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Bums on seats

Gemma Gracewood is a serial builder of audiences or, if you prefer, a producer (among other things). She based her Transmedia NZ Meetup presentation around her own experiences and sharing what she’d learned from those and from others along the way.

Gemma Gracewood

Gemma Gracewood
Photo: Andy Morley-Hall

Early on she acknowledged that content or story is the important thing, but claimed, “If it’s compelling it will find an audience – but not on its own.”

Crowdfunding offered not only a way to finance or part-finance content but also a way to build and connect with an audience as a project developed.

The crowdfunding campigns Gracewood focused were not screen-related (she put together the crowdfunding campaigns for her partner’s New York-based Dub Pies and the more local – but aspiring to travel – Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra (WIUO), although she claimed the strategies she proposed worked for crowdfunding in general.

While both the Dub Pies and WIUO campaigns were successful in achieving their fundraising targets, Gracewood stressed the benefit of building an email database regardless of the financial outcome. That email database was a particularly useful tool not only immediately but also for future projects.

Joseph Gets Dressed

Joseph Gets Dressed

Gracewood has run crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter (Dub), PledgeMe (WIUO) and Boosted, for doco Joseph Gets Dressed which has its world premiere in the NZIFF on 22 July. She noted that there wasn’t a lot of difference between the various platforms, except the obvious one that Boosted campaigns don’t offer rewards beyond tax credits.

She did admit that, while rewards were often not as important as they might seem, she had joined the list of Kiwi crowdfunders (also including Taika Waititi) who had lived to rue over-promising rewards and run into problems delivering them in a timely manner.

Gracewood noted that for the WIUO campaign, the postcard reward (offered for the lowest level of pledge) had cost $200 in printing and postage and tied up the orchestra members for a couple of hours to write them – a very manageable commitment of time and effort to deliver a substantial number of rewards. By contrast, over a year on from the completion of the Dub Pies campaign, 75% of rewards had been delivered.

From her crowdfunding campaigns Gracewood offered a few pointers and a blueprint for a four week crowdfunding campaign to keep things moving.

Week one. Promote to your mum (because she and other family and close friends are your biggest fans) and – 15 minutes later – to your own database. Those people expect to hear your news first, and directly from you because that’s why they signed up for your newsletter, to get direct contact from you.

Always ask people to share, even if they can’t contribute in other ways. On the subject of asking, Gracewood noted that asking three times hit the sweet spot, as it was the third ask that (for good or bad reasons!) drove more people to contribute. Gracewood also noted that she achieved better returns from a direct approach (an email or newsletter addressed to a person rather than a social media post to everybody).

Recent US research claims email marketing achieves conversion rates 40 times higher than than social media posting. (It should be noted that organic search is twice as effective as email marketing, but it’s something you’ve got bugger all control over.)

Week two. Promote your campaign to local media and bloggers. “Local” is a loose term, and – especially when dealing with digital fare such as webseries – might mean someone in a community of shared interest rather than a geographical local.

Week three. Get endorsements from influencers … and retweet them. Gracewood noted that for the Dub Pies campaign, she’d been able to get endorsements from a number of expat Kiwis she already knew who had a profile in the US, including Rhys Darby and prolific tweeter Melanie Lynskey.

Week four. Promote to mainstream media, because – if all has gone to plan to date – they’ll now be interested if only because they’ve already seen the campaign gather momentum.

This is part one of a two-part article. Part two is here.

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