Hi, CI! is our monthly series featuring the best team we know - the Capacity Interactive team! You will learn more about the people who help arts organizations market smarter. This month, we're featuring one of our Consultants who is a theater buff, a cat aficionado, and can help you spice up your social content (from first preview to closing night).
How long have you been at CI?
I’ve been at CI for a little over 4 years now, which makes me one of the OGs in the office (OG, as in Original Gangsters - I need to use this as often as possible since it’s one of the few things the youngsters in the office say that I understand).
Where are you originally from?
I’m from East Haddam, a small town in Connecticut. You only know of this place if you’re familiar with Goodspeed Opera House, which for people reading this might be a fair amount. Our other claims to fame are that Billy Joel filmed the music video for River of Dreams in town and Nathan Hale, the revolutionary war hero, taught school here. So, we’re a big deal.
After undergrad in Boston I also spent 5 years living in Los Angeles before returning to the east coast. Don’t ask me where I stand on the Tupac / Biggie rivalry - it’s complicated.
What were you doing before joining the CI team?
I joined CI after completing my Master’s Degree at NYU, where I focused on Performing Arts Administration. After doing some arts admin work in LA, I moved back east and go to grad school. While attending grad school, I interned at Playwrights Realm and Signature Theatre, working in the development and marketing departments respectively. These experiences were invaluable as in both cases I was really made to feel part of the team. It was important to intern somewhere I could really make a contribution while learning tangible skills.
While attending NYU, I started working as the Marketing and PR Manager at a small theater, Studio 42. In 2015, we made the decision to disband the company, basically the theater version of conscious uncoupling. As the theater landscape in New York changed, the mission of Studio 42 (which was to produce unproducible theater) became less relevant - which is a good thing! It’s so rare that an organization chooses to disband, so being involved in that decision and the way this was messaged to the theater community was such an amazing process. Our Artistic Director and a member of the board wrote an article about the whole experience for Howlround if you’re interested in learning more.
How does your work in the theater realm impact your work at CI? Is it easier to understand the client side after working on it?
Definitely. Working in and with a number of theaters gives you a deeper understanding of, and empathy for, the challenges our theater clients face. While every organization is different and dealing with a different set of issues and assets, having this background helps me put myself in their shoes. At CI we focus on digital marketing, but for our clients, their day might include decisions around print, radio, and outdoor advertising campaigns - all while fielding questions from other departments and audience members. If we can understand that environment, we can better position ourselves to be strong partners, which sometimes means being a place to vent and share challenges.
What drew you to work at Capacity Interactive?
When I joined the team I was the 5th employee and I was really excited about the idea of becoming part of a small team that worked hard for their clients. Capacity felt so different from a typical agency and I could tell from my first meeting with Erik (CI’s President) that he cared as much for the people who worked for him as the work that we did. Being a consulting firm we’re able to spend our days digging into the data, analyzing results for clients, and communicating with clients to ensure we’re providing them with the best results. The relationship building is really key. We’ve gained a few employees (41 to be exact!) and many more clients but that commitment to work and to these relationships hasn’t changed.
A common challenge theaters (and may other genres) run into is lack of content before a show opens. What are some underutilized content ideas that theaters can take advantage of?
A lack of content early in the run is a real issue for many theater clients we work with but if you allow yourself (and your organization) to think in fresh ways, this lack of content can be an opportunity. Is this a brand-new production and you’re literally starting from scratch? Instead of using your key art again and again (and again) try taking inventory of what other resources you have. Stage a photoshoot with the actors so that you have photography before final dress. Utilize b-roll and stock video footage to create a teaser for the production (these can be abstract and serve to give a sense of the production). I recommend this with caution but we’ve seen organizations re-thinking the talking head interview video in really fun and fresh ways. Interview members of the cast and creative team and ask them questions about themselves, the production, and maybe even things happening locally that will appeal to your audience. Talking head videos fails so often because they’re very institutionally focused. Most important keep it short (like under a minute). For your fans, behind the scenes photos and video really engage. The scene shop or props room might seem boring to you because you see it all the time but theater is magical and your audiences want a peek behind the curtain.
How can theaters (and other genres) go beyond featuring headshots and really tell a compelling story from first preview to closing night?
Engaging your audience is all about knowing where they are in their relationship with your organization. I hinted at this in the previous answer but when brainstorming content ideas it’s key to think about who is going to be seeing, and ideally engaging with, your content. A headshot might be engaging for a fan who already knows about your organization and the production but unless that person is famous (real-life famous, not just theater famous) it’s not going to cut through Internet clutter to reach a new prospect. A strong piece of video content, perhaps a teaser as I mentioned earlier, is a great piece of content early on as it appeals to new prospects and also gets your fans excited for the production. Once new prospects visit your production detail page or sign up for your email list you can start to utilize content such as editorial pieces or cast announcements - since these people have already let you know they’re interested in learning more. Just remember that it’s a constant lifecycle and new prospects need to be continually engaged with content that speaks to them. Segmenting your audience and serving them the right message at the right time is key.
You’re very involved with the arts community outside of work. Tell us more about an organization you volunteer with and how you first got involved.
I’m on the board of a really amazing Arts Education organization called Broadway Bound Kids that works to inspire and empower kids through performing arts. They partner with schools in all 5 NYC boroughs to bring professional-level classes to kids in school, in addition to filling a need through other programs and classes for kids who don’t have access to arts programming in their schools. I began volunteering at events and giving some pro-bono digital marketing advice. I was so impressed with their mission and the work they were doing - I was thrilled to be able to join the board. Staying connected to the arts beyond what I do here at CI is important to me and helping to bring arts to kids in NYC is exciting and rewarding.
What's something about your job that makes you excited to come to work every day? What motivates you?
Getting to work with such a wide variety of clients keeps me engaged and excited about the work we’re doing. There’s always a new challenge or question from a client that requires me to reexamine a strategy or approach. Dance companies might not have the same content issues as a theater but they can struggle with low repeat attendance in a way that is different than a theater client. By working with such a wide variety of organizations I’m learning something new every day and I love that I can pass that learning along to all our clients.
You love cats. In fact, your team name is “Team Cat Ladies.” Is it true that adding a cat to any Facebook post is like gold in the Internet world?
It’s true - I love cats. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I think any time you can add an animal to your social content it’s a sure win. At the end of the day we’re all on social media to be entertained and to escape (and there’s more and more to need to escape from these days). If we can give our audiences content that fills those needs and allows you to engage in a conversation that’s the true power of social. I try not to be biased though so a dog can certainly do the trick as well.
I’m just going to leave this here in case you needed further convincing - Mary Stuart as Told by Cats
But seriously - what’s the craziest cat-themed item you own?
My boyfriend commissioned a custom portrait of my cat dressed in 18th Century military regalia. Though I don’t know what you mean by crazy?
What's one tip you can give to help arts organizations market smarter?
Think about relationships. Are you talking to a long-time subscriber or a new prospect? Once you’ve answered that question, make sure your content, messaging, and most importantly ask aligns with where you are in that relationship. Don’t ask someone to move in with you before the first date.