Nothing short of a miracle?

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When you’re writing arts marketing copy, don’t reach for hyperbole. You’ll make your audience suspicious when what you really want is for them to buy tickets…

Hyperbole can be dangerous. All writers need to learn this principle and none more acutely than marketing writers.

Here’s what made me think of this: Last year I received a brochure for Shen Yun. A Chinese classical dance company, featuring animated backdrops and elaborate costumes, it was performing in Vancouver, where I live. I had little doubt that the performance would be stunning. If only the brochure writers had half the skill of the dancers…

Here is one of the headlines from the brochure: “A production nothing short of a miracle.” I have the greatest respect for performers — my son is studying to become an opera singer and my nephew, a ballet dancer — but I don’t see performances as “miraculous.” No loaves and fishes. No sudden cures.  Just dancing on a stage.

Let me emphasize: I’m not suggesting arts marketers should undersell their products. But nor should they oversell them. Another headline had the same problem. “An unmatched theatrical experience,” it said. (Which led me to wonder: How do they know what theatre I’ve seen before?)

Instead, the writers should have focused on some of the testimonials from key audience members: “An extraordinary experience…exquisitely beautiful,” said actress Cate Blanchett. “I’ve seen over 3,000 shows and none can compare to what I saw tonight…Go back and see it six times!” said Broadway critic Richard Connema. “Everything was impressive…it’s a breath of fresh air,” said world figure-skating champion Elvis Stojko.

Aren’t those comments far more persuasive and impressive? When you’re trying to sell, don’t try too hard. You’ll sound filled with hyperbole and unconvincing. Even if you have the real deal, as I expect this performing company did.

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