Now that we gained the support of many people who make up our super core fans (Joffrey alumni) of our film, we didn’t ignore that there were other core audiences to target for a film essentially about American ballet history. One such core were the fans of the Joffrey Ballet who never danced with the company, but attend performances today or have seen them in their younger days. Another core were writers and groups who are interested in the topic of ballet, dance education and dance history. Even within those groups, there are fans of the Joffrey Ballet who never danced with the company. Notice that the target audience circle is progressively growing bigger, we aren’t going after “dance fans” which would include every type of dance and everywhere in the world. Primarily we are staying in the ballet genre and within the US, though the internet is global so anyone may see our promotional efforts.
Google searches turned up posts written by Joffrey fans, following keywords on Twitter also helped to uncover these fans and many times lead to 140 character conversations. They especially wanted to know when the film would play their cities. This is when it is advisable to have a distribution plan in place so those questions can be answered and to have that plan be flexible so one can add screenings (or allow for fan hosted screenings). I would find out from them which cities, tell them where and when we had booked and solicit recommendations on venues. The same thing happened on Facebook. This also lead to an uptick in email signups as those fans wanted more news on the film and an eventual uptick in sales in our estore.
Some Joffrey fans are writers too which has been great for publicity in Dance Magazine (editor in chief Wendy Perron used to take class with Mr. Joffrey) , Huffington Post, EasyReader, The Faster Times and Dance Channel TV and on blogs such as 4Dancers, Elite Dance Network, Dance Advantage (we participated in a giveaway contest with them), Tendus Under a Palm Tree and My Son Can Dance.
I also researched US based dance schools, University dance departments and arts societies in cities where I knew the film would be playing (again using Google) and notify them of the upcoming screening. I would look for any instructors who may have trained with the Joffrey or with a Joffrey alum or another choreographer associated with the Joffrey by reading each website’s About page or Staff bio page. These are usually located in the navigation at the top of a website or at the bottom and when I made contact with them, I pointed out this association so they would see what relevance our film had to their lives. Note that I did not send the same email blast message to everyone. This was tedious, labor intensive work and usually not the kind of thing your distributor or publicist is going to do for you. To be honest, it is better that way because they usually do not have in depth knowledge of the interests of your audience so their communication tends to be very self promotional and could potentially come off as spam.
Since we are still making interview podcasts with alumni, I am contacting dance historians at societies and universities to make sure they know we have this repository of Joffrey history that they may listen to for free. This communication helps to bring those people to our website where they not only may listen to the podcasts, but see that we have the DVD for sale and we still have screenings going on.
In addition to this micro level outreach, we also used a publicity firm for reviews and coverage in mainstream media (widening out awareness to the broader, but more diffuse circle); invested in Facebook advertising with very laser targeted keywords and some newsletter advertising with sites such as Eventful and SeeChicagoDance.com for our screenings; and used a booking agency to help us book venues. This has been a multi pronged approach with a small team of dedicated people who have devoted many hours specifically to this film so that it would succeed. I don’t want to give readers the impression that we only used one form of audience building and that this can/should be done with no budget. It can’t and it shouldn’t.
Now that the film is available on Amazon, iTunes and will have its US broadcast premiere on PBS American Masters in December 2012, all of this outreach and publicity helps to drive more awareness and sales revenue. It has been a lot of effort and at times quite tedious, but as the long tail of sales continue, I know it will continue to pay off.
Tags: 4Dancers, Amazon, Dance Advantage, Dance Channel TV, Dance Magazine, dance schools, documentary, Easy Reader, Elite Dance Network, Google searches, Huffington Post, independent film, iTunes, My Son Can Dance, organizational outreach, PBS American Masters, PMD, Producer of Marketing and Distribution, publicist, The Faster Times, Twitter
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