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The World of a Fuel Intern: Matthew Rossi's odyssey continues...

Posted: 26/03/13
By: Natalie
Tags: Theatre, London, Performance

Our charming Aussie producing intern Matthew Rossi has shared some more pearls of wisdom about the life a Fuel intern. Read on to get a no-holds barred insight into guerrilla marketing, and the art of losing packs of biscuits...

"Getting a Yes in 20 Seconds or Less"

Walking down Clapham High Street with a box full of Ring posters, flyers and a tray of biscuits (soon to disappear into thin air) my task is to plaster the neighbourhood with print media. Most small businesses are all too happy to support the arts by way of placing flyers on a designated bench, some of them even push yogalates flyers and plumbers’ business cards aside to make way for a Fuel production. I walk into a shop knowing that nine times out of ten, shop attendants and restaurant managers have already made up their mind about taking other companies’ advertising before I even get there. Any gesture made to check the image or ask what the show is about is tokenistic; a reminder that the power in this negotiation is with the workers. Surprisingly, this makes the job easier.

There are customary procedures central to these walk-ins that I quickly pick up. For starters, I’m not a paying customer (but this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t line up like one). More often than not, my air of urgency seems to catch a manager’s attention before I would otherwise have been served. “Hi, I’m from Fuel. We’ve got a show coming up at Battersea Arts Centre, I was wondering if I could leave some flyers in your shop, or, perhaps a poster.” Since there is no real question being asked, I’m not pressuring an answer. Rather, as I see it, voicing a curiosity. The important thing is gauging the situation, making sure I’m speaking with the right person - repeating my pitch would only lead to embarrassment - and treating workers as if theirs is the only shop I’m asking to take flyers and I’m the only person to have ever flyered in Clapham; which, if you have ever walked into a shop in Clapham or Lavender Hill, you would know couldn’t be further from the truth.

Compliance Psychology could shed some light on the matter, particularly the ‘foot in the door’ theory which argues that subjects are more compliant with a request if they have already agreed to a smaller favour. According to this line of thought, businesses who have said yes multiple times in the past to supporting shows at the BAC are more than likely to comply with another request of the same ilk. I don’t have this luxury with businesses that are not on my approved list of “co-operators”, but I like the idea of the “cold approach” challenge. With these people, I rely on a mixture of a heightened Australian decibel level with a sense of urgency to get my way and quite literally lighten my load. Apparently, I am not alone on this otherwise solitary road (Clapham High St) to getting a yes, Bibb Latané’s ‘social impact theory’, espouses that a compliant outcome is dependent on the presence of strength, immediacy and number.

Latané’s somewhat hard-line spin on scenarios of compliance is useful when considering my lack of numbers and increased reliance on boldness and charisma. In these cold approaches, the businesses are less likely to be aware of Fuel’s work, let alone the cultural venue situated a ten minute walk from their door. There is a tendency for the interchanges to become more personal and for the dialogue to revolve around the show itself, Ring, or why there’s a tray of cream centred biscuits in amongst the posters. Those who don’t take promo material indignantly shift the blame to abstract company policy or an absent manager, immediately impersonalising the exchange and negating my personal approach. Those who do comply are fascinated by binaural recording technology and “can’t wait to see me at the show”.

In my adventures around Clapham and Lavender Hill with a box full of flyers, I have learnt the pragmatic formula for getting a yes. There is a mutual respect between the workers and me. I am the refreshing face that isn’t a paying customer, reaching out for help while offering little in return other than a handful of flyers and the fuzzy feeling that the shop is supporting the arts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do it for everyone. But I take solace in the fact that these people (philistines) are the anomaly, and there are dozens of other businesses on my list that upon having the exact same interaction will end it with a yes. Yes to my sales tactics, yes to supporting the arts, yes to cross-promotion and yes to helping empty this bloody box. The lesson is less about flyering and guerrilla marketing tactics than it is about the psychology behind compliance and empowering people to say yes by building rapport around what I’m doing and the type of work Fuel does.

God knows what happened to the biscuits though.