Portland Center Stage not only won several Drammy awards last night (see Oregon Live’s coverage), but it is also a social media pioneer for theatre organizations. It has two blogs, a MySpace page, a Flickr page, and a YouTube channel.
Trisha Pancio, publications and public relations manager for Portland Center Stage, agreed to share her experiences with us. She will also be a guest speaker this summer for an advanced writing class at our Turnbull Center in Portland.
Due to the length of the interview, I’m releasing the answers to her interview questions as a four-part series, which will unfold daily.
The biggest change has been how PCS artists and staff think about their role in the theater. Before, backstage crew and admin staff had a sort of “ivory tower” mentality, that what they did was invisible to the customer. The only people who routinely connected directly with the audience were the box office and the actors.
Now, we have the costume designer posting sketches and requesting ideas for where to find stuff, we have directors posting daily rehearsal blogs, and the different departments (literary, development) can update their own pages and distribute information to the public in real time (and in their own authentic voice, rather than in a sanitized “corporate” voice).
As a result, we’ve had patrons commenting with their reviews of shows (of course), but we’ve also had comments requesting information about where to find a particularly yummy pair of shoes that an actor wore or commenting on our MySpace with personal experiences they had after a performance. This humanizes the art-making process in a really interesting way.
One of the things I like about our forays into social media is our ability to get new information and special opportunities out FAST. If we’ve just had the chance to get a great speaker to come in after a show and talk about the themes of the play, let’s say, but it can only happen tomorrow night, I can put it out on our blog and on our MySpace page and know that we’ll reach a good segment of our audience right away and in a space where they are thinking about “where to go and what to do.”
We’ve also been focusing on how to make the Portland Center Stage experience entertaining from the very first minute that we touch a potential patron (rather than saying, “Trust us, it will be entertaining when you get here”). The casual tone and viral nature of social media has let us play with creating content that relates to the plays but is entertaining in its own right.
Thank you, Trisha! I want to thank PCS’ sponsors for their support of the arts: Key Private Bank, Regional Arts and Culture Council, Work for Art, The Mark Spencer Hotel, American Express, KATU Channel 2 (where I once interned), 101.9 Kink FM, and Oregon Live (my home page). Readers, feel free to post comments to Trisha anytime this week.