Spotlights/Mini Interviews

Spotlight #2: Tori Duhaime of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company

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Self-portrait photo by Tori Duhaime

Name: Tori Duhaime

Current Location: Richmond, VA

Job Title: Marketing Director and Event and Patron Services Manager, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in Salt Lake City, UT

 
How did you learn about marketing, informally and formally?
I fell into marketing simultaneously with photography very informally. I used so much of my modern dance degree to translate ideas to selling dance itself. Choreographic elements assisted heavily in my design and photographic work, and being engaged with the digital world especially helped me teach myself what does and doesn't draw me into an experience. I truly learned by doing and a lot of googling.
 
What is your job title? How many hats do you wear? How many hours a week do you work on marketing?
My official job title is "Marketing Director and Event and Patron Services Manager." I often joke that I work 5 jobs for the price of one which is just the nature of non-profit arts work. I do everything from graphic design, event management, photography, social media, office management, web design, workshop management/communications, organize volunteers, customer service. and copywriting. It's very much a jack of all trades role.
 
I have worked 40 hours a week for the past 2.5 years year-round and just moved to a 3/5 time contract now that I am working from Richmond, VA and some of the work load will be passed off to a colleague.
 
How do you define "marketing?"
Marketing is such an umbrella term, particularly when talking about the arts and furthermore, dance. It really is about selling the experience but also telling a story. Not everything is to bring in patron dollars but to share what the dancers and directors are doing in the world of education and outreach, what the company is doing to improve x,y,z within the company structure. Seeking dollar data as a marketing director in dance isn't going to look the same as a clothing brand because the numbers will never really uphold a company the way development will. Engagement and new audiences seem more valuable than the dollar in this work, though that's not to say that pressing for ticket sales is not a critical part of my role. 
 
Marketing as a creative endeavor:
To reiterate the idea of storytelling, marketing can be and frankly requires deeply nuanced efforts. It is a highly creative role in my mind and admittedly I get far too hung up on design elements than community development with fellow businesses. I look at designs as choreography. If I know how to move people around a stage in an effectively artistic way, then I should be able to guide an eye around a piece of paper or screen similarly. The relationship that is created between the featured artists on a poster and the accompanying words can make or break how much information is consumed or if the eye even processes the image especially as the consumption of imagery is so overwhelming in the age of social media. There are of course whole theories on this ideology by trained designers but I believe translating it to dance requires an understanding of the art form being solicited to best support the outcome. Certainly, not everybody will agree with this and it is rare that I get to really run with this offering for fear that the information isn't effectively delivered. Marketing is a financial gamble, and taking bold design choices sometimes means letting go of how past generations have engaged with ads and images.
 
I believe creating intrigue is the most powerful approach to marketing vs a tell-all these days. A dancer's body itself doesn't actually have to be present anymore to communicate movement. To maintain and grow dance audiences continues to be a difficult task so I frequently question how we get somebody onto the website or box office itself before anybody knowing dance is involved. There is so much space in marketing to bridge industries and interests to welcome in new eyes and audiences but such requires those financial gambles that go outside of the usual approaches, and that can be difficult for any artist or director to have faith in. I get it and I don't offer that as a criticism, rather a recognition of why I have proposed ideas rejected often, especially as a one-person team.
 
On the topic of "influencers:"
I'll speak to influencers because I think it is something that won't be going away no matter what social media platforms we are handed and is a very new kind of marketing. In contrast to my work with Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, I also work in the outdoor industry as a freelance photographer and I'm the Content Producer for Ravel Media, meaning I handle many of our brand sponsorships for both audio and visual assets. As a photographer and for the sake of building relationships with brands, I myself have taken on partnerships that resemble an influencer relationship with only a smaller following. I've watched outdoor brands utilize ambassadors and sponsored content for years and invite in more lesser-known individuals and diverse representation (which, of course, has immense growth to still be had on that topic) and I'm still waiting for dancers to get that same opportunity. Sure, you have the big-name entertainment or ballet artists who are getting deodorant and Nike partnerships but it's the freelance, up and coming artists who need visibility and support. I want to see small brands get a whole project-based group or small company decked out in some needed gear in turn for some social media shares or paid to market that go-to pair of pants a dancer swears by. I want to see differently-abled dancers and non-western concert dancers influencing for ethical brands. Influencer media is a way to better communicate consumer needs to brands, gives brands feedback from the sponsored individual, and can really elevate the visibility of an artist. It's creative marketing on both ends quite frankly and I think dancers (save for the entertainment industry) are wildly under-utilized. I think as marketing directors, we can and should be trying to build more of this kind of relationship for our clients and directors starting with local brick and mortars all the way to corporations. Learning to write pitches to brand ambassador teams and finding companies that align with artistic values is always worth the outreach.
 
The same can go for shows and companies reaching out to ambassadors to bring in patrons. People trust other people and getting endorsements from influencers could really support audience development. There's a part of me that shudders at all of this as it fuels a capitalistic structure which in return, doesn't always give back to the arts, but I think there is also an opportunity to rehumanize arts by getting that sort of "word of mouth" marketing that is simulated by influencers.
 
With marketing, I want to learn more about...
Data. I came into this position from being a choreographer primarily before. I've never been a numbers person and work best with the right side of my brain, but data is very important and yet something so difficult to seemingly acquire when referencing the arts. Throughout a season, we can have such a wide range of repertory being produced, a show with more experimental work, a show designed for kids, and a show that pleases the masses, so getting data for a season to reflect that always feels slightly counterproductive to the breadth of art itself. This year alone, we've seen how our data can be shifted by all sorts of events as art is felt by both people and economics. I absolutely want to better understand how to track and utilize data in a way that supports the continuation of creation, rather than solely the continuation of selling creations, and where those intersect for sustainability.
 
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Spotlight #1: Mary Anne Bodnar of Movement Research

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Photo: Jeanne Donovan

Name: Mary Anne Bodnar

Location: New York, NY

Job Title: Media & Communications Manager, Movement Research

 

How did you learn about marketing, informally and formally? 

I fell into marketing through an internship placement at Movement Research (MR) in 2017. I had applied for a role with their publication Critical Correspondence, but during my interview was convinced to take on the role of Marketing Intern. My formal training came from my supervisors, then Managers José Rivera Jr. and Kat Galasso. They taught me the basics of email platforms, website backends, and social media schedules. I enjoyed the satisfaction of getting tasks done, but my progress was bolstered by how trusted I was by the Managers. They gifted me the responsibility of sending out our “Weekly” Sunday e-blasts to a listserv of 10,000 people. Enter my informal (yet robust) training: trial and error. While the emails were reviewed by all Managers at MR, I still felt responsible for any mistakes – and in the beginning I made a lot of them. Name misspellings, location errors, mis-linked photographs, etc. I was coming from a college dance program where occasional errors like this were inconsequential. At MR, not a single one went without notice. If I capitalized an intentionally all-lower-case name, I received multiple emails alerting me to this error. I was frustrated at how insulted the informants sounded, until I realized that caring for these details was the job. Anyone can paste text into an email, but effective marketing means maintaining a careful and protective eye on every detail of communication across all platforms, all the time. It means consistent yet creative clarity and care. In an effort to do well at my job, this level of attention to detail has become a small obsession. I take pride in how I review materials, but I also continue to trust this trial and error process as an ongoing informal training throughout my career.

What is your job title? How many hats do you wear? How many hours a week do you work on marketing?

My job title is Media & Communications Manager. I oversee two Associates, and we collectively oversee nine interns. We all work part-time, so maintaining clear and open conversations around our capacity is important. I usually work 23 hours/week, and most of that time is dedicated to planning, delegating and executing our marketing calendar. I additionally help administrate our two publications (Movement Research Performance Journal and Critical Correspondence), and coordinate all media and communications involved with events such as our seasonal Festivals and annual Gala. Teamwork is integral to the functioning of organizations like Movement Research, and I’m grateful to have a great group of co-workers and interns. My internship was an important portal for me as a dancer and worker, so I take the responsibility of mentoring and overseeing interns seriously. I’ve taken to frequently integrating check-ins about an intern’s experience into their weekly work sessions. It’s my goal that they aren’t just acquiring skills, but using our conversations as a platform for discussing and processing how arts nonprofits function.

How do you define "marketing?"

Marketing involves clearly and comprehensively educating audiences or consumers on how an experience or product could fit into and hopefully enhance their pursuits and goals. It creatively utilizes a variety of physical and digital channels to reach out to and communicate with consumers.

Marketing as a creative endeavor...

In my experience creativity thrives on (loose) structures. I commit to a certain amount of marketing support for each artist or event on our Calendar, and then I let my knowledge and intuition get to work shaping how it will unfold within those guidelines. I like to feel hyper-organized around a marketing plan, but I’ve learned to accept and quickly act when things aren’t so orderly. If requests or updates come in within days (or hours) of an event, I’ve learned to not dwell on how well I could’ve done if I had had enough time. Perhaps that’s just learning how to be a worker, but it’s worth mentioning since this flexibility has helped me feel like I’m a supporting member of a team.

It’s also helped me in my role to be clear about where I’m adhering to a self-imposed structure, and where I’m being creative. For example, I rarely paraphrase an artist’s class description in promotional materials, but I’ll regularly pull full-sentence direct quotes from it. The creativity is choosing which quotes to pull for specific posts or materials. It can seem limiting, but it’s one of the ways that I’ve used to clarify how my work is a vehicle for an artist’s work, rather than my interpretation of it. 

On the topic of "social media:"

When I started in my role as Manager, I was so intimidated by social media that I built out a separate role for someone else to do it. I had an inferiority complex that other organizations’ social media presence was smarter, faster, and cooler than what I was planning to do, and I couldn’t visualize how to effectively and authentically serve artists through this platform. After about a year I took back this responsibility and tackled it the only way I knew how: be simple and also okay with being a bit uncool. I wasn’t going to let perfect be the enemy of good. And guess what? It all worked. I created timing and content structures for daily posts about classes and opportunities. They don’t creatively integrate the latest visual options on the platform, but they’re frequent, clear, and reliable. Our engagement numbers responded well to the formats, and it became clear that this specific use of social media, albeit a bit boring, was exactly what our artists needed to connect with our programming. Social media is a tool, and it helped me to evolve an understanding of why exactly we were using it.

With marketing, I want to learn more about...

I’m interested in learning how other marketing leaders successfully delegate to workers or interns who don’t (yet) have the institutional knowledge or background to support a detail-oriented marketing eye in the organization. I connected last Winter with marketing workers in large companies, and they cited this as a challenge in their environments, too. I’m curious if anyone has strategies for delegating in a way that workers feel invested, useful and successful at their contribution to a larger marketing picture, and also understand the consequentiality of getting those details right.

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