Are you an AMA member? please login
26th September 2018 Jemma Green

AMA London Regional Meeting — alternative marketing approaches for touring companies

Jemma Green, Senior Marketing Officer — Events, attended the London Regional meeting hosted by our London Member Rep at the Royal Court Theatre. The meeting included a talk by John Holmes, Director of Marketing & Audience Development at the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) on alternative approaches to marketing for touring companies with no access to audience data.

Having never been to an AMA Regional Meeting, I was really looking forward to meeting our members and hearing what speaker John had to say about how the marketing landscape has changed for touring companies post GDPR.

The talk was held in the rehearsal room at the Royal Court Theatre, and our Member Rep kicked the event off with some fantastic ice breakers (your best/worst celebrity dinner guest), which had the whole room up on their feet before John took his place at the front of the room.


John began his talk by discussing the particular challenges faced by touring companies, such as: unusable data due to GDPR regulations; lack of frequency (e.g. only visiting venues once a year); underestimating how hard it is for an audience to attend a one-night production on a yearly basis; how hard it is for an audience member to remember which companies/productions they have seen and how hard it is to build relationships with venues due to staffing changes.

He also quoted a stat from the Audience Agency, which stated that in an audience for a touring production, 33% would attend because of the touring company and 67% would attend because of the venue.

OAE’s solution to these challenges can be summed up in one word — engagement. John’s advice was to concentrate on that 33% and the staff at each venue, so they are loyal to your organisation and become your biggest supporters.

‘Love Bombing’ Venue Staff

John stressed the importance of going to the venue and building relationships with the people who work there. He described OAE’s tactics as ‘love bombing’ the staff, so they are on your side above all other companies that they work with. He said that as a producing company you have more engaging work to sell than “a dog from Britain’s Got Talent”, so you can remind the staff why they fell in love with the arts, re-affirming their mission and sense of purpose that can get lost.

An attendee from English Touring Opera also gave an example of a ‘Digital Day’ that they provided to the marketing teams of venues they were attending, which included watching a rehearsal of the production and a chance to interview the creatives behind the show. The impact of this was so tangible that they are looking to repeat this as a Facebook Live event, so that more venues can attend.

Having previously worked at a receiving house venue, I know that I would have loved the chance to speak to the creatives behind some of the touring shows we were promoting. Any chance to access additional content above the brochure copy/press release would have been gratefully received and it was really interesting to hear about how touring companies are pro-actively working towards this.

Content Over Sales Messaging

When discussing how to engage with and grow the 33% of regional audiences that are loyal to you, John’s advice was to concentrate on content. OAE have had success with their programmes, which they have complete control over.

They made the decision to go with a full colour programme, increase their branding within and offering information on OAE that tells their audience why they should be interested in the organisation, other than their future productions. The programmes are also free, which is another benefit to the audience.

John also talked about changing their exit flyering strategy. Instead of handing out leaflets to their next production, OAE created thank you cards that included a personal recommendation from an orchestra member for a future OAE production. The aim was to avoid an overt sales message and instead build on the personal relationship with the audience member.

This is also the ethos they follow on social media. John’s tip here was to ‘be like a journalist’ and dig out stories about who you are and what you do. It should be fun and engaging, and John gave an example of a YouTube series they have created on period instruments, which OAE are having particular success with (one video in the series has amassed over 200,000 views).

The aim of all these strategies is to foster long-term engagement, building on the relationship with the 33% and trying to increase that number by drawing in some of the 67% through practical tactics.

Key Points

After the talk, there was an opportunity to ask John some questions before we all went to enjoy some drinks and networking at the Royal Court Bar & Kitchen, with John’s talk providing some interesting talking points.

The key take-aways included:

  • Focus on the audience that engages with you as an organisation, rather than the venue you are attending
  • Build relationships with venue staff — it makes a real difference
  • Concentrate on additional content — dig out stories about who you are and what you do
  • If time allows, provide opportunities for venue staff to curate their own additional content — call, Skype or meet them in person as they will thank you for it
  • Concentrate on the practical things that you have control over — personal touches help to build engagement

Thank you to John, the staff at the Royal Court Theatre, our London Member Rep and everyone that attended, it was a great event and I look forward to the next one.

AMA has regional membership representatives across the UK. You can find your local rep and dates of network meetings here.