quote like ‘a fun-packed hour’ or ‘the four hours go by at the speed of a train’.

It also depends on the genre. People expect a show for young children to be no more than an hour so I would advise if one was longer. Anyone who goes to a contemporary dance show would be surprised if it went on for more than an hour and a half, not because you can only take so much of people leaping around and catching each other in the air but because it’s so intense.

It’s quite natural to want a full evening’s entertainment but, when you think about it, it’s ridiculous to judge a performance by its length. One of the best shows I saw last year was Wot? No Fish! at Theatre Royal Winchester which was barely an hour long. I’m sure we’ve all seen shows (at other venues, of course) which we’d wished were only an hour in length.

Paul Lewis markets Theatre Royal Winchester and Hampshire Workspace and is the owner of the marketing consultancy Seven Experience. A version of this article has appeared on the Daily Echo website.