As many of you know, Arena Stage has made quite a transition in the last couple of months, moving from its DC home of over 50 years to a new temporary performance space in northern Virginia. In doing so, we employed a complex communications plan that involved using some brand new technologies (PURLs) as well as some tried-and-true techniques. When asked about the "success" of our move, it is relatively easy to track in terms of revenue. I am pleased to report that less than 1% of our subscriber base requested a refund, which is a much rosier scenario then the company had planned for.
I also monitor what our customers are saying by reading their e-mails and reviewing reports from our box office. However, I must say that one of the best indications on the success of our move can be found in the blogosphere. The blogosphere now contains 112.8 million blogs according to a recent Technorati report. Arena Stage sees on average 200,000 people per year. Knowing the popularity of blogs these days, and the sheer number of people that visit us, I knew that our transition would be discussed in the blogosphere.
So I set up a Google Alert to notify me when certain key words were discussed in a blog. Initially, I wanted to be able to monitor what was being said about our transition, but after I read several blog postings, I decided to play a more active role in the discussions by answering questions posted on a blog or by providing more information. A great example can be seen on Michael Miyazaki's Cabaret Blog . Michael is a cabaret enthusiast and a great supporter of the local performing arts. When he came to our new venue to see Tina Fabrique in ELLA, he was very disappointed with our lack of signage and wrote a blog about his experience. Unfortunately, Mr. Miyazaki had attended a preview performance at a time when a great deal of our signage had not yet been installed (try coordinating a signage plan with state, county, and local officials--it is a long process). So I emailed him to apologize for his inconvenience and to let him know that all the signs would be in place by opening night. He took the opportunity to cut directly from my e-mail and paste my response into a blog update.
If you want to know what your audience is thinking, it might be wise to monitor the blogosphere. The blogosphere is no longer a collection of incredibly powerful blogs written by a select few professional journalists. It contains many more personal journals from regular joes like you and I who are not shy about discussing their experiences.