#TellYourStory: Using marketing to tell the story of Watford Palace Theatre

Mo Doolan
  • Mo Doolan
  • Social and Content Manager

Dan Baxter is Communications Director at Watford Palace Theatre. He’s going to tell us how he and the team at the theatre use marketing to tell their story.

‘The story of the Watford Palace Theatre lies in the heart of the local community. The 600-seat theatre was built in 1908 and now, just over a century later, it serves a diverse community through a range of shows and community activities.

'In addition to the Watford Palace Theatre Company, there are two other performance companies based at the theatre: RIFCO – which is a British Asian theatre company, and Tiata Fahodzi – which is a British African theatre company. We also work with playwrights, choreographers and other theatre companies including Scamp, which creates theatre for children.

‘There are around 400 performances each year at the Watford Palace Theatre, including five major dramas, a pantomime and cultural celebrations, such as our events for Chinese New Year.

Planning our marketing

‘We approach our annual marketing plan as a sort of ‘football season’; running from September until May. This encompasses our theatre based work. During the summer months the focus is on our free, outdoor, community based festival, ‘Imagine Watford’, in the town centre. Our marketing campaign comprises three main strands, reaching out to different audiences.

Pride in the Palace

‘This campaign is aimed at people living in the town of Watford itself; those that live within a thirty minute walk from the theatre. It focusses on the story of the theatre being at the heart of Watford and doesn’t relate to any specific production or strand of work. Rather, it’s about our overall output and its appeal and relevance to local people. The theatre is in their town, and they can feel ownership of it and enjoy the way it enriches their lives.

Leafy Hertfordshire

‘This campaign reaches further into the countryside around Watford and is targeted at people in places like Berkhampstead, Tring and other towns and villages. Watford is in the county of Hertfordshire and situated inside the M25, just 17 miles from central London. Many of the residents of nearby towns visit London theatres and our Leafy Hertfordshire campaign aims to put Watford Palace Theatre on the map for those theatre-goers.

‘Unlike the broader message of the Pride in the Palace campaign, Leafy Hertfordshire focuses predominantly on our drama productions and includes special interest publicity for these, such as interviews with playwrights.

Celebrating Diversity

‘Our Celebrating Diversity campaign is targeted at the diverse community of the area, with a particular focus on regions such as West Watford and Harrow. We have a large British Asian community as well as black British and Chinese communities on our doorstep.

‘We ensure that our programme of performance has something to appeal to all parts of our community, with plenty of scope for integrating and exploring other cultures and new ideas. Our fantastic resident companies, RIFCO and Tiata Fahodzi, help us in achieving these aims.

‘The audiences who attend our resident company productions also cross over into our popular annual family pantomime.

The medium for our message

‘Different marketing mediums are chosen, depending on the campaign. For Pride in the Palace, we use local paper, The Watford Observer, together with online marketing, through our own website and social media. We’ve also worked closely with the local council, which enables us to publicise our productions and events through council web pages.

‘Marketing for the Leafy Hertfordshire campaign has been through door drops in target areas, our own website, YouTube and the local BBC radio station. We’ve also used Google Ad Placement, with the tagline: ‘Watford Palace Theatre: The heart of the community since 1908’ and ‘Hertfordshire’s Home of Theatre’.

‘Celebrating Diversity also uses a range of social media and local press.

Our story: their story

‘Increasingly, we’re using online marketing over print media, but there’s still plenty of scope for both. With our focus on the whole of the local community, it’s essential that we try to reach as many people as possible, and that they really do represent the diversity of the area. Different people access different media and marketing and it’s important that no one is excluded.

‘After all, our story at Watford Palace Theatre is essentially their story – it’s a story that continues to change and it contains many strands of different stories, stretching back throughout our history. It’s a story that we love to tell.’