Communications Challenges

Our lit but empty stage

I’m sorry to announce the resignation of our newest board member, Rachel. Rachel did some great work in getting our Communications Team up to speed and operating well, so the absence of a Communications Director for now is more easily mitigated. Rachel brought us some great ideas and great expertise; unfortunately, the demands of the role were too much, and she realized that she did not have the time required to dedicate to it. The Communications email will still be monitored and the Communications Team is ready to fill the gaps in the interim.

For me, this again highlights the difficulties that we experience retaining Communications Directors. For those of you at our AGM this summer, you know that this was a hot topic, and one that the board was discussing at length before Rachel joined. It was our hope that Rachel would be able to help shape the role to make it more manageable and sustainable. The Communications Team is a great step in that direction since there is more than one volunteer’s worth of work involved in ensuring that our messages are going out on all the platforms with reasonable frequency. Spreading the load among several people makes that slightly easier. However, the number of platforms has grown, people’s attention has fragmented, and the “all-powerful” algorithms punish posts that are arbitrarily deemed “not engaging enough.” It’s become harder and harder to effectively spread our message and harder and harder to serve in this role. This is all coupled with our typical tension of power between productions and the Communications Director, making the role a trial by fire.

A little more context on this tension…when I was Executive Producer for several years, and indeed when I served as producer for individual productions, this is something that I came to understand very well. In my experience with our theatre (going on 7+ years now), the power of productions versus the power of the board has been in an uneasy flux. On the one hand, productions are the lifeblood of the theatre – no productions, no theatre. Directors of productions especially have held a lot of power over every aspect of their production even down to promotions. One of the great things about KWLT is the artistic freedom afforded directors, which isn’t the case at a lot of theatres. On the other hand, the business of the theatre has an interest in ensuring that its funds are spent appropriately, productions are making money, and the public image of the theatre is retained. The theatre needs to make sure that we’re getting the word out, but the director wants to have control over how that happens. In an ideal world, the director and their team collaborates with Communications and their team to create promotions and put them out. In volunteer management, however, we rarely encounter an ideal world. There’s a lot of work here and a lot of unclear ownership over that work that changes person-to-person, production-to-production. 

It’s no wonder that Communications Director & Producers are our hardest roles to recruit for and retain. Several years ago, I tried to solve the Producer problem via a Producer Committee. The committee worked for a while, but with the lack of new people coming onto the committee, it just turned into the group being Producers 100% of the time and led to the same burnout we were trying to avoid. 

All that said, I have been puzzling over this problem for many years with no solution in sight. If anybody has any ideas, please (please) send them my way. Similarly, if anyone would like to volunteer to help our Communications Team, please let us know!

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