Despite COVID-19 temporarily putting the kibosh on live, in-person performances, there are, no doubt, arts marketers like you still working behind the scenes. And you're probably challenged by a tighter budget due to loss of revenue and less staff as a result of furloughs and layoffs.
Chances are your marketing department is down to one to two people--or maybe it's just you holding the fort. But even with little to no programming, you still need to promote your organization’s brand and get messaging out to your patrons and the community.
The good news is that there are loads of free tools out there that can help maximize your creative output and workflow.
I’ve selected seven freebies that I use (and love!) and urge you to check them out. They're super easy to learn and can make the lives of arts marketers like you who are working on a shoestring a whole lot easier.
I know, I know. You and everyone else in the world have likely heard of and used Canva at this point, but it’s such a useful and user-friendly tool, I had to include it in this list.
In the event you don't know about Canva, you need zero design skills to learn this fun tool, and the free version will provide you countless formats and templates for pretty much any kind of content you want to put out there.
Just establish your free Canva account--and start creating! Whether you’re posting on social media, sending out an email blast, assembling a photo collage, adding some pizzazz to video footage, putting together a newsletter, or reflecting data in an infographic—Canva’s got you covered. And Canva saves your templates, so if you’re creating a design for a series, you won’t have to start from scratch each time you need to make an adjustment.
I’ve used Canva for a variety of purposes, but it continues to be be my main go-to for all of my YouTube thumbnails.
YOUTUBE AUDIO LIBRARY
Speaking of YouTube, you can access royalty-free music and sound effects from YouTube’s Audio Library. Sure, there are audio libraries out there with affordable monthly subscriptions that have larger inventories and more sophisticated tracks, but chances are, for your purposes, YouTube’s audio library will do the trick. I’ve used music from the YouTube audio library for all of my short videos, and I’ve found music that fits the bill every time.
As long as you have a Gmail account (and who doesn't these days) you can access YouTube's free Audio Library.
PRO Tip: If you feel like getting a little more creative, download Apple's GarageBand and make an original composition using the Loops feature. Loops are fun to play around with and royalty-free. I composed the bumper for my latest video using Loops. It was fun and empowering to compose my own work, and I couldn’t be happier with the results!
If you need to include stock footage in your videos, Pexels should be your first stop.
Pexels is a free stock photo and video site that allows you to download photos and videos on the site for free. No attribution is required, and you can edit whatever you download in whatever way you like.
Pexels is a community of creators who regularly contribute their work to the site, so the inventory is ever-expanding. It’s also an easy site to navigate, so no need to worry about spending too much time trying to find just the right video footage or photos for your latest marketing initiative or message.
It should go without saying that whatever writing you put out there—especially when it’s part of your organization’s brand—should be engaging and error-free. But if you’re the only set of eyes available at the moment to check your work, then Grammarly is going to be your new best friend.
As you write, the Grammarly browser extension will usually automatically integrate and identify spelling and grammar errors and weak areas in your writing. Alternatively, you can manually open the Grammarly extension and copy and paste all of your text directly into a new document there to check your work. You'll see a more robust set of recommendations and a readability score.
Note: Grammarly may point out problem areas that will require the premium version to unlock, but you’ll likely be able to figure out what Grammarly's recommended changes are by making a few intuitive adjustments.
Once you use Grammarly, you’ll wonder how you ever sent any writing out into the world without it!
Hubspot is a marketing and CRM platform, but you don’t need to subscribe to Hubspot's services to gain access to the company's library of handy free resources. Once you give Hubspot your email address, you'll instantly gain access to a plethora of downloadable blog templates, social media and editorial calendars, and many more free and useful goodies that will speed up your creative processes and workflow.
PRO Tip: Looking to pick up a quick skill or go a little deeper on a marketing or analytics topic? Check out Hubspot Academy, Hubspot’s free online training...er...hub. It has an extensive collection of free on-demand training videos highly rated by marketing professionals across the globe. Another great site for free workshops and webinars is General Assembly.
Do you need to write a summary for your boss concerning a Zoom meeting she couldn’t attend? Are you conducting an interview on Google Hangouts that you need to incorporate into an article or blog post? If so, then Otter will bring you much joy!
Otter is an app that allows you to transcribe meetings, and it works seamlessly in conjunction with a variety of online video systems. The free version gives you up to 600 minutes a month of free transcription recording and 40 free minutes per session. (If you find that you need more flexibility, the PRO plan is less than $10 (US) a month and gives you 6,000 transcription minutes per month and 4 hours per session.)
With the browser extension, you can integrate Otter.ai with Zoom and Otter will transcribe the meeting in real-time automatically. Alternatively, you can transcribe your Zoom meeting afterward by opening Otter in your Chrome or Firefox browser and playing the video on speaker mode.
And if you don’t use Zoom, not to worry. Otter integrates across a variety of programs.
I know, it doesn't have anywhere near the sophisticated bells and whistles of Adobe Premiere Pro, but hey, it’s free, it’s easy and iMovie can probably get your job done—and quite well.
If you’re an arts marketer with few resources, but you have a smartphone, a laptop, and great content to share--you can edit your work quickly in iMovie with professional-looking results.
The computer version has more robust features, so I recommend that you upload all your video content to your Mac or PC and edit it there. That said, if you’ve never edited before or you need to edit something on the fly, the phone and tablet version of iMovie has got you covered. It has fewer features, but all the features in the world are not as important as the quality of your content. So if you have some phone video you need to clean up, add a title to, and throw some music under, do it in iMovie on your phone, and you'll be able to publish and promote your great content ASAP!
PRO Tip: Not quite finding the right music in iMovie’s free soundtrack library? Go to YouTube’s free Audio Library to find something you like more, download it, and then open it in iTunes. The track will now be in your iTunes library, and you should be able to import it into your iMovie project on your phone. If you’re editing on your computer, drag the downloaded music file from your downloads folder directly into your iMovie project.
Another PRO Tip: Posting this video on your arts organization’s YouTube channel? Don’t forget to use Canva to make an eye-catching thumbnail that will entice your intended audience to click and watch!
There are many more free tools out there that could bolster your marketing strategies, but these tools are a great start to help you plan, create, and post valuable content.
If you have time, check out the link below to a Google Sheet I put together that includes the resources I discussed here, along with a few more freebie tools.
[NOTE: This sheet is "View Only." Once you access the sheet, go to the "File" menu and select "Make a copy" from the drop-down, and you'll have your very own copy on your Google Drive!]
And be sure to check back here from time to time. I’ll be updating this sheet with more free digital resources with you in mind!
Looking for someone who can jump in remotely
and help you maximize your organization's
“TAKING FIVE WITH…” is an interview series where I chat with someone in the performing arts, or an arts supporter, for FIVE minutes to find out how they've been doing, what they're working on, and what's coming up for them down the road.
In this quick and quirky first episode, I chat with a very talented actor and producer about their road to Broadway, what they’re working on now, and we wrap it all up with five spontaneous words of cheer that will leave you smiling!
Hope you can take five out of YOUR day to check out “TAKING FIVE WITH…”!
And please feel free to let me know in the comments what you think and who YOU would like to see as a special guest on the show!
Looking for someone to help script and produce
your next short vide0 project?
While life has been difficult in one way or another for just about everyone lately, I was recently reminded that it can also deliver nice surprises right when you need them.
About six weeks ago, I answered a call for submissions from a theatre company in the United Kingdom called INK. They were seeking two-minute duologue plays designed for radio.
I've certainly written very (very) short plays before, but not specifically geared for the radio. But I thought, what the heck. I'll give it a go.
I had a premise for the play, and the first draft took me roughly 30 minutes to write. I then returned to it the next day, made a few edits and then fired off my brand new two minute duologue, Finding Balance to INK.
To my surprise and delight INK selected the play for broadcast on BBC Radio Suffolk!
I don't believe any of my work has ever been performed by a U.K. theatre company before, so I was especially excited by the news.
The artistic team at INK and Jon Wright of Radio Suffolk who interviewed me after the play live (eek!) could not have been kinder, and the actresses, Jill Freud and Esther Freud (yes, they're related to THAT Freud) who performed the piece were terrific!
If you'd like to hear my very (very) short play followed by the interview, just click on the BBC Radio Suffolk logo at the top of this post. After a few seconds of earwormy dance music, Jon segues into his intro of the play.
Hope you enjoy it! 🤞
# # #
Need a script writer
for your organization's projects?
I'm a HUGE fan of LinkedIn. I've been a member for close to 10 years now, and I'm pretty active on the platform. It's way more than just a place to hunt for jobs and it's definitely my favorite of all the social media platforms out there by far. It's a place to network, learn, meet people from all over the world, and yes, job hunt, but it's also where I get the most promotional bang for my (free!) buck.
In fact, here's an article I just published there.
I otherwise post on LinkedIn in my regular feed pretty often. Let me know you found my website and send me a connection request!
Looking for someone to write articles or blog posts
that are both engaging and specifically designed to
build awareness of your organization?
Do you have pillar content that you're ready to promote?
So many industries are taking a hit as a result of Covid-19, but I would argue that no other industry is experiencing the level of devastation that Broadway, other live entertainment and cultural organizations and arts professionals are experiencing. The arts and entertainment industry and its jobs were the first to go...and they will be the last to come back.
The hit to the theatre industry in New York City, from Broadway on down, also affects the many restaurants and bars, hotels, parking lots and retail shops that rely on the theatre to keep their businesses afloat. New York City will not fully recover until Broadway is back. Tourists come to New York largely for Broadway.
Yet, while we all wait to see how Broadway can come back amidst Covid-19, there is currently no financial support in sight for arts and culture from the federal government. Hoping this changes, as I fear that many lives that are directly connected to Broadway -- mine included -- could become very challenging, very soon, especially if Congress does not vote to extend the $600.00 unemployment supplement.
I am confident Broadway and theatre in other parts of New York City and beyond will eventually come back, but it will take a while -- and, sadly, not all the organizations will be able to hold on long enough to return.
In the meantime, I hold on to my many happy memories as a playwright, musical theatre writer and theatre industry professional to keep my spirits up. To that end, I recently shared one of these memories as part of a challenge that has been circulating on social media. If you've EVER worked in the theatre in any way, be sure to share your own favorite memory on your social platforms!
To all professionals in the film, television, theatre, entertainment, and arts world, join the challenge to post a photo of you in your job. Just a picture, no description. The goal is to flood social media with our profession. #SaveTheArts 🎭💔
🗣️< MASSIVE shout out and special thanks to Metropolitan Playhouse, Producing Artistic Director Alex Roe, Director John Long, Artist Danny Licul, and our amazing cast: Maxwell Bartel, Alia Chapman, and Kim Yancey-Moore!
🗣️< The reading of my brand new short play Grassroots on June 27th was AMAZING!
🗣️< And -- despite our physical separation -- the talkback afterward was deeply felt and thought-provoking!
🗣️< And the Zoom after-parties were a total blast! 🥂🤪
🗣️< I'm so thrilled and grateful that I got to meet so many new lovely and talented individuals through this process!
🗣️< Like everyone else, I miss the live theatre experience, but, at the same time, I find myself connecting with people I would have likely never otherwise met...
...and this continues to be a gift.) ❤️
My interview with Matt Williams is now one of my new favorites.
In our in-depth exchange, the veteran sitcom writer-producer -- and playwright -- opens up about his career path and his widely publicized "epic battle" with Roseanne Barr back in the day and how that ultimately led him to his next best thing.
Williams seems like he will always be a playwright at heart, though, despite his massive success with Roseanne, Home Improvement and other popular shows. And, as he prepares for the Off-Broadway world premiere of his latest play, Actually, We're Fu**ked at the historic Cherry Lane Theatre, he describes the impulses that drove him to write the piece and why this "old white guy" thinks he has the perspective to tell a story about four potentially "fu**ed" Millennials.
Backstage.com recently included Mad Libs Live! in a feature publicizing an upcoming production of the show near Austin, Texas!
What's so extra super-cool about this production, though? The cast may include kids as young as 14! I don't think any MLL productions have cast kids so far, but it's an exciting idea on all kinds of levels and I look forward to more young talent participating in future productions!
In the meantime...put on your cowboy _____! Texas! Yee-haw!
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s production of Fiddler On The Roof will transfer to an Off-Broadway, commercial run this January. Find out in my exclusive interview with CEO of NYTF Chris Massimine why this special production and NYTF's other cultural outreach strategies could be an essential antidote for our current social and political climate.
ROBIN'S NEWS & VIEWS!
Recent news and latest updates on my writing and artistic projects. Also check back here for occasional tips and observations on creative writing and theater!
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