Simple Tips to Plan, Connect & Engage
The celebration of a new year has become synonymous with starting fresh and setting resolutions for ourselves, both personally and professionally. The key, of course, is sticking to our plan and following through with our new resolutions. We really don't want our new plans to become like the often used example of the "empty gyms" in mid-January! In other words, everyone has great intentions, and we might even get started with those plans, but after a few days or weeks, we often fall right back into our habits.
Well, don't let that happen with your music program's 2016 marketing plan! Advocating for your program through positive publicity is huge in today's educational climate. Not only do you want your students and parents being well informed, you also want to regularly share news with your school community.
I have singled out three super simple tips that you can apply now: PLAN, CONNECT and ENGAGE. Yes, they are words you have probably heard before; perhaps words you hear every day, but they provide a simple and practical guide to all of your digital marketing work.
Whether the marketing for your music program is handled by a team of teachers and parents or just you, below are a few general ideas for each tip to help build instant success:
1) PLAN - Plan your posts in advance! It is imperative to take the time to create a schedule for your content based upon what is going on with your program. Your posts on social media should complement your upcoming events and relevant news, acting as a reliable and instant source for event details and news reminders. By creating a posting calendar, you will be sure that you always have content to share - you want to remain current so that your audience knows your accounts are a dependable source for information - and that your content is relevant - sharing the information that your audience needs to know at that point in time. Scheduling platforms like Buffer and Hootsuite are great tools to help schedule content in advance. Depending on your needs, you may be able to get by with each platform’s free account.
2) CONNECT - Connect with similar people and programs in your field! One of the best aspects of social media is the ability for different people and groups to connect anywhere in the world at any time of the day. One way to grow your network, follow current trends and learn new information is to connect with people of similar interests or groups in the same field. Use your social accounts to build new relationships that will have the opportunity to enhance your programs, as well as the learning of you and your students. Take time every few days or on weekends to search for other music programs, teachers, composers and industry groups in which you will be able to follow. Use the search function on Facebook to find profiles, pages and tags and pay attention to the account suggestions on Twitter to help.
3) ENGAGE - Engage with your audience! It’s called social media because it’s a “social” experience. The most important metric that digital marketers seek is engagement - you want people to be engaging with your content by liking, commenting or sharing. Likewise, you also want to engage with your audience; it is important to show that your account is not just a machine spitting out posts. Social media is a two-way street; acknowledge your audience and interact with them. This is especially important when responding to important comments or direct messages. In your music programs, the easiest (and quickest) way for parents and students, alike, to connect may be through their social media accounts. Today's generation of parents are becoming more and more active on social media. Be a reliable source for them. If you have a social account and are spending the time to create/post content, then you certainly want people to take those accounts seriously. The easiest way to build credibility and reliability is to be engaging in a timely and courteous fashion.
Now, it doesn't end with those three tips - of course not, right? There is always “one more thing." Another important part of a successful marketing plan is your website. And, yes, you NEED to have a website. It is the nucleus of your online existence and the electronic space you want people to ultimately reach by means of your social media posts. On your website you will host anything from your calendar to blog posts to important documents. By having all of this important content on your website, you will easily be able to share it through social media posts. It is really difficult (practically near impossible) to link important information to your social posts without a website to host it. Now, it is 2016, so please make sure that your sites are responsible and mobile friendly. Google (yes, Google, the King of anything and everything online) likes responsive and mobile friendly sites! If you are in need of creating a site - and it certainly doesn't have to be anything elaborate, especially if you don't have a large program - there are three great tools to help you build a sites without being an expert. The three best platforms are WordPress, Weebly and Wix (they make for a great example of alliteration, too). Look for future posts about creating simple, yet effective sites for your music programs from the TWC Blog in the near future!
Best of luck with your 2016 marketing plan! As always, I am available to help YOU with whatever you need to help publicize and advocate for your music program. No matter what the task is - creating press materials for an upcoming concert or managing social media profiles - I am here as a guide and resource. Visit twcmarketing.org/arts-advocacy to see available services or contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org for customized services.
May you continue to find ways to promote the good news about your students and your programs in 2016!
Happy New Year,
Christmas & Holiday Themed Ideas
The holiday season is such a special time of the year. It is a wonderful time for us to spread the joy, peace and cheer of the season with others. In our schools and places of work, it is also a nice time to connect and share those holiday sentiments through cards, special greetings and gifts. Albeit cliche, it is definitely more of a time for giving than receiving! I encourage you and your students to find ways to reach your school families and communities this holiday season.
Below is a list of holiday outreach ideas for teachers in the general classroom and music programs:
1. Christmas cards - keep it simply by creating your own or, if you have the resources, buy professional cards; have the students sign and include a simple holiday greeting on behalf of your class or program; send to parents, administration, school board and community sponsors or businesses that are important to your work
Feel free to download and use the samples below to save some time. The first is a postcard (4x6") that has a generic Season's Greetings design on the front and can be personalized with a message on the back. The second is holiday letterhead (8.5x11") that can be used as a "card" where all of your students can sign their names.
2. Caroling - if you’re involved with a music program, gather a group of carolers (this can be done with small instrumental ensembles, too) and go around the school or campus to different classes; it is also a great opportunity to drop off a Christmas card to those faculty members
3. Holiday social - yes, it’s okay to take a day to celebrate the holiday season, especially after all of the work preparing and organizing a holiday concert is done, but consider helping your student council, National Honor Society or TRI-M Honor Society students host a special holiday lunch or social for the faculty and staff of your school
4. Gift tree - (this has to be one of my favorites) get your parent association involved with the guidance department to build a list of gifts for children in need from your school district or community; there are many ways to execute this - a literal “gift tree” where families buy specific gifts and return them or just have a collection of money in which a small group of parents/students go out and buy the gifts
5. Clothing drive - similar to the gift tree idea, offer to hold a collection of clothing/winter gear to be able to donate to a local shelter or community mission group; get other programs and clubs involved in your school to expand the reach
If you are looking to be extra creative (and some great fun!) and have the time in your schedule to organize events with your students, the following ideas are a nice way to stop the work for a bit and celebrate the holiday together:
6. Decorations - decorate the stage for the holiday/winter concerts with Christmas trees and lights; I used to organize a poinsettia memorial where families would purchase a plant in advance in honor or memory of a loved one, all of the donations would be listed in the program, the stage looked great with the plants and all those who bought a plant were able to take one home after the concert; students also love to decorate around the classroom or rehearsal spaces, too - let your student leadership organize among the students for a great team effort (maybe even have them offer to go around to other areas of the school, with permission, to decorate?)
7. Gift exchange - this can be done with gifts (I suggest placing a cost ‘cap’ like $5 or $10) or just with cards; it is great activity to have the students focusing on ‘giving’ rather than receiving
We are just beginning the height of the "Christmas card" season. Cards are still a great way to share with those closest to you that you are thinking about them at this joyous time of the year. I am a constant promoter of handwritten letters and cards in today's technologically driven world of communication. It is so satisfying and sincere to write old fashioned notes of congratulations, best wishes or, in this case, holiday greetings.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Publicity 101 for Music Directors
*Updated on April 19, 2016 with new information about live-streaming capabilities through social media platforms. Click here to view.
Wow! It's hard to believe it's November already. Ready or not, though, ’tis the season for holiday music concerts. And that's just what music teachers and directors don't want to hear! A countdown to any type of concert is always one of the most stressful parts of being a music educator. That stress not only comes from the musical aspects related to preparing an ensemble for a concert but also all of the logistical work. Office work like making and printing a program, creating and sending out posters, updating the website and posting to social media, not to mention the work of setting up the stage, organizing parent volunteers and other school-related tasks necessary in preparing your performance space.
Because of the nature of that exhaustive list above, the time, energy and materials for publicizing your concert - that you and your students, in the end, have worked tirelessly to perfect - get the least amount of attention. Being a former music educator at the high school level, I can relate to the wealth of ‘extra’ work necessary to make an entire concert production come together. I can also think of the appreciation I would have to solely focus my efforts of the music-making process with my students - the heart of a music educator's passion.
With that in mind, I have organized the following list to assist with the preparation of upcoming holiday or winter concerts in an effort to creativity increase concert publicity without adding additional tasks, time or stress to the to-do list.
Concert Publicity 101:
1. Concert Program
2. Concert Poster
3. Press Release
4. Social Media
Please note that for some of the tasks above I have mentioned including students from other disciplines which will allow your program to build connections with other areas of the school. Never a bad idea!
Concert Publicity Extra:
Now, don't worry - if you think that you still need help or just don't have the time and resources to handle everything on the list above, TWC Marketing can assist! I would encourage you to look into our Arts Advocacy packages for music educators! The Concert Package includes program design and all of the press materials for print and digital, including social media, for your next concert. Feel free to look through some past examples by clicking the box below.
Additionally, we offer a Publicity Package that includes press releases and social media management for not only concerts, but events all throughout the school year. The package also offers website design/management and email newsletter campaigns. Visit www.twcmarketing.org/arts-advocacy for all of our Arts Advocacy services.
Most importantly, best wishes to you and your groups during this holiday concert season. Never hesitate to let TWC know how we can help YOU! Meanwhile, break a baton!
Fall Marketing Ideas for Music Educators of All Levels
Since a majority of TWC's work is centered among the arts with music programs and freelancers involved in the music industry, I created some ideas to help you get started with your fall marketing plan to cover high school, college, and the professional world of music. Check them out below! AND...feel free to fire back some of what you create on your own - I am always interested to see what ideas YOU develop (who knows, I might end up borrowing some of your stuff!).
1. Football & Marching Season - perfect for high school and college marching band programs: Create countdowns for big games (especially rivalry games) on social media that include photos of your group or "did you know" trivia about your school, team, or football, in general. Celebrate football wins by tagging your football team's social accounts and uploading the fight song or alma mater (if copyright permissions do not apply). Now, in addition to advocating for your own program, you are promoting school spirit, too!
2. Pumpkin Carving Contest - get ready to share your 'artsy-crafty' side with students in a middle school or high school program: This idea is all about having some fun! Announce your contest on social media and then use a specific platform, like Instagram, to vote for winners (even develop your own hashtag for the contest). Students in a music program can easily organize themselves by sections - clarinets, (band), tenors (choir), violins (orchestra), etc. - carve a pumpkin, perhaps designed after their instrument or favorite music notation symbol; post to Instagram; and vote for the winning section. Directors are on their own for developing a prize!
3. Fall Polls & Trivia Contests - generic for any level, music related or not, that offers an opportunity to engage with an audience beyond your normal reach: Develop poll questions that ask people to comment or vote about their favorite part of the fall season. These questions could be about anything fall related or, more specifically, things tied to a music program event that usually occur in the fall (Homecoming, for example, would relate well to high school and college groups). Investigate popular or trending fall hashtags to use in order to help your post reach a larger audience, especially on Twitter or Instagram. Really make your posts stand out by designing and attaching a visual image that states your question or fun fact.
Whether or not you are involved in the music industry or not, below is a link to an article by digital marketing professional Tony Corsini who shares nine ways to connect your overall marketing to upcoming seasons.
The seasons and holidays offer a great opportunity to expand the reach of your marketing by integrating them into your strategy. Even music education programs can benefit from this type of connective marketing. The ultimate goal is to have your own membership actively engaged (learning, using, and sharing) with your content because it first benefits them and their participation in your program. Secondly, it continues to build your sphere of influence to other groups likes yours or those in the greater community where you live.
Enjoy the fall season!