Meet a Member: Anne Longmore, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

Mike Rowan, Chorus America.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir director of marketing and community outreach Anne Longmore has an unusual dual career—college professor and arts administrator, thanks to a big move.

“I worked for a year and a half in Dubai with my family, and taught some marketing classes at Canadian University Dubai where my husband was working,” recounts Longmore. “When I came back to Toronto, I wanted to work in the arts, but also look for an opportunity to teach part-time.” She teaches at Humber College, which offers a post-graduate certificate program in public relations, in addition to her work with TMC.

After obtaining her master’s in arts administration and working for some of Toronto’s large cultural institutions, Longmore was happy to combine her personal passion for singing and working for an arts organization that makes a difference in society. She also increasingly enjoys opportunities to lead seminars and webinars where she can share practical advice for those just starting out with a stretched budget or staff. Says Longmore, “I love to help other professionals understand how to make the ideas that you read about actually happen.”

Longmore spoke to Chorus America president and CEO Catherine Dehoney about trends in marketing and arts administration programs in our latest edition of ‘Meet A Member.’

How has the approach to marketing changed in the time that you have been in the field?

AL: Of course, the tools have changed. I started my career before the rise of the internet and social media, and the decline in readership of print publications. But the way you need to think about your audiences and all those core ideas are still the same. What I see from my students is that they can be very focused on the tools, and not as much focused on the strategy. What I try to teach them is that what they need to learn for their career is how to evaluate what you’re trying to accomplish, and what tools available are the best right now. I date myself and tell them that while I was at the Royal Ontario Museum, they got their first fax machine. Every other technology since then I’ve had to teach myself—I didn’t learn it at school.

The online tools have allowed us to be far more connected with our audiences and speak more directly to them. The changes since I’ve started have certainly more of a focus on relationship building, and now we have some of the tools that will actually help us do that efficiently. I certainly rely heavily on email marketing, and at one Chorus America Conference, I attended a fabulous session led by Ceci Dadisman, who has helped me be more personal and tied into the interests of different segments of our list, while still using email as a mass tool. Certainly having a database with those tools to help you make and keep track of those online connections is a big change, and something that I use daily now. And also, having marketing strategies that activate our choristers’ own networks and get them to share information is a key factor. Because of all the online tools, it’s so much more important now to get a personal recommendation.

What are the big challenges facing choruses in marketing in this new age?

AL: The fabulous thing about chorus is that it is such a popular activity. There are so many people who sing. The challenge that comes is that I don’t think people are as quick to recognize the artistic excellence that choruses can offer. You can be part of choruses on many different artistic levels, and it’s a great thing that lots of people interested in choral singing. But how do you explain and show to people that your chorus is performing at a level equal to your local symphony, which you would recognize as having that artistic expertise? The popularity of choral singing is a double-edged sword when the question is, why are you charging [fill in the blank] dollars for a ticket.

What it means for us is that we’ve put a focus on professional-quality publicity materials. Your branding is so important and has to speak to that excellence of the ensemble. With our webcasting, we’ve been able to pull more clips and become far more active on YouTube, so we have an ability to actually show people what we sound like. People have far more opportunity to sample our product before they might make that commitment to a ticket.

In Toronto, we’re also challenged by the increasingly awful traffic and parking situations. Our really passionate fans are going to come to our concerts. But it’s a bigger challenge for the people who would consider coming to a concert, and are thinking about what it’s going to be like to get to the venue. It adds another layer of decision-making that we’re aware of but have no control over. I would imagine for that general audience, we’re having to pull from a narrower geographic radius based on our venue. We feel outreach is more and more important. For two years we’ve taken the choir out to different venues for free 20-minute pop-up concerts during lunch or right after work that were received really well, and we’re looking at possibilities of other venues that are a bit farther afield as another way to make us more accessible.

Read the full interview here.