SOCIAL MEDIA AND MEDIA RELATIONS DISCUSSION PAPER
Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP) is a Canadian production company located in Calgary.
Recently, ATP has been facing a financial crisis that might put its future on the verge of closing down.
ATP is a not-for-profit-organization, and its operation comes from the revenue of tickets sales and special events, and the donations, contributions and supports from government, communities, corporates and individuals. This year, due to the economic downturn, ATP’s corporate sponsorships have dropped by 77 per cent .
ATP proactively reached out to the media by sending out a news release on Mar. 1, 2017 to announce the launch of the fundraising campaign, “Propel Us Forward.” ATP aims to raise $200,000 from the fundraising campaign by May 1, 2017 to be able to sustain its business.
Media coverages about ATP’s financial issue mostly happened in the early of March after ATP sent out a news release on Mar. 1, 2017. They focused on informing audiences about ATP’s vulnerable situation and announcing the launch of the urgent fundraising campaign, “Propel Us Forward.” This news immediately received attentions from local newspapers: Calgary Herald, CBC, Calgary Sunday and the Globe and Mail and the public. The tone of the coverages showed ATP’s concerns about its business future and expressed its aim of raising $200,000 by May.
ATP has controlled the message well on both social media and traditional media. Right after the messages were sent to people all over the social media and the traditional media, ATP’s local communities, partners and audiences immediately shared their empathy and supports for ATP. Within two weeks, on Mar. 16, ATP reached $70,000, a-third of its $200,000 goal according to its update on social media (ATP, March. 13, 2017). Moreover, the fact that ATP went public disclosing its financial crisis encouraged other local theatres such as Vertigo and Lunch Box that also have fallen into the same situation to voice their concerns in the article, “ATP isn’t Calgary’s only theatre company struggling in downturn,” published on CBC News on Mar. 2.
Along with traditional media relation practices, ATP has utilized social media as a tool to leverage the fundraising campaign. ATP has three social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with a decent number of followers. All social media accounts constantly update the progress of the campaign, increase promotions for the most current play, “Gracie,” and introduce the 2017/2018 new season.
Before the fundraising campaign, ATP received quite a few media coverages on the play, “Gracie,” which is the most current play at ATP. During that time, its social media pages concentrated on promoting the play with retweets, critical articles, audience reviews, videos, images and interviews with the main actress, Lili Beaudoin. Moreover, ATP had influencers like the Mayor, Naheed Nenshi and one of the most popular bloggers in Calgary, Mike Morrison tweet about the show. This media coverage as well as promotions before the fundraising campaign played a role as a leverage for the success of the first stage of the campaign.
Along with the news release sent out to the media on Mar. 1, ATP sent out a post on all its social media: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to launch the campaign with the hashtag #ATPforward. On both Facebook and Twitter, it both pinned a post on the top of the page that said,“ATP needs your help! Whether you’re a longtime patron, a new fan or just an arts lover, please consider donating: http://atplive.com/support-atp/” (ATP, March 1, 2017). The embedded URL in the post linking people to its donation page was a good tactic because it encouraged people to take an action right away. Additionally, since the launch of the campaign, ATP has been constantly retweeting and sending ‘thank-you” to organizations and individuals who have spread the words and donated to ATP.
Besides, to leverage this fundraising campaign, ATP has continued to increase the promotions for “Gracie.” Its social media pages are covered by many positive feedbacks and reviews from people who watched “Gracie.” ATP appreciated feedbacks and reviews and replied to all comments and tweets. The high engagement of ATP with audiences showed its efforts in connecting with the public, creating a strong community and building great relations with people. Also, on Mar. 16, they also introduced 2017/2018 season with a theme, “defy expectations,” which reflects “the feeling out there in the zeitgeist of resistance, unity and people standing up for what they believe in” (Chatha, March 16, 2017, para 12). The theme is ATP’s call for donations from audiences, communities and organization to its fundraising campaign. Both promotion and introduction have enhanced its credibility, demonstrated its dedications and intensified its role in producing high-quality contemporary Canadian plays and thus, it deserves any amount of money made by donors.
On ATP’s social media accounts, it constantly updates the progress of the campaign weekly. On Mar. 08, it updated on social media that it reached 25 per cent of the goal during the first week (ATP, March 8, 2017). On Mar. 13, ATP sent a thank-you note to people who have made donations on social media pages for helping it reach a third of the goal ($70,000) within two weeks of launching the campaign (ATP, March. 13, 2017).
The fundraising campaign, “Propel Us Forward,” will not be over until May 1, 2017; however, at the first stage, I would say the number $70,000 was a success which was made by the effective utilization of social media tools and tactics along with the traditional media.
From what I analyzed above, ATP has been managing very well social media and proactively reaching out to traditional media relations. During this fundraising campaign, ATP’s social media and traditional media relations practices go hands in hands and support each other. The companionship has shown ATP’s well-planned communication plan with the utilization of many social media tactics such as actively engaging with audiences by commenting and retweeting, using hashtags, conducting interviews with artists, engaging social media influencers, etc. Its communication plan was built on its mission that is to create a community, contribute to the development and creation of new Canadian plays and bring audience and artists together.
With social media as a growing medium, media relations nowadays have been reshaped. Firstly, social media makes it easier for journalists to find out more stories and information. For example, in the case of ATP, it updates weekly the progress of the fundraising campaign on social media, which I believe is a good resource for journalists to collect information and write a story at the end of the campaign in May. However, in the situation that journalists do not trust the information provided on social media, they can contact the organization for more details. Social media is and will be a good channel for journalists to reach information and give journalists more opportunities to continue the stories and look the story in a different angle. Secondly, many organizations will utilize social media to send out news releases along with sending to journalists, because social media is more convenient and interactive and can reach a large number of audiences faster than newspapers. However, information and news on social media are uncensored so that social media still need traditional media as a credible source of information and social driver that will direct audiences back to social media pages, websites and online discussions. The messages will be more powerful and the campaign will be more successful, especially when social media and traditional media go together. This fact has been proved in the case of ATP; thanks to the media coverages and the effective utilization of social media, ATP has achieved $70,000 within two weeks launching the urgent campaign, “Propel Us Forward.”