Defining Your Terms

Even though Twitter’s status as a favored and effective mode of communication on social media seems to be in flux, a recent tweet I came across for Mt. Rainer, MD struck me as a smart move.

I thought it wise of them to stake out their hashtags in advance and make an attempt to standardize them so they could more effectively manage and monitor conversations about the city and its events.  Specifying MtRMDlove is especially good if they get a lot of use out of it. Same with letting people know what tag the city was going to use to communicate about #MountRainerDay since it could easily be #MtRainerDay.

Arts organizations may want to establish similar naming conventions for themselves and their events, especially if they sponsor annually recurring events like festivals. Having a consistent hashtag or identifiable phrase or look on social media sites and webpages is a form of branding. Setting this style at the beginning of a season and distributing it to the whole organization helps keep everyone on the same page throughout the year.

Going through the process in advance helps to identify potential areas of confusion. For example, MtRainerDay may be shorter than MountRainerDay, but it has more overlap with the the handles of some Matthew and Michael Trainers out there.  When I was in Hawaii, our social media account names were close to that of a theater in Los Angeles so we had to be very careful about what hashtags and phrases we used.

Going through the process of standardizing terminology in advance can be important even if you have no intention of using social media.

For example, if you are presenting a show with a long title like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, getting everyone using the same shorthand can help maintain a uniform identity for the public. Are you going to refer to it as “The Curious Incident…” in conversation or “Dog In the Night-time”?

It is going to be inevitable that your box office staff is going to shorten it with customers, even if they use the full title when people call about tickets for that “Night Dog show,” so using the terms interchangeably might make people think they are two different shows.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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