Often, successful public relations isn’t about introducing a new concept, but instead introducing an existing concept, already familiar to a limited few, to a broader audience. It may be a culturally-specific art form or an institution in a relatively isolated location not often traveled by the masses. The challenge – and opportunity – is allowing the audience, often through the press, to get to know the foreign concept so that unawareness is replaced with understanding and trepidation is replaced with appreciation.
A prime example is Natya Dance Theatre, a 30+ year-old, Oakbrook-based ensemble rooted in the Indian technique of Bharata Natyam. While the company performs exquisite works of authentic Indian contemporary dance, many Western-oriented dance critics were initially unfamiliar with the techniques (and possibly doubtful of their own ability to critique this new form), when The Silverman Group was retained for the first time in 2009. The Silverman Group employed targeted and consistent messaging to reinforce that Bharata Natyam, just like ballet, is a highly codified technique with universal communicative power and one’s frame of reference – Eastern or Western – wouldn’t stand in the way of the aesthetic experience or the message. We also worked with Natya to determine which programs would be most “friendly” to a first-time critic to attend without being intimidated. Slowly but surely, Chicago’s mainstream media (and the national dance publication of record) have embraced the company.
Similarly, American Players Theatre, one of the largest outdoor festival theaters in the U.S., sought greater regional recognition of the exceptional work happening on its stages each summer in the idyllic woods of Spring Green, Wisconsin. Due to the theater’s location just outside day-trip range for Chicago residents (3.5 hours by car), Chicago-based media outlets were initially reluctant to introduce the theater’s programming to their audiences. However, through innovative and specific messaging honing in on the unique ways Chicago is connected to American Players Theatre – hip young actors choosing to make the Wisconsin woods their summer home, popular suburban artists’ tenures at the venue — The Silverman Group was able to put American Players Theatre “on the map” of Chicago theater writers.
A little creative thinking (and tenacity) goes a long way, and having the passionate, reputable advocates at The Silverman Group shedding light on the “hidden gems” of the artistic community can bring a niche art form greater mainstream awareness.