Guest Open Houses have always been an important part of the San Diego Chorus's approach to marketing for membership. Like many organizations, membership has taken an even higher priority as we look to the future and plan for rehearsals, performances and competition. Our organization typically hosts two Open Houses a year, but much of the promotional content is 'evergreen' and can be used to message our open audition process year-round.
This case study offers a summary of the channels, design and messaging strategy we put in place in support our June 2022 Guest Open House. Once the campaign components are in place, it creates an easily adaptable framework for ongoing member recruitment efforts that can be continuously updated and added to.
Begin with the end in mind. Every messaging touch should have one primary call to action and clearly tell your audience what you want them to do next (RSVP? Complete a form? Send an email?). Establish how you will measure success for every campaign element in advance: Web traffic, completed forms, opens, clicks, questions, physical attendance, etc. This doesn't have to be fancy, but it does have to be thoughtful. Be sure to circle back to this list when you're done and update all reporting and calculate key correlations like cost-per-click, conversion, etc. If you're not a data lover, find a sidekick who is to own this piece.
Download the Mar-Comm Campaign Checklist below for a simple overview. Creating checklists is a great way to help your chorus put infrastructure and process in place in support of consistent brand, marketing and communication efforts. These are particularly helpful in bridging volunteer transitions, and safeguarding past work, design, message strategy and outcomes from being lost over time. Be sure to make your campaign archives accessible, this way each incoming coordinator and volunteer has lots of helpful content and resources versus reinventing the wheel.
Treat your website as your primary message channel, and ensure your upcoming event is featured front & center on your homepage and your Sing / Recruitment page. Think through any forms that may be needed as a call to action for your event (be sure to test them). The San Diego Chorus has an existing Guest Open House RSVP form that serves as our primary call to action for all channels. It's important to keep all promotional messaging focused on a singular call to action vs. multiple. For example - if an online form is your exclusive tracking mechanism, don't create a separate Facebook event. This confuses potential visitors and can also contribute to inaccurate guest counts and tracking.
When it comes to Guests stepping up to visit an unfamiliar organization, one of the biggest barriers to overcome is the fear of the unknown. Even having small details in advance of what to expect and how the evening will flow can give your Guests a comfort level before they even arrive. The San Diego Chorus created a Guest FAQ blog post to serve as a "home base" for this content, cascading it across social media platforms and email campaigns to ensure it stayed visible and easy to find. This is also a great way to clarify health and safety protocols, accessibility of your venue and offer helpful info for Guests who may be movement impaired or have other special needs. In the future we will release a series of FAQ articles that span the entirety of the audition process, vocal development, organizational leadership, etc.
An email campaign was developed that spans Pre- and Post event timeframes. The outcomes of this campaign are to drive RSVPs, increase connection with Guests, capture important details about Guest Experience and encourage future visits. Below is a summary of the Email Campaign and supporting elements, click through for look and messages.
Two post-event surveys were created to capture feedback from Guests. Survey A is for those who RSVP and attended, Survey B is for those who RSVP and no-showed. Download the two documents below for question structure.
In regards to Social Media, the San Diego Chorus leveraged Facebook as the primary platform, with both organic and paid posts to promote the event. Content was cascaded to other platforms, including YouTube, Instagram (automated via META), LinkedIn and TikTok. Select Facebook posts were micro boosted for small amounts ranging from $25 - $100 to increase reach, and a paid ad using the carousel format ran the four weeks leading up to the event.
A reinforcing tactic on Facebook involves cross-posting content in community and neighborhood-centric groups that our Chorus has joined. These typically focus on live music, musical auditions, events, open mic nights, local vocalists, choral and performing arts and karaoke venues. Create and maintain a master list of the Groups you're using and what's working best, include links to the group and past specific posts. When it comes to maximizing online groups, keep these things in mind:
Engage - If you only engage when you're promoting events, your posts may be perceived as spammy. Be sure to comment in the group from time to time unrelated to your organization to build positive rapport. Accompany shared posts with a personal note. If you join neighborhood specific groups, invite members of your chorus that live in those neighborhoods to join on behalf of the Chorus. Personal connection outperforms straight marketing messaging every time.
Learn your Audience - Understand the focus and guidelines of the group. If they are a casual board to promote auditions and performance opportunities in the area, share posts with a similar tone or a personal invitation added to it.
Build Relationships within your Regional Performing Arts Community - Follow and support other choirs, orchestras, theater, dance and performing arts groups! This is important to elevate brand awareness for your chorus, and to establish your organization as part of the larger arts community. Remember these audiences often cross-over, so target broadly, including both professional and amateur groups. A key relationship for the San Diego Chorus is our membership within our local Choral Consortium, which represents 80+ choirs in the region. This is a helpful piece to grow membership and promote performance and booking opportunities.
The San Diego Chorus has also established a MeetUp account as an ongoing recruitment tool. We promote open rehearsals weekly, as well as Guest Open Houses, performances, singing grams, etc. MeetUp requires an initial investment of time to learn the platform, gather followers, follow performing arts communities. Encourage current chorus members to create user accounts on MeetUp and RSVP to events to help increase visibility. MeetUp RSVPs and questions go directly to our New Member team for response, and we average 10-15 guests per year from the platform.
Be sure to put clear PR & Communications support around your Guest Open House for added visibility. Our standard approach incorporates these elements:
Media Release (posted on site, shared via social)
Media Release (emailed to local media outlets, with special emphasis on arts & entertainment beat)
Local Events Calendar Listings, paid and unpaid
Seeing your rehearsal experiences through the eyes of a first-time visitor presents a great opportunity to add branded touches for a polished presentation that also ensure a positive Guest experience. For the San Diego Chorus, this has included elements like:
A stretchy, branded table cover
Branded Check-in Signage
Branded Seat Covers to establish 'reserved guest seating'
Chorus apparel (a unity shirt for events, and/or special T-shirts so guests may identify new member teams quickly)
Pop up banners
Organizational Core Values Cards
Branded Guest Music Binder Covers
Swag like water bottles and tote bags to welcome new members after a successful audition / membership process
Be sure to evaluate your rehearsal location not only in terms of branding opportunities but logistics and Guest experience. If your rehearsal venue is challenging to find, consider outdoor signage to guide guests as you might see at a wedding or conference. Be sure to clearly mark restrooms, etc.
In closing - making an investment in time and resources to fully develop a mar-comm campaign around important events and initiatives establishes a strong starting point and adaptable content and resources for the future. Moving away from reactive and toward proactive gives your mar-comm volunteers the gifts of agility, time and creativity.
What's worked for you? Region 21 would love to feature a Mar-Comm case study from YOUR chorus! If you have key learnings about what is working (or not working) for you, frame it up and let's support one another as we grow our choruses and the a cappella community. Reach out via email to your R21 Marketing Coordinator, Claudia Cannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.