I. TELL PEOPLE
It sounds simple, but a lot of ensembles don’t tell people about their shows. You cannot expect the producer/director to be the only one marketing. You must sell yourself, first and foremost. Simply telling someone that you have a show is the first step in drawing an audience. Word of mouth is the most tried and true method of self promotion, so go ahead, try it out, what’s it gonna hurt?
II. POSTCARDS & PROMO BUSINESS CARDS
Get them made and begin distributing them as early as one month before your show. Do not wait until the last minute. Postcards & Business Cards should contain all of the information that is on the poster (see POSTERS section). Also, do not just canvas one area. Chicago is a very large city with many coffee shops, bars, theatres, restaurants, stores, etc that will let you leave a stack of postcards or business cards. There are literally dozens of neighborhoods that can be canvassed. Some of the best locations to promote include but are not limited to: Old Town, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Roscoe Village, Pilsen, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Andersonville, Rogers Park, Edgewater, Gold Coast, Ravenswood, and by college campuses like UIC, DePaul, and Columbia.
This is an essential marketing tool. The sooner you get them made, the sooner the Training Center and your ensemble can begin promoting your show. Make sure that your poster is eye-catching; you’ll find that some people will come to see you show solely based on the look of the poster. Posters should include the following information:
- Title of Show
- Day & Time of Show
- All show dates
- Donny’s Skybox Theatre (or) de Maat Studio Theatre
- 1608 N. Wells St. 4th Floor (Skybox) or 3rd Floor (de Maat)
- The Second City Training Center (logo) for TC shows only
- The SC website - www.secondcity.com
- Ticket Prices for general admission, students, and TC students
- Box Office phone # 312.337.3992
- Cast List, Written by, Directed by, Stage Manager credit (if known)
Getting these printed up is easy. You can either go to a local FedEx/Kinkos or other copy place or you can get posters made online using any reproductions site as listed previously in the ‘POSTCARD’ section. Also, for the Skybox, the poster size may be either 11 x 17 or 8 ½ x 11. For the de Maat, posters must be 8 ½ x 11. You will also need to have Banner Art for the website, which must be limited to 270 x 166 pixels.
Create a fan page as well as an event page. Make sure that every person involved in the show has added themselves to the pages and has invited all of their friends. Also, make sure that all involved are listed as admins on the pages; this makes it easier to invite people.
Believe it or not, some people still use Myspace, so you should too. Create a fan page with links to promo videos.
Sending out Tweets about your upcoming shows or even creating a Twitter page for your ensemble are great ways to get the word out. You can even tweet funny lines from your show.
VII. PROMOTIONAL VIDEOS
Promo videos are great way to give audiences a taste of what your style of comedy is, and hopefully peak their interest so that they will come and see your show.
YouTube is probably the best place to upload your promotional videos. From there you can build a fan page and link your videos to your Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc. This will be your central hub for any video promotions you wish to do.
IX. CHICAGO IMPROV NETWORK
Chicago Improv Network (CIN) is a social messaging board for Chicago comedians/actors/improvisers. Join it. Use it. www.chicagoimprov.org.
X. ONLINE AD SPACE
Google Ad Words, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Adbrite are all great places to get online ad space. The more you saturate the search engines with online promotions, the better chance you have of broadening your market and pulling in outside audiences. You can also use Facebook Ads to get more views of your fan & event pages; as well as, YouTube Promotional Ads to increase the exposure of your promo videos.
XI. SMS TEXT BLASTS
Texting is one of the most common forms of communication today, and what better way to let people know you have a show than bombarding them with text messages about your upcoming show. Plus, they have no excuse for not receiving them, unless of course they don’t have text messaging or if they’re really good liars.
XII. EMAIL BLASTS
Email updates about your upcoming show are always a good way to spread the word. Send emails to everyone in your address book and at the end of your message ask them to forward it to their friends.
If you have friends who have a podcast or a college/local radio show, ask them to plug your show. You can also make your own podcast and promote it via any social network. This will help increase your exposure and you can broaden your fanbase. Plus, comedy podcasts are extremely underutilized and something that could help you promote future shows. Do something different, promote with a podcast!
XIV. HOTEL CONCIERGE
One of the main functions of a hotel concierge is to help guests find shows and events to attend while they’re in Chicago. Simply spend a day with your cast and canvas hotels checking to see if you can leave postcards or promo business cards there to promote your show. Throwing them a comp ticket or two is a great way to make sure that the concierge will actively promote your show.
XV. PRESS RELEASES
Press releases are a great way to get some publicity and you can always try to get reviewed in your first week. A positive review can increase tickets sales exponentially, and while most people are worried about getting a negative review, just remember, no risk, no reward.
Here are a few examples of places to send press releases. There are many more throughout Chicago you can find with a little research.
- Chicago Sun Times
- Chicago Tribune
- Chicago Reader
- Time Out Chicago
XVI. OTHER VENUES
Promote at other venues throughout Chicago, especially if you are working on another show somewhere else (iO, CIC, Playground, Gorilla Tango, Green House, etc). Also, have fellow improvisers plug your shows at their performances and use your network of fellow actors and improvisers. We all network for a reason, and this is definitely one of those reasons; just remember to return the favor.
If you would like the unabridged version of the Donny’s Skybox & de Maat Studio Theatre Marketing Packet, please stop by the Training Center.