I’m excited to share a brand new content here on The Storytelling Non-Profit called the “Learn From” series. We’ll be interviewing communications and fundraising professionals on how they tell stories in their work.
Our first “Learn From” feature is from Alice Ko, who manages Digital Media for Ballet BC. She’s responsible for their amazing social media presence and email newsletters, which I love receiving. Today, Alice and I are discussing how she’s incorporated stories into the Ballet BC newsletter, including a “Meet the Dancers” feature each month
Every month the Ballet BC Insider newsletter always features great content such as “Meet the Dancers.” Why did you start to include these features in your newsletter?
Ballet BC’s newsletter serves as a platform to share all the stories with our constituencies. We were actively using social media platforms, but we recognized not all of our audience is engaging with social media nor had the time to follow everything we were posting 24 hours a day. We sought to reach our supporters who wanted to know what we were doing, keep them engaged between the shows and make them feel like they were part of our family. We realized our patrons and donors loved knowing about everything we were doing, both on and off stage. They wanted to learn more about Ballet BC and get insider access behind the scenes, during the creative process in the studio, show production and especially read stories about the artists involved with Ballet BC, including the dancers, choreographers and our internationally renowned Artistic Director, Emily Molnar. Having a feature such as “Meet the Dancers” allows our audiences to have a human connection with the artists they see on stage. By building a relationship between our supporters and the dancers, we find our patrons are able to identify with our end product our performances that much more.
A lot of your content features stories. What is your process for collecting stories to feature in the newsletter?
A few ways! First open communication with everyone at the company. All staff meets weekly to share stories and update their work. From ticketing, fundraising, marketing, production and what’s happening in the studio we all come up with ideas for what our patrons want to know. Both our Artistic Director, Emily Molnar, and Executive Director, Branislav Henselmann, were former dancers and they both provide a lot of the inspiration for stories as they have firsthand knowledge on the creative side of the dance world. Second we also look externally. We will send out messages on social media and ask our followers to tell us what they want to know.
Lastly we are influenced by external stories and the digital space. A lot of us at the company stay current in a realm of industries, whether it’s ballet, dance, art, fashion, design, technology and local events. We get inspiration from other organizations and ask ourselves “Hmm. That’s interesting. How does this relate to Ballet BC?”
Do you have any advice for nonprofit folks who want to share more stories in their newsletters?
Taking the points from above:
1) Ensure there is a way to communicate with everyone involved in the company on a regular basis, including staff, volunteers and in our case artists. We are a creation-based contemporary ballet company and so we commission new work from a range of international choreographers. Each choreographer has a unique story and so we make sure we’re able to connect with each one while they are working with us.
2) Ask! We ask our social media followers what is interesting to them, we conduct surveys at the theatre, which provides us with insight into our audience experiences and we also ask everyone we come in contact with what they want to tell us. For example, April is National Volunteer Month so we asked our volunteers to share their stories with us. Many people were eager to share, so make sure you take every opportunity and ask!
3) Educate. What people do naturally is what others want to learn about. One of the most common things we’ve heard back from followers is that they want to learn more about the routine of our dancers. What is it like at a daily ballet class, what kind of stretches they do to warm up, etc.? Education is a valuable tool in creating stories.
4) Measure. If you’re using an email service provider like MailChimp or Constant Contact, you can track metrics such as number of opens and clicks per story. Pay attention to the stories that get read the most it’s your readers’ way of telling you what they want more of.
Alice – thank you so much for joining me today on the blog! It’s been a real treat to learn how Ballet BC is using stories to connect the dancers and the patrons.
A Tip For You – one of the things that I have been doing for years is subscribing to other non-profits’ email newsletters to see what they do. Call it research, if you will, but it’s an immensely helpful professional practice. Ballet BC is just one example and Alice told me that they have a really interesting video email campaign coming up that you might want to check out!