A scene from Peter and the Starcatcher (© Joan Marcus)
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Leslie Barrett, the director of integrated marketing at Serino/Coyne, an acclaimed theatrical marketing agency in New York City. Leslie worked at Disney Theatricals and Broadway.com before her current position at Serino/Coyne where she has been employed for the past five years. She grew up on Long Island and her family went to see lots of Broadway shows when she was young and was always involved in theater (her grandfather contracted for famed Broadway producer David Merrick). I discussed with Leslie about how she went about getting her foot in the door in the theatrical world, and what advice she has for those looking to do the same.
Serino/Coyne is currently working on Book of Mormon, Death of a Salesman, Seminar, The Australian Ballet, Mamma Mia!, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Clybourne Park.
SARAH MOORE: I see that you attended Rutgers University. What did you major in and what career plans did you have at that time? LESLIE BARRETT: I had no idea what I wanted to do. I majored in Communications; Rutgers has a great communications department and it felt general enough to give a good background before I had a little more direction. I was lucky enough to intern with Barry and Fran Weissler; it was a very small producing office and I did a little bit of everything. I worked in fashion PR and the music industry for a year, but I was walking through Times Square one day and thought to myself "You need to be back here." It felt like home.
SM: What was your first job in the theater industry and how did you get it? LB: I had a good friend from college who had a friend that was an assistant at Disney. Through the friend, I had an informational interview with the head of marketing at Disney Theatrical. At the time it was just The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Any conversations you can have with people inside industries, all of that information and face time, asking questions, it's all worthwhile. An informational interview turned into a seven-year career.
SM: What habits or characteristics about yourself, do you believe, contributed to your success? LB: I love to think I've been successful but having a more humble approach can lead to success. There are things that you don't know, so remain constantly curious. Remain humble. As corny as it sounds there's this Calvin Coolidge quote " 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." It doesn't matter how smart or creative you are -- it comes down to hard work.
SM: What advice would you give to graduating students who wish to pursue a career in theater marketing? LB: See everything you can see, try to secure an internship in a producing or general management office. My background in different areas of theater helped me see different aspects of the business. Knowing where they're coming from makes my job easier because I know that my campaigns impact the press office. I have to work with the management to get the performers to do a promotional performance to sell tickets, and the press office can get the The New York Times to cover it.
Little things can become campaigns. Being well rounded and understanding different aspects of the industry is invaluable. Younger people coming into the company have incredible social media experience. Marketers and vendors thought this would go away; they kind of had their heads in the sand about social media but it's not going away. At the same time, just because Pinterest is a new piece of technology, it doesn't mean it's appropriate for our shows. It's challenging when the client says "we should have a Pinterest page" when you might not actually need that for the show. Start by asking "what's my goal?" Are we trying to explain we're a new play for a family audience? Are we trying to promote a new star? The same people come to Broadway every year. We have a mix of locals and we've got that constant flow of tourists. Some years attendance numbers are down, some years are up. So you have to remember you're speaking to the same group of people that come to the theater every year: what can you say about your show that's going to make them see it over something else?
SM: Anything specific going on at Serino Coyne now that you want to share with the TMU audience? LB: It's going to be an incredible spring on Broadway. I believe we're in one of the golden eras in theater, so much great stuff opening, like our clients Peter and the Starcatcher, and Death of a Salesman. With the success of Book of Mormon, that happens so seldom. My time at Disney was great, what happened with The Lion King, when something that big comes along, that happens once every 10 years. There's lots of different offerings on the boards this spring, there's something for everyone.