Interviewer: Jaime Bennis
Interviewee: Abe Dewing
Pulitzer prize winning photographs line the walls at the Boston Herald office, which is located near the Seaport on Fargo Street. The Boston Herald office is nearly identical to the stereotypical newsrooms people often imagine in their heads. There were several smaller news offices and one large newsroom with dozens of cubicles. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Abe Dewing, an account executive at the Boston Herald and vice president of marketing at the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra.
Jaime: What do you do at the Boston Herald ?
I’ve been here for about 10 years. I started in 2004 and I handled digital recruitment advertising, something that was similar to Monster. I did that for about 8 years. I was a rep until about 2010 and then I got an opportunity to direct advertising here. So I had an opportunity to work with direct clients, ad agencies and regional agencies, which basically are a subsidiary of ad agencies.
I went on from digital advertising to print and online advertising with a specific focus on Arts and Entertainment so clients like the Museum of Science, the BSO (Boston Symphony Orchestra) the Museum of Fine Arts, as well as smaller, community groups and smaller theaters that have programming.
Jaime: What do you do at the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra?
I started at the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra in 1994. We are currently in our 40th anniversary season. I was a violinist in the group for about 8 years. I still play violin on and off, but I gravitated more towards the arts administration side so I joined the board in 2002 and became vice president and marketing manager two years ago.
For marketing I do everything from promotions. I oversee some of the PR. We have a ticketing manager that I help with. I run print advertising, digital advertising and network advertising.
It’s been a lot of fun working with the CSO. They’ve been really great. They’ve allowed me to do things that are different such as hashtags at concerts, special tweet decks, so we can use social media to help us promote. We have an Instagram account, a Twitter account and a Pinterest. So we are just trying to make sure we are reaching all mediums where people are and it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work.
Jaime: What are some of the projects that you have worked on at the Herald?
Some of the things I’ve done are the interactive parts of digital advertising. With digital advertising, you can actually have a video in a sliding billboard. What I’ve started to do with some print ads is that I’ve created some new ads and they’re interesting. One of them I call a “see through ad” where you actually print one ad on one side and you print another ad on the other side and there’s instructions that tell you to hold it up to the light and then you see a third ad. I’ve been pitching it to clients and there’s a lot of apprehension I think because it’s never been done before.
I tell advertising agencies “If you keep this, you’re going to be the first one to do this” and not only that but the advertisement is going to last. There’s going to be news about the ads and your name would be attached to that ad unit because you did it.
One of the things I’ve started at the Boston Herald is a music blog. It’s called “State of The Arts” and it mostly focuses on the arts obviously in the Boston area. We get to write stories about unique things. What we wanted to share was something that you couldn’t read in a press release or see on an event listening. It is user generated it is lot of fun. People started calling in and then one day the BSO called in and said they wanted to join on this and they’re the largest nonprofit arts organization in Massachusetts. So now they’re one of our bloggers and they provide amazing content and insight. They have so many resources and it’s been a lot of fun.
As a marketing manager at the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra I do write some of the blog posts, but I’m actually approaching this blog as a representative, not as a salesperson.
Jaime: What is an average day like for you at the Boston Herald?
I come into work, target my clients and try to figure out how long ago I last talked to them, if there’s anything new in the news, the announcements for any concerts that are coming up – if they want to do presales for it I try to stay in touch with that. I try to make sure I’m involved as much as possible.
I source new clients. I maintain relationships and I try to keep in touch with what’s going on in the arts world in Boston and then when I go home I put on another hat and do a different job.
Jaime: What is an average evening like for you at the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra?
As soon as the concerts start, I have pre-loaded all of the pictures from rehearsals. I have texts already written, so I already know what I’m going to write. So during the concert, I’m not actually sitting through concerts anymore. I’m actually tweeting, Facebooking, Pinteresting and Instagramming before, after and during the concert. It’s a great way to engage you audience. If they’re not actually there, they’ll still be able to experience a live event that’s happening.
Jaime: What is the most challenging part of the work that you do?
A challenge we have at the Herald is getting the word that we can do these kinds of things – some of the innovative stuff. I think there’s this stigma that newspapers are dying and that we are just order takers. But I don’t think that’s true. A lot times when we work with agencies, I think they just have a different idea of who we are and that’s one of my challenges – just to break through that barrier.
At the orchestra the biggest challenge is just not having enough resources. We all work really hard but unfortunately it’s a volunteer position and there are people who make this a 40-hour workweek just to get our brand out there and I can’t afford 40 hours. So my strategy now is to hire 3 or 4 people to do what one person does as a volunteer.
Jaime: How do you anticipate marketing and advertising will change over the next few years?
Technology is going to continue influence it. It’s great I love technology influencing marketing and advertising and the data that we can get now is absolutely amazing but I still believe there’s some intangible factor that comes from gut feeling, but maybe I’m just archaic in thinking that way.
I think it’s made the job easier because you have access to all of this information but on the other side – how do you interpret that information. How do you use it for you and I think that’s one of the challenges. Even through Google Analytics I’m able to take that information and even share it with our board and maybe even build a strategy around that. With access to more information there’s more to do.
Jaime: Do you have any advice to offer to a student pursuing marketing or advertising?
One of the things I didn’t do earlier in my career was attend networking events. Go to a lot of these events. A lot of these events are fun and you really get to meet innovative, brilliant people who will help you along. Go to events that you’re really interested in. Don’t just go to events to go to events because they’re going to have a cocktail hour. Find something that you want to gravitate towards. You’ll be able to make connections and find out who people are and what they do.
Jaime: Where do you see your career going in the future and what is the ultimate legacy you would like to leave behind?
I’ve always thought long term and when I worked store retail I always thought that I would want to have a career in something glamorous and be a screenwriter or something like that. But now I’m doing things day by day. I rally enjoy what I do at the Boston Herald. I love the advertising part. I love being at the forefront of technology. I love being a contributor for some of the articles that we have and some of the stories that we have and some of the projects that we do and encouraging other arts organizations to do the same things. The Herald really has a provided a lot of great thing that I don’t think you can really find at other places.
My main goals in my music career are outreach and community service. Performing in assisted living facilities, community centers and libraries for free and making sure music is available for anyone who wants to come see is very important. The arts are a very important part of being a human being.