Where can you find a band whose EP hit the number one spot on iTunes in Dublin? Performing on Grafton Street, of course.
As a native Ohioan, I’d never experienced a culture where live entertainment was so integrated into everyday life. In Dublin, buskers can be found on many street corners, and artists perform daily in pubs. I discovered Keywest, a pop/rock band that has seen some pretty major success in Ireland, while I was exploring Dublin my first few days here.
Founded by Irishmen Andy “Kav” Kavanagh and Andrew “Glove” Glover, who originally performed as a two-man group, the band added three U.K. natives – Sam Marder, Jimi Lock and Harry “H” Sullivan – to become Keywest in 2011. Since then, the group has released an album (“The Message”) and several EPs and continues to perform live on Grafton Street. Keywest will be going on tour in the U.K. and Ireland later this year.
“We like to see the reactions from people,” Glover said about performing live. “We feed off it. We’ve done a few big gigs which was a taste for us.”
Glover said the group constantly works to promote itself, both in person and online. As of May 2015, the group has more than 55,000 followers on Facebook, 25,000 followers on Twitter and 3,600 followers on Instagram.
“I think it’s split for us between getting out and performing and our online media presence,” Glover said. “Our Facebook is quite diverse, which is good when we want to expand to other places. Our fan base will already be there.”
The band’s diverse fan base can be linked back to its live performances on Grafton Street.
“We can play to 20 nationalities at a time,” Glover said. “Grafton Street is quite diverse. You don’t have to be Irish to like us.”
When asked what Keywest wants to tell the world, Glover stopped a moment to think. While he paused, Lock jumped in to say, “You can’t get rid of us. We’re a sexy virus,” a virus that has infected people who have heard their music throughout the world.
By busking on Grafton Street and amassing an international following on social media, Keywest is solidifying itself as truly global artist.
What happens when you take a Shakespearean tragedy, turn it into an animated feature with lions and a few Elton John songs and then turn that movie into a Broadway musical? You get Disney’s “The Lion King,” a hit show that’s been running in New York City for nearly 20 years. Today, audiences can see “The Lion King” all around the world: in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Germany and more.
In my humble opinion, “The Lion King” is one of the greatest shows out there; I’ve seen the U.S. national tour twice, and I visited the musical’s 15th anniversary pop-up museum in New York City the day it opened. But as a public relations major, I’ve always been curious about promoting the musical internationally.
Enter Greg Josken, Disney Theatrical Group digital marketing & social media manager. Greg shared a behind-the-scenes look into some of the social media strategies and tools he uses to help make “The Lion King” a global hit.
Pros In Each Market
First, Greg made it clear that he is not in charge of creating content for every “Lion King” market; Disney Theatrical Group has offices in the U.K. and Australia, two of the more active markets, and it uses Stage Entertainment to help develop additional content. These marketing pros do collaborate, though.
“If I’m creating something for the U.S. that also could apply to the U.K. or Australia, I will definitely share those messages with them because it’s still ‘The Lion King’ no matter where you go,” Greg said. “There are some messages that can jump between markets, but no, I am not creating the content calendar for those other pages.”
Creating New Content
But creating new and engaging content is the most challenging part of marketing a global show, Greg said.
“How do we keep an engaged audience by putting a new twist on something that’s been the same for over a decade now?” Greg asks.
His solution is by tweaking content people all ready love: the songs. For example, the cast of “The Lion King” performed stripped-down, acoustic versions of the musical’s songs in Playlist Sessions at New York’s 54 Below. One of my favorite videos is a mash-up between American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life” and “Hakuna Matata.”
Facebook Is King
While “The Lion King” can be found on a variety of social media channels, Facebook is the most sophisticated platform that caters to global brands, Greg said, and the folks at Disney have been using it to its full potential. If you find its page on Facebook, “The Lion King” has more than 2.4 million fans, and those fans come from all over the world. But the page you see in America isn’t the same page you’ll see in the U.K.; Facebook allows Disney to have different parent-child pages housed under one account, and the content you see is based on your IP address.
“That allows us to speak to that specific audience and talk to them the way they want to be talked to as opposed to having a message in the U.S. that maybe doesn’t translate over to another country,” Greg said. “That means we get to be very authentic to the people we speak to instead of having one blanket message to our entire 2.4 million fans.”
While global marketing can be a challenge, it has also helped skyrocket the show to international fame, attracting audiences from all nationalities and backgrounds.
“It’s great to see how the show has evolved, yet stayed true to its original vision when it debuted in 1997,” Greg said. “It’s pretty amazing to see the impact and how people have connected with it all over the world.”
Click on a flag to see Facebook content from that country
According to Huffington Post, London is the second best city in which to see live theatre. While visiting the home of the West End (London’s version of Broadway), I couldn’t help but see a few shows. I also couldn’t help talking to a theatre marketing professional.
I was introduced to Nic Greatrex, marketing manager at Disney Theatrical Group (DTG), through a mutual connection at DTG in New York. (Read some of the things I learned about the global brand of Disney’s “The Lion King” from that mutual connection here.) Nic worked on the marketing for “The Lion King” when it was on tour in the U.K., and he is currently working on its run in Switzerland, among his other responsibilities.
Promotion for the tour of “The Lion King” is set up in four different phases at Disney: on sale, build, re-launch and season. Each phase uses different marketing techniques that are unique to the public in the U.K.
Unlike in the United States, DTG will show a commercial for “The Lion King” tour in the cinema before a movie. There is also a heavy focus on radio and a decreased focus on television advertising.
“We like to use a lot of radio adverts on tour because we can showcase the sounds in the show,” Nic said.
One popular format of radio advertisement is called vox pop, where Disney grabs sound bites from audience members at opening night performances, then turn them into a commercial.
The theatre community in the U.K. also approaches social media much differently than the theatre community in the U.S., making it difficult to collaborate on content with the DTG team in New York. Nic said theatre communications in the U.K. is slowly becoming more digital, but it is still very focused on tradition: posters throughout the city and on public transport.
“We don’t like to re-share what New York has done; the tone is different,” Nic said. “We’re very serious here, but hopefully that will be changing.”
Nic said, “Switzerland is a testing ground for bigger markets.” The company is using promotion for the show in Switzerland as a sort of testing ground for public relations and marketing tactics it may use later on in different markets throughout Europe.
Disney recently gave Swiss journalists the opportunity to interact with “The Lion King” in a very physical way, teaching them how to use stilts to walk like the giraffes, how to play the drums like the musicians and how to put on makeup like the actors in the show. Nic always has a hand in press events like this, even though DTG uses different agencies to help promote its shows.
“We’re quite tight, PR wise,” he said. “We don’t let the local team do anything without us.”
By staying on top of local trends, monitoring competitors and testing out tactics in smaller markets, Nic and the Disney Theatrical Group marketing team are helping “The Lion King” sell out each night across Europe, solidifying the show as a global powerhouse.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” This is just one of many lines in “Dirty Dancing” that made generations of Americans drool over the late, great Patrick Swayze. Having seen the film many times on television, I was excited to hear the national tour of the movie’s stage adaptation was making a stop in Cleveland at Playhouse Square.
Being the curious (and abundantly nerdy) public relations major I am, I asked myself, “What part do the actors play in the promotion of this show?” After a bit of research and interaction with members of the cast, it seems they have their hands in several different aspects, believe it or not.
After the show on March 5 (the U.S. tour’s 200th performance!), I met Emily Rice – the actress who plays the eccentric Lisa Houseman – and she shared her experience promoting the show as a cast member.
“We have two marketing people, Andrew and Melissa, and they do the stuff on Instagram and everything for us,” Rice said about the show’s social media efforts. “They tell us what hashtags to use and encourage us to use them.”
Andrew Cole and Melissa Cohen are practitioners from Type A Marketing, an agency solely dedicated to promoting Broadway and national tour productions. The duo created a Dirty Dancing Marketing Guidebook, a 38-page instruction manual that takes readers through everything from branding to social media to publicity specifications for the tour.
While specific hashtags are not mentioned in the guidebook, the cast of the U.S. national tour has been using #dirtydancingontour to connect with fans. In fact, after posting a picture of the program on my Instagram account, ensemble cast member Rashaan James II responded, adding the hashtag to my image while thanking me for coming to see the show.
Outside social media, actors are also essential in media relations efforts. Not only do photos of their performances make appearances in print and online features, the actors also dance their way onto the small screen by visiting local broadcasters. For example, “Dirty Dancing” leads Josh Drake (Johnny) and Gillian Abbott (Baby) stopped by Cleveland’s Fox 8 March 5 to teach “New Day Cleveland” co-host Natalie Herbick some moves from the show. If that doesn’t warm your heart and make you want to see “Dirty Dancing,” I don’t know what will.
If I learned anything from my experience delving into the world of “Dirty Dancing,” it’s that actors aren’t merely stepping into the spotlight on stage; they are performing marketing tasks on a daily basis and are an integral part of the success of the show’s promotion efforts.
“The Book of Mormon” has been tearing up social media dashboards since the show’s debut in 2011. Using cutting-edge platform tools, the smash hit musical has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. Whether it’s using newsjacking tactics to jump in on the hype about Alex from Target (#welovenametags) or say “Hello!” on Facebook through paid promotion, the marketing team keeps busy making sure fans of the show’s quirky Latter-day Saints stay interested and entertained.
The show, created by “South Park” writers Trey Parker, Matt Stone and “Avenue Q” composer Bobby Lopez, gives the audience a look into the misadventures of two Mormon men on their mission in Uganda. “The Book of Mormon” won nine Tony Awards, four Oliviers and even a Grammy. People can see the musical on Broadway and West End and on one of its North American tours.
“The Book of Mormon” has gained a huge following on traditional social media platforms, but the marketing team decided not to stop there; the show officially joined Snapchat around a year ago. The content on the platform has transformed in that time, though, so fans can now take an active role. Originally, all content came from the social media team. Today, the team hands the account over to members of the cast and the fans.
Recently, the show used the platform to fulfill a new purpose: to promote open auditions for the musical. The week of March 8, “The Book of Mormon” sent out a snap inviting its followers to a New York audition, looking for people to fill the roles of some of the Mormons and the Ugandans.
“The Book of Mormon” isn’t the first hit Broadway show to use social media to promote open auditions. In 2013-2014, Disney used Facebook and Twitter to announce open auditions for the national tour of “Newsies.” The posts racked up more than 1,000 likes, comments and shares. Shows like “The Book of Mormon” and “Newsies” that have a cult-like following in the same age demographic as their casts have successfully used social media to promote open auditions.
With new additions to the Mormon family to help create content thanks to the announcement of the audition on Snapchat, the show’s marketing team will be able to keep entertaining audiences across the globe on social media for months to come.
Meet the Kent Clarks. You may have seen the group performing for Kent State students at Blastoff! or for the President of the United States at the White House. (Yes, really.) The Kent Clarks is an a cappella choir that performs at campus events, at regional concerts and at national competitions. "What's a cappella?" you might be thinking. As Chloe from the movie Pitch Perfect so eloquently puts it, "We sing covers of songs, but we do it without any instruments. It's all from our mouths."
I was able to speak with Kent Clarks Public Relations Manager Matt Gilkerson, and he shared some of the ways the choir breaks past social media to promote itself.
I grew up listening to The Beatles, my late elementary school days were spent drowning my 11-year-old sorrows to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and I’ve been known to head bang to “I Love Rock And Roll” with the best of ‘em. So when Paul and Ringo, the guys of Green Day and rock goddess Joan Jett are all in one spot together, celebrating their careers, I pay attention. In fact, most of America pays attention.
Welcome to the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, which returned to Cleveland, Ohio, April 18. The event was covered by almost every major traditional and nontraditional news organization in the country, including: Rolling Stone, CNN, Buzzfeed, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Billboard and more.
Throughout the process of planning the 2015 induction ceremony, the Rock Hall faced a tough public relations problem: When a majority of inductees were popular during their parents’ young adulthood, how can the Rock Hall make Millennials care about the induction ceremony?
“There’s an effort to keep things relevant,” said Joel Peresman, the president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, in an interview with Joe Coscarelli of the New York Times.
And the Rock Hall did just that through expert event planning. To catch the attention of music lovers of all genres and generations, the Rock Hall had its inductees perform alongside some of the biggest names in the industry today. Miley Cyrus introduced Joan Jett, shocking (but are we really all that surprised anymore?) the audience by wearing nipple pasties with the inductee’s initials on them. Grammy award-winning artist Beck covered a Lou Reed song with songstress Karen O. John Legend performed alongside Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder.
But perhaps the Rock Hall’s best move of the induction was including punk-rock group Green Day in its Class of 2015. As Coscarelli observed, “Actual teenagers were present and screaming from the rafters for Green Day.” The group barely meets the Rock Hall’s requirement of being part of the industry for at least 25 years, but it is clearly still relevant to the Millennials who grew up singing “American Idiot” and “21 Guns.” By inducting such a relatively young group, the Rock Hall caught the eye of younger generations while still appeasing rock purists.
Through brilliant foresight and event planning, the Rock Hall solved an important PR problem while keeping the nation abuzz with excitement over the inductees and the modern-day celebrities who introduced, performed and celebrated with them. Kudos, and rock on!
The Anthem band is going on its European tour, starting this week! We'll be leaving Cleveland, Ohio, then we're off to Dublin! One week later, and we'll head to London. Each band member is looking forward to facing new experiences and exploring new environments. See what Erica, Meghan, Arbrion, Rachael and Odun are most excited about.