10th birthday list: Favourite Ben Whishaw stage performances... and encounters
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Lockdown lessons for theatres in audience relations

I've been waiting for Cultural Capital to publish her thoughts about how the National Theatre saved lockdown and what it means for future audience relations.

We've discussed it a couple of times in recent weeks, having both noticed a change in the relationship between theatres and their audiences.


Without a communal space to congregate in, theatres have had to reach out like never before to find an audience - and without live performance, they've had to be inventive in their offer.

As the piece says, the National Theatre's NT Live has been a boon but even more so has been the 'behind the scenes' Zoom chats with the cast and creatives. You'll have to read the piece to get Cultural Capital's full thoughts about how this might fuel changes.

We have also discussed how theatres have been far more responsive on social media, again reaching out to engage with their audience noticeably more than has been done in the past.

Have theatres realised that they need to build a relationship with their audiences in a far more engaged and meaningful way than they have in the past?

Like it or not individual theatres are a brand, they have their associations and particular values and like any brand, building loyalty from customers yields results.

But theatres haven't been very good at it. For example, their membership schemes offer few genuine benefits. Brand loyalty means making your 'customers' feel like they are part of something, that they are valued, that you understand them and that you are doing something for them.

Talking about cultural organisations like they are a business or product might seem like sacrilege but there are lessons arts organisations can learn which could stand them in good stead in these challenges times. 

Theatre-land is going to have to be clever and creative in the coming months, there is power in the digital theatre doors that have been opened during the lockdown.

Whether that is in a combination of live performance and streaming, filmed rehearsed readings, behind the scenes extras etc. cameras and social media make what they create available to a much larger audience - a larger potentially loyal audience.

There is an appetite, as Cultural Capital points out, and appetite translates to demand which can be converted to income. You can also grow demand by building good customer relations and developing brand loyalty.

Nothing will quite beat watching a performance live but the lockdown has shown that people relish the chance to see it on screen nonetheless.

I'd be interested to know your thoughts on this, tell me in the comments.

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