On Sunday, June 7, the 69th annual Tony Awards will be beamed live into homes around the world. Millions of theater fans will be glued to their TVs, computer screens, iPads, iPhones and social media accounts of all stripes to rejoice with the winners, commiserate with the losers, and watch some of the most talented people on earth sing and dance their hearts out.
You will be excited. You will be dazzled. You will be thankful for however much or little Neil Patrick Harris the evening gives you. And, if you’re a content marketer looking to stay ahead of the curve, you’ll be taking notes during the awards speeches — because theater has been attracting paying audiences for centuries, and theater professionals were doing content marketing long before the term was coined.
In honor of the Tonys and theater’s long history of marketing success, I present these five content marketing lessons you should take from theater professionals.
Know Your Audience
What’s the difference between “A Chorus Line” and “Carrie: The Musical”? Well, one is a beloved Broadway staple and the other is a bad-message musical that lost millions of dollars trying to teach theatergoers that making fun of girls who are different can get you ripped apart by telekinesis and set on fire.
Although circus ringmasters may claim no one’s ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public, theater professionals know just how false that cliché is. A great production finds its audience by telling stories people can’t help but come out to see.
Unless you’re watching a solo show billed as performance art (and if you are and it’s 1986 you’ll never look at yams the same way again) then what you’re watching happen on stage is the product of a team of people working together for the good of the project and the pleasure of the paying public.
Although some team members are more important on a given project than others, everyone has to work together to get the show to go on. And everyone agrees that no one is more important than the show, and the show must go on. Speaking of which…
They really, really matter. If you decide a show will open on March 17, then that show opens March 17 no matter what. Failure to meet deadlines gives you nothing but a bad reputation, a lack of paying work, and “Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark.” A content marketer who doesn’t keep deadlines like they keep promises is a content marketer who gets terrible reviews and even worse ROI.
Blink and You Might Miss the Magic
Only diamonds and bad reviews are forever; a play is temporary. Theater professionals of all stripes know this: Every theatrical production promises you’ll see magic, but only for a little while.
“The Fantasticks” is the longest running off-Broadway production ever — with 42 years on stage and 17,162 performances — but casts and crews came and went throughout that time, and most musicals give audiences far fewer chances to see what they’re selling. The best plays, like the best content, are of their time and place: they get in and then they get out with their work already done. Most crucially, they never overstay their welcome.
Talent Will Only Take You So Far
Here’s the first thing about divas: Nobody, not even opera singers, enjoys spending an evening listening to someone sing “me me me me” unless there’s a Viking hat involved. Period.
Here’s the second thing about divas: Even the talented ones are more trouble than they’re worth. Ask any director if she’d prefer to work with someone who’s really talented or really professional and she’ll tell it like it is: professionalism is always in short supply, but never underappreciated.
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