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Interview with Director of the Press Office

June 8, 2009

 Here is an interview with John Dow, Director of the Press Office for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.



Does your Organization use Social Networking? If so how?

The National Symphony Orchestra’s Facebook page hosts special ticket offers and has about 1,800 fans.  Members of the orchestra also plan on blogging during their upcoming tour to China.  The Center also hosts Facebook pages for its resident company, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, as well as the Millennium Stage.  The Millennium Stage, which hosts the Center’s free performance each day that is also broadcast on, has about 500 fans and more than 750 group members on its Facebook page.  Our Theater for Young Audiences department uses its Facebook page to keep peers in the U.S. and around the world updated on their goings on. 



What are the greatest challenges in using Social Networking at your organization?

It can take a fairly significant time commitment and manpower to keep these sites fresh and vital.  Arts organizations already need to update their own Web site.  In many organizations, the responsibility of updating and maintaining these social networking sites lies with an intern in the hopes that a younger person will be more in tune with the medium.



Do you find staff eager to adopt new technologies?

The advent of new technologies allows us to market more effectively and reach out to new audiences at a reduced cost.  People who want to learn more about our organization are able to submit their e-mail when they buy tickets through our Web site.  It’s possible to send tailored e-mails to people who are interested in various kinds of performances for a fraction of the cost of print advertising.  While we’re happy to stay on top of the new technologies, it definitely adds a bit more work to our day.  Hopefully, the productivity gains offset the extra time it takes to learn the new systems.



What is the biggest challenge you face in communicating with constituents at this time?

It is now far easier for organizations to communicate with their patrons than ever before.  As has always been the case, it’s important to stay true to your mission.  Everything done from a PR standpoint – press releases, events, blogs, etc – should point directly to the art on our stages or our educational initiatives.  It’s also important to not inundate people with too many messages.



Do you see any pitfalls in using these new technologies?

As with any PR or marketing strategy, I think it’s important to have a defined goal before initiating a new project.  Training staff who can update these sites is important.  In many organizations, the responsibility of updating and maintaining these social networking sites lies with an intern who wouldn’t have the institutional memory of a full-time staff member.  Smaller organizations may be able to rely on long-time/trusted volunteers.  Staying true to your mission and keeping it about the art is a must.




John Dow, Director of the Press Office for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, manages and supervises press relations for the nearly 2,000 performances given at the Center each year. Recent events include the major revival of Ragtime, and the three-week festival, ARABESQUE: Arts of the Arab World, which incorporated exhibitions and performances in theater, dance, music, design, fashion, film, and literature and included over 800 Arab artists from the 22 Arab countries in the Arab League.  He also oversees press efforts for the Center’s extensive national and regional educational programs, including Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative – a program designed to provide emergency planning assistance to struggling arts organizations throughout the United States, providing free consulting from both Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser and members of the Kennedy Center’s executive staff. In addition to campaigns for the award-winning nationally televised events such as The Kennedy Center Honors and The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, he handles press for the annual Spring Gala and the institution as a whole.  He is a member of ATPAM, the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers.

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