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Improv actors and comedians are a clever bunch.
They’ve figured out how to take a random suggestion and create a successful — and oftentimes — hilarious scene.
Well, guess what. Response marketers can use those same tactics to create equally successful teams, ideas and campaigns. Here’s a look at seven proven improv techniques you can use in your next production.
1) “YES, And” (often considered the backbone of improv) — For improv comedians, this means you take whatever your scene-mates give you, and 1.) respond positively, (say “YES”) and 2.) build upon it (AND...).
A scene only moves forward when its participants trust each other, support each other and can freely add to each other’s contributions.
Response marketing is not much different. Certainly you don’t need to agree with every idea presented to you, but you should give it a chance to stand on its own and see if it has merit.
2) Ensembles — Improv-ers are experts at building ensembles. They know that their success depends directly on the people around them.
So they focus on how well people share and communicate ideas with each other. Because it’s not so much what they do alone that matters, it’s about how they connect with others.
Response marketers rely on connections, too. In fact, many days your job can seem like a never-ending stream of meetings, sidebars and one-on-ones in which you’re trying to get your needs met.
Still, there are ways to balance your individual needs with those of the team. In fact, you can actually satisfy both at the same time — as long as all team members agree to let go of the need to be right, the need to be the center of attention and the need to be in control.
3) Co-creation — In the theater, dialogue beats monologue every time. This interaction between two actors is a form of co-creation. Heck, in improv the audience even gets involved. That’s because improv-ers know the sum of co-creation is greater than its parts.
Today, response marketers see co-creation everywhere. Consumers are taking a more active role in content creation, product reviews, peer recommendations, social media, etc. The time has come to embrace, and even encourage, this kind of co-creation.
4) Authenticity — Most people laugh at a universal truth. But that often means improv actors have to “dare to offend.” They are taught to speak these truth, to be brave, to broach sensitive topics, to question rules and to challenge convention.
For response marketers, this principle could mean questioning assumptions and traditions, challenging the status quo and insisting on the truth, even when the questions are difficult. Questions like: What does your brand really stand for? In the long run, defining your company’s values and attributes may allow customers to see more clearly what makes you distinctive.
5) Failure — Improv comedians don’t shy away from failure — they commit to it, they practice it, because it’s considered vital to success.
The biggest obstacle to creativity and new ideas is FEAR; particularly fear of failure. Improv-ers call it “falling into the crack.”
But whether you’re an improv actor or response marketer, acknowledging fear, exposing mistakes and talking about them, when and where they happen, has an enormously beneficial effect — it deflates the negative power of failure.
The cold hard fact is, failure IS going to happen. Accept it and be ready for it. That way, nobody is.
6) Follow the follower — The notion that any member of the group can be a leader is a key concept in improv. The best scenes come when there is no preconceived pecking order.
Likewise, response marketers can empower employees to offer up their own ideas, their own perspective and their own expertise — and best idea wins. If anyone can be a leader on any given day, the entire group will become stronger because they know they don’t have to rely on a single, designated person to tell them what to do.
7) Lead by listening — For improv-ers, this means knowing the difference between actively listening to understand and merely waiting for your turn to be in the spotlight. Improv-ers who master this technique actually learn to lead by listening.
For response marketers, listening is also critical. Listening to your customers, listening to your employees, listening to management and listening to yourself. Listening — really listening — gives you insights you might otherwise miss.
So there you have it… seven elements of improv that you can use as a response marketer. These fundamentals form the foundation that helps performers navigate, survive and “stay alive” in a world of chaos and uncertainty. A world not that much different than the one in which response marketers operate.
Apply a few of these techniques to your next “performance” and see how the audience responds.
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