This month, Mobius' Head of Press Emma Berge was invited to present some workshops on Theatre PR and comms at Perform Czech in Ostrava. Although there to provide teaching and consultancy she writes for the blog on how much she also learnt about international theatre comms and audiences.
Mobius does a lot of travel across the UK, meeting people, seeing shows and managing press nights. Aside from the obvious mass exodus of most of the PR team to Edinburgh in August (and some of us for our pitch trip in June), we’ve recently been to Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Oxford, Southampton and more. In the last couple of years, we’ve been to all the UK capitals. I’m not one to not brag, my UK geography is pretty on point.
But the chance for international travel is a rarer opportunity, so when I was invited to Ostrava in East Czechia to deliver workshops for Perform Czech, I was intrigued. At first I was worried that my UK perspective might make some of what I have to say irrelevant to Czech theatre makers, but looking at past presentations I’ve delivered I realised that the principles are always the same: think about the audience you write for.
Held over two days, visiting the city at the time when Ostrava Festival was running, I spoke to theatre companies about the differences between press and marketing copy, about how people engage with different types of copy, and how images are used in both press and marketing. In a guest appearance from Natasha Tripney over Zoom, we discussed how she writes about international companies for different audiences.
I listened to other speakers (with the help of a translator) talking about the opportunities and dangers of using AI, and about common errors in translating Czech to English – I wish this session had come before mine, as my confident assertation that people in the industry all use terms like ‘theatre maker’ and ‘devised theatre’ was incorrect. Just as we might need to translate our industry terms for a non-industry audience, when speaking to an English audience, Czech industry terms don’t work as a literal translation and they’re far more likely to use the Czech word for ‘creator’ where we’d say ‘theatre maker’. In this (hopefully fairly minor), case I missed my number one message and hadn’t considered my audience. How I blushed.
I learned other things as well. Just as we make an effort not to be too London-centric, Czechs are conscious of not being too fixated on Prague. A standing ovation is not that usual in Czechia; the contemporary ballet performance of Carmen at Jiri Myron Theatre (our host venue) was a special case. A Friday night ballet audience in Ostrava like to dress up; whilst some were in trainers, I spied one young man in full tuxedo, and there were plenty of women in stilettos. No, snow isn’t usually this heavily this early in December (refer back to previous sentence about women in stilettos and read in a new light). No, public transport doesn’t have to shut down when there’s heavy snow.
As much as I love working with international companies here in the UK, there’s nothing like seeing them in situ. Hopefully we’ll be seeing them in the UK some time soon, and I look forward to the opportunity to return the hospitality.
If you'd like to hear more from Emma and her experience in PR, drop us a line or check out our seminar opportunities. As well as running press and marketing campaigns we love visiting learning and arts institues to share our knowledge.
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