To: Mr. Terry Neal, Interim President
and Board of Directors, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
From: Save Our Symphony Atlanta
Dear Mr. Neal and Board,
Our readers (your constituents) are growing frustrated. Your marketing messages are untimely, incomplete, grammatically incorrect, and sloppy. Your website is convoluted and does not work well. You don’t take full advantage of social media. SOSA supporters tell us that they find better, more timely information from us than the ASO.
On December 4, 2014, SOSA posted A Vote of “No Confidence” expressing our concerns regarding marketing at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. We began looking for improvements starting December 5th, hoping Mr. Petroccione, then head of your marketing department, would have read our post and taken the message to heart. It’s been almost two months and sadly, there has been no progress and we note that Mr. Petroccione has moved to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and System Improvements. (Really? really?) Maybe we weren’t succinct enough, so let us simply state our position:
ASO Marketing is failing and tickets sales are suffering as a result.
Maybe we weren’t detailed enough, so let us clearly explain the issues:
First and foremost, you need to hire someone who proofreads everything you post online. We understand that the marketing department is short staffed, but virtually everything we see posted has typographical errors. Consistent errors reflect on the professionalism and reputation of the organization.
Error messages, outdated information, and misspellings continue to plague the website. The following is just a sample of what we have found:
- To the Board – You might want to note that Stanley Romanstein’s picture is still on the ASO website on your Newsroom page, under Leadership Biographies. His biography has been removed but his picture is still used for the Biography tab and featured on the Biographies page. How long has Mr. Neal been interim president? His bio is on the Woodruff website. Why is it not on the ASO newsroom page?
- Under the Plan Your Visit section, the Restaurants, Bars & Lounges, and Hotel are still not functional and bring up an ugly yellow page of code. Wouldn’t it be nice for people who take advantage of your Valentine’s Day concerts with a couples’ getaway – dinner, concert and an overnight away from the kids? They can’t get there from your site.
- Teen Night at the ASO? It was held this last Saturday; however, the FAQ tells the teen that they can pick up their tickets the day of the concert, November 22nd.
- We’ll let you see if you can find the error under American Roots Music.
- Your rotating ASO players under your calendar? Keith Buncke has a blank picture and no biography. Will he be gone before you ever get this fixed?
The number of errors is, in fact, pretty astounding. Your website is the first impression many people have of the ASO and our musicians. From our experience, it’s a bad one. We understand that the software you’re using is old and clunky, (Stanley’s last bonus could have purchased one heck of a platform) but that doesn’t weigh in very heavily when the mistakes are mostly grammatical.
ASO Facebook Page
Someone in your organization needs to understand the nature of social media and learn how to leverage it for the organization. Social media is, by design, interactive. It is meant to be a way for you to connect in a one-on-one level with your audience and with those you want to attract. Good social media interaction seeks dialog between business and customer.
Since December 5th, the ASO has posted 32 times to their Facebook page. That’s not a lot in the social media world. Eleven of the 32 posts have had comments deleted, a total of 29 comments. Many Facebook users understand how comments work. If the post shows six comments, there should be six comments; otherwise, we know that someone in the ASO office is deleting them.
Great companies respond to questions and comments, even negative ones. They know that many eyes read that negative post and wait to see how that company will respond. What we see is either disdain or the inability to answer the comments. Is that the reputation that you want?
The posts are not timely. If you are not going to post events in time for people to attend them, why post at all?
- The first post promoting the Marin Alsop series didn’t appear until four days prior to the first concert – far too late except for last-minute buyers.
- Information on the Midtown pop-up concerts that occurred in December appeared on FB minutes before the first concert.
- The first and only announcement for the concert at the Capitol was posted 22 hours before the event.
The purpose of using the web should be to inform your current subscribers and attract new ones. You can’t do that if you don’t promote your product.
The ASO Twitter feed has the same timeliness issue as the ASO Facebook page but provides even less information than the Facebook page. Most of the tweets are poorly written and vague. Some of the latest tweets:
- Need last minute plans? Hear pianist Inon Barnatan’s “sensitive and insightful” tonight and Sunday!
- A thrilling wknd: pianist Inon Barnatan is returns for a weekend of Wagner, Beethoven, and Mozart. See Evan’s take… (Our note – That’s Evans’ take, not Evan’s)
- eNotes this week: A Birthday Romance, an Epic Organ and our Artist-in-Residence!
- On this weekend’s list: Violin Superstar and Leading Conductor Inspire! More from the ASO.
ASO Marketing is not promoting some of the ticket deals they currently have.
- There is a great family concert on Valentine’s Day. Most tickets are $20 with none over $40.00. Families today plan weeks in advance. Why are these concerts not being promoted?
- Atlanta Magazine Concierge also offers dinner and a concert deals but it hasn’t been mentioned in any ASO social media or on the website until today, four days before the start of the Cameron Carpenter series. If people ordered a package today, they probably wouldn’t receive the tickets and gift card in time, if they were mailed.
- ArtsVibe, a teen program created by the WAC, offers free tickets to students grades 6-12 for certain concerts. For both the December and January concerts, this promotion was never mentioned by the ASO.
- The website mentions the Music for the Military program (under Community Ticketing Program) and offers free tickets to military families, but doesn’t provide any links or information on how to get tickets.
Again, the list goes on ad nauseum. Every one of these special deals has the ability to attract a new and younger (and maybe slightly less well-heeled) audience. You cannot say that classical music is dead and is not of interest to a younger audience if you do nothing to attract that audience.
The reason for writing this letter should, by now, be clear. We see empty seats in Symphony Hall and we know they could be filled.
We understand the importance of ticket sales as a revenue source and empty seats hurt the bottom line. We also understand the importance of community and educational concerts in attracting new audiences, which leads to increased ticket sales. Most importantly, we understand the correlation between ticket sales and donations, both individual and corporate.
Professional, attentive marketing is the key to increased tickets sales and ASO marketing is not selling tickets.
If the ASO marketing department were held to the same standards as some of the companies with whom some of you were and are affiliated, we are certain we would not have these issues. In a corporate world, investors and stockholders would demand immediate and effective change. Marketing is essential to the success of any organization, profit or nonprofit.
The time for excuses is over.
Great performances deserve great marketing and great marketing requires great leadership.
There are 47 concerts left in this year’s season and our musicians are doing their part in providing outstanding music. We are asking you to demonstrate your leadership as trustees of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Failures of this magnitude shouldn’t be blamed on lower-level employees. They are overworked and underpaid. They are in need of vision, direction, planning, and good management. We note that you have a job listing for a Vice President of Marketing and Communications, but your attention is needed now.
We look forward to a response, but we most look forward to seeing real changes being made.