When George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein founded New York City Ballet in 1948, they reimagined the principles of classical dance and pioneered a new style of movement that influenced choreography across the globe. The company continues to push creative boundaries, staging more than 60 ballets a year at Lincoln Center, many of which are new commissions.
“New York City Ballet is not a do-the-classics kind of ballet company,” explains Michaela Drapes, Director of Digital Content and Development.
“We’re constantly regenerating, making things that are new,” adds Laura Snow, Video Producer. "But there's a standard and history of excellence here. We try to make sure that our design elements, our video elements, our social and web elements really meet that standard of excellence.”
Building an internal ticketing system
Drapes' and Snow’s teams are both part of the marketing and media department, but each team has its own targets, workflows and responsibilities. Drapes oversees digital properties, such as the website, social media, and digital signage throughout the theater and Lincoln Center campus. Snow’s team produces all video content and fields media requests.
“We might get a request from the press office for performance footage, or from the education team to create an educational video for them,” Snow explains.
Using Airtable forms, Snow created a customized ticketing system to organize these requests. Forms can be embedded onto a web page or shared via email, making it easy for users to attach images or files to their enquiry.
On Snow’s end, all the incoming requests land in an Airtable base.
On Snow’s end, all the incoming requests land in an Airtable base. As she puts it, “There’s an orderly list of all the pending jobs, which we can then add a status to. As requests come in, we assign them to various people on our team.”
Drapes intends to implement a similar ticketing system for her team’s needs.
“We have a lot of requests from internal clients, so we use the form to handle the trafficking of website updates, social media posts, requests to add promotional slides to our digital landscape in the theater. Previously, people would just email their requests, and it was not very efficient.”
Not only is it simple to build the forms, it’s easy to make changes on the fly. This was particularly helpful because it can be difficult to anticipate ahead of time what information the forms should contain.
With customizable fields for categorization and organization, Airtable provides more maneuverability than an out-of-the-box solution.
“It took a while to really work through all of the potential types of requests,” Drapes shares.
With customizable fields for categorization and organization, Airtable provides more maneuverability than an out-of-the-box solution. What’s more, they’re able to keep things organized as they continue to perfect and customize their own unique system.
“We track the status as opposed to all the requests living in one person's inbox, and maybe getting lost or forgotten.”
With New York City Ballet home to some of the world's most notable dancers, the Company's media department is often inundated with requests for footage and collateral. To make their response time more efficient, the media team created a searchable catalogue of performance footage from the media department's archives.
“We keep a record of who was in that footage, what ballets were performed, and when they were performed,” Snow explains. “We log performances for posterity. That's one thing Airtable has been very useful for.”
Michaela is designing a similar system to align her team’s social media efforts with paid advertising, and the department's broader marketing goals.
“We obviously have very important ticket sales goals to reach, as well as constantly building brand awareness and helping the world understand what it is that we do here,” Drapes says. “I was trying to figure out a way to track all of the content that we put out across all New York City Ballet's digital channels. Those are really different streams.”
This is especially challenging because their social media content comes from many different sources—performance photography, photography from marketing campaigns every year, as well as behind-the-scenes content from their social media staffers, the dancers, and the musicians. Using Airtable collaborator fields and multiple select fields, Drapes plans to track who produced the content, as well as the social media channels and formats. (Filtering, grouping and the search block allow them to quickly pull up what they're looking for.)
Using Airtable for automation, collaboration, and organization
Airtable has seamlessly integrated with New York City Ballet's existing workflows, both figuratively and literally. Snow had never used an API before, but after a one-time consultation from the Airtable CSM team, she found the system easy to manage.
“It cuts down on any kind of back and forth by making sure that all of the information that the designer needs is there from the very start."
“Our creative services team uses Trello,” Snow says. “When anyone submits a request to creative services using an Airtable form, a Trello card will be automatically created. It cuts down on any kind of back and forth by making sure that all of the information that the designer needs is there from the very start. There's a clear record of that, and it's much easier to track through to completion when it's submitted in that manner.”
Looking forward to bigger projects
This year, Drapes will oversee the redesign of New York City Ballet’s website, a year-long project with multiple stakeholders. She’s managed similar projects in the past.
“I’ve used all the project management software out there,” Drapes says. This time around, she plans to use Airtable to track the progress of the project internally with the marketing and media department.
As well as its powerful capabilities and flexibility, Drapes is excited about Airtable’s ease of use: she can create customized views and share reports with colleagues, without inconveniencing them with the task of learning new software.
“We can share an internal tracking sheet with my boss which shows progress, but she doesn't have to have the login for it. I think she’s going to be pretty excited about that.”
Building on a strong foundation
New York City Ballet never intended to overhaul their existing workflows. As Snow puts it, “we were really just hoping to save ourselves time, and keep organized, and streamline everything that we're doing already but just making it more efficient.”
Over time, the use cases have grown organically, and the potential for managing large-scale projects began to seem less daunting and more manageable.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity there,” Drapes says excitedly.