Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Confessions from the Queen of Paper Cuts

Posted by Annie Hulcher
What can you learn from stuffing envelopes?

I suspect anyone who has ever interned has asked himself or herself this very question. I was asking myself this question a few weeks ago, wondering what I could possibly gain from this besides multiple paper cuts.

I'll admit that after sitting in a classroom all day learning about calculus and reading Beowulf, it's nice to come to the welcoming environment of the Theatre IV offices and do something that is relatively mindless. I get to talk to the other volunteers I'm working with, or staff members who come and take a break from their own work and chat with me for a bit. Ultimately, doing this mindless work gives a girl time to think.

A major component of my mentorship course is writing a college style research paper on a topic related to what I'm doing “in the field." I've been thinking a lot about this recently, and the topic I keep coming back to is how technology is being utilized in the theatre community, specifically marketing and development.

The letters I was stuffing contained a plea to patrons to donate money so that Barksdale and Theatre IV can keep producing Broadway caliber shows, such as this past summer’s hit Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. As Bruce has stated in previous blog posts, Barksdale is taking steps to become a nationally recognized regional theatre, and they are well on their way. Obviously, without donations from patrons this wouldn’t be possible.

Any-who, while I was stuffing, I couldn’t believe so many trees were being killed when this could all be done via e-mail, facebook, or twitter. After discussing this with Barksdale's staff, I learned that right now, research indicates that approximately 44% of Barksdale's subscribers--the people most likely to contribute--don't actively communicate via email, much less twitter. I also learned that national research indicates that funding requests sent through the U. S. Postal Service initiate 72% of all contributions made in response to a written request. Only 28% of these contributions are made in response to email requests.

As each year goes by, more people respond to email, or give Barksdale their email addresses in the first place. Still, I am slowly becoming fascinated by how theatres around the world are reaching their widest base of patrons by using both snail mail and email. Barksdale in particular has patrons who have been committed to the theatre since the 50’s. Barksdale's job is to appeal not only to them, but also to budding theatre enthusiasts such as myself, and everyone in between.

Theatres today have to consider the demographics of their audience from all angles, including:

* what shows are selected each season,

* what language, images and media are used to market those shows,

* what creature comforts add most to the theatregoing experience, and

* what technologies and/or traditional dissemination methods can be used to reach all patrons.

What a perfect concept for my paper! Not only that, but how have theatres been making the transition from doing all of their marketing via mail, to incorporating e-mail, and now facebook, twitter, four square, and a variety of other social networks. Even this blog!

I will be doing extensive research over the next few months. Right now, it seems like a mix between the old and the new is the approach Barksdale/TIV is taking. I look forward to learning much, much more about this through observation and research.

And I thought I couldn’t learn anything from stuffing envelopes.

--Annie Hulcher

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