Ask a Communications Pro with Sue Edworthy
Sue Edworthy runs Sue Edworthy Arts Planning, a marketing, communications and planning company that specializes in arts and culture, whether that’s a government organization looking for Twitter expertise, a mid-sized art gallery looking for marketing assistance, or small and medium theatre companies looking for any of the above, including PR and producing. Sue has worked in the non-profit performing arts for over a decade and is a self-described city enthusiast. Her passion for the performing arts has led her to stints as a director, event coordinator and arts administrator and is now respected and sought after in Toronto as a marketing and communications specialist.
Sue was kind enough to take a few moments out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for HeyReceiver.com.
What drew you to work in communications?
Technically, I’d always worked in communications – I had my own theatre company for a few years with a friend and I started to realize that the thing I cared about was how to get people into the theatre – not just the one-ticket experience, but how to change their perspective on art in general. What did I need to do, say or show in order for that to happen? And I was good at it.
Do you have any formal education in your field? How important do you think your educational background was for your current position?
As in, do I have a marketing and communications degree? Nope. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Direction. I think that background was incredibly important to my current position – one, it confirmed my genuine love for theatre and other art forms, two it was the foundation for relationships that are now twenty years old and still creating work for me. It gave me a place and a level of expertise in my community. It’s also a lot easier to market something you genuinely care about – that you think is important in a bigger picture way to the world. I’ve tried places where I market buildings, or find the PR spin for a new sweater or something – it doesn’t work for me. I firmly believe that arts and culture is a focal piece to living in a great city and more-than-just-stuff society. I believe that what I do makes a difference in the long run.
What do you think is one of the most recent changes in your particular area of expertise?
Hands down, internet and social media. I remember mailing press releases, couriering hard copy photos to the newspaper, physically cutting and pasting together a program with a photocopier and white-out. While social media has made it even quicker and easier to get the word out, I think the instantaneous “and it’s free!” feeling of social media has caused many folks to forget it takes some skill to market a show, it’s not just throwing up a Facebook event and thinking your job is done.
What are the most important skills necessary to do your job (and why)?
Communication skills, obviously. The ability to sift through talk and writing and get to the meat of a conversation or print piece. Figuring out what is important, and what is not. Maneuvering within extremely tight deadlines. Theatre has some of the most in-cement deadlines or anything – if the curtain goes up at 8 Tuesday, that’s when it’s going up. “The show must go on” isn’t just a saying. The ability to work with all types of artists, administrators, members of the press, donors, sponsors, audience members. A sense of humour and ability to just roll with it. Because it’s gonna roll – whether you’re with it or not.
What is the best part of your job?
Working with artists, working on different shows, figuring out the how and why of filling houses and engaging with audiences. The satisfaction when it goes well. That no two projects are the same, it’s always a challenge.
What’s the worst part of your job?
The more often than not 12-16 hour days, definitely. It’s like that, when you’re “in-show” you’re on deck and you work til whatever needs to be done, gets done. When a show doesn’t click in terms of buzz. That marketing is an art, not a science and sometimes – it doesn’t work.
If you weren’t in your current position, what would you be doing?
I opened my own company a few years ago and haven’t looked back, therefore I’m not kidding when I say I have no idea.
What advice do you have for people who want to do what you are doing?
Do it. Meet people, talk to people, see shows, be around, and get to know the community you want to work in. Be part of that community in ways other than what you do for a living. Volunteer. As an example I am the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Toronto Fringe Festival (The Next Stage Festival is coming up January 2 -14!), am on the Arts Advocacy Committee for the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, and am co-chair of Artsvote. I don’t “do” marketing for any of those things but I am a presence and important part of them. It expands your community just that much more. Pretty much any position is about people – I think marketing and communications even more so. Be a person. Never stop learning. Always be willing to talk to someone whether it’s you or someone else benefitting. Be a part of things.
Thanks so much, Sue!