Opening night. You’ve thought about it for months. You’ve gone over the script, learned lines, been over blocking and projection, the lighting and soundtrack are sorted, the scenery is painted, the costumes are fitted, and everything is ready for curtain up. But none of this means anything if you don’t have an audience.
Putting together a play is hard work, but bringing an audience in is vital for your show’s success and, whether you’re backstage or onstage, the truth is marketing just isn’t really that much fun. While any good actor will perform in front of a near empty theatre, no-one wants to do that.
Luckily, building yourself a bigger audience can be done quite easily with a bit of know-how.
An eye-catching poster to advertise your play is important. You could utilise the services of a local artist, supporting a local creative who might then promote your show. Make sure the poster contains all the information someone needs to come and see your play like when and where it is on and how they can buy tickets.
You should hang a large poster at the theatre you are performing at. Take some smaller ones to local coffee shops, bars, and shops that have community advertising boards. Make sure you check with a member of staff before hanging anything. When you’re distributing your posters it’s a good idea to have some flyers which you can leave. You don’t want someone to see the poster for your show, think it looks interesting but then forget the details on their way home! Having a flyer to take with them makes it far more likely that they will remember to book tickets and tell their friends about your play.
Social media is a big marketing tool for professional and fringe theatre companies alike. Knowing how to utilise different types of social media is key to maximising their potential.
If your theatre company doesn’t have social media accounts create them. Invite all your friends to follow them and follow other theatre companies, theatre websites (like How to Do Theatre), and local event pages. Share information from other people’s pages about their events, work and upcoming projects. This way they are more likely to repost and share information about your play. It’s nice to be nice after all!
When someone comments on your social media posts make sure you reply in a timely fashion. All of their friends and followers may be able to see the post on their newsfeed as well, and you don’t want to come across as ignoring people or only posting when you are trying to get people to see your show. Bringing an audience in is business, but people use social media for fun. Be friendly, helpful, and keep things light.
Create an event for your play. This allows you to advertise the venue, times, booking information, and include a short synopsis. Keep the event feed up to date once a week with updates. If one night is close to selling out tell people as this will encourage them to book sooner. Invite all your friends to your event and make it public so it will show on their walls when they hit attending and they will be able to invite people as well.
Look up local theatre or creative pages and groups in your area and share your event on these. Make sure you check the pinned posts for any rules about marketing as some pages or groups have strict requirements before members can post promotional information.
When sharing information on Twitter remember that there’s a limit to how many characters you can use and that the Twitterverse moves very fast. Try and post at least one tweet a day. If you see a news story or interesting article that relates to your play in some way share this and briefly mention how it relates to the play. You can use a URL shortener like bit.ly to help with sharing articles. Thought provoking quotes from the script will also catch people’s attention.
Don’t forget to hashtag. A good hashtag to use when advertising plays is #theatre. Also, hashtag the playwright, play title and location of the play.
Instagram moves fast but not as fast as Twitter and you can use more characters but no links. You should try and post around one Instagram picture a day. Take rehearsal pictures and share these as well as sharing your play’s poster. Make sure you tag the actors if they are on Instagram so their followers will see what they are up to.
Like Twitter, you can hashtag and as you are less limited on characters you can do more. For example, if your hashtags on Twitter were #Theatre #Shakespeare #RomeoandJuliet #Liverpool, you could add #TheatreLiverpool #Tragedy #ShakespeareinLiverpool to your Instagram post without worrying about using up all your characters. The more hashtags you use the more people will see your post.
Pique People’s Interest
Try and think of some new and interesting material you can share on your social media accounts to get people interested early on. Drafting up a press release to send out to local newspapers is always a viable option which can stoke a bit of interest if they pick up your story – just be sure to give them a good reason as to why your show is important.
Cast interviews can be a good way to promote your show. Many people will be interested in how actors are connecting to their characters and why they are doing the play.
Try and get your show reviewed on opening night. Most reviewers will publish their thoughts the day after seeing a play so this may get you some last minute bookings.
Most importantly have fun and enjoy the show. The more excited a company is by their show, the more your audience will enjoy it and talk about it afterwards. And that’s the best advertising of all.
D M Day is a writer and actor who lives in Liverpool, England. She writes flash, science and fantasy fiction, and poetry. She is currently working on a war poetry collection and a parallel universe trilogy. She runs acting and writing workshops and performed in the first Liverpool Fringe Festival in June 2017.