Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: KC Improv in review

It's been another great year for improv comedy in Kansas City. Our community continues to grow, bringing more troupes, stronger shows, bigger events and some really unwatchable crap. (Of course, that's just a side effect of increased content, and not what this is about.)

In no particular order, because I feel like writing them and without over-thinking things, here are my three lists of three things.

Three cool shows or events
  • ImpFest: A bunch of KC improvisers got a chance to experience the intimate space, the friendly crowds and the love of improv unique to the Roving Imp. Yes—if you're accustomed to driving no more than 15 minutes to get your fix, the location is a minus. But John's doing something very cool out there, and it's worth the trip.
  • Messing With A Friend at KCiF: If you ever get the chance to hang out in Chicago on a weeknight, you should see two shows: TJ & Dave and Messing With A Friend. The Improv-Abilities guys brought Susan Messing and her long-time friend and Annoyance co-conspirator Mark Sutton in for KCiF, and they put on the single best improvised performance KC audiences saw this year.
  • The Trip Fives: They've got a tight, well-trained, playful ensemble. They continue to grow, constantly trying out new things in rehearsal and on-stage. They're the best in KC right now (and not just because they got the most friends to vote for them).
Three things we need more of
  • Training: We've got a city full of players with not much beyond a festival workshop or two and a lot of on-the-job training (some good—some not so much). More experienced performers need to teach and more untrained performers need to study. Until that happens, we'll continue to reinforce bad habits and we won't grow. The Roving Imp's program is a start, but we need more.
  • Disciplined use of social media: Serious. Ly.
  • Audiences we aren't related to: Here's the secret to pulling big audiences for your improv show. Ready? Grow up in KC, keep your family from moving away and stay in touch with every friend you've ever made. Getting the word out isn't enough—we have to not only attract, but get repeat business from people outside of our circles of friends. ComedyCity has, so far, done the best job. (Their secret? Group sales and corporate business. Why sell four tickets at a time when you can sell 40—or 400?)
Three things to be excited about in 2010
  • More producers: Improvising is fun. Finding space to rehearse and play, promoting, managing ticket sales...that's the pain in the ass. Thanks to KC Crossroads Comedy, Roving Imp and Thunderdome, your troupe can focus on the work. (You still have to do some of the promoting, but Tom and John and Jared are doing the heavy listing.)
  • More coaches and directors: Sure, many troupes are still self-directed. But some of the city's younger improvisers are teaching college groups at William Jewell and JCCC. And experienced players are getting sucked in to coach start-ups. Something to remember on both sides: A coach doesn't have to be exponentially better than a team—objectivity and willingness to speak up about what's not working are more important than an encyclopedic knowledge of technique and exercises.
  • More arguments: On Facebook. In blog comments. And, rarely, in person. We're disagreeing with each other. We've got different groups, theories and approaches and people who feel passionately enough about them to throw down.
* * * * * *

Don't feel like shutting up yet. So, an addendum.

Three things I'm personally excited about in 2010
  • Doing an assload of shows: Spite has committed to two shows a month for the first part of the year. Tantrum is back at the Coffeehouse. Omega Directive is weirding out at the Imp. Beejay is an interesting experiment. And Team #9 is back in T-Dome. Yes, it means I'm a little busier than may be a great idea, but I love it. So.
  • Coaching in limited doses: Exit 16 is performing at the high school and the Corbin (which is making them strong in the Force), and (uncoached by me) as Some Technical Difficulties at KC Crossroads Comedy. Spite has banded together to coach T-Dome team Olive Juice, featuring Julie Robison, Nifer Honeycutt and Chanté Keller, all Imp regulars. They're all John-trained, which makes them fabulously easy to work with, and there's not an ego or an attitude in the bunch, which makes them delightful.
  • Getting serious about my health: I've started running. Yeah, it's indoors and on a treadmill. But running. (And, to quote Tim Lemke, with "no one chasing me, and nowhere to go.") I've been backsliding on the diet thing (though the exercise thing, thanks to Peggy, is non-negotiable), so it's time to refocus.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Way better than my high school reunions

Tomorrow night is our annual Exit 16 alumni show.

We're doing one this year instead of two, for a few reasons. About the only thing I'll miss about not doing two is the chance to sort some things out in the first round. But I think narrowing it to one will make it more wecial.

Can't wait to see who makes it back. Now to figure out what the hell to do with all of them. Here are my current thoughts on some games that might show up:

FIRST HALF
Beastie Rap (a gazillion)
Dating game (1 host, 1 date, 3 bachelor/ettes)
Big/Little (3 on the little side, 3 +full cast on big)
Growing/Shrinking (5)
Typewriter (1 storyteller, 4 +full cast actors)
Scene switch (6-8 on each team)
Pan Left/Pan Right (6-8)

SECOND HALF
We typically do scene-based stuff that makes it easy to rotate through a group with a specific edit—so it feels long-formy, but it's doesn't get messy. Plus, the kids know the forms are squishy, so if a group scene happens, it happens.
Musical opening (current kids)
Gauntlet (group 1)
La Ronde (group 2)
Freeze Tag (group 3)

And then...
World's Worst (everybody)

Here we go...

* * * * *

As a follow-up on the branding discussion, which I'll get back to after Christmas: Having a LOT of fun tweeting for Spite—especially when Nikki & Megan join in. We've set some pretty aggressive goals and are meeting them. It'll be interesting to see if they pay off at showtime.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Spite's homework

Nikki and Megan and I met tonight with a photo art director pal and the photographer who's going to shoot our new stuff. It seemed like a good excuse to get our brand personality work wrapped up—we wanted to be able to talk about who we are and what we needed in promo photos.

So based on the two posts about brand personality, here's what we've got (all of the definitions come from various web dictionaries, the links to which I forgot to copy down for attributions):

SPITE BRAND PERSONALITY

BALLSY
“You play like guys.” (Charley, Loaded Dice)
what it means
— Very tough and courageous, often recklessly or presumptuously so.
— sometimes vulgar : aggressively bold : gutsy, nervy
— Tough and courageous; having balls
what it looks and feels like
— No need to be modest, reserved or ladylike.
— Push boundaries, visually and verbally.

BODACIOUS

"Ted, you and I have witnessed many things, but nothing as bodacious as what just happened." (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
“Look at them bodacious set of ta-tas.” (An Officer and a Gentleman)
what it means
— a combination of bold and audacious
— impressive, awesome, brave in action, remarkable, prodigious
— sexy, voluptuous
what it looks and feels like
— Bold choices, on stage and in promotional materials.
— Confidence in who we are and what we do.

MISCHIEVOUS
“I’m going to fuck with you.” (Spite, before shows)
“It’s nothing a few extra prayers on Sunday won’t fix.” (Trish’s Dad, after a show)
what it means
— irresponsibly playful
— maliciously or playfully annoying
— roguishly or slyly teasing, as a glance
— Causing mischief; troublesome, cheeky, badly behaved
what it looks and feels like
— Playful, silly—we never take ourselves too seriously.
— Occasionally a little mean-spirited—OK with making people a little uncomfortable.

TRUE
“You guys talk about your vaginas a lot.” (Teenaged improviser)
“I’m going to need someone to hold my head down…No, from the other side.” (Nikki, at a bratwurst-eating contest)
what it means
— consistent with fact or reality; not false
— Real; genuine.
— Faithful, as to a friend, vow, or cause; loyal.
— Sincerely felt or expressed; unfeigned.
what it looks and feels like
— All of the above qualities are rooted in reality. We’re not smutty for the sake of being smutty—we’re dealing with real life. It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.
— We’re true to who we are—we don’t censor ourselves or pretend to be what we’re not (which is why we haven’t played in heels and mini-skirts again, but used what we learned in our makeovers and made it our own).

The discussion with the photographer went great. We chatted for an hour or so about concepts—studio shots or location, costumes vs. wardrobe, scenarios vs. candid shots. The collaboration was great, and we landed on a direction we feel is a great example of "show, don't tell." With the photos we're shooting for (pun intended) we won't need words to describe some elements of our personality—the pictures will speak for us.

We're not going to say more about our direction yet. But if you follow us on Twitter, you might be able to figure it out.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Some people just get it

Last night was good.

First, I got to see Clay and Drew, a couple of former Exit 16ers and two of the Scriptease guys, direct their first improv show up at William Jewell. The Cardinals Jesters are a bunch of really talented kids who've never improvised before, and together they put up a fun, fast-paced, solid show. The game that really blew me away was Audience Nightmare—playful, smart, risky and really theme-inspired. Awesome. Can't wait to see what else they do...they'll play with us at the Corbin in January, and are doing some shows at the Fishtank, I think.

Then it was out to Czar Bar to see Capybara, featuring three more former Exit 16ers. They're getting great press, strong reviews and good gigs, and seem to be having a lot of fun while they're doing it.

Every now and then, I get a chance to talk to band folks about marketing their groups. Alan Scherstuhl believes improvisers should present themselves more like rock stars and less like debate teams, and he's right.

Last night, I ended up chatting with Mark Harrison, who does most of the booking and promo for Capybara. He's got great instincts, and talked a lot about one of the most important parts of marketing—authenticity. Spend some time on Capybara's blog or Facebook page or follow them on Twitter, and you'll see that the vibe they've created is playful, witty and absolutely genuine. (This Pitch interview gives you an idea of what it's like to sit down and talk to them.)

In brand personality work—even for improv groups and bands, and whether you sit down and work though a strategy, make it up as you go along, or just go with your gut—you've got to start with who you really are. If you try to manufacture an image that doesn't ring true, it just doesn't work.

(All this got me thinking about another word we need to add for Spite. More on that later.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A quick reason not to skip 1b

Somewhere between the Red X wine tasting to giggly pizza, Nikki and Dennis and Josh and Kim and I talked about this whole personality and identity thing, and something came up.

Part of the reason Step 1b is important is this: In good advertising and marketing, one of the rules is "show, don't tell."

I worked for a client one who wanted to communicate that their mortgage company was trustworthy. Great—but we're not going to put "trustworthy" or worse, "you can trust us" anywhere in the copy, because the more you say it, the less you look it. In my current job, we struggle whenever it's time to promote humor product, because you can't just say something is funny—you have to prove it.

The biggest challenge in transforming the words that describe your brand personality into creative direction that inspires your marketing is figuring out how to show, not tell.

Sure—Spite can describe their shows as ballsy, and there's might even be a time and a place it's appropriate to use the word. Even better, though, would be to communicate it in the way we do everything—the way we dress, the way we play, the way we blog, the way we Tweet, the way we design our posters. We can say it all we want, but for an audience, it's seeing that's believing. (Which is why we'll get to brand image—your audience's perception vs. your description.)

I sat in on a pal's rehearsal in Chicago one night when they were being coached by then-Annoyance player Scot Robinson (the group included kick-ass improvisers Debra Downing-Grosz and Rob Reese, among others). The cast was doing some pretty clever, verbal stuff, but it didn't sing. After one player said "I love you" to another, Scot told him to stop just saying it and prove it to her with his behavior instead. Suddenly things got much more interesting.

Because, like Annoyance instructors tell us, how you do what you do is who you are. It turns out it works in marketing, too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tangent: Knowing what works

For the most part, this little series is about the creative strategy side of marketing. Which is linked to metrics—and absolutely depends on attention to results to work—but, ideally, is developed first and measured later.

But to address some of the comments, here are some ways you can find out if your improv marketing is working:
  • The easiest: Next time you have a show, have the host ask "How many of you have seen us before?" right at the beginning. Do a quick estimate—and check in with each other at intermission. What percentage of the crowd is repeat customers? Who's new?
  • The most specific: Answer your phone. When people make reservations, ask "How did you hear about us?" Write it down, and after a few shows, do the math and see what works best. Or ask when they buy tickets at the show.
  • Checking your promotions: If you offer discounts, make them trackable. Tell Facebook invitees to print their invite to get the deal (you can do the same with e-mails)...ask Twitter followers to use a secret word...mark your coupons by location. If you pay for an ad, GOOD HEAVENS MAKE SURE YOU CAN TRACK THE RESULTS. Include a coupon or a promo code, or you're throwing away money. Whenever you offer a discount, make sure you know where people find it, so you can focus more efforts there.
  • Audience surveys: Make up a short survey and send it to your Facebook group and email lists. Ask them where they get their info, when they want to hear from you, even what they like (or don't) about your shows. Writing surveys is an art—here are some tips for writing a good one.
  • Review your reservations. After every show, get the cast to read over your reservations list and check off anyone they know. Figure out how you reached them. Compare your reservations list to your Facebook invite RSVPS. And make sure you know how many walkups you had—bonus points for finding out how they heard about your show.
  • Compare apples to oranges. Know what changes you made, and try to connect them to differences in audiences. When Spite did their makeover show the audience was huge—based on applause, we know a lot of them followed the videos.
The internet makes measuring results easier than ever. There's no excuse for not knowing what works.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let's get back to the kids for a minute.

I've missed the kids.

Yeah, they had a show at the Corbin on Saturday (yes, the same Saturday as the Big 12 Championship—dude, I can juggle). Yes, they had a show at LHS two Tuesdays before that.

But rehearsals are different. Rehearsals are play. And even though 25% of the words out of my mouth are "can we please just have one conversation at a time" and "focus, guys!" and "shut UP," there's nothing more fulfilling than watching these smart, talented young improvisers discover how to do amazing work.

At the end of a work day like this one, I don't think I can be blamed for thinking, even kinda hoping, that maybe the winter warning would warn us off rehearsal—because at the end of a long day, sweat-pants and a big glass of wine sound really good. But the drive up and back—whether it's the regular 25-minute zip up I-35 or a 45-minute slog through big, fluffy, snow-blinding flakes—is always, always more than worth the trip.

Ed worked with the kids last week, teaching Viewpoints. So I haven't gotten to workshop with them for a few weeks in a row. I had a plan mapped out—we were going to work on starting scenes in the middle and powerful transitions. Instead, because they'd wanted to try it at the last show but weren't ready, we spent some time working on Conducted Rant (a great way to showcase smart, funny kids—once you convince them that being truthful is the funniest thing they can do).

The last part, though, was the best. Steven (an already-talented Junior who has shown unBELIEVABLE growth this year) brought his guitar and we started doing a little musical improv. Tonight, we just worked on a doo-wop opening.

The very first one they did gave me goosebumps. It brought out the best in all of them—it was just so...so...musical. Their voices blended. Each person added something totally unique. They were brave and bold and you could see in their faces that they knew it worked. We did the first one with just sounds, then made using words optional.

Here was the cool part. One of the kids missed pretty much the first two months of rehearsals because he plays soccer. I wasn't sure I could catch him up—he's missed so much of the bonding and lots of the teaching. He played his first show at the Corbin (where I'm a little easier on the rule-following) on Saturday, and totally held his own. Tonight, he showed the rest of the kids he's got something special—immediately free-form singing to the music, rhyming, making up his own lyrics.

If there's one thing cooler than watching kids grow, it's watching them learn to to trust. It's kind of...um...magical. The ride home tonight, detours and all, felt pretty short.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Branding an improv troupe: Part 1b

This is the second part of BRAND PERSONALITY, IDENTITY AND IMAGE IN IMPROV: Or, to borrow a line from Joe Bill and the Annoyance, How you do what you do is who you are.

I know I said next we'd hit
Question #2: Does your identity match your personality? But since I'm writing as I go, I reserve the right to course-correct. And before we answer that question, we need to figure out what it means to "match your personality."

Once you've clearly defined your troupe's personality—describing yourself as you would a person—what do you do with it?

The better defined your personality, the easier it is to evaluate the communication plan you create for your audience—from the way you use media (like e-mail, advertising, Facebook, Twitter, fliers, blogs, websites, etc.) to your promotion plans (events, discounts, "gimmicks") to the look and feel of your logo, publicity photos, posters, websites and other materials.

Because we're moving to brand identity after this, we'll talk about the look and feel thing here. "Look and feel," "style and voice," "design and editorial," creative strategy or direction, style guide...essentially, what we're working toward is "guidelines for creating posters, logos, websites, press releases, etc."

To get started, it's time to extrapolate. Blow out what the personality words mean to you, and you'll start articulate a clear and specific creative direction for your troupe. There are a bunch of different ways to approach this; here are two easy ones.

If...then. Starting with your personality words, describe the kind of things a person like that would do. Using an example from the Annoyance assumptions in the last post, what might you infer about people who sees themselves as "uncensored"? Think about negative and positive connotations.
  • They don't play by the rules of polite society.
  • They might be crude, inappropriate, vulgar, sexual, dangerous...or worse.
  • They don't worry about what people (especially authority figures) think.
  • They take risks—they don't hold back.
So, what look-and-feel choices might you make based on a description like this? (This next part isn't meant to be Annoyance-specific.)
  • Voice (how it sounds): Edgy. Even abrupt. And if people can't handle a little swearing, fuck 'em.
  • Design (how it looks): Colors that feel a bit off—maybe they're a little dark, or come dang close to clashing. Layouts with elements of surprise. Choices that break traditional design rules.
  • Photography: It might feel spontaneous, candid—maybe a little too candid.
See how that works?

What kind of _____ would you be? Sometimes its easier to start with established brands for creative cues—either ideas or clichés to avoid. With your personality words in mind, answer these questions (and make up more, if it helps):
  • If you were a car, what make and model would it be?
  • What band would play your theme song?
  • Who would direct the movie about your troupe's rise and fall?
  • What clothing designer would create your wardrobe?
  • What restaurant should cater your gigs?
  • What big brands share your personality traits?
(This is a great exercise to do with other members of your troupe—the discussion can help expose differences in opinion about who you are.)

Now you can talk about the brand choices the names in your answers have made. Here are some differences beween a MINI and a Ford Mustang, for example:
  • Mini speaks to consumer with a sense of friendly exclusivity ("We were small when everyone else was going big.")...Mustang dares you to drive it ("Thrill Machine, Pure and Simple.").
  • Photographs in the Mini gallery lead with studio shots designed to highlight its unique shape...the Mustang is shot in action, with lots of dust/exhaust/smoke billowing from behind.
  • Mini's web design is simple and clean; the voice is clever and familiar, with a bit of a wink. Mustang's website incorporates a sense of movement and speed; the voice is straightforward with a sense of urgency.
Now what?
All those details you've got now will help you describe what your promotional materials should look like if you really want to play up your personality. It can be helpful fill in the blanks for a basic creative strategy:
  • Personality words—and what they mean.
  • Voice (style, point of view, attitude, diction)
  • Style (layout, design elements, color palette, photography)
  • Other considerations (general ideas to explore, like "it should look more like a movie poster than a rock band flier")
You don't have to design or write anything at this stage—in fact, it's best to get the rules down first, then create. Why do it this way?
  • It pushes you further than you'd go on your own. Part of the creative process design and advertising firms go through is pushing themselves beyond the first, obvious idea. Opening your mind to the way other brands advertise—or taking your direction from the world outside of advertising—keeps you from settling for an idea just because it's convenient. Hey, we're improvisers. We can always
    come up with another idea.
  • It keeps you objective. It's easy to fall in love with a photo, a layout, a color, a font. But the goal here is to create a meaningful, differentiated identity for your troupe—and a creative strategy based on brand personality will keep you honest. It doesn't matter if your friend took a cool photo of you if it doesn't live up to the image you're trying to create. Font tricks and Photoshop filters just get in the way if they fight against your personality.
OK, really coming up next: I'll work with Nikki and Megan, over e-mail, probably, to answer some of this stuff for the case study. Then we'll go to Question #2: Does your identity match your personality? with an analysis of our current work.

Come on. Play with us.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Branding an improv troupe: Part 1

Here's an experiment: See if the techniques major brands use to differentiate themselves—even when they've become commodities or there aren't extreme differences between competitors—can work for a local improv troupe.

I started thinking about it after this exchange in the comments on a blog post this summer. As our community grows, there's less and less to tell the average audience member what to expect when they see a show. Unless you've seen some of all of the players, read a review or hear about it from a friend, what would compel you to seek out a specific improv troupe?

I'm working on an actual workshop—part "how to," part hands-on application—for this sort of thing, so I figured I'd try it out here. Play along if you want. And tell me, if you feel like it, if any of this stuff is helpful—too simple? too complicated? too irrelevant? That sort of thing. So here we go.

BRAND PERSONALITY, IDENTITY AND IMAGE IN IMPROV
Or, to borrow a line from Joe Bill and the Annoyance: How you do what you do is who you are.

First, some quick definitions:
  • To get to your brand personality, describe your troupe as if it's a person—and think of your relationship to your audience like a relationship between two people.
  • Your brand identity is the way you present your troupe—your shows, your posters, your website, your logo. It's what you put out there—the experience you create.
  • Your brand image is your audience's perception of you.
In a dream world, your brand identity would be based on your brand personality. And together, they would create your brand image—and the relationship you have with your consumers.

Question #1: What is your troupe's personality?
Think about the improv troupes you've seen that make the biggest impression—and how you'd describe them to a friend. What 3-5 words would you use to describe your group?

Choose descriptors that get at the essence of who you are as a troupe. Some examples and approaches:
  • Comedic style: Playful. Whimsical. Mean-spirited. Intellectual. Aggressive.
  • Relationship with the audience: Friendly. Approachable. Seductive. Dangerous.
  • The players and their attitudes: Irreverent. Sexy. Adorable. Goofy. Ballsy. Cocky.
  • The vibe of the shows: Fast & furious. Patient. Accessible. Innovative.
Try to make them as specific as possible—no need to waste space with words like "funny." And you can skip words like "professional" and "experienced" and "premier" unless you're The Second City. (Or unless cultivating that vibe is essential to differentiating your group, which might be true if you're a private-show company targeting primarily corporate types, for example.)

As a case study, I'll use the Annoyance, because they have one of the strongest personalities of any around. If I were guessing at their personality, I'd use these:
  • subversive (which feels stronger than "irreverent")
  • uncensored (more open than "inappropriate" or "dirty")
  • fearless (beyond "powerful" and implies a certain recklessness)
And as a personal example, I'll use Spite (and hope Nikki and Megan will jump in to add, correct and argue if I misrepresent anything). Some with potential:
  • ballsy (because the masculine take on "brave" applies to our unladylike behavior)
  • bodacious (a mix of bold and audacious—and there's that "bodacious ta-tas" line)
  • mischievous (because there's a twist on "playful" that implies we're going to fuck with each other and the audience—and we actually promise each other that before shows)
  • ???? (we're not a "women's issues" group, but we offer a unique point of view—unladylike ladies? ungirly girls?—and it'd be nice to incorporate that)

Coming up next:
Question #2: Does your identity match your personality?



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spam and Turkey and Ham and Chicken and Roast Beef!

So in the midst of some discussion about using social media to market, a broader issue came up: How do efficiently and effectively market shows featuring multiple independent improv troupes?

There are quite a few of them around, from one-shot deals to major events to ongoing efforts. With good reason: Because the audience for the improv community is still relatively small, you can increase your crowds (and thus, your chance of making rent) when more than one troupe plays. And it means sharing your regulars with other troupes—which is great incentive to step up your game.

But the more of this type of show we do, the more marketing challenges arise—some of it stuff that doesn't occur to you until it's too late. Like:
  • Marketing the show to different audiences with different interests (troupe loyalties, for example)
  • Differences in opinion on how to market (from poster aesthetics to how many times to send Facebook reminders)
  • Different response mechanisms—reservation lines, e-mails, Facebook invites—for different troupes
  • Key messages—prioritizing the event, the talent or the venue
Of course, there are many more challenges—who headlines? who opens? what's the best spot? how do you split the gate?—but this is just about marketing.

(OH, hey...if you're one of those people who doesn't believe marketing best practices apply to improv troupes, you're not going to like this post much.)

Audiences are exposed to thousands of marketing messages a day; the conventional wisdom for breaking through the clutter used to be three impressions. Now that wouldn't even make a dent in most people's subconscious. When you do deliver multiple messages, it's important for them to have enough common elements that they hang together in people's minds—consistency is the quickest way to critical mass.

For example, everything you see about Target clearly comes from Target—whether they're selling clothes, kitchen appliances, food or the whole store. Target gives you multiple reasons to come in—value, style, selection. The approach broadens the brand's appeal on a couple of fronts—to multiple consumer groups with different needs, and to individual consumers hoping to cut down on the number of stops they have to make. But even very different messages ("Expect more. Pay less." vs. "Design for everyone.") come with a similar look and feel.

Major brands have strategies and style guides to keep messages consistent across different consumer contact points—and the more complicated the brand, the more specific the style guide. I'm not suggesting we need anything that formal in the improv world, but there's value in consistency.

A few things we can do as producers and troupes can do to help make sure our marketing gets through to our audiences:

Agree to agree: Pick the most important things, and communicate them the same way everywhere—period. Some "non-negotiables": The name of the event, reservation information, pricing and discounts, short sell-copy or taglines or show descriptions. Visuals count, too: Logos, fonts, colors. Decide which communications (i.e. press releases, calendar listings, Facebook invites) will be general and handled by the producers, and which can be customized by the troupes.

Target your messages: For example, a press release to the KC Star or Pitch would lead with the biggest news (in a recent example, that would have been The Union—the group coming in from Chicago with a show directed by a Second City performer). But one sent to a local paper would feature the local troupe or individual.

Personalize your invitations: Pretty much every troupe has its own Facebook group or fan page. And, as we've chatted about recently, we talk to our fans differently. So there's nothing wrong with each troupe setting up their own invitation and sending their own reminders, if it seems necessary—as long as you keep the big stuff consistent and maintain a single point of contact for reservations. The big risk, of course, is over-delivering messages to anyone who happens to be a member of multiple groups.

Manage your media: Producers should make sure every troupe has the information they need for their personalized messages; troupes can provide producers with logos, photos (and photo credits) and group-specific information (bios, show descriptions, websites).

So...what else? What mind-blowing challenges and fabulous solutions have you run into promoting multi-troupe shows?