Analyzing the intrinsic impact of theatre on audiences

13 Apr

I was thrilled to read this post by Clay Lord at Theatre Bay Area! (thanks for pointing me to it, Thomas Cott!)  What Theatre Bay Area, WolfBrown, and their partners are doing has the potential to change the way we talk about who we are and what we do.

In the beginning the theatre industry (and arts community as a whole) did a lot of marketing via the “we are good for you, come see us and be better people” line.  Some still have a tendency to this … if you are one of them, STOP!  It doesn’t work!  No one wants to be told that they are lacking and need to do something to make themselves better.  Theatre is not medicine.

Currently we all seem to be on the economic impact train: Support the arts, we get people to spend money!  While this seems to be a better strategy than the medicinal one (especially among certain legislators), it leaves out the heart and soul of why we do this work and why people are drawn to it.

The thought that we could actually measure and communicate intrinsic impact of our work is a marvel to me.  If anyone can find a way to measure it, I know WolfBrown can, that is why I’m so excited.  Alan Brown, through a presentation in Atlanta sponsored by The Blank Foundation, was the one who broke me out of my limited view of what a survey could speak to and how to ask the right questions to get the answers you need.  I will be following the progress of this endeavor closely!

The thing we have to remember is that this information and ability to measure will only help in certain situations (like lobbying for government funding).  We still need to communicate the emotional impact of the stories we tell and the visceral experience of live theatre if we want to keep filling out theatres with new and returning patrons.  This is what makes people want to come back.  This is what makes people want to spread the word about us.

Side note:  Dave Charest over at the Fuzz Bucket blog posted this note about getting clarity on your company’s driving force and how clarity is vital for ease of communication and instant understanding.  Check it out.


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3 responses to “Analyzing the intrinsic impact of theatre on audiences

  1. Bruce Robinson

    April 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you for your thoughts on lame and misdirected messages. And I share your admiration for Alan Brown’s market research abilities from other work he has done.

    I used to collect definitions of marketing. There’s none better than your words directing us “to communicate the emotional impact of the stories we tell and the visceral experience of live theatre.” It reminds me of the idea that marketing is like a keyhole that enables people to experience your product, to connect with its essence.

    • Amy Wratchford

      April 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks, Bruce! You are absolutely right with the keyhole analogy! It is the essence that we need to convey in marketing. The heart, not the head.

  2. Dave Charest

    April 14, 2010 at 6:30 pm


    I’m very interested in this intrinsic study. I have the 2009 report on my reading list:

    At the moment I’m not sure what the point is. So I’m hoping there are answers inside.

    Thanks for the mention Amy.



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