Fractured Atlas
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This is an archived post from our old blog. It's here for the sake of posterity (and to keep the search engines happy). Our new blog can be found at

Start with Strategy

Let’s take a moment, shall we, to get back to basics.

Yesterday, a lighting company contacted me about crafting their marketing strategy. When I asked for background on the company, the owner sent me a recently written press release, and at our meeting today, showed me their logo, website, postcards, and briefed me on recent events.

I died a little inside. This potential client had wasted thousands of dollars playing pin the tail on donkey when he should have been shooting at a target.

While selling chandeliers is somewhat different than selling subscriptions, I saw a teachable moment for all of you, dear artists and promoters thereof, and here it is:

When preparing to sell a product, service, show, or yourself, you must begin by identifying your strategy. Immediately after you develop your product, strategy shapes what actions you will take to capture the attention of those who will ultimately attend, buy, pay, subscribe.

Analogy: you can't design your promotional poster before you decide whether your Hamlet takes place in 17th Century Denmark or a modern-day Harlem high school.

Here is a short list of marketing tactics that should not occur before you determine your overall strategy:

  • Graphic design

  • Copywriting

  • Website/webpage

  • Social media

  • Blog

  • Hiring any external marketing or PR support

  • Photography

  • PR

  • Supporting events

  • Advertising

“But Ciaraaaaa, I’m scared that if I don’t start tweeting IMMEDIATELY the world will implode.”

Fine. But here’s what you risk: turning off your target audience, and ultimately wasting time, money, and resources on tactics that should match your (focused, clear, on-brand) message.

Example: let’s say I’m producing a four-week run of the play Stop Kiss off-Broadway in New York.* It’s a comedy-drama about two women who fall for each other and become victims of a hate crime. So my target audience is already easily decided – I’m going to aim for gay and gay-friendly New Yorkers. Then I’m going to choose a downtown venue because it takes place in the West Village, and I’m going to put it up in June because I can ride the Pride publicity wave. Facebook event? Yes, because my primary audience is young, cosmopolitan, and tech-savvy. That means I use Twitter also. And I tweet news about marriage equality, because more people will follow and actually read it than if my 140 characters drone on about rehearsals and ticket sales. I’ll also tag prominent gay personalities to attract their followers. I’ll probably also do a brief video to viral-ize on YouTube, interviewing the creative team and ideally a gay rights activist and/or someone from the original production. Then I’ll create specific nights for attendance by local elected officials, the NYCLU Young Professionals, urban students, and LGBT groups.

This is an oversimplified sample, still, strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. But it does have to be doable, focused, and articulated to your entire team.

When you start by defining your strategy, every successive action falls under its cozy, comforting umbrella. You know whether each action you take contributes to the whole because you’ve already defined what it is – and what it isn’t.

>For the bible on the how, why, and what of strategy, pick up a copy of Trout on Strategy. It’s a must read for anyone leading any sort of organization, period.

*Which I might be, so don’t steal this. But you’re totally invited.