Effective outreach builds awareness and funding for young artists' festival

Scott Circle Communications helped promote the Castleton Festival and its evolution.

Client: Castleton Festival (Castleton, VA)
Agency: Scott Circle Communications (Washington, D.C.)
Campaign: Castleton Festival fifth anniversary
Duration: March - July 2013
Budget: $50,000

Castleton Festival is an annual performance and training event for young orchestra musicians and artists co-founded by world-renowned maestro Lorin Maazel and his wife Dietlinde Maazel. The festival, hosted on the Maazel's 550-acre property in Castleton, VA, was originally launched in 2009 under the umbrella of their Chateauville Foundation. This year it became an independent nonprofit organization and established its own board of directors.

AOR Scott Circle Communications helped promote the festival (July 3 to 28) and its evolution.

“We need exposure to increase attendance and funding,” explains Nancy Gustafson, the festival's GM. “Our overall goal is to make this festival sustainable for years to come. We're creating the musicians of the future and the audiences of the future.” 

Strategy
Agency VP Sarah Coppersmith and agency consultant Jenny Lawhorn say the aim was to promote the festival as a destination to local audiences and travelers, to raise national and international awareness, and to tell the festival's business story.

“We increased focus on building trust and third-party validation about the festival's growth and its success as an organization to attract grants,” Lawhorn adds. “Those grants also enable private funding to flow better.” 

Messaging was driven through media relations, social media outreach, videos, and other online content.

Tactics
Outreach was conducted on a rolling basis to traditional media and blogs covering arts, music, and events. Outlets in company members' hometowns were also pitched.

The festival dates were announced in November 2012. Casting announcements followed in March 2013. The business story, including news of the nonprofit status, board of directors, and grant funding, was pitched in May and June.

The festival's director of digital and online content Justin Kulovsek says a lot more event-related website content was added this year, including reviews and videos of Maazel interviewing festival participants and audience members.

The videos were also posted to Maazel's website and Facebook page and to the festival's YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook pages.

Updates on Maazel's social media pages and the festival's pages helped spread the word. Maazel's combined Twitter and Facebook audience is more than 93,600.

Posts to the festival's social media pages included photos taken by the young performers who were on site training and rehearsing. Performers were also encouraged to share experiences on their own websites and social media pages. 

Results
Gustafson says attendance increased this year, though specific numbers weren't available at press time.

More than one-third of 2013 performances sold out compared to about 25% in 2012.

The Virginia Tourism Corp. awarded a $50,000 grant for the first time in July 2013.

“The biggest measure of success for us is that so many young people want to come and train,” Gustafson says. “We have 40 spots for young singers to take classes. I got 140 applications in 2012. I had to cut it off at 250 this year.”

Between January and early November 2013, the festival website had 157,000 unique visitors (400,000 page views), compared to 90,000 visitors April to December 2012.

Total views of 14 videos created this year topped 92,000. Four videos created in 2012 got 2,671 views.

This year, the festival has gained about 3,000 Facebook likes (current total is about 11,600) and about 1,500 Twitter followers (current total is nearly 5,800).

The campaign garnered 173 earned placements, up from 153 in 2012, in outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Future
The team is currently planning for the 2014 festival. 

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