Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

The Art Of Being Liked

****BEWARE: this blog is (vaguely) about arts marketing ****

Two things happened today which both pushed me to think about popularity.

Firstly I was sat with some members of an unnamed theatre marketing team (not mine) talking about our philosophies on consultancy, arts marketing and running a theatre. Secondly I received an e-mail from our box office providers mentioning the opportunity to speak at an event they’re running. I started to ponder what I’d talk about if I was given carte blanche. Now obviously I wouldn’t do this as I’d be the worst person to advise on how to market theatre better, and also, I suspect, my attitude will become plainly clear as we progress through this blog post.

I started to think about my philosophy for marketing, then theatre and finally it broadened out into life. It was a lot of in depth thinking I was doing. Essentially my life philosophies boiled down to 5 points.

1. Be nice (and apologise when you’re wrong) and don’t make dick moves

2. Never be satisfied

3. Don’t lie or rip people off

4. Don’t be a pretentious dick

5. Make sure everything you do is good or better.

I thought this was an interesting start but realised that actually they’re all pretty hard to live by, often it’s hard to be nice to people who antagonise you and are cruel or mean, never being satisfied can leave you a bit hollow and sad, sometimes we lie to protect people and rip off people who antagonise us, sometimes pretention helps us fit in and, in this short life we have, sometimes average fits the bill.

They are my values but it’s tricky to stick to them, I don’t find life makes them easy to abide by and live with. So we try our best and work on it and fail regularly but hopefully improve.

I think if I wanted one message in marketing and theatre, for aspiring arts marketing people, all of those things could be summised by the following phrase. “No Dick Moves”.

Now. I’m fully aware you may not be aware of what a dick move is, or might be unfamiliar with the concept. It is, essentially this, anything that isn’t a good thing that makes people’s lives better, more rewarding or nicer. Yes, nicer. A life example might be “drinking shared milk from the bottle with a cold sore and infection”, that’s a dick move. As is “knobbing someone else’s partner”, “reading The Sun” or “bullying someone”.  All dick moves. Moves that make people think you’re a bit of a dick.

So how can we apply this to arts marketing? Here’s a few examples:

  • Charging people a booking fee for tickets they’re buying – Dick move.
  • Telling people that a very missable show is “unmissable” – Dick move.
  • Mistaking the phrase “possibly one of the best” for “the best” – Dick move.
  • Sending people e-mails they don’t open and repeating – Dick move.
  • Producing a terrible show and not apologising – Dick move.

The problem is, however that there are good reasons for all of these – the point is that we’ve identified them all as dick moves – that they are dick moves means that unless we solve them we’re a dick and that insult, vulgar as it is I think is important in motivating the change, it has a clarity that lots of brand values don’t. Language is so diverse and broad, it’s a shame we exclude certain words which truly encapsulate an idea.

So the question now is how do we address that and make good from the examples above.

  • Include the booking fee within the price of the tickets by rewriting your contracts
  • Avoid the cliches – unmissable, life changing, dynamic, timeless, inspiring.
  • Don’t oversell, make it a personal opinion.
  • Research what people do, like and react to – look at likelihood of artform crossover and from that examine the likelihood of someone seeing something.
  • Write an apology e-mail with a money off voucher for another show you know will be good. Artistic opinion is one thing but some shows are just shit. Address it and move on.

These are just a few of my thoughts, admittedly gained while minorly sun-stroked and majorly tired in Liverpool. But still. Makes that marketing and experience building a bit easier? I struggle to keep to these, they are for leaders to pass down and organisations and individuals to follow. Ideals and values need to be tangible, accessible and motivational. They should be simple and easy. I think I’ve found a strong one, and perhaps, even one that might make us more popular.

Night x