My picture was in the paper this Friday for an extra-curricular activity I engage in. It had been taken a few weeks ago so when someone mentioned they had seen me, I discounted it. Since then I have been congratulated and razzed by everyone from co-workers to my dentist.
As I was leaving work this evening, the assistant theatre manager said I should put the photo up on our website to humanize the organization a little. I dismissed the idea because the organization isn’t about me and the goofy poses I take while not at work.
As I drove home, I started having second thoughts. People don’t support organizations, they support and donate to people. That is one of the reasons why I generally make a short curtain speech enjoining people to turn off their cellphones, pointing out the fire exits and telling them what a wonderful time they are about to have. I could record this stuff but the human element is eliminated. Certainly having someone in the lobby to congratulate, complain or petition that they can recognize helps with audience relations, too.
But do they really care about what I do in my off time? My supermarket was posting banners showing how different employees were working in the community as volunteers. Presumably this was to influence people to identify more closely and positively with the supermarket as a community entity. My staff and I are pretty much wrapped up in our jobs at the theatre and hardly have enough time to generate the same credibility.
Those banners struck me as a little manipulative anyway. As with everything, humanizing yourself has to be done correctly for the community. I don’t know how well it did in Milwaukee, but I thought the video the Milwaukee Symphony did for the opening of their season worked well in this regard. They filmed concert master Frank Almond talking about the upcoming season as they follow him around his house. What really worked for me was that they had his daughter dancing and twirling around the living room and zipping across the back deck on a scooter. It made me comfortable listening to him talk about his violin and the music he was going to play. The video made me feel like I would be able to understand and feel something from the music being played during their season.
It would really be great if they would let me twirl around in the aisles like Frank’s daughter.
I am not quite sure if the dynamic between my organization and community is one where learning about the hobbies of the staff will positively influence our audience’s perception of us. More to the point, I am not sure if I want my audience having a relationship with my private life.