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Making Immersive: Marketing your work

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We’re joined by Meri Mance and Sarah Morris to uncover the nuts and bolts of marketing immersive experiences, across different scales – exploring how targeting audiences for immersive work differs from traditional cultural experiences, from managing and enhancing audience expectations to your top tricks and tips to getting tickets sold! 

Our Guests:

Meri Mance is the founder of Mance Communications; founded in 2009, Mance Communications specialises in taking brands from start-up to business leader; pop-up to establishment and consulting on strategy and market positioning . Focusing on the immersive and experience sectors the team at Mance Communications have twenty + years’ experience and have established some of the UK’s foremost experiential, competitive socialising, food & drink and travel experiences. Find Meri on instagram @mancecomms  and LinkedIn

Sarah Morris is a Bristol-based Creative Producer who specialises in immersive and interactive theatre, location-based attractions, midway entertainment, and experiential marketing and advertising. Over the past 13 years, Sarah has been a driving force behind the creation and development of a diverse range of projects, guiding them from inception to delivery on a global scale. Her expertise spans both the creative industry and commercial sectors, showcasing a versatile and dynamic approach that is audience-centered – as a cultural studies graduate, Sarah’s work is often inspired by popular culture, some of Sarah’s highlights were creating the UK’s longest-running immersive experience, Zombie SWAT, and co-created Merlin Entertainments first Escape Room for Madam Tussards San-Francisco. Find Sarah on Linkedin 

Hosted by Dr Joanna Bucknall and produced by Natalie Scott for the Immersive Experience Network’s, Knowledge Bank. Funded by Arts Council England.

Podcast Transcript

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Welcome to the Immersive Experience Network’s Making Immersive podcast series. Giving you the tools and insights into the making of all things immersive and interactive. I’m your host, Dr Joanna Bucknall, and over the course of this series, I’ll be having conversations with extraordinary creatives, production specialists and makers who shape this tantalising sector and the worlds that draw us into this form.

In this episode of Making Immersive Podcast series, discussion is going to focus upon how to market immersive work across different scales, exploring how targeting audiences for immersive work differs from traditional cultural experiences, from managing and enhancing audience expectations, to top tips and tricks for getting tickets sold.

I am here with Mary from Mance Communications, a strategic PR consultancy that has been instrumental in the success of many of the UK’s immersive shows over the last 10 years. Also joining me is Sarah Morris, an experienced architect in immersive theatre-themed entertainment and attractions creative producer and consultant.

We’ve started all of the episodes in the same way because it’s really useful for people who are listening to get a sense of how people got into the sector, and what their roots and their journey was into working in conjunction with the immersive space. Sarah, if I could start with you, how did you end up in marketing but experiential?

Sarah Morris

Sure. I actually started as a marketing manager for a recreational venue that did laser tag, paintball, team building. We had a wonderful venue that was an underground bunker, and I came up the mad idea to create a zombie experience. It was the first proper one in the UK, and threw myself into it, literally, into not only creating the experience, but having to sell it. Selling something that didn’t really exist was quite challenging. I started from marketing, ended up in experience creation, and then obviously, naturally, became a producer. So I was wearing all the hats with that.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

That’s such a common experience, is having multiple roles.

Sarah Morris

Yes, absolutely.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Regardless of scale, or?

Sarah Morris

Yes, Swiss army knife, do it all, but definitely love to collaborate and work with different people. But yes, I started in marketing, went into experience creation, and then was selling my own experiences, so I learned hands on how to do it.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Mary, how about you?

Mary

Career-wise, I started predominantly in hospitality PR first, but I have a theatre background because I had my degree in English and theatre, and then actually originally wanted to go into film and theatre. But I happened to be introduced to a guy called Tom Lionetti-Maguire who was looking to crowdfund for a real-time version of the Crystal Maze. There were no PR companies that represented those sorts of experiences, nothing like that had been done. He’d gone to a couple of different agencies, but nobody really could help do a targeted PR campaign. Because I had a theatre background, I think that really helped, actually, because I understood what he was trying to do. We ended up working with him and doing the crowd fund for the Crystal Maze, which obviously raised an inordinate amount of…

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Super success.

Mary

Oh, it was, and then simultaneously, we also then were introduced to another team of people who wanted to do a real-time crazy golf experience with street food and stuff, and that loving Swingers. Which, although that’s experiential, they cross over because it’s an immersive environment. Off the back of that, we started getting more and more. I love this sort of thing, so I actually encouraged it. Like, yes, more, more, and it’s gone from there. We still do a lot of hospitality and drinks, brands, et cetera, which actually worked really well as well with the immersive experiences that are being created now, because a lot of them- drinks, brands- really want to get on board with immersive, hospitality has become part of an experience. Anyway, you know all that.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

There’s a huge growing field about to come upon us of immersive hospitality, so that’s becoming a growing area. It’s so interesting of how many people have come to sector through either a theatre route or through a hobby, that’s then influenced them of formal training. It’s just so fascinating to get that overview of how central the theatre has been in the growth of the sector. I wanted to start with one of the tricky things, which is, secrecy has historically been a really big part of the immersive scene for various reasons, and to some extent still is in certain parts of it. What challenges do you think that secrecy or that niche underground culture presents when you’re trying to market a work or grow an audience?

Sarah Morris

I think just from someone who was creating very early, I’m sure a lot of people understand we had to give a secret venue because the venue didn’t exist on Google Maps, and that was really important. We were often doing things in a warehouse or a building that was going to be knocked down, and it was off-putting to audiences who hadn’t gone to immersive theatre because it was so early and new to also be going to an industrial estate in the middle of Hackney. Selling it on this as a secret venue was actually part of one, the pre-engagement and the mystery, but also, from a creator point of view, allowed us to bring them to places they wouldn’t usually go.

Also, a lot of our venues were on meanwhile use, meaning that we may not have them in a month. So some experiences and many I’ve done, existed in several locations, so it meant that we could move, particularly something more like an escape room, which you can just rebuild somewhere else.

Mary

There’s also giving the game away. With the escape room, and again, reverting back to Crystal Maze or Sherlock when we launched that, you don’t want to give the game away. The way we work around that is early, early doors, obviously everything sets as well, so you have illustrations or renders that you’re allowed quite a lot of creative licence with. No one is going to hold you to it being an exact replica. With location, you’re absolutely right, often that’s the hardest thing, is securing a site. It’s fine, as long as you give … When we announce, you want to drive interest in advance.

But you also can’t give too much away, because, as you say, you can’t give … There may be councils involved and things that you don’t want to piss off. I’m a landlord, you can be fairly vague. Actually, from a commerce perspective, that’s okay, yes, it’s going to happen. It’s just, then you’ve got more opportunities to talk about the experiences. Actually, sometimes the secrecy is, it’s all part of the attraction really.

Sarah Morris

I think we’re moving away from it now a little bit more, because we have Google now, and you could actually just put the location, the name of it, and wherever it is. But also, because the industry has grown so big, accessibility is really important. Some people need to, whether or not it’s disabilities, neurodiversity, know where something is. They want to be able to plan how they’re getting there, where they’re going to have dinner before. But also, and I’m sure you’ll agree, Mary, from a PR perspective, having a press release with no venue on it doesn’t go down very well,

Mary

No, no, you can announce without. You can say Central Manchester location or a Central London location, and then you have to expand on that when the tickets get on sale. But I would also say, because Instagram and TikTok are so huge, people do want to encourage influencers to do a lot of very visual content, and that has meant that a lot of experiences have had to open their doors in other ways. I think there are still a lot of them that don’t, but they almost have to have a moment that they share.

It’s a conversation that happens very early on with us now. It’s like, what can you do for that social media moment? Because if you’re not going to let them into the experience, perhaps before or after, or what can we do? I think that, again, is something that has changed, because you wouldn’t even have been allowed in a lot of them.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I think what you have associated with that as well is a lack of … Because again, like you said, there’s often secrecy before you go in, and also then the burner phones and other things. How do you keep that buzz going when there isn’t people posting all their pictures on Facebook, on Insta, of the amazing night they had?

Sarah Morris

One of the great things about the secret door, secret entrance, was it did use to sell really well because people felt like they were in this exclusive club. Some of the very early creators like You Me Bum Bum Train or Shunt, or early secret cinema, that was the fun of it, this mystery. Where are we going? That was a really great way to pre-engage people.

But pre-engagement can have lots of different forms such as, what outfit am I going to dress in? Which guild am I going to be in? You can do lots of different things to engage in the experience and give them excitement before they go, and keep mystery around it as well. I think it’s just shifting the perspective of how else can we do mystery, because that is a really big part of the fun for me. If I don’t know everything that’s happening, I’m much happier.

I will never read a review before I go to a show. I just won’t, because that spoils it for me. It’s like watching a movie or playing a computer game, you don’t want to know everything that happens, but there are essential things that you do need to know. It’s up to you if you click on the FAQ, I don’t.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Yes, no. Me neither.

Mary

I think also with a lot of the IP-led stuff, that’s helpful, obviously, for audiences because they know … Well, they don’t know, but they will be aware of what that IP offers, so they feel safe, yes. So you have audiences that just do an immersive experience because it’s the immersive experience. But then you’ll have people coming because they like the IP, and they just want to be … But they buy into that.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Of course, and because IPs have existing narrative and story worlds, so you can keep the mystery of what’s actually going to happen, but, like you said, they have a sense of how that might operate and what might be going and whether they need to wear heels or boots. Because things just don’t happen in traditional venues or traditional sites of culture, and beyond that, just challenge of trying to market the work. What are the other challenges that come, like engaging audiences in those spaces that might not be in sites of culture?

Sarah Morris

I think then going back to, “Are you going to a bar?” A lot of people do want a bar as an evening experience, or the ability to be able to have food and beverage at all. That can add a lot of expense when you’re working in a non-traditional venue, you need licensing. I have run experiences just as long as my 10 licenses has lasted, just to max out. Then bringing in food, it can be very expensive to bring in food trucks. If they don’t really have facilities on site, there’s really a lot to question.

It’s very challenging doing it in venues that don’t have all that licensing in place. The rent is cheaper, but all the costs that you have on top of that can be really challenging for creators.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

We’re finding as well, Mary, that more and more are actually in places that are connecting with tourists as well as that kind of audience that’s in the know. Does that shift the way that you market those works?

Mary

Yes. I think the thing is that for us, when we start speaking to a creator or a founder of an experience, the first conversation is the audience. Today we’re looking at a really commercial proposition, because if they want a large footfall, or big sales, then the audience needs to be vast. Certain things contribute towards that. Location, absolutely, IP, which I think is a … I’m all for, like Phantom Peak, for example, is extraordinary because it is vast, and it’s a lot of people, but it isn’t an IP, and they’ve created a world. Also, it’s not a hugely central location.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

No, you’d have to schlep out.

Mary

There’s a lot of hospitality involved as well. But I think that, yes, it’s really important from our side to understand what the expectations are because there’s definitely an audience for immersive but we often aren’t looking for the audience for immersive, we’re looking for everybody else to create. If you want those sales, you’ve got to look at everyone, not just the people who Google ‘immersive experience’.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

That leads nicely, actually, into who is the immersive audience? Traditional theatre has a very narrow audience demographic, is there a demographic for this work, or is it a bit more bespoke per event?

Sarah Morris

I think it’s changed, and it’s changed really, I think in the last five years since we started seeing really IP-driven shows, because suddenly, if you’re to tell someone, “Oh, I work in a massive theatre,” they’ll be like, “What’s that?” Now people know, which is excellent. I do think it’s changed. I think in the early days it was this club, if you know, you know, that’s really great. But now it’s this big, wonderful thing that people can access, and that’s really, really important for the whole industry.

There isn’t one fits all, because I think that it depends on what you’re doing. So escape rooms, for example, on a weekend, they’re full of people enjoying themselves, during the week, they’re full of corporates, which isn’t at all a traditional immersive theatre audiences, and kids parties, things like that. Then you have things like Phantom Peaks, which, again, it’s getting the corporate in. It’s also getting people who enjoy having a night out. There isn’t a set audience because it’s constantly shifting and changing depending on what the narratives are.

Mary

Yes, everyone is different. From our side, there is no one size fits all. We have to look at each one, and it’s really important to understand what the client wants because some clients do want the application of the theatre critic world, or they want to be included in that. I completely understand that, that can sometimes hinder things in terms of a much more broader audience, because you’re limiting yourselves to being called …

Dr Joanna Bucknall

That narrow traditional theatre audience like this.

Mary

Exactly. Like I say, you can have everything, but we try, but sometimes you have to go a bit back to front and look at trying to reach the more consumer-led stuff first, so that it’s not pigeonholed into theatre. But there’s a lot of immersive as well that’s not traditionally what one would call an immersive experience, but it’s what actually weirdly consumer audiences now understand. It’s a term they can relate to. A journalist can whack it in a piece because they know that their readership likes that term and understands it, and they’ll probably get quite a lot of clicks.

Sarah Morris

Immersive sells.

Mary

It does.

Sarah Morris

It really does, and there’s no shame in it, but I think it’s having that shift and going digital, immersive experience, immersive theatre experience, and adding that other word so that they have an expectation. Because there is a lot of people who are genuinely angry about the word immersive, but it’s not going to shift, that is always going to happen as the industry grow. It’s about how we use it.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I think James Seager said, and I spoke to him, gosh, back in 2017, he said, it’s immersive work. That’s just what we really need to think about. Instead of getting upset potentially about immersive, it’s immersive work, and knowing that.

Mary

We have put out press releases without the word immersive in because people have wanted it specifically to not go out with that term in. We will have pieces that come out of the back of it that will still have the term in it. It’s not led by us as a PR company or certainly comms. I think it’s something that, like I say, consumers are comfortable with, and it’s probably worth embracing it a little bit if we can.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Well, is it indicative?

Mary

Yes.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

But again, it is exactly like that, the granular, then, of it’s immersive, but immersive what? Is it immersive dining? Is it gaming? There’s all of the ands.

Sarah Morris

Immersive is different to the word experience as well. Finding that definition, yes, I think it’s exciting that suddenly people understand what we’re trying to do. It took a while, but we’re here.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

That awkward conversation that was always had even five years ago of, “What’s immersive?” You’re scrabbling around to think of something they might connect to. But now you can say something like, “Oh, like Crystal Maze.” They’ll be like, “Oh, yes, I totally get that.”

Mary

The things that we represent, I say experiences more now because our client base is so broad. I wouldn’t want to say we specialise in immersive, and actually, some people struggle more to understand what I’m talking about when I say experience than they do immersive. They will actually understand immersive experiences if that makes sense.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

It’s got cultural currency now which it didn’t have before. I think if we’re smart, we can leverage that and capitalise on that in ways that benefit us rather than … I think dropping it is a mistake. I think we need to embrace it and decide and re co-opt it.

Mary

Definitely. I think it’s re adopting it. But I am pretty sure that my grandkid thinks I work in an aquarium.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

That leads me on nicely to talk about, so if there are really different audiences for different things, and actually big data is something that’s missing at the moment. Because in reality, as a discrete sector, it’s still quite emerging, and of course, IEN has been a part of trying to develop that. How do you predict ticket sales and audience behaviour when there isn’t that usual demographic data that can help you do that in more traditional spaces?

Mary

I can’t predict sales. We just can’t. We don’t have that data, and it’s because, again, every single one is different. You can’t apply a template to them all. You can’t say, “Oh, well, this is exactly the same as the last one we did, the same number of tickets.” From our perspective, we know titles that drive sales, and we know the kinds of experiences that drive sales through those titles, and we know how to position them to do that. But we can’t guarantee anything. I know that there are ticketing companies that have data, but again, I think that it’s so broad, because every single one is different.

Sarah Morris

As well as that, I think trends have really changed. Everyone I know has had so much later ticket sales than they did before, because … There’s a couple of reasons. I think COVID was a really big issue in that because people were afraid to get COVID at the experiences, or they were afraid that they were going to get COVID and not be able to go, so they really did leave things to last minute as much as they could to book it. I think with the cost-of-living crisis as well, people aren’t just automatically booking as soon as it goes live. They’re waiting a little while.

I think now that we don’t have as many meanwhile use spaces, and there’s much bigger venues doing bigger shows that are running for a long time, there’s no urgency to book, and I’ve definitely seen that make a big effect. But yes, it is really hard to predict ticket sales. I think the key thing is, as a producer and a creator, is making sure that your budget has a really fair break-even point so you don’t destroy yourself or stress yourself out even more because times are changing. But the good thing is, when someone goes to one of these big experiences, they’re way more likely to explore something a little bit smaller. So there will be more changes, I think, as it becomes even more mainstream.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

A lot of people I’ve spoken to, it’s panic inducing at the moment, because the trend seems to be just like a couple of days before, which, of course, when you’ve got huge investments as well, especially, it’s very panic inducing. Because before everyone would buy their tickets the moment it was announced. Everyone was scared it would go away, and so there was that panic.

Mary

You could sell, and then could relax for a hot minute and make the show, and then go back to marketing for the next bout. But not anymore.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Do you think it might have something to do as well in the way that the tickets are sold, because they’re often sold on apps like DesignMyNight, things like that, whereas traditionally, you’d have bought tickets for culture from quite specific places. Immersive doesn’t really sell its shows in that way.

Mary

Productions that we’ve worked on that do the biggest ticket sales would be positioned within the lifestyle, so you would look at really it being a going out as opposed to … The cultural positioning is really important as I think I was saying, but we would look at doing that after we’d driven it in a really big lifestyle consumer audience. Again, I was going to say, I think price point is really important, and having a range. Because the people who love experiences, or if it’s an IP-led one, and they love the IP, or whatever it is that draws them to it, will plump for that big, pricey experience. But actually, you can broaden your audience by offering a taste of it.

I think that that is a really, really positive thing to look at ways to offer entry or a piece of the experience in a different way that isn’t necessarily just the full high price ticket.

Sarah Morris

I think secret cinema have done really well at that. There was a Star Wars experience I went to, which was amazing. I went several times. But the cantina that they offered for very, very cheap, I actually enjoyed more than the actual show, because I felt like I was really in the cantina. The music was playing, the drinks were flowing, there was all these mini experiences, and I managed to get a taste for a fraction of the cost. I’d love to see more companies doing that, especially with big IP things.

Because when you’re buying into IP, you do expect a higher ticket price, because in order to meet the brand, you do need to spend a lot of money, and it’s expected. Audiences don’t always understand that. If there is a way we can take a little bit of the experience and showcase it some other way, I’d love that.

Mary

I agree. It’s great for us, again, because it’s another story. These are all ways of elevating the offering and for us to be able to talk about them continuously. Also, then you’ve got your corporates who can buy, take over the entire space. It’s being able to touch so many different points, I think.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Do you think that range of ticket price, then, is crucial to growing grassroots? Because, like you said, if you come to the cantina, it’s less risk in the times when people don’t have a lot of spare income. But if you’ve been to that, and it was great, and you didn’t really pay very much, do you think that offering is what’s going to start to build a much more consistent audience? Because if I went to something like that and had a great time, then I would probably consider taking a slightly bigger risk on something I really wanted to go to more?

Sarah Morris

It’s that taster, isn’t it, or a sample. Actually, transferring that to the industry- it works really well in the experience industry- is a great idea. Or utilising a venue when it’s not in use during the day, so inviting schools for a discounted rate, local community tickets. Some really great companies do that, and it works really well. It also gets that local marketing in, which is something that might not be tapped into if you don’t reach that local audience.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

There’s a lot of shows that end up in a site when … They just parachute in and then don’t really engage with the audience because of price point, or the way that the IP works, but within those communities. But I think there’s, beyond just getting them in as audience, also that responsibility of being in a space. I think Punchdrunk have managed that really well this time of being in a different site and a different space and engaging the local community, because you need them on site if you want to stay.

Sarah Morris

There’s a lovely company in the same root in Bristol. They tend to take over venues more so like a cemetery or an abandoned swimming pool. One of the key things they do is make sure that all the local residents get very heavily discounted tickets if they want them. It works really well for them because if they’re bringing something into their community, and sometimes these might be very underprivileged communities, they’re able to give back and allow access to something that they may not be able to afford.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I think it builds the future as well because it’s really heartening, actually, in the last two years to see much more opportunities for children to engage.

Mary

We work on a lot of family experiences, and I think that … Experiences, you see, I use it again, because they’re so broad. There are some, we were talking about preschool immersive experiences in the works, and there are experiences, as I say, that are just purely for families. They are fully embraced because children have the imagination. Literally it’s what they want, and the joy and the world is, they believe in it.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Like a dream audience. Kids are always, “Yes, and?” What we all want is kids.

Mary

I feel like a lot of the immersive experiences for adults are they take you back to that world of make-believe, which is what we all want, the escapism. I couldn’t believe it when I first did the Crystal Maze. I was like, I forgot the world outside for like two hours. It was amazing.

Sarah Morris

It’s escapism in its purest form. That’s why I think a lot of the audiences are gamers. It’s another way of gaming. But talking back to children and young people, a great example of this is Wake The Tiger. It was made by the creators of Boomtown, and it was never fully designed to be for children. However, the midweek audience is packed with children. I have a child, but I will not go there during half term. But it’s really interesting how we’ve created something that actually we’re like, “Wow, young children are really engaging with this.” Using their imagination, this becomes a whole new revenue stream that you didn’t predict, which is great.

Mary

Well, the Crystal Maze and Sherlock both started … I think Sherlock started out as 18 and upwards, actually, and I took my children to Sherlock last year, I think. They put the age down for the first experience, the first run, and they absolutely loved it. They loved it. I think that in, especially some of the more grown up, things like Sherlock and the Crystal Maze, they actually really get it. It’s not scary and intimidating. It’s like reading a book and losing yourself.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Well, I think there’s a lot of protection of children now. Some unnecessarily. Roald Dahl really understood that children actually like gruesome. It’s scary, but in that safe way. I think what we do really offers that. I think sometimes we should give children a bit more credit than we do, a bit more access, actually.

Sarah Morris

It’d be nice to see more shows are actually designed just for children. I think you’re right, and these children are growing up with this being the norm, so they don’t have the fear. Because I think early on, if you were to say, “Would you like to go to an immersive theatre?” To someone, and maybe they were a bit shy or they didn’t like it, terrified. I had to drag so many friends to the early events of me, and including my partner, who’s very introverted. He loves it, and he is the busiest, most active, running around the room person in these experiences. It’s great we’re inviting children now from a young age because they are going to make the best future audiences. I can’t wait. It’s going to be terrifying and exciting.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

One of the things I think, the folk listening, especially if they’re new and emerging, what do you think are the challenges for them in trying to identify and reach and grow their audience if they don’t have a huge amount of access to funding or to funds? Are there things they can do to really help themselves in marketing their work?

Sarah Morris

Always speak to a PR company because everything is scalable. I’m sure you’ll agree.

Mary

Absolutely.

Sarah Morris

People panic that it’s going to cost a lot of money because they see very big companies that do have bigger profits, they can spend more money. But PR is so important. There is work that you can do yourself. A lot of the PR is building your communities, getting to engage with these different companies. The more you engage with them, the more likely they will list your work. There’s also so many free listing companies out there, and ones specifically about immersive theatre or escape rooms or immersive horror that you can engage with and list for free.

It’s time consuming, but it’s really, really important, because you’re getting your word out to your direct audiences, and it might be smaller audiences, but they are the people who are likely to buy your tickets. But as well as that, what’s really important is that you are building your SEO on your website. The more places that you are listed, the higher up you are going to appear when you search immersive experiences. All these tiny little listings you do add up and they grow. PR is really important as well.

Make sure that you’re getting those reviews when you can, make sure you’re getting those launch announcements and working with a PR agent to make a really strong press release, because if your press release isn’t strong, no one is going to list it, and I think that’s really important to consider as well.

Mary

I would also say, so first off, you’re absolutely spot on. Theoretically, any PR worth their salt would have a conversation with anybody who’s doing something really exciting. Because as far as I’m concerned, in this industry, a lot of the really exciting stuff is the small idea, the creative idea at the beginning that becomes, like I say, revert back to all of the early stuff that we’ve worked on. They’d come in and have conversations with us and say, “Do you think it’s even possible? Do you think it’s a good idea?” It’s insane, but it’s amazing. Even now, we have people that come in and do the same thing, and we’ll get behind it because it’s just an amazing idea.

The whole point of this industry is that start. We don’t just have insane fees for everything. It’s a discussion. I would say also, with every experience, look, do think big, think about who it would appeal to that isn’t just the immersive industry. All of these things do appeal to consumers. I know I keep saying that, but ultimately, it’s really important. It’s what will help you sell. Social media I think is really important. I think putting a bit of work behind your social in terms of … If you as the founder or creator, you understand the audience, go out there and find them on social as well.

Instagram, I think, is a really welcoming place, and I think they will get behind you, and it’s because everything that we do is so visual. It’s a really fabulous place.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

That’s what I was going to ask, actually, is, which of the social media do you think you should target the most? I guess Instagram makes the most sense.

Mary

And TikTok.

Sarah Morris

Instagram is great. I think TikTok is really good for definitely a younger audience or an IP audience. There’s nothing wrong with Facebook; Facebook really works.

Mary

I love Facebook.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Me too.

Sarah Morris

Love Facebook, and there are groups out there as well that you can join and you can promote it in there for free. But the key thing to remember is, if you hire a PR company or if you use a reseller, it doesn’t mean that you don’t do your own marketing. You still need to build your individual brand, and you need to get out there constantly. I have worked with companies before, and they think we’ve got a resale, they don’t have to do anything. It’s just not the case. Keep on driving, keep on building. It takes a long time, and what you thought was going to be your PR angle, will change, and it will change based on what your audience is, how they perceive it. Always pivot, always be ready to change, and shift that marketing to what’s working for you.

Mary

With your PR, once it’s out there, once all of that coverage is out there, use it. That’s when your digital should really kick in to push out the advocation of titles. All of those people writing wonderful things about you, it’s pushing it out, making sure. Because that does a lot of work for you, but I think amplifying it is even more important. Grab hold of it.

Sarah Morris

Yes, great content really. It can be very challenging to know what to post, but if you’ve got this article going out, that article going out, you can post it, you can share it with different pictures, you can take elements of it, and you can share across lots of different avenues. But, yes, PR is so important to help create content.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

At what stage do you think companies should be thinking about the PR, the marketing, and the ticket sales.

Mary

For the most successful projects, the earlier the better, because we can help guide on how to really get the most of your comms very, very early on, even from before you have a site, when you’re looking at the design, frankly. Some people will come in and it’ll be the last thing they think of, and you’ll have three weeks to be able to turn something around. It’s so frustrating because you’re like, “This is amazing, but I’m not going to be able to achieve the maximum results. I will have my darndest go at it.” But if you’ve got in touch with me four months ago, five months ago, I could have done the dream job.

Actually, in truth, there are people who have got in touch with us nine months to a year in advance, and that is amazing because by the time you get to the launch, everyone wants to come in, and they’re already sold. God knows how many times.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I wonder if it comes from … Because obviously, especially in theatre, the historical way of doing that is you make your piece of work, you make your thing, and then you think about selling the thing, and I think it needs a really different mindset.

Sarah Morris

As someone who’s worked in theatre and large-scale experiences, there is, exactly as you said, you make the shows, like, “Right, we’ve made it, we have the venue now. We sell it.” However, then there’s only two months, and most listings won’t list you. You need at least three months. I always say, start yesterday, a year is great, six months is even better, three months minimum. If not, you are going to fall behind. You might be able to catch up, but you’re not going to get those early ticket sales that you really need.

Mary

Also, I just think as well, those early questions are, “Who is your audience?” Then, “How many tickets do you want to sell?” If you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of tickets, don’t start a month before. We don’t want it to not work. We want to do the best job and achieve those results. I think, yes, as I would always say, as far in advance as possible, because you want everyone’s success.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Well, I think there’s that creative thing as well, if you want to have something perfect before you share it with anyone, and so it’s almost giving people listening and permission to be like, “Come even when you’ve got the idea.”

Mary

Yes.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Because that’s the feeling I’m getting.

Sarah Morris

I think as well, when the big issues we had early on is, what am I going to use in my marketing image? We haven’t got the venue yet. We haven’t built anything yet. I think that’s really challenging, but there are ways around it. You can fake it, not with AI. We’ll talk about that later. You can if you want, but I have previously used images from online that I had royalty, free ones, just for that very early push, but you can get someone to design your logo, you can get someone to design your poster.

You can get someone to do a photoshoot in a different location, and add that cost very, very early, because you only really need a couple of images, some strong copy, and your website and your social setup, and that’s all you really need to get going. So don’t delay because the venue isn’t built. There is other ways around it, and then when the venue is built, you’re going to get more marketing images and you’ve got more content, and UPR releases can go out along with reviews and everything else. So find a solution early on, don’t wait because you haven’t got the venue.

Mary

You can also do… I mean, it’s budgets, I know, I do, I get it. But you can also do a taster. It depends very much, it depends on what the experience is, but you could do some creative fun very, very early. A thing that wouldn’t be on the site would not be where you would. But it just engages people in advance enough to get them excited? So there are lots of ways, and it very much, again, depends on what the experience is. It might not be right for everything, but it can work for some of those more game-led experiences.

We’ve announced things or put out releases with illustrations or renders, like I say, things that don’t end up being exactly what materialises, but also what that can do, and it could be a year before the experiences even starts to be built. But also really helpful to understand the engagement in advance, so you could then have a sign up. We know this is a thing.

Sarah Morris

Waitlists, all the rage at the moment.

Mary

But also then, if you’re thinking, all right, well, I would expect to sell 200,000 tickets to this, and then your sign up is not that, or quite a lot less than that, you think, “Okay, perhaps I don’t need this size venue, perhaps I look at a different model.” There are ways as well that are quite useful to help, I think.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Do you think that’s a useful thing to do, then, is almost to test the water before you’re committed into a lot of high-cost things like venue, like actors.

Sarah Morris

I think there’s some companies that are doing a lot of waitlists as a test to gauge interest. It’s all very well within the creative room we’re like, “Let’s make this experience, put it out there. If people are going to sign up, they will sign up. If they don’t change the narrative, shift it.” It’s a really, really good exercise to do before you’ve launched the experience. All I would say is, if you’re working with IPs, please make sure you’ve actually got the IP before you put it out there, or it’s not something that someone’s going to go and sneak in and do. It’s finding that balance, really, I think.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Yes, and of course, because of, I’m going to call it Wonka gate, which has been reignited. This feeds into IP, making sure, “Have you got the IP, should you be using that?” But also then there is a risk of all the things that we’ve been talking about potentially over promising as well for audiences. What are the challenges of managing that, especially if you’re using AI to generate some images yourself?

Sarah Morris

AI is an amazing tool. As someone who does a lot of experiential marketing, a lot of my work, it’s a great way to flow with ideas, to show clients what you’re thinking of without having to pay designers at that very, very early entry point. It can be great to help visualise sets for set designers and to pass that over. However, if you’re putting this wonderful image of Candyland out there, and there isn’t Candyland, people are going to be disappointed. I’ve always said with immersive theatre in general, AI or not, it is so much better to leave elements of surprise and don’t over-promise, but over-deliver, because then they’re going to be like, “Wow, it was better than I expected,” and that’s really easy to do.

It is really important to put those important parts, but if people leave with higher expectations like, “This was an amazing experience. It exceeded my expectations,” that’s a much smarter move than going, “This is going to be amazing, and getting half pepper lemonade.”

Mary

I would say, as well, we’ve put out a few things with AI, with the clients of our assets have been AI, but I also think it’s like, don’t give too much away anyway. We would always say, “Don’t give us too much, but what you give us, make it really high quality.” I think it is important for people to buy into something, for things to look quality. So it is important to deliver something in terms of an asset that looks like it’s going to be quality. But you’re absolutely right, you need to deliver on that. You can’t just say, “All right, this is it,” then build something a bit … Well, I know nobody deliberately builds something crap.

But if you’re limiting yourself to let’s say three images, you can’t massively over promise theoretically with that. I would say with AI as well, you do need to be careful. Don’t use it too broadly, if that makes sense. Don’t create a world, the pictures of people and characters, okay, and then you’re going to be a bit safer. I think it’s the world, because then you’re not going to be able to replicate those. Never.

Sarah Morris

Use AI, but then also use graphic design and amend those images. Use them as inspiration. You can maybe create some characters how you want it to look, but then work with a designer, work with an illustrator to see how you can showcase that. When you’re putting out things that have weird font and this or that, or a missing leg, it’s quite obvious. I love AI. It’s a great tool. Learning how to use it in the creative industry is really important. But over-promising has always been a big issue, and this is a great example of it.

Mary

I’d also say, just for press, they don’t always like illustrations and renders, so actually AI, because a lot of it looks like photography, they will use that. Do you know what I mean?

Sarah Morris

Definitely.

Mary

It’s quite useful in that regard as well. I just think, don’t go too far, really.

Sarah Morris

If it’s not your thing, and if design isn’t your thing or graphics aren’t your thing, don’t do it yourself, work with someone who understands what imagery is going to work and can spot which bits aren’t going to work. Because I could create that same image very quickly, and I’m not an AI professional or a designer, but it causes a lot of issues, and I do think we are going to see a little bit more of it. It’s finding that balance. But it is a great tool. It’s just how we use it and not abusing it, I think is the key thing here.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Well, it says there’s a whole question around expectations for audiences, around languages and terminology, which we’ve touched on a little bit. Do you think that it’s starting to settle out into the ticket price potentially sets audience expectations of quality, potentially, in some ways?

Mary

I think that it very much does. Yes, I do. That’s why I think when we were talking about multiple offerings and how you can manage that. Because if you’re setting a very high-ticket price, expectation is huge. It really is. I think if you’re then also putting a hospitality offering within that, the expectation is big as well.

Sarah Morris

I do think that there has been cases of people going, right, “Let’s look at all the big experiences in London right now. What is their price point? What’s the average of this?” They’re taking these big IP experiences that are running for a long time, that they’re getting a whole experience with, and they’re going, “Right, this should be our price point.” Your price point should be decided once you’ve written your budget. How many performers you have, how much a venue could cost, what is our insurance? What is our profit?

It shouldn’t be like, “Right, the average ticket price is £35 to £65, so we should be in the middle,” that’s not how it works. You need to make your price point based on expectations and what you’re really delivering, not what the industry standard is on the top end of the scale, which are going to be the first to come up on Google.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Yes, of course, and then there are other things that audiences probably don’t see, hidden things, like if someone is public funded, the ticket price has no relationship often then actually to the nature of the experience. Do you think that has to be marketed in a slightly different way, potentially, if it’s publicly funded or supported work?

Mary

It’s all positioning, and I think that it’s actually quite a good part of the story from our perspective. I think it’s important, and I think also it’s important for the industry to see that something is publicly funded, and for the consumer to see that. It’s all helpful for us.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

If it’s been publicly funded as well, it has a level of expectation.

Sarah Morris

Definitely. I think when you see things that have public funding and supported by various companies within the arts, you expect something that might be a little bit rawer, but more on a performance or more in the theatre in comparison to something that might be a big IP-led or a projection art piece. I think that’s always going to be something people seek as well. Because as I’ve said, as you go to these big IP experiences, which, for a lot of people, Secret Cinema might have been their very first experience, they then want to go and find the little Easter eggs, the smaller experiences out there. So showing that this is a funded experience, I think they know that they’re going right to the bottom, but sometimes, that is the top.

Mary

As amazing. I get quite frustrated as a PR because I’d like to see them have the same level of coverage actually. But I would love to do some of those. We would put as much effort and wait behind something like that, as we would one of the big IPs.

Sarah Morris

I think there’s a fear that PR is very expensive, but you’re paying for something that is so valuable, and PR is going to sell your tickets, PR is going to put you on the map of the company. It’s going to give you such a big leverage that it is worth the spend, and allocating a decent budget to it. I do think I’ve spoke to lots of people who are afraid of the cost of it, but the key thing is to have that conversation.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I’m pretty sure it’s not something that has been excluded from being allowed to be a budget line on Arts Council grant, for example.

Sarah Morris

Absolutely. Put it on your budget line, get that grant funding towards it. It can be a make or break, I really do think, especially for emerging companies. Particularly when it’s a really good show and not as many people are seeing it,

Mary

My husband, who’s my business partner, he manages me on things like fees and stuff. I’m really happy to just have a conversation with people about how to do it and how to amplify what they’re doing even if it’s not me doing it. How they can do it in a bigger way. If anybody ever wanted to have that conversation, I’m an email away, and I would have a coffee or a zoom call or a telephone call because I just think sometimes these things can be done better just by having a conversation. It doesn’t actually have to be a whole six-month campaign.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I think it’s about changing and shifting attitudes slightly because there’s quite rigorous reporting responsibilities about reach, about impacts that are required if you’ve got public money, and actually involving a PR company in the budget line to help you capture some of those things that are actually going value for money with public work.

Sarah Morris

Absolutely. I think, as well with Wonka gate, there is a big fear, people are scared to put out experiences now. They really are. I spoke to several people, “I’ve got this really good idea, but I’m scared because I don’t want it to get ripped.” But if you involve a PR company, they’re there to help you do that, because they understand the industry. Again, another really great reason for conversation and saying, “Yes, I’m always open for a coffee. After that, I do charge, but I’m always willing for advice,” particularly with grassroots startup, new emerging work, because they are, you know, the work of the future, and there is people being a little bit put off because the industry is so much bigger than it used to be. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I think it just means that your audiences now exist and they were harder to find before.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I just think if you can bear that in mind as you’re writing your bit, then you’re going to be in such a stronger position. If you can build that in from the start, then you have that infrastructure to help you be able to do those things. I wanted to ask about … The last really tricky area is reviews. It’s really funny, because like you said, if it’s couched as theatre, then it’s easier to get a reviewer to come along. How do you get that same credibility, quality assurance for audiences when maybe it doesn’t fall within that bracket of theatre, but it’s still within that immersive experience?

Mary

It very much, obviously, depends on what the experience is. If it isn’t performance-led, the theatre, the critics, just wouldn’t even … They possibly add it into an immersive roundup or something, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a theatre review anyway, if that makes sense, a review of any kind. However, we try to avoid launching things and inviting theatre critics anyway. If we are going to invite them, we may do it at a later date, and it’s not an afterthought, but it’s like we’re not pitching this to you as theatre. This is an experience that is relevant to you because it has performance in it, but we’re not resting this with you to make or break it as a business.

It’s like with Sherlock, we’d invited all the criminal press as well just because with Swingers, you can invite sports. I think you’ve got to look at it as more of a lifestyle approach, a consumer-led going out experience that can appeal to a broad audience, and you’re unlikely to have a classic review, let’s say. Which also then means that in terms of a critical review, you’re left rightly to be dissected. It’s a classic peaky situation where it was reviewed as theatre. It’s performance, but it’s not strictly theatre, so it would appeal to vast audiences. It’s an IP that has a huge audience, and you could have opened that up to just the [inaudible 00:55:30] fan audience, and not-had-a-single-immersive-experience fan come. Do you know the name?

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Absolutely.

Mary

I think, from our perspective. But having said that, we also talk to the client, and there are a lot of clients who want to be reviewed as theatre, they want that and if that is the case, then that can be managed as well, but it does need to be managed.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

This is divorcing it from ticket sales in a lot of ways, and it’s like icing.

Mary

Yes, absolutely.

Sarah Morris

I have to agree with you, Mary, on the reviewing and the early reviewing, because this is a mistake that so many established companies have made, because making immersive, interactive work is messy, because we don’t know how our audiences are going to respond. I don’t have a single show that has not changed quite a lot in the first couple of weeks of opening depending on how the audiences are reacting, which means that when you invite the reviewers to your previews before you’ve opened, you’re going to get bad reviews. Polish the show, then invite those theatre reviewers, basically, and it’s really, really important.

If you are going to invite people, invite your friends who are going to test your show, push it to limit, push it to the boundaries, let them break your show before you’re ready to have anyone review it. However, moving away from theatre reviewers, there are some wonderful companies out there that get immersive work, and they exclusively review immersive experiences. We’ve got No Proscenium who are wonderful. They’re an American-based company, but they’ve recently came out to the UK, and they’re doing a lot more reviewing over here. They get what we’re trying to do.

They will list you for free, and they will give you advice, they will publicate it, and they’re going to give you some really nice press for people who are wanting to go to immersive interactive theatre. If you’re making something like an escape room, there’s Thrill Nation who mostly cover theme parks, but they’re really, really good at covering escape rooms. There’s other companies out there such as ScareTOUR who, if you’re making something around Halloween, an immersive horror, they will cover you, they will come, they will review, and they’re going to be realistic, because they have came from this industry.

It’s only now I think immersive reviews from theatre critics are starting to improve, because they’ve been to enough shows without getting it. But at the beginning…

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I remember.

Sarah Morris

At the beginning, say, “Oh, no.”

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Slammed. Being they’re held to a really different criteria to what the work actually is.

Sarah Morris

And being invited too early. Just give it a couple of weeks, fix the show, and then when it’s polished, then invite people, and start slow.

Mary

I think also, for us, when we’re approaching press and the different kinds of press. It’s like, how are you speaking to them? You do have to speak to them differently. I don’t mean that in a kind of … What is it that from their perspective is interesting from their … The going out, food and drink, theatre? We work with a lot of cinema as well because it’s their IPs, and those titles will cover as immersive experience, but what is it that we are asking them to do? Because blanket releases don’t … They will have a release, but it’s the cover note, and what are you asking from them?

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Once you’ve got a press release, how would a company potentially think about where they might send that if they’re doing it for themselves? So even if it’s theatre, should they send it to a slightly broader series of lives? Obligations.

Mary

Yes, because this is the thing about an immersive experience, is it really isn’t just for theatre goers at all.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

No, at all.

Mary

At all. I would really look at the broadest audience you possibly can if you’re wanting to sell tickets, if you want it to be full. And also, everyone is interested. You might not realise they are, but they are. Yes, everyone. Who is it that you want to come? Think about every single audience, because they will be interested.

Sarah Morris

I think since lockdown, people want to live again, so I think that we’ve got a whole new audience, because people want to go out and they want to do something really fun. We know, for example, Gen Z aren’t as big drinkers as they used to be, so suddenly, these cool experiences, they want to go and do that. There’s now clubs launching for people like myself in my 30s who want to go out, but I also want to be home in bed at ten o’clock. So now I can get coming and I’m finished at 9:00, and all these are experiences that we are really shifting and changing.

Mary

I think people want to feel like they’re getting more for their money. I’m really a big fan of hospitality as well, because that’s where I started in PR, but I do think it’s very costly to go out for a meal. At the moment, hospitality is struggling because of all of the energy bills and the cost of staff, et cetera, so an immersive experience can deliver a lot. It can. You can go and have drinks, you can be social with groups of friends, and you get experiences as well. Some of them, you can have FMB too, so it’s a one-stop shop.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

It’s everything. You don’t have to plan, “Where are we going to eat before we go to this thing, and where are we going…” Because a lot of it, you can just do it all there.

Mary

Yes, and it’s unlike classic 30. You’re not sitting there having to be quiet. You can interact with your friends. You can meet new people.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

You can go to the toilet when you want to, you don’t have to hold.

Mary

It delivers on multiple levels, I think.

Sarah Morris

But the rise in competitive socialising, which is essentially crazy golf, was one of the first, early ones that we saw. It’s huge now. You can’t go to any city and not find numerous things to do. There is darts bars, there’s golf bars, there’s paint in the dark. There’s all sorts of crazy, crazy things.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Ball pits.

Sarah Morris

Ball pits, yes, love Ballie Ballerson. These are great experiences because we can socialise, because we can have fun. As someone who works in theatre, not very good at going to theatre, because I’m fidgeting, I want to do this, I want to talk to my friends. The bit I like about theatre is a bit before and afterwards when we’re discussing it, when we’re excited to go, so I do think immersive does give you a place for that, and particularly experiences more about entertainment.

Things like Peaky Blinders are a great example of that. You’re going, you’re having drinks with your friends, you can engage as much or as little as you want. There’s stories to find if you want them, and if you want to pull back and you don’t, it’s perfect. Those types of experiences are the best ones to introduce your non-immersive friends too, so you can start bringing them to the crazy, wild, what the hell is happening in this room experiences. You’ve got to build them in.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Yes, you do. I learned that lesson the hard way. Mine is also very introverted, and the first actual proper theatre I took him to was Forced Ents Exquisite Pain, and since then he’s not really come to the theatre ever. Luckily, I learned there, and so I brought him into immersive theatre. It’s something much more accessible. Being like, “I’m so sorry. I just put you through three and a half hours of effective torture.”

Sarah Morris

Character building there, right?

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Yes, much so. Also, a really enthusiastic area of discussion still.

Sarah Morris

Yes, absolutely.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

One of the other things I wanted to draw out before we come to a close, because I know we’re very rapidly running out of time, is a lot of things are very London-centric at the moment. As someone who is not London-based, and I know, Sarah, you’re not either, that’s really challenging. It is a bit of a barrier, actually, to me being able to come to a lot of the things that I want to. Do you think that is opportunity? Do you think we are going to start to see things coming out into the regions?

Mary

Well, we’ve launched quite a lot of things outside of London. Manchester is really…

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Yes, Manchester and Liverpool is good.

Mary

Then Alcotraz opened in Cardiff, I think, and even Dublin is getting some stuff.

Sarah Morris

It is definitely moving.

Mary

Yes. It’s too slow, yes. But it is definitely getting there. I think there will only be more and more and more just from stuff that I know is in the planning.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Me too. I’m like, “Birmingham, there’s definitely some really lovely IPs that should probably come to Birmingham. Please do.”

Sarah Morris

It is London-centric, but we are seeing a big shift in that. Bristol is doing great, Brighton is doing great, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, these big cities are starting to now adopt these experiences, which is really, really exciting. I do think that within the next year or so, most people will be, if they’re not already, within an hour from immersive experience, and that’s really, really exciting. But one thing that new creators need to remember is, if you live in a small town … I’ll say Oxford because that’s where I grew up. I don’t want to diss any other towns.

If you launch an immersive experience, it is going to sell because it does not exist there. It brings us back to those early London days when this was this secret cool thing. Don’t be afraid of going, “Oh, it won’t sell there.” It will, yes, it will because it doesn’t exist there, so don’t let that put you off if you don’t live in one of these major cities.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

It just won’t live for long.

Sarah Morris

It just won’t live for long.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

If it’s not good, but if it’s good…

Mary

It can end up here, to be honest. There are also, I think, more studios looking at opening things in other regions first than just London as well. I don’t think that necessarily everything will always be restricted to London. You can see how successful things are. I think that is the issue, there has to be a litmus test. Once one yes, it shows its …

Dr Joanna Bucknall

But there’s case studies now, especially with the meanwhile opportunities, because in London they might be becoming challenging, but in other places they’re not.

Mary

Exactly, and it is about space. For a lot of them, it is about the space. London is tricky.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Other cities currently have lots of high street space. Lots of large department stores.

Sarah Morris

Lots of closed shops, and they are starting to be taken over. These are great. If you are in Oxford or Swindon or another small town, then think about, “How can I make something that can exist in this one space, but can this move and go to another?” It doesn’t have to stop there.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

I’m going to bring us to the final question. Do you have a nugget or tip? Is there one final thought you want the people listening to take away with them?

Sarah Morris

For me, I would say, don’t be afraid of marketing. Speak to people, and don’t base it all on your producer, because I’m a producer, but there are some producers great at marketing and some that aren’t, and that’s okay. There’s different types of producers. Make sure you speak to the people that you need to speak to. Seek advice early on, and don’t be afraid to reach out. Look at what other companies are doing, and that’s going to give you a really good starting point. Start building those lists, making those contacts, and speaking to the right people, and making a marketing plan. It seems scary, but it’s really not that hard.

People can reach out to me. I’m really happy to give advice, have a coffee and set them on their merry way, which leads to Mary.

Mary

I would agree. I think try and start thinking about it as early as possible. I think, really importantly is, who is your audience? I really do and always think in terms of the broadest audience, because that will help what your experience will be. I think reach out is a really good one. Don’t be afraid to talk to people like us and just peers and get as much advice as possible, because, yes, there are so many channels out there to be able to tap into. PR is one of them, and then there are lots of other ways of marketing that, like I said, PR really supports, but those are other … The digital marketing is great, and social.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

There’s loads of resource on how to build your SEOs, and all of that.

Sarah Morris

Also things like the audience agency. The audience agency are amazing because they will list the types of audience you can have, and once you understand the types of audience you have … It might just be one, it might be a lot, that is the first point. Understand your audience, work out what important keywords, work out where they might be reading or what they might go to, and build that character who is going to be your average audience. Don’t miss out on those important audiences that we’re not seeing, those corporate groups, maybe those stagger parties that might be filling up on a Saturday morning.

There’s always different places you can tap into, and the only thing that will change is your marketing to them will shift. The experiences are saying you just change your marketing, and that’s okay to do.

Mary

Yes, absolutely.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Thank you so much for joining me. It’s been incredible and extremely insightful. I really appreciate it, so thank you very much.

Mary

Thank you.

Sarah Morris

Lots of fun.

Dr Joanna Bucknall

Thanks for listening to the Immersive Experience Network: Making immersive Podcast Series hosted by me, Dr Joanna Bucknall, and produced by Natalie Scott with thanks to our funders at Arts Council England. If you liked this podcast and want to know more about what we do, you can follow us on Instagram, which is @immersiveexperiencenet, or find us on LinkedIn, so you can just search for the Immersive Experience Network. For news and updates on our live events, on our research and all of the other things that we do, you can go to our website, which is immersiveexperience.network. If you sign up to our mailing list, then you won’t miss out on a thing, and we do a lot. Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you dial in and listen to us again.

Date of article - May 30, 2024
Updated - June 11, 2024

Experience: Common Wealth

Off the Curriculum, Knowledge Library  Common Wealth are based in Bradford and Cardiff and work…

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Common Wealth Immersive Experience. A woman sits in a booth holding a light and surrounded by a circle of rainbow coloured lights
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