How to Be A Theatre Blogger
Haven’t we all wanted to be the Carry Bradshaw/ Lois Lane / Clarke Kent/ TINTIN of our own lives?! The best thing about having an opinion on something you love is the ability to share it, which is GREAT news as this is becoming increasingly possible in the modern age of the internet. This is especially the case in the theatre industry; with an art form designed to evoke feeling or intellect, who doesn’t have an opinion? If you love theatre, being a Theatre Blogger or critic can be a truly amazing experience. It often means invites to exclusive events, a plethora of free drinks, goody bags, invites to wonderful shows AND the chance to meet a whole host of amazing and creative individuals. Why? Because if you are passionate about the arts then people out there will value your opinion. Having your say is important, but many people find the concept of running their own theatre blog quite difficult to comprehend. At Official Theatre, we LOVE theatre bloggers, so we thought we would give you some advice as to how to go about setting up your site.
1 – Find a Domain
Not to state the obvious, but having a theatre blog requires you to actually have a website. Now don’t panic, even if you aren’t that tech savvy, you can still find an easy way to collate your thoughts online. If you want to be super professional then you can register your own domain, e.g theatrecritic.co.uk. Big sites such as GoDaddy will allow you to buy a domain and provide you with web hosting. You then need a content management system, such as WordPress, to physically run and edit your site. From there it is simple! If the above sounds too complicated, sites such as WordPress and Blogspot will allow you to register a site as part of their domain for free e.g theatrecritic.wordpress.com or theatrecritic.blogspot.com. This is a simple and effective way to set up your theatre blog although we would recommend registering your own domain.
Tips And Hints
• REALLY think about what you want to call your blog before you start it. If you want for people to take your blog seriously you need to think about what kind of brand you want to be. Whilst “totalbabetheatregalxoxo.com” might sound fun and light hearted, will you ever be able to approach a PR company with that website? That said, stick to who you are. Some sites have fantastically silly names, but as they remain true to their brand it works. • As we mentioned above, sites like Go Daddy will provide you with web hosting as part of the domain package.
2- Consider Who You Are Writing For
Some bloggers write their blog as a sort of online diary for themselves, others do so to share their opinion with the world. Either way, you need to bear in mind that if you write something that is in the public forum (AKA listed on the internet) you need to think about what you are writing and above all ensure you are fair and honest in your opinion. This will be especially helpful if you want to use your blog to gain invites to industry events or use it as an aide for your business; if your blog looks and sounds professional, people will treat it as such.
Tips And Hints
Think about who may read your blog. It may come as a surprise at first, but you may gain a following for your work. Try and find the “voice” of your blog. For instance, blogger Katie Brennan started her blog (BloodyHellBrennan.com) to document the trails and tribulations of being a theatre graduate living in London. Katie writes in a comedy style that is very true to her sense of humour and each post she writes is in a similar “voice.” Because people like Katie’s approach to her topic, they come back to read her work time and time again. This means Katie has done well to establish her brand.
3– Invest in Your Blog
The aim of creating a blog should be to share your thoughts and opinions on a topic your love, not to gain “free stuff.” Whilst this can be a perk, the most successful bloggers love their niche, which is evident in their work. Whatever the end goal is for them, they enjoy writing about theatre. It is important to invest quality time in your blog and, when need be, a little bit of money.
Investing Time If you want your blog to be a long term venture, you need to keep updating it. There is nothing worse than seeing an abandoned blog out there (it breaks my little theatrical heart!) Obviously “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and the more time you invest in your site, the better it will become. For instance, one of my favourite theatre bloggers, and certainly one of the most dedicated, is Ian Foster of ThereOughtToBeClowns. Ian started his blog in 2003 with a brief review of Anything Goes at the National. Since then Ian has developed his writing into full blown and fully respected reviews, gaining invites from top West End and Fringe shows. I am not saying that it will take 11 years to become recognised, but it IS important to keep things updated.
Investing Money Okay so I am not saying you need a down payment to run a successful blog, all I am saying is that if you are a theatre blogger, you probably need to go and see some shows. Whilst one of the major perks of critiquing theatre IS free tickets to see shows, you cannot forget that PRs and producers are inviting you based on the quality and reach of your previous work. You will not immediately gain invites to events, you will first need to prove your dedication, which should be no problem if your heart is in writing. I would recommend picking one or two shows you really want to see, getting some cheap mid week tickets to a show and then spending some time penning your thoughts. After all, investing in tickets is also investing in your blog AND investing in your blog is really investing in yourself. Three birds, one big beautiful stone. One GREAT example of bloggers taking pride in their investments is Rev Stan’s Theatre Blog. The banner of the site is a lot of “Stan’s” recent show tickets, which serves as a visual reminder of their investment and dedication to the arts. *Disclaimer – being an absolutely fantastic critic and/or dedicated blogger will not guarantee you free tickets to shows for the rest of your life. If PR companies value your work, they will invite you to share your opinion, however I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be able to please all the people all the time. Many very successful theatre bloggers, such as Ian, still buy tickets to shows they REALLY want to see, which makes absolute sense.
Tips and Hints
- If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on shows but you love theatre and still want to share your opinion, I would recommend joining the Audience Club, an organisation that allows members to see shows either for free or for a very small fee! All you need to do is pay £4 to join then you are set for a year. Shows are often relatively small but usually are of a high quality, however it is possible to see big shows if you regularly check the site for updates. Personally I have seen shows at the London Coliseum and some West End musicals via the site. It is amazing.
- If you want to regularly update your blog but you don’t have a great deal of time, perhaps commit yourself to writing shorter posts outlining your opinions. These can even be tweet length! And/or you can fill space by adding pictures – sometimes SEEING what you have been up to can be just as fun as reading about it.
4 – Jazz it up!
Okay so by now you have made a few posts on your theatre blog, but you want to jazz it up a bit. People LOVE a picture here and there, and it breaks up blocks of text nicely. Try adding show imagery or even better, your own photos of your theatre trip (by that I don’t mean take pictures during the show as that is not allowed, but pictures of the show signage outside the theatre, your programme, your ice cream etc.) Generally speaking people who read blogs over newspapers do so because they want to feel that personal touch
Tips And Hints
What is Legal: Usually you are able to use a show poster in your post; i.e the imagery used to market the show. • Usually PR companies (or theatre companies if the show is small) are more than willing to give you a couple of pictures from the show. Find out who is running the press for a show and email them asking them for some show images. This will be a great way to put yourself on their radar; they may even add you to their mailing list, which is great for keeping up to date with theatre news.
5 – Social Media is pretty awesome
Social media should be a blogger’s best friend. Whilst big theatre blogs such as The West End Whingers get great traffic without constantly sharing their work on social media (which they still do by the way) chances are that, as a new blogger, people won’t know of your work yet. Twitter is undoubtedly the best way to share your posts, and with clever hashtagging, you can gain readers quickly!
Tips And Hints
- If you are setting up a twitter account, think carefully about what twitter handle you want. Some handles may already be taken, but it is good to go with something that is related to the title of your blog in order to build your brand.
- Sharing your work on Facebook is also great but blogs don’t tend to go viral on the site unless you have a massive website like BuzzFeed. •
- Reddit is a fantastic tool for bloggers and there are “subreddits” such as Theatre and Musicals where people subscribe to see posts specifically about these areas.
- The What’s On Stage Forum is also a good way of interacting with people who have similar interests as you as well as drawing their attention to your posts. Do be mindful not to become a spammer though, nobody likes a spammer!
6 – Invites: Don’t Shun The Small Stuff
Your first press invites for your blog may be for smaller fringe shows that take place upstairs in a pub in North NORTH Acton. Whilst this may not sound too glamorous, sometimes the best things start life on the London Fringe circuit! Also you never know who you may meet; press nights (even for small events) are great for hobnobbing with creative people and if your blog is relatively unknown it would benefit you to introduce yourselves.
Tips And Hints
- There is no harm in asking to join the party! If you have heard of a great show that you want to review or talk about on your site then what is to stop you emailing the show or the show’s PR to ask for a ticket/invite? The worst they can say is no! It may be that they were simply not yet aware of your site and you would be welcome to join (as with our many London Theatre Blogger meet ups!) Or if a show is oversubscribed, they may bear you in mind for next time. #DontAskDontGet
- BE Reliable! If someone has gone through the trouble of inviting you to an event and you have accepted said invite, then do turn up! Obviously people will understand if something major comes up, but give them plenty of notice if you can no longer attend. Cancelling last minute is NOT professional and you may find you are struck off the PR/Theatre companies list. Cancelling often incurs financial repercussions for those who have invited you.
7 – Mingle and be Merry
The best way to build awareness to your theatre blog is to join theatre conversations and generally just get yourself out there. This can be in a number of ways such as joining in online conversations on twitter, facebook, reddit etc or in real life. The best people we have met in the industry have been face to face by introducing ourselves at events. For example, we are a big fan of Terri Paddock, who among other things made What’s On Stage what it is today, and after exchanging several tweets in the past, we finally met at the Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games.
Tips And Hints
If you are taking your blog really seriously you could have a small number of business cards printed. That way when you introduce yourself to industry folk, they will have you blog and contact details.
8 – Join Us with #LDNTheatreBloggers
Okay, so this is actually part of Mingling and being Merry BUT we run regular blogger meet ups in London that often involve trips to the theatre but ALWAYS involve alcohol. Past meet ups have included a gin tasting event, a trip to the London Wonderground, a booze up at the Kings Head Theatre pub and several mini outings to see West End theatre shows. If you are a theatre blogger, we want to be your friend! Get in touch with me Rebecca@officialtheatre.com and/or start hashtagging your blog posts with #LDNTheatreBloggers and we will find you (which is a lot less creepy that I have made it sound!) If you don’t live in London but still want to be our friend, please do still email me as we would love to read your work!