Social Media Snafu — Another Cautionary Tale

Non Profits are always a little slower to understand marketing, and this may prove fatal to the Skylight Opera Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee is a small, liberal town that likes its arts and has a strong arts community.  Strong enough to support, not one, but two Opera houses when most cities of its size can’t be bothered to support one. The smaller of those two theater companies, however, made a serious PR Blunder last week by firing a beloved and long time Artistic Director and 5 others in the name of budget cuts.  Problem is many speculate the board was unaware of the decision and this move was executed by the person who was then appointed the new Artistic Director. Sounds like an Opera plot, no? Outrage ensued and now board members are resigning, patrons are pulling out funds, and the local papers and blogs are demanding resignations and explanations.

How is The Skylight Opera Theater addressing all this?  With a cacophony of silence. I did notice, however, that they took down the profile pages of those fired and left 404 error pages sit there instead. They are obviously waiting for this to blow over.  Here’s why that won’t work. The Internet serves as an up-to-date resource and a historical catalog.  Theater fans in Milwaukee will be searching in Google for “Skylight,” “Skylight Theater,” and “Skylight Opera” all year long to acquire tickets, become members and patrons and read reviews.  In fact, in May, before said debacle, these were the Google Search Numbers for related phrases:

Skylight Opera: 4000 searches
Skylight Theater: 3200 searches
Skylight Opera Theater: 650 searches
Skylight Opera Milwaukee: 870 searches
Skylight: 301,000 searches

I know what you’re thinking — “Skylight?” — that phrase alone does not represent people looking for the theater.  True.  90% of those people are looking for ceiling windows.  But guess what the top 4 listings are for that phrase in Google right now?  In fact, lets look at the volume of purely negative press the theater has gotten this last week. Then let’s speculate on how long it will take for the trickle of future good press to replace this massive volume of negative press.  Did I mention the theater is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year? No need to mention it.  No one will notice now anyway.

Here’s what those 309,000 searchers /month will notice when they search on Google in June and July and Beyond:

Phrase: Skylight

#1 Toil and Trouble at Skylight Opera
#2 Staff Cuts Bring Protest
#3 Staff Cuts Bring Protest
#4 Milwaukee’s Skylight Opera Eliminates Artistic Director Job

Phrase: Skylight Opera (near identical results for “Skylight Opera Theater”)

#1 Staff Cuts Bring Protest
#2 Staff Cuts Bring Protest
#3 Skylight Opera Theater Home Page
#4 Skylight Opera Theater Artist Direct Profile (shows 404 Error)
#5 / #6 — Event Listings for Past Events now over
#7  Toil and Trouble at Skylight Opera
#8 Wikipedia Listing
#9  Anti Skylight Blog
#10 Skylight Facebook – Full of negative comments
#11 Staff Cuts Bring Protest
#12 Skylight Hires Managing Director
#13 Theisen out as Skylight artistic director
#14 Skylight could have avoided firing debacle
#15 Skylight Opera Stumbles Backwards
#16 Digg Skylight Opera Protest: Social Media Brings Down The House
#17  / #18 BroadwayWorld Forum – Negative Discussions
#19 Charity Portal — w/ Negative Comment
#20 Skylight Opera’s Firing Fiasco Didn’t Have To Be One

Phrase: Skylight Opera Milwaukee
#1 Skylights Google Business Listing — with Bad Review
#2 Staff Cuts Bring Protest
#3 Milwaukee’s Skylight Opera Eliminates Artistic Director Job
#4 Skylight Opera Theater Home Page

People’s personal lives are being effected as well.

Phrase: Eric Dillner (The one doing the firing)

#1 Staff Cuts Bring Protest
#2 Milwaukee’s Skylight Opera Eliminates Artistic Director Job
#5 An Open Letter to Eric Dillner

Phrase: Bill Theisen (The one who got fired)

#1 Staff Cuts Bring Protest
#2 Forum conversation about dismissal –  29 posts against Skylight, 1 in favor
#3 Local Skylight Protest – News Coverage

Twitter Search — Skylight Opera
55 negative posts from over 35 different people

Other places sporting negative press
Skylight Facebook Fan Page
Mutiple Theater Forums
Google Reviews

Sleep well, Skylight Board of Directors. By next week it will have all blown over.

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