Tag Archives: audience development

Audience Building Part 2 – Start from Scratch

This post was originally published in Ms in the Biz on September 26, 2014.

Cindy Marie JenkinsThis is the second in a series of Audience Building articles, where I go into depth on the sticking points, the places where I see people take short cuts but are actually quite vital.

These are all methods on how to find and build new audiences, not just promoting without annoying your family and friends. Everyone has to actively attract and sustain new people in order to grow their audience, whether for your personal career, web series, feature film, blog, play, book, business, jewelry store…..you get the idea.

Typical Question from Client: “When should I start promoting?”

My Answer: “When did you get the idea?”

Although a tad hyperbolic, I do mean it, just not in the typical sense. Throw most of what you’ve heard about “promoting” or “marketing” out the window. Start from scratch, because we all know when we’re being sold something, and most of us have miles to go before we’re Amanda Palmer.

What I mean is that the more time you have before an actual product “launches,” or whatever your industry equivalent is, the better. Start your research into your audience. Start your conversations within fan groups similar to your work (note that I said conversations, not promotions). Get inside your audience’s heads, become a key player inside their world and find others to become your ambassadors.

First, have you plotted your Audience Targets as described in my first blog here? Go and do that. I’ll wait.

You’re back? Great, now we’re ready to begin.

STEP 0.5 : Understand how to organize yourself to avoid overwhelm. Are you a spreadsheet kind of person? Do you prefer a messy worksheet document that is organized later? Or would you rather pin all your research to a private Pinterest board before figuring out how to organize it? Because I now work babe-in-arms or babe-on-floor, large Post-it notes are sometimes my best way. [photo 1]

Whatever works for you. Just pick one way and stick to it, or change midstream to a method of organization that makes sense to you. Keep your research moving.

STEP 1 : Choose one of the Audience groups from your target exercise and start your research. Let’s use “people interested in re-tellings of fairy tales” as an example. Whatever target group you’re researching, the core questions remain the same:

  • What do they read (blogs, books, etc)?
  • Who do they follow/Who are their Influencers?
  • Where do they hang (on and offline)?
  • What do they watch?
  • What twitter chats do they frequent?
  • What social platforms do they use and how?
  • When can you pursue, and when might you consider finding an ambassador? (For instance, most parent groups won’t allow you into them if you aren’t a parent.)

STEP 2 : Fall into the rabbit hole of research. Sometimes all you need is one good lead to set you off on an adventure. While researching fairy tales via genre-related twitter chats, I found@inkgypsy and her website Once Upon a Blog.

(I’ll just give you a few hours to read all her research, thoughtful reviews and commentary. I ended up on her site for thirty minutes after visiting there just to get the link.)

So, how does @inkgypsy help you find the answers to our seven audience questions? Start with her own research. Use those questions as mere guideposts for what you can learn about your audience. She is a great example because she is equal parts a fan, expert and potential ambassador. Some examples:

STEP 3 : Track and Connect with all relevant Leads. Here are a few fun ways to track Audience Leads (choose based on your comfort level as described in STEP 0.5):

  • Follow and/or add Leads to a Twitter List (private one if your own feed doesn’t yet reflect the topic of fairy tales, public if it’s obvious why you follow them.)
  • Create a tracking spreadsheet and add as many places where these Leads live online as you can find, including but not limited to: website, email, twitter, facebook (page or profile, but always add to an Interest List so you can easily find them later), Pinterest, You Tube or vimeo, etc. If you notice there is a social platform that many of your Leads frequent but you are not on that platform, consider building a profile there. For now, just note it.
  • Pin all their websites and blogs to a Pinterest Board (As with twitter, private one if your own feed doesn’t yet reflect the topic of fairy tales, public if it’s obvious why you follow them.)
  • Just toss their website links into a document to parse out later (using the above).

STEP 4 : Set reasonable goals for yourself. I always like to offer the Rule of Five. If you can devote five days out of seven to research at least five potential members of an audience group, then not only will you find more inspiration for your project but you will begin to understand how your potential audience makes decisions.

STEP 5: DON’T SELL YOURSELF. Don’t pitch, don’t promote, or anything close to that. (If someone asks directly, that is a different story.) You are starting the process of building relationships so your potential audience trusts you enough to believe that your work is worth their time. Finding Your Audience is only the beginning. In future articles, I’ll show how to develop and nurture these potential audience groups to the point at which you can start inviting them into your work.

Have questions? Leave them in the comments or tweet me @cindymarie and I’ll answer.

Audience Building 101: Know Thyself / Know Thy Audience

This is the first in a series of Audience Building articles that were originally posted on Ms in the Biz.

I don’t just want to give you a punch list of how to build a devoted fan base; you can easily google some perfectly fine pointers. I will go into depth on the sticking points, the places where I see people take short cuts but are actually quite vital.

These are all methods on how to find and build new audiences, not just promoting without annoying your family and friends. Everyone has to actively attract and sustain new people in order to grow their audience, whether for your personal career, web series, feature film, blog, play, book, business, jewelry store…..you get the idea.

UPDATED 12/12/2014: I changed a reference from Bill Cosby to Tina Fey, so as not to distract from the topic.

Audience Building 101

Know thyself. (In 160 characters or less.)

One thing I love about Twitter (and there many) is that the profile picture and bio are great examples of how quickly you must explain yourself to someone new. This is a freedom, not a restriction. You shape exactly how people think of you visually and tell them what you do and your personal mission. Go through these Brainstorms for Twitter and it can help you everywhere else, including in-person introductions.

cmj just eyes croppedWhen I change my twitter photo, it is very deliberate. Once, someone with whom I’d had lengthy conversations on twitter but never met in person didn’t recognize me because I wasn’t wearing a green cap (like in my previous profile photo). Last summer, I’d tried in vain to explain where I was in a crowded bar to a playwright, and he found me based on my glasses, front and center in my new one. How do you know the right photo to use?

Brainstorm: What do I want people to know about me? I find 3-5 specific words do the trick. (Using myself as an example:)

1. Curious

2. Nerdy (my freelance business name is Outreach Nerd & I also write about parenting on @ParentingNerd)

3. Focused

4. (optional) Honest

5. (optional)

Brainstorm: How do I want people to feel when they see my photo? Keep these as simple as possible, and be sure they reflect emotions.

1. Intrigued

2. Safe (they can trust me)

How can you possibly describe yourself in 160 characters or less?

1. Find one or two words that brand you in a unique way (based on the above brainstorms)

2. What you DO (Could be job title and/or personal mission)

3. Your associations, projects, related twitter handles and/or hashtags

4. Your current project (also in the website)

For instance, here’s mine at this moment:

Storyteller & @OutreachNerd – I bridge gaps between Audiences and Art. Communications Dir @24thST. New @ParentingNerd.*

Show to a few people and ask them if it sounds like you. Picture wearing your bio plastered on a sandwich board at a conference or an opening gala – are you that comfortable with it? It will be a lot of people’s first impression of you, and you want it right, and you want it current.

I can’t tell you how many times I go to someone’s twitter profile to find information about their new show, and the website listed directs me to an outdated page that has no bearing on the information I want to know right now. You lost my interest. If your current project has a twitter handle and/or hashtag, put it in the bio. Keep it current; keep yourself relevant. Direct people exactly where you want them to look. You have the power. Use it.

Know Thy Audience.

The very first step to this endeavor is narrowing it down. “Everybody who likes comedy/likes to laugh” is not specific enough. Is your comedy akin to Steve Martin, Chelsea Peretti, Louis CK, John Oliver, Sarah Silverman? Is it tweetable, or more long form? (Time-sucker Tangent: see Patton Oswalt if you want a stellar example of using limitations to create comedy that also shows insight into society)

With all of my clients, I place an image of a target and markers in front of them. Be sure to use markers. They make everything more fun.

photo1 8-17-14

Begin in the center of the target: who are the guarantees, the people you know are devoted to you and will share anything just because you ask? People who usually go in the center include the following:

  • Family
  • Close Friends
  • Donors (if you fund-raised)
  • That person who Likes everything you post on Facebook and sometimes it’s a little creepy, but you really think they mean well and aren’t stalkers.

Then begin moving to the outer circles. In the circle just outside the center target, your potential audiences here   may include:

  • Collaborators (They are often considered a given for your main audience, but are not always reliable. Collaborators usually work on multiple projects and their performance or comfort level with promoting in general may contribute to how much they hustle the project. You also have to give them the tools necessary to make it easy, which I’ll cover in a later post)
  • Colleagues/Associates (People who understand that you need help and may ask for it in return.)

Note that you want to consider how close the potential audience is to both your product (people who love the genre of your film, for example) and how close your current real connection is to them. If you want to target Firefly lovers but haven’t been active in any forums, blogs, etc, then move them further away from the center than if you’re a familiar face around the fanbase. It will take time to gain their trust.

Here is how I coach people through completing their target audience list:

  • Don’t think too much about it. This is a brainstorm. Write every thought that comes into your head and don’t edit. You’ll appreciate it later.
  • You can always move people, so don’t obsess over where they go in the target either.
  • Get as general and as specific as comes to you in the moment. “People who like Tina Fey” are different than “People who like 30 Rock”, though they overlap. But if all you can think is “Tina Fey,” write that and go into detail later.
  • Peel apart every part of your product that might attract people: genre, themes, sub themes, locations, hobbies of characters, actors, etc
  • Use a soft focus on the project to see it from a different angle. Ask people not familiar to read/watch and give you a new perspective into their personal hook.

If you take the time to fill in each outer circle with as many details as you can, it will avoid overwhelm later. Imagine you are sitting at home, and you feel like you should do something but you don’t know what. Don’t just post a soulless status update that sounds too sales-y even for your tastes. Sit down and focus on just one of these potential audience groups. Where do they live online? Who influences them? Where do they find their entertainment? It is so much easier to find a specific potential target than just think “I need more people! Say something witty right now”

How do you find them? That is in my next post, Audience Building 102: Starting From Scratch.

Comment with your questions or tweet them to @CindyMarieJ. I’ll answer or address it in a later post.

*Since this post was originally published on September 30, my twitter profile bio changed, according to how my focus shifted.

My Renewed Promise to New Audiences – and Myself

Not surprisingly, the last few months caused a big change in my priorities, specifically regarding work*. I could not be happier with with being part of 24th Street Theatre Communications & Audience Development, plus coming full circle back to being a Teaching Artist , now of Online Content at Center Theatre Group’s Student Ambassador Program. I also love teaching workshops in outreach/audience development techniques.

Photo by Henry Ong

I decided in 2010 to create a job intended to bridge the gaps between art I love and potential audiences the artists aren’t reaching. It was a unique path at the time to use this “new” thing called social media, now it is just one of my many tools. To gain credibility and make a living, I took some work that didn’t directly aligned with my goals. That’s over now.

Now, if any opportunity does not involve finding and nurturing lasting new audiences for the art in which I believe, then it is not an opportunity for me. Since 24th Street already fulfills that goal directly for a high quality family theater, my own creative pursuits aim to find new paths to success. I will challenge all assumptions about audiences and find collaborators willing to take great risk for potentially great return. And we will learn. And we will share our findings on this site.

You’ll hear shortly about The Lemon Lounge, an audience development project centered around the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival (produced with Bitter Lemons, not with the Fringe Festival itself.). All our decisions are based on one question: Does this

June 2014

help new audiences in actually getting to see a show, taking a risk on a new artist or art form? If the answer is yes, then we develop the idea. If no, we drop it. The producing team is extraordinary and kept the ball rolling while I focused on having my first child. They are Peppur Chambers, Sara Fenton and Lemuel Thornton III. Colin, Enci and Phil from Bitter Lemons have given their blessing and will certainly become key advisers  and partners as we experiment with and nurture this idea: a live arts show combined with pre-recorded segments to curate experiences for new audiences by speaking directly with them.

More on that next week. And a much larger project is also in the works, but I won’t have details for a few more months there.

In the meantime, I look forward to this clearer focus.


*I became a Mom on March 22nd! If you’re interested in a little TMI about my journey as a new mother and workaholic, follow @parentingnerd on twitter or tumblr.


Fringe Thoughts 1: Referral Ripples

GnR Opening CMJ (4)

Keena Ferguson, Peppur Chambers, Keaton Talmadge & Jeanette at opening reception for Gracie & Rose.

For four years, the Hollywood Fringe Festival has served as a  microcosm of the local arts to come, and sets my brain a-whirling. Since the community is the inspiration for these random and often lasting Fringe Thoughts, I want to share and continue the conversation.

Fringe Thoughts 1: Referral Ripples

The  feeling of community has always been one my favorite parts of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. It feels markedly increased this year. Rather than a few companies doing the cross-promo/community thing well, while others learn from them, this year it pervades the entire Festival.

That is a wonderful evolution in its fourth year. Just some improvements I’ve noticed:

  • People were on top of participant discounts well before June. This encourages your built-in audience to attend, which increases word-of-mouth and could ensure a steady stream throughout your run.
  • Most of the shows refer their audience to other Fringe shows in their programs.
  • Others take extra steps to also suggest verbally the other Fringe shows their audience should see and call out the Fringers in the audience. Last night Rati Gupta did this with her signature great flair.
  • The hashtag #HFF13 was off the hook since late April/May.
  • Projecting the twitter & instagram hashtag onto walls in Fringe Central Station encourages more interactivity.
  • A group of shows banded the “First Fringe Club” together for publicity.
  • Three storytellers also combined resources: Bill Ratner, Michael Kass and John Grady.

The veteran Fringers know these ropes, but I’ve hardly seen it in such force so early. You can tell who attended the Town Halls and/or has experience. These Referral Ripples help audience members know where to start when looking at the website or brochure. It’s intimidating to try to choose between all the available shows.

Every time an audience member hears directly about one more show, their interest may become more piqued and they could talk about it with their friends. Every time that fellow artists help each other, you’re actually helping your audience, plus encouraging them to see more live theatre. The more they see, the more they’ll talk and these are the Referral Ripples we need to increase live theatre as a vital and valued part of our community’s lives.

Last night we had lots of Fringers at Gracie and Rose‘s opening, and I knew about half of them before the Fringe and the other half (pictured above) only once it started, eleven days ago.

So Huzzah to you all and Carry On. If we can capture these concentrated efforts for theatre all year round, audience development stands a chance.

Read or Watch my full coverage of the Hollywood Fringe on Bitter Lemons.

Here are the Gracie and Rose Fringeships:GracieAndRoseFlyerFR

Ceremony by Michael Kass

Take me to the Poorhouse by Liz Femi

The Ruby Besler Cabaret by Anastasia Barnes

Love Actually Isn’t by Dan Johnson

The Real Housekeepers of Studio City by Heidi Powers, Tom Moore & Joe Greene

Daddy by Olivia Peterson

And also playing at our venue, the Art of Acting Studio: IAMA Fest 2013

Pitching Workshop

Yesterday’s workshop at Theatre Asylum was a new one for me. We had two fantastic Press guests- Brett Chapin & Noah J. Nelson – who gaveDSCN9004 their perspective on being pitched to cover your show.

In the last hour, attendees placed themselves into different scenarios and I played a person they were pitching. We had a lot of fun and I actually got to say all the things I want to tell people when hearing a pitch:

  • get over your fear
  • look for the signs of interest
  • how to close (soft or hard sell)
  • how to describe your show, and more.

Many participants were nervous at pitching in front of people (who wouldn’t be?), and I took a moment to explain how frightened I am the night before I teach a workshop. That surprised a lot of people, and I heard from the audience: “You’d never know it.” That, I said, is from years of self-producing and pitching my own work. You just have to get over the idea of pitching your own art. Fake it if you don’t feel it.

I left the workshop energized. Participants jumped at the end to connect with each other, to see how they can cross-promote, or just to talk about their shows. I feel everyone got a chance to talk through their pitch and we helped them find the interesting bits. So much so, in fact, that I changed the MAY 24th workshop to be another round of Pitching. Everyone needs it, and how often do you get to practice?

DSCN9019Can’t wait for next week!

Here’s the rest of the schedule (all workshops 10am-1pm).

Don’t see a workshop that answers your question? Comment below & we can arrange individual instruction.

MAR 30 – Find New Audience on Twitter (basics included)

APR 6 – Standards & Best Practices for Social Marketing (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc)

APR 20 – Using Video to Promote Live Performance (includes You Tube/Vimeo)

MAY 11 – Marketing Strategy in the Thick of It

MAY 24 – Pitching Your Show to New Audiences

JUNE 8 – Standing out at a Festival without Being a Dick

Comment below or email smb@combinedartform.com for more information.

5 Inspirational Stories for Self-Producers

Here are the Top 5 Inspirational Stories for Self-Producers,

New audience must feel invited as individuals, not a mob.

New audience must feel invited as individuals, not a mob.

inspired by conversation at last week’s workshop:

1. Audience Development Blog: Loving Your Donors – Although specifically about Donors, truly good advice for all who show interest in or attend your event. Also see Kickstarter Tips – again, specifically for fund-raising but great ideas on making your audience feel loved.

2. Seth Godin’s Blog – He somehow always reads your mind and delivers the right message. One of the only blogs I get sent directly to my inbox every morning.

3. Facebook Post Tracking Spreadsheet – An easy way to track times of day & types of posts that work the best. Originally created by The Marketing Spot. This one’s more practical than inspirational, unless you’re like me and are inspired by analytics!

4. Talkbacks & Tamales “By Being Welcomed, Instantly I Belonged” – An audience member reacts to her first time at the theater where I work, geared specifically towards making people feel invited & welcome.

5. Who Won’t Be at Comic-Con and Why That’s a Problem – an article by Corey Blake on how Comic-Con has nearly shut out any possibility of new attendees.

This Saturday, Build Your Marketing Strategy in 3 Hours

The sooner you register, the more detailed research I can do for your project!

FEB 23
Build Your Marketing Strategy


Pay for Workshop

What is your show’s story? We’ll peel away all the layers of people who would be interested in the story you want to tell.
Who is your audience? How can those layers be organized in a way that you and your team can target?
Who are your audience’s influencers? Who has your audience’s ears & how can you begin a relationship?
How can you target them? Just what it says, tailored to the platforms you’re already using or are most efficient.
Basics of a pitch to media & bloggers  With fun examples.
Includes basic media list The sooner you register, the more research for your specific needs I can do. It’s all about relationships; lists mean nothing without engagement.

See you there!


Saturday, Feb 23rd (10am-1pm) at Theatre Asylum

$40 / individual workshop

Bring another from your company or show for $60 total

 Pay for Workshop

All 5 for $175. – Pay for all 5 Workshops

Can’t make this one? Watch & interact via live-stream* (email after registering) or pay for the archived video w/ visuals.

*Live-stream requires at least 24 hours notice.

Comment below or email smb@combinedartform.com for more info.


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