Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Art and Potholes

Good morning all,

Some of you may know that last year I was extremely active with a group of volunteers known as Artsvote. We spent over a year working together to educate artists and arts workers on the importance of their vote, created a report card grading all incumbents and challengers on their art-friendliness, and hosted a wildly successful Arts Debate (I really would hazard a guess that ours was the best attended debate in town). The election happened, there’s a new Mayor, some new Councillors, and although we thought our work would end the day after the election – it has not. We continue to update artists and arts workers on the happenings in our fair city that will directly affect them. And by them, I’m pretty sure I mean YOU – yes, you reading this.

So a couple of things:

As I’ve mentioned, I will be heading to on of the City’s roundtable discussions for the Toronto City Services review. If there are still spots available and you can make it, for the love of art – register and go. Why? Because according to the registration letter I received:

This roundtable session is very different than a town hall meeting or a deputation to Council Committee. The issues are complex and our goal is to encourage learning and discussion as well as collect input from all participants.These roundtable discussions will give you the opportunity to learn about City services and explore issues with others from across the City.  Facilitators will be at each table to support the discussion, and make sure participants have a chance to speak and ask questions on the issues they care about.

All I will say is that I am fairly sure those who are angry about taxes, potholes, garbage collection and road congestion will be there. Those are not the only things our city is about. Please ask yourself, “Is my art less important than a pothole?” and act on your answer accordingly.

ETA: Speaking of Art and Potholes, Colette Stevenson just tuned me into this incredibly cool project. Thanks for the tip!

If there are no spots left, then please fill out the survey you’ve seen mentioned around Facebook, Twitter and the interweb. It is long, it is somewhat cumbersome, but please raise your voice. Run your own session if need be. Remember, the Creative Capital Gains report was accepted unanimously. What we do is important. Remember and remind.

Along these lines I have an email in my inbox from C2C that I thought I would share with you.
Calling all community activists! Organizers meeting to defend City Programs: June 9, 1pm at the 519
Dear Friends,
As we speak, Toronto City Council is making plans to balance a huge operating deficit in the 2012 budget.  Apparently, everything is under review, all city services are on the line, and decisions are being made very quickly about the future of our city and what programs and services will be cut.   The impact of these cuts will be felt by all Torontonians for years to come.
With no time to waste, we have started a campaign that calls on local residents like you to demonstrate your Commitment to Community (C2C).  Sign on as a member of the C2C campaign to join your fellow community leaders and neighbours to protect the community services that make your city a healthy, safe and vibrant place to live. Get involved as the C2C campaign grows by attending our upcoming action-oriented organizing meeting:
The Commitment to Community Campaign Presents:  An Action-Oriented Organizing Meeting
Location: 519 Church Street Community Centre (Church & Wellesley)
Date: Thursday June 9, 2011, Time: 1pm – 5pm  (The 519 is a wheelchair accessible space.)
To stay informed, please join the C2C mailing list by signing up here

This has been your political PSA for the day. I’m off to cost and source marketing materials.

May 30, 2011

So What Do You DO All Day?

A few people who are more accustomed to the nine-to-five gig are curious about what happens all day when you do not have that type of schedule. The short answer is a heckuva lot.  I’ll let you into today’s schedule with by mythbusting.

MYTH: Self-employed arts consultants can sleep in till whenever they want, wander around the house in their pjs, and do more laundry than actual work.

FACT:  Not really. My first task of the day is usually to get a blog post written and up – and I want it up by ten a.m. I find my best traffic comes if I’ve posted by ten so there you go. I also need to check the headlines in the papers, read any arts and culture articles and respond to any emails that came in overnight.
So I’m up, dressed and caffeinating as we speak.  Here we go.

Today’s agenda includes the afore-mentioned blog post. I’m also collaborating on an article on social media contests with a friend and colleague Rebecca Coleman – she read my last post on the topic and we’re taking it a step further. Since she’s in Vancouver and I’m in Toronto, it’s an online collaboration. We’ve both been batting questions back and forth to each other and we’re starting to riff on the answers.

After posting, I’m off to the Pia Bouman Studios for the first readthrough with Expect Theatre and the cast of AWAKE . I’m doing the marketing on this production and I want to meet the actors, see and hear them and get more of a sense about not just the show, but what they plan on doing with it. Reading a script is one thing, immersing yourself in the work is another and leads to good marketing ideas.

After that it’s lunch with another colleague to talk about my new business venture. On my way there I’ll stop at the library to do some research. Not necessarily in the stacks – I want to see who’s got posters up for shows and make note of any performing arts companies that have postcards out. I also want to check out the display of the month for inspiration – if I clock that it’s Asian Heritage month, I can take note of that and keep an eye out for any companies doing work in that area and see if they require my assistance. This adds to my master calendar so that next year I’ll be able to use that research to plan ahead to offer my services to companies doing work at specific times of the year.

I’ll walk home along Queen West, taking note of what art galleries are showing, who’s got postcards distributed where, and do some costing for collateral ideas I’ve thought of for a client or two.

Home! (Ah, you think. Time for messing around!) Nope. I have a contract to create for a new client, expenses from the day to input, a half-dozen pitches to write for another client, and two film scripts to read.  I’ll bet by the time I’m home more emails will be in from Rebecca so I’ll need to work on those, and of course check my web stats. (Rebecca if you’re reading this – no pressure.)

In other words, I was at my “desk” at nine a.m. and I’m pretty sure all of the above will take me through till five p.m. And there’s an eight-hour day in the life of an arts consultant. Except my day isn’t done. I’ve got a Board meeting tonight (I sit on the Board of the Toronto Fringe) and when I get home from that I’ll probably check emails, Twitter and Facebook  and LinkedIn along with my website once more to see what kind of traffic and traction was built during the day. And I’ll mull over the blog post I need to write for tomorrow.

And then I’ll do laundry.

May 29, 2011

Sunday Roundup – May 28

What a weird weather week. Hopefully summer is on the way, although I appreciate the lushness of all the greenery, more than a little sun would be appreciated – and soon.

What went on this week? Let’s see what we talked about:

More Than Just a Festival – a little love for the Toronto Fringe and the amazing stuff it does, going in the past few years from two weeks in July to a year round hub for artists.

Follow Me, Like Me Become a Fan and RT To Win! – post about the value of a social media contest. I confess – the title was an experiment – I wanted to see who would click on a title like that. Marketing folks did. Later in the day I changed the title, and the clicks and RTs expanded. Interesting.

A Really Cool Awareness Tool Covenant House Toronto is using something called “donate your status” to raise awareness of their org. Have a look – I think it’s both interesting and useful.

Other News

Amazing concert last night at The Horseshoe with Ninja Funk Orchestra and the Elastocitizens – head over to the Ninja site if you missed it and see just what all the fuss is about.

Theatre 20 is gearing up for their June concert Driven to Score – it’s an amazing lineup of some of Canada’s best loved musical actors and is gonna be a heckuva hot ticket.

Expect Theatre is starting rehearsals for their upcoming project Awake at the Toronto Fringe in July – the folks who brought you Romeo and Juliet Remixed are sure to bring you some amzing thought-provoking work again.

I’m off to the  Toronto Service Review meeting at City Hall on June 4th. According to the email The issues are complex and our goal is to encourage learning and discussion as well as collect input from all participants.” Will keep you posted. Today’s cartoon (I think it’s from The New Yorker) is somewhat appropriate, methinks.

May 27, 2011

A Really Cool Awareness Tool

I don’t know if any of you are familiar with Covenant House in Toronto. They’re using Facebook in a very cool way to promote awareness of their org.

I like their page, so I get updates. Yesterday I got this one:

So I did. And clicked on Donate Your Status in the sidebar like they said to and was sent here:

(it’s not the full image, just enough to make the point.) So I chose one, and it took me to the image below:

And there – you’ve donated your status and it’s posted to your profile.

I think it’s a great way to raise awareness, it’s a step further than copying and pasting as there’s a choice of image to go with it that adds to the idea, and the focus is not diluted or lost – it’s a clean message every time. The image used seems to be a template of some sort that you personalize. It also can expand your message/page well beyond your current likers, subscribers or friends.Very cool. And it`s SIMPLE. Two max three clicks and you`ve done it – no fuss, no muss.

It would be interesting to see how this could be used in the performing arts world as well, with key messages from characters in the show, or lyrics from musical numbers. With a show I worked on last year, we decided the Twitter account would be run by the ghost in the play – all tweets were from his perspective.

I went to look up more info in the Facebook Help Centre but it didn’t know what I was talking about, and so I went to see what was at the website, but got sent to a domain default page by Parallels Plesk Panel and since I don’t know what that means, I ran away. If someone can educate me on that person will win a free PSA on this week’s Sunday Round Up edition of my blog. The usual rules apply, no religion, no hate crimes etc.

Happy Friday!

A reminder that the truly amazing Ninja Funk Orchestra is onstage tonight at the Horsehoe with the Elastocitizens. Not to be missed, a great evening for only ten bucks at the door.

May 26, 2011

Follow Me! Like Me! Become a Fan and RT to Win!

Disclaimer: There’s nothing to win here today, although you could follow or like me out of sheer interest.

Another part of my awesome coffee with Sean Howard was a bit of a chat about social media contests – do they work?

It depends on what you mean by ‘work’.  Everyone loves a contest, and everyone loves a chance to win something, and have been doing it for ages, whether you’re the Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio  or retweeting on the fly between appointments.

I think they can work in terms of bumping up your followers list. At first I was skeptical as in, okay you’ve come here to win a contest, and someone did, but it wasn’t you. Will you become what I call the “forgotten follower” – a follower who clicked “like” and promptly forgot they were following you? High numbers, no interaction?

Possibly. But what we need to remember is that every time someone clicks like or RTs you, even if it’s to win something, your product just expanded by a percentage of that person’s followers. So now maybe the forgotten follower has indeed forgotten about you – but now their folks know about you as well – and maybe they’ve been wanting to know more about you, and didn’t do anything about it, until a RT reminded them. And now they’re a follower too. So now you have two types of folks on your list – your high interaction evangelists and folks who are just spreading the word for you with every like and retweet. Not bad for the price of a prize.

Something to remember – make it easy to vote, like, click, fan etc. Nothing more discouraging that going to vote on something and seeing a fan page riddled with comments such as, “I want to vote but can’t figure out how to!” Make it a one-two click. If it’s more than that, it had better be a seriously awesome prize. And you must monitor! You need to market your contests if you want people to enter – it’s similar to a Facebook event page, you can’t just slap it up there and walk away. Raise your hand if you knew about these sites:

You can submit your contest to them. I KNOW, right?!  You just opened yourself up waaayyyy past your current list of subscribers and followers.

Incidentally – give good prizes. People automatically look to their inventory (performance tickets, screening tickets, etc) for quick and dirty contests. I say take it a step further – for example, if you’re giving away tickets to a performance piece based on a book or a film, why not throw in the book or DVD along with it? Put the prize in one of your company tote bags.Step up your prizes a bit, open up the product a bit. It adds a little something extra to your contest. Now go like things!


Ninja Funk Orchestra is fresh off their triumphant CD release at Toronto’s Mod Club, and a packed house at Ottawa’s Mercury Lounge, Toronto’s  Ninja Funk Orchestra is thrilled to bring NinjaTek to the legendary Horseshoe Tavern fans as part of the TO Funk Rock Extravaganza May 27,  along with the Elastocitizens and Snipe.

Very pleased to announce that Theatre 20 is on board for PR solutions over here at Sue Edworthy Arts Planning – Theatre 20 is Toronto’s newest musical theatre company that formed by twenty of Canada’s leading musical theatre actors as a vehicle for musical theatre in this country. Some incredibly talented folks on board in every aspect and I am looking forward to working with them on their concert Driven to Score.

Along the lines of retweeting and liking, take a wander over to my PSA about Facebook groups to pages and add your page to the like list.

May 24, 2011

More Than Just a Festival

Something I haven’t mentioned on my blog is my involvement in the Toronto Fringe as a member of their Board of Directors. I am very pleased and proud to be part of this organization, so thought I’d give them a little love.

To start, the Toronto Fringe has a great new logo. Now, some organizations confuse logo with brand, which drives me crazy. Not the Toronto Fringe. They’ve managed to come up with a new logo that encompasses everything they do, and still maintain yet expand their brand. Nicely done, folks.

In the past few years, the Toronto Fringehas expanded far beyond ten days in July. Although the Summer Festival remains the flagship of the organization, it’s expanded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, A few years ago, then-Producer Bridget Macintosh created the Next Stage Theatre Festival – which for all intents and purposes should not have succeeded – a theatre festival in January, just after Christmas when everyone is broke, and who wants to sit in a beer tent in the winter? Plenty of folks, apparently, as the Festival was a hit from the get-go, with the 2011 Fest selling over 6,000 tickets and returning $45,000 to the participants. and incidentally it’s time to apply for the 2012 Next Stage Festival.

So now there are two festivals. What else?

Well, the 10 X 10 X10 outreach initiative for starters. 10x10x10 engages youth throughout the GTA at three levels, helping to develop a new generation of Fringe supporters and artist-contributors, while also engaging them more broadly with the arts in our city. Click up there to find out more.

Most recently, and I think possibly most exciting is the announcement of the new Fringe Creation Lab. Located at the Centre for Social Innovation Annex, it features over 3,000 square feet of creation space and a quickly growing list of resources that will accommodate rehearsals, workshops, readings, seminars and intimate special events for Toronto’s theatre & dance community. The Fringe Creation Lab stems from the Fringe Festival’s founding values of access to creative opportunity.

I could go on and tell you about the Play Contests, the Evolution Fund, the Research Chair, the OTICs (Ticketing), the Creators’ Reserve, the FringeKids! Poster Contest and the Space List , but since it’s all available on their website I’ll let you look. Just so you know, registration for the 24 hour playwriting contest is now open.

The Toronto Fringe is one of my favourite things about Toronto – year round, not just two weeks in July. I strongly recommend you get involved, whether it’s volunteering, writing plays, designing a poster or seeing shows. It’s something that makes our city great. You can find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Beautiful day! Get out there!

May 22, 2011

Sunday Roundup – May 22

What went on this week? It was a good week for client consults and definite working arrangements. And here’s what I posted about.

Today’s PSA: Facebook Pages and Helping Each Other Like Things  – Early week discussion on the new Facebook changes being rolled out, with an invitation to post the link to your new page so as to consolidate those “Facebook is phasing out” messages. Feel free to do so – just drop it in the comments and I’ll pop it into  the post.

Gorgeous Posters! Fabulous Flyers!   sort of a photo essay on why dropping a bundle of flyers on a table full of other bundles of flyers does not mean the end of your marketing efforts.

Coffee and Other Sources of Engagement    – a great coffee meeting with a fellow social marketer friend, a a bit of a chat about the new trend of YouTube “commercials” for live theatre.

The $600 Question: Assets and Marketing  – great article reminding us that we have so much more than “only $600” to get our message across and folks out to see out shows. 

Everybody Loves Creative Capital Gains –  Toronto city council unanimously endorses the Creative Capital Gains report. Good stuff.

About those Blogs…. – repost of a good article outlining why you should comment on other people’s blogs, and a few other thoughts on the subject.

Other News

An excellent blog post by Seth Godin who can manage to take something like the apocalypse and turn it into a marketing lesson.

Have you been to Prince Edward County? If not, you should go, it’s a truly magical place for artists, what with the Arts Trail and Tall Poppy Cafe and artists like Krista Dalby, who one year ago moved to PEC and started Small Pond Arts, an artist residency centre, art gallery and art centre – among other things, they produce festivals, events, music and theatrical productions.

Ninja Funk Orchestra is playing a gig at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern  on May 27th, with special friends the Elastocitizens and I highly recommend you check out this TO Funk Rock Extravaganza – NFO has actually invented a new music hybrid and it’s not to be missed.

And of course – Sunday comics. From Calvin and Hobbes – thanks BIll.

May 21, 2011

About those Blogs….

Normally I don’t post on Saturday, but I had something in mind today.

Angela Crocker is a member of an artist group I belong to –  we keep tabs on each other and make sure we’re doing stuff for our businesses and careers. Through the power of Facebook, we’re accountable to each other in Toronto, Vancouver, Australia and New York.

Recently she wrote a blog post entitled, “Why Should I Comment on Someone Else’s Blog?” – she gave some very good reasons – click here to find out what they are. And comment. After all, it’s someone else’s blog.

I’ve also been noticing over the past couple of years, that everyone is intent on getting their message out “to the blogs”. That phrase has become as big a part of ‘to the media” as “to the papers” is, along with  prime directives to “get us some of that Web 2.0 social media stuff”.  The thing folks sometimes forget is that a blog isn’t necessarily “the newspaper”, There are a host of articles that talk about how they’re the same, how they’re different, how they complement each other. I’m going to tell you the difference I find personally.

Item: Not all blogs are the same. Just saying that right now.

If I am sending out a press release to a newspaper, I can go to the website or call and find out exactly who to send my release to. “It’s so-and-so at newspaper dot ca”. And I send my release off to them and odds are good it will be in the listings section.

If I am sending out a press release “to the blogs” I can go to the website. And maybe there’s contact info. And sometimes they’re quite clear about what they do and do not want to accept (ie only local theatre, only information about cats). So I can filter that way, and my local production of Cats is a fine fit and I can email it to them.

But what if there is no email address? No contact section?  Is this an indication they don’t want me to send stuff? Is it rude to put a press release in the comments section? Will that make them mad? If only I knew someone at this blog!

And there, for me is the big difference – I find blogs to be more – personal. Very definite about what they are writing about, whether it’s local theatre or cats. And it helps a lot if I already know the blogger, and therefore have her contact information, and know her well enough to know that she’d be interested in my production of Cats and maybe write something about it.

I don’t know. It’s just something I’m mulling over in my mind. What do you think?

(you can tell me tomorrow if you’d like as it is a GORGEOUS day outside and I don’t want anyone to miss a bit of it.) Happy long weekend!

May 20, 2011

Everybody Loves Creative Capital Gains

Before we begin, some might be wondering what Creative Capital Gains is. In short, Creative Capital Gains is an action plan for Toronto, a report that brought together the cultural and business sectors to strategize about Toronto’s future as a leading Creative City. You can read the full report here, but the focus areas include items such as:

  • Ensuring a supply of affordable, sustainable cultural space
  • Ensuring access and opportunity for cultural participation to all citizens, regardless of age, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, geography or socioeconomic status
  • Supporting the development of creative clusters and emerging cultural scenes to capitalize on their potential as generators of jobs and economic growth
  • Promoting Toronto’s cultural institutions, festivals and other assets to enhance the city’s position as a Creative City regionally, nationally and internationally
  • Keeping pace with international competitors by making a firm commitment to sustain Toronto’s cultural sector and position Toronto as a leading, globally competitive Creative Capital.

Possibly most importantly,  the report sets a target of $25 per capita funding for arts and culture. As our  current funding level is a measly $17 per capita,  this $8 a head jump would just put us in line with our competitors worldwide – I`m lookin`at you Chicago and Montreal with $26 and  $32 respectively. Don`t even get me started on on New York with  $74 and San Francisco with $87. Given how well our industry does with our $17, I can only imagine the possibilities if that magic $25 number becomes a reality.

Introduced by Councillor Michael Thompson, who is Chair of the Economic Development Committee and supported by many Councillors representing a broad cross-section of the city, the Creative Capital Gains report was unanimously endorsed by City Council on May 18, 2011.

 The report concludes that culture is the fundamental driver of Toronto’s future prosperity. What an excellent thought to build on.


Inspiration on the 29 Dufferin Bus is not something I usually expect. This morning I got it in spades when I ran into Chris Reed who is the Artistic Director of Small Print Toronto. If you haven`t heard of them,  Small Print Toronto stages writing workshops and literary events with programming that caters to curious minds between the ages of two and seventeen. Overall, Small Print  cultivates a dialogue between professional writers and their primary audiences. This is indeed a noble enterprise. In the bus ride between Queen and Bloor Chris filled me in on the many exciting projects they have upcoming – you should keep your eyes open for their upcoming events on Facebook as well as their other channels. And in keeping with excellent thoughts to build on, for little kids and bigger ones, and adults of all kinds, also from the Small Print website:

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”  

Roald Dahl

happy Friday!

May 19, 2011

The $600 Question: Assets and Marketing

This is a repost of a fantastic blog article. Another good thing about blogs – they have staying power – this one was forwarded to me by Shana Hillman about three months ago, and it’s an archived post from 2010 on a blog called The Mission Paradox. It’s funny, sharp, timely and true. Read on! I^m going to make some coffee.


On various blogs and on Twitter I’ve been “challenged” to answer this question:

“How do I market my show (most of the folks asking are theatre folks) with a budget of $600 or less?”

If that’s the question then here is my response:

“Is that all you have?”

Marketing is about leveraging assets.  Yes, money is an asset but there are others.  Here are a few:

1.  Time

2.  Connection to the community

3.  Knowledge of your audience

4.  Artistic reputation of the company as a whole

5.  Name recognition of the play or actors

6.  Effective use of web and social media

7.  An understanding of your local media (newspaper, TV, etc.)

I could think of 10 others, none of which require much (if any) money to make happen on a high level.


So you’ve got $600.  What else do you have?

Because if you don’t have many other strong assets it wouldn’t make much of a difference if it was $600 or $6,000.

Do you understand your customers well?  Do you want to understand them well?  Then maybe we should invite 25 of your most loyal, passionate fans to have lunch with the artistic team.  You can explain the season and give them passes that allow discounted admissions to their friends.  Spend the $600 on some damn fine catering.

Do you have a good understanding of the local media in town?  Then maybe we should spend the $600 to get you and a guest a ticket to that gala where all the media folks hobnob.  You go, be charming, pitch the season and then do a lot of follow-up.


Now that may not help you sell the show you have coming up in three weeks, but if that’s all you want then save the $600 and get yourself neck-deep in Twitter, Facebook, email, whatever.  Then hope that the art gods smile upon your show and that saves the day.

But if you want something more,  then you have to consider how to use EVERYTHING you have.

The sad truth is that some arts organization simply lack assets:

They don’t know their audience.

They don’t take time to meet with community leaders, or interact with those outside the boundaries of their theatre

They don’t understand the press dynamics in their town . . . they just want coverage for everything they do.

And yes . . . they don’t have much money to spend.  But this isn’t about the money.  It’s 2010, megabrands have been built without spending much on advertising.

That’s the other sad truth, some arts organizations have a ton of assets and knowledge they could leverage to fill the seats with the audience they want.  They either don’t recognize them as assets, or don’t work to make those assets stronger.


So I’ll be honest.  I hate it when I get the “I’ve only got X amount of money, what do I do?” question.  I understand the question, but I hate it all the same.  The very nature of the question implies that if you don’t have a lot of money you can’t market effectively.  I could spend a week giving you examples that say otherwise.

You don’t need money, but you do need SOMETHING.

So that’s my official answer to the question.  If all you have is $600 then save your money and get to pounding away on social media.

But if you have $600 and an understanding of your other assets then you can do damn near anything.

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