JMU Rocky Horror: Founding an Organization and Managing Its Publics

If I had to pick, founding JMU Rocky Horror as the Public Relations officer was the most rewarding thing I've done in college. This organization does a 'shadowcast' performance of the film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a few times a semester, in partnership with the Court Square Theater and Harrisonburg's Valley Arts Council. Naturally, being a part of JMU and being involved with the Harrisonburg community, we had several publics to account for.

First, we had JMU students as a major public. I segmented these populations into potential new club members and potential audience members. The largest components of my job were to spread awareness about auditions during the beginning of each semester, and to spread awareness about the performances during March or October (depending on whether it was Spring or Fall). Considering Rocky Horror is a crazy show, there's significantly less students who are going to feel comfortable joining the show as compared to people who would want to simply see the show. Therefore, I really dug into social media during auditions, posting on the 'JMU Class of 20xx" Facebook pages, the JMU Stratford Players page (the theater club), and utilizing the School of Theatre and Dance blast emails, as they send out information about all kinds of auditions to Theatre majors and minors.

As for the students who we expected would not audition, we promoted the Court Square Theater's event on Facebook about the performance via our Facebook page. I also posted constantly on Facebook and Instagram with lots of production photos to generate interest in the show, and I encouraged club members to post about the performances on their social media and invite their friends to the event. On the other hand, we also made posters and plastered them all around campus to increase our visibility. Second, we had School of Theatre and Dance faculty as a public. Our faculty advisor is Zachary Dorsey, so naturally, it was very important to maintain a strong, positive relationship with him. Furthermore, many of the faculty in that department can choose to teach curriculum about the film (as it is historically significant), or simply be advocates for our club and encourage students to audition and/or to attend the performances. We targeted this public by speaking with the professors personally, especially if current cast members were in one of their classes.

Third, the Harrisonburg community was one of our publics. The Valley Arts Council and the staff at the Court Square Theater are a huge part of why we can perform at all. They let us use their stage for free, pay for the rights to screen the film each time, and create prop bags for the audience to use throughout the performance. This relationship is mutually beneficial, however, because their ticket sales greatly increased once we started performing alongside the film. The theater used to screen the film without a cast, and though people would attend these screenings, with our help, we regularly sell out the theater, with our 'worst' shows still bringing in over 150 people. 

On the other hand, many community members like to attend our screenings. To target these people, we use our social media accounts, share content back and forth with the Court Square's social media accounts, and we also perform media relations with local outlets. While we've targeted JMU's TheBreeze and HerCampus in the past, to target community members, we also had a great feature in The Daily News Record a few years ago. It was great, as a new organization at the time, to have that story generating buzz in the community.

All in all, my experience as PR officer allowed me to work with all kinds of people, trying out different strategies and tactics, for an organization that's very close to my heart. It was definitely a lot of pressure at first, being an underclassmen when we founded the organization and having to figure out everything on my own, but the skills I honed while serving as PR officer have helped me to become a better member of Bluestone Communications. I will be forever grateful for the experiences I had and the memories we all made.

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