You might remember that Ashley Ballantyne used to work on the fourth floor with us, but was offered her dream job at Canadian Stage and hopped over there. We miss her, but it did give us the opportunity to interview her for our We’re Not Just Pretty feature.
Ashley recently joined the team at Canadian Stage, one of the country’s largest non-profit theatre companies, as associate director of communications. Ashley manages publicity for their annual season of contemporary theatre and public relations for the company as a whole.
With a theatre degree under her belt, Ashley left her homeland of Nova Scotia to study corporate communications at Seneca College, then got her first gig at a mid-sized Toronto PR agency, specializing in edible consumer products (mostly chocolate). In her spare time, she volunteers as a publicist for local theatre groups and joined the board of directors for the Toronto Fringe Festival.
After a stint with the lovely ladies of rock-it promotions, she was able to combine her passion for the theatre (and flair for the dramatic) with her love of communications.
How long have you been in your current position?
Four months! I am mid-way through my first season with Canadian Stage.
How does your company leverage PR?
PR is about sharing stories, and as a theatre company, it’s our job to tell stories – both on stage and off. We do this through a mix of media relations, social media and marketing communications.
We’re very lucky to work with incredibly talented artists and theatre companies from Toronto and across Canada on each of our productions. So when it comes to media relations, we have a great list of stories to share about the work being presented or created and the varied careers of the cast and company.
We use social media as an amazing way to get audience feedback, answer questions, share behind-the-scenes details about our shows and connect with the rest of Toronto’s vibrant artistic community.
Our PR efforts are directly linked to our marketing and communications strategy – building awareness about a show through advance stories and reviews, creating collateral material like newsletters, programs and e-blasts, creating buzz by sharing media review quotes and audience feedback through online/print ads, and creating and sharing photos, videos and more.
Finally, word-of-mouth is vital to the success of each show. We work hard to build our brand in everything we do. In addition to traditional PR, we’ve created a series of programs that reach different audiences, from artist growth and development, to education and youth outreach to donor events like backstage tours and theatre trips.
What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
Experience is important. A PR degree or an internship are great ways to learn more about the industry, meet and learn from the pros and figure out what kind of PR you want to do. Being smart and savvy goes a long way (and sometimes, so does a little sass). That being said, energy and attitude are most important for me – if you love what you’re doing, and you want to be there doing it, then you’ll do it well, and it will show.
Who gave you your first big career break?
Well, I recently found out that Canadian Stage employees are also allowed to audition once a year for our productions – hoping the biggest break is yet to come…
I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with some incredible folks, who’ve all helped shape my career. Dan Tisch (president) and Alison George (vice-president) at Argyle Communications
were my building blocks – teaching me everything from the basics to the details and the drive you need to thrive in agency life.
And Debra Goldblatt (who should write a book on all the brilliant things she knows) really opened the door for me when it came to connecting my communications career with my love of theatre during my time with the rock-it team.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Read the paper/magazine/website or watch/listen to the newscast/show you’re pitching.
Double check the details (twice) before you hit send.
Find a mentor or mentee to learn from/with by listening, observing and sharing in their successes and challenges.
What do you love most about your job?
Tough one – this will be a toss-up: I love working with people, I love seeing a story about a Canadian Stage show in print and I LOVE that it’s my job to go see plays.
If you weren’t doing PR, what would you do?
Please refer to question four (career break). 😉
A little more from the fourth floor:
Designer: Valerie Dumaine.
Store: Charlie Boutique on Queen West.
Book: The entire Harry Potter Series.
Snack: Nachos & guac, chocolate chip cookies.
Sexy: Singing in the shower.
Inspiration: My family.
Drink: An ice cold pint of Keith’s OR a classic cosmo.
Motto in two words: Thumbs up.
Idea of perfect happiness: Relaxing on the beach in Nova Scotia (cocktail in hand, toes in ocean).
Celebrity crush(es): Aaron Tveit, Ewan McGregor: Broadway babes who can sing, dance and act.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @2amt and the #2amt hashtag and, biased, but: @canadianstage!
**Want to win tickets to an upcoming Canadian Stage production?**
Tweet us @rockitpromo and tell us where today’s featured PR pro works.
One lucky winner will receive two tickets to see Saint Carmen of The Main, a tale of hustlers, hookers and hired killers, from Canada’s best known playwright, Michel Tremblay. The play also features killer costumes, including red leather costumes with eight-inch platforms – on men and women.
Think this video.
Congratulations to @ for correctly answering and winning the tickets! Stay tuned for upcoming giveaways.